I used to come here to practice.
Before I had children I regularly practiced yoga and meditation, and I am so thankful I had them both as a foundation before I became a parent. Before I had children I would come to my yoga mat as a place to challenge myself, to find my edges, to learn how to yield. I used back bends to practice opening my heart and to experience vulnerability, arm balances to practice finding my breath and acceptance during times of challenge, handstands to gain new perspective on old limitations and ways of seeing, and I practiced savasana, the final resting pose, to practice letting go and to embrace the fragility and ultimate end of this life. I loved this practice and I am so thankful for it.
My time on the mat is much more limited now. I get bite-sized chunks of time where there used to be weekend long retreats. My practice has changed, because I have three new teachers. I look no further than my own children on most days to find places to be challenged, to come right up to my edges, and to learn where and how to yield. Each and every day, parenting gives me plenty of places, of opportunities, to practice.
Nowadays, I practice opening my heart through cuddles, and songs, through the feel of a small hand in my own, or a head on my shoulder as we read a beloved story. I practice finding my breath through our morning rush out the door, through diaper changes with an unwilling toddler, through tantrums in the supermarket, through the endless requests for water and snacks and stories and more water that precede every bedtime, and while cleaning up the mountains of toys, clothing and books that multiply underfoot. I practice embracing new ways of seeing each and every time there is an opportunity to abandon a fruitless power struggle and see a situation from my child's point of view. I practice letting go when I watch my five year old go off for his first day of kindergarten, or as my four year old no longer wants my help for, well, anything, or as my baby begins to wean. And I am reminded each and every day of the fragility and ultimate end of this life. Our awareness of this becomes ever present when we become a parent. We are reminded of the preciousness of life each time we tuck our children in at night, each time there is a fever or an accident, each time we kiss them goodbye and watch them move away from us and into their own lives.
Parenting is my practice. And each day presents itself with more than enough challenges for me to work through, to breathe into, to grow from. I do not always face the challenges with grace or gratitude, but that is why it is called a practice. I was blessed with three beautiful teachers and while I do not always like their teaching methods, I do feel immense gratitude for their presence in my life.
While I do still make it to my mat on a regular basis, my yoga practice has changed. Where my mat used to be a place for me to challenge myself and to encourage growth; my mat has now become a place where I come home to myself, to experience the quiet voice of my soul, to be compassionate and to give myself a place of retreat from all that practice. And when I do make it to my mat to practice, my teachers are often right there with me.