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The Sticky Mat: Real Life Yoga Teaching

November 23, 2016 by Sarah Scharf 

Episode 1: A truck runs over my yoga mat

In the spirit of full transparency I must confess that having a child has been a disaster for my yoga practice. Trained in Pre & Post-Natal Yoga I was prepared for (most) of the physical changes, but I was completely unprepared for the reality of having no time for myself. I mean barely enough time to brush my teeth, go to the bathroom, or prepare some food time for myself. And definitely not the pre-child idea of time for myself which included things like daily yoga, putting cream on my face and writing in my journal. It really felt like my practice, my way of life in essence, was totalled. Like a truck had run over it, the last year of my life is unrecognisable.

Fourteen months into parenthood I am only now starting to find time for myself, to return to my mat which is extra sticky from little hands (I hope that’s just peanut butter). I also must confess that this has been the BEST year of my life, and that my heart is bigger than ever and all the cliches about giant love erupting from us when we become parents is completely true for me. Gratitude seems like too small a word.

This is why I am starting this blog, to be honest about what it means to devote oneself (Bhakti Yoga) to raising a child and staying devoted to my practice. I am figuring this out one day at a time, and hope that reading about my experience will inspire you, whether you have children or not.

At some point in our lives we all experience some kind of catastrophe- for some of us it is what instigates starting yoga or meditation. For me, having a baby that needed to be carried all the time and didn’t sleep well away from me felt like a catastrophe because my main method for dealing with difficulty in life has been my physical practice. Now I was sitting around the house for months with a baby at the breast, in an asymmetrical “pose” feeling my posture crumple from sleep deprivation and my mood ping-pong from hormones. The first time my husband got our son out for a walk and I (instead of showering) got to my mat I laid in constructive rest and cried. That was week 4. Yes, I could lay in bed and do some pranayama (had to continue my golden thread breathing to deal with the pain of breastfeeding which due to complications lasted about 5 weeks) but that was about it. Half dog at the kitchen counter for a few breaths, and a strange version of fish pose in the bathtub are a couple of other asana I managed.

This feeling of loss and the grief for my previous self/practice is still with me sometimes. But it has, as all good catastrophes do, created the fertile ground of something new. Yoga is about transformation, and I am riding the wave of that now. The sanskrit word for catastrophe is vyasana, which has (according to my dictionary) multiple meanings. My favourites to ponder are: inability, separation, adversity, fall, wagging of tail, disaster, attachment or devotion or addiction, need, bad habit. These words are so rich to practice from. To acknowledge how attached I was to the way my practice used to be. To recognise how much time I actually need for myself. To see when practice is just habit, or when I’m wagging my tail on the mat with poses that are showy. To celebrate my refusal to go along with the image of super-mom who does it all including chattarunga with a baby on the back and a clean mat. To let myself feel the separation which is bittersweet now that my son is able to be on his own more and I have time to practice and write this blog. To be conscious of how human I am when faced with adversity, some days strong and some days weak.

So today, in light of the catastrophe of recent political elections and whatever personal catastrophe you have encountered or might soon, I hope that you will know that whether you are crying on your yoga mat or your mat is gathering dust, you are not alone. We are all students, even those of us who teach.

Catch Sarah's teaching January 1 @ The Life Centre in London  and online

Next up: Interview with Leah Kim about Yoga and transitioning to motherhood

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