I’ll know that I have reached enlightenment when I am as excited to climb stairs as my daughter is. But for now, I just stand behind her and watch as she giddily places one palm on the stair, then the other, one knee, then the other. She’s using her muscles in a way that have never moved before. After months of just lying around, she’s moving on her own. And she’s damn happy about it.
I just finished four weeks of daily two-hour yoga asana classes as part of a two-year process to obtain my 200-hour yoga teacher certification (old school, apprenticeship style is apparently the path Spirit has given me). I, too, have been moving my muscles in ways that they have never moved before. I am less enthusiastic about climbing stairs at the moment. I would really prefer to sit and read a book like the quiet old days before I became a mother, or hold her like a slug in a sling like she was for her first few months. But then this awakening happened. She grasped something with her chubby little fingers. She rolled herself over. She stood up. And now she wants to experience movement as mastery. Each contraction of her muscle is the discovery of a new universe. It’s incredible to watch. At least when I don’t have to chase her.
Learning to walk again
I stepped into my first yoga class in 1998, and I wish that all of them since could have been as foundational as what I am doing now. I spent years practicing beyond the edge of my strength, teetering on the lip of a stair with only the grace of God holding me from injury. But this time the aches of my joints and the pops of my knees are asking me to do it differently. I am softening my edge, adding some roundness to make it harder to fall into old, linear patterns. My sacrum is straightening out. My shoulders are loosening their persistent desire to control my movements. My mind is becoming less of a force, and more of an ally.
I am relearning how to lift my arm, extend my spine, and bend my knee. I am learning to do it with love and respect for everything that my body can do. I am hearing my ego tell me to push further, but listening to my teacher’s guidance to surrender to my starting point. Just like my little girl, I am engaging muscles in all parts of my body in a way that is entirely new to me. It is foreign. It is slow. And it is emotionally the most challenging practice I have ever had.
I credit my daily practices of yoga and Ayurveda as the reason I got pregnant, recovered easily from birth, and have stayed relatively sane in the first year of motherhood. My life would not look like this without these practices. In the parallel track of my old life, I would be finishing a bottle of wine and gorging myself on a container of organic coconut milk ice cream while watching a bleak post-war Italian movie. I wouldn’t have a sweet baby whose little awakening chirps I could listen for during my morning practices. I wouldn’t have anyone to climb the stairs with, and my life would be pretty empty.
When not to start a yoga teacher training
I have always known that I wanted to become a yoga teacher, but I had not expected to begin a teacher training with such a little one. There is no exact right moment for anything. There is only now and how you respond to now. So I am choosing to embrace it. I am choosing to lean hard on SevaPapa and his unending well of thoughtful acts. I am choosing to double down on my spiritual exploration now, at a time when I am basically given a free pass to sit around in tired sweatpants and a messy topknot, because everyone knows that mamahood makes you a little crazy until the kids are at least 40.
I am doing this for her. Not only to expand my livelihood as a teacher, but to show her through my actions that self-care is not selfish. Self-care, the true form of it, is an essential part of what it takes to raise a conscious and aware child. When a mama has a relationship with her inner self, the babe comes along for the ride.
Just as we once shared a body, now we share the discovery of our own independent selves. She gives me this time for self-discovery, and I give her my breast the moment I come home. We are both made happier by this.
Though I am sore and I am tired, when she wants to climb the stairs for the 32nd time today, I relax in her joy. She and I are in this together. Her job is to remind me of the joy of discovery. Mine is to stand behind her and make sure she doesn’t fall.