Standing outside a Bikram studio, peering through the glass with my two small children as we watched their dad practice yoga today, I had mixed feelings. Part of me wanted so badly to be in that room, sweating, stretching, crammed in the midst of the crowd in my tiny shorts practicing. The other part of me, perhaps a now larger part, knew my greatest practice these days was not on the mat at all, but there in the lobby with my children.
Having practiced and taught yoga for much of the past 14 years, and many of those years spent in a Bikram room cranked to 108 degrees, I am familiar with the sensation of yoga on the mat. I know how my body responds now, quickly, to the call which asks me to twist, forward fold or inhale deeply, when there - perched solitary on the yoga mat in my skin-tight gear. It is always as if no time has passed, muscles-memory kicks in, and I can do that triangle pose like it was only yesterday I last set my feet in position and leaned in, windmilling my arms. Yes, I am good at practicing yoga on the mat. Yoga off the mat is something entirely different and incredibly more challenging than any class I have ever attended or personally taught.
Feet in the middle of a 2 x 6 rubber roll-out I can predict how far I can be pushed, how flexible I am, where my boundaries are...standing in the lobby, peering through the glass at other yogis while my 9 month old stays propped on my hip to prevent him from crawling in the garbage outside the front, opened doors while reminding my 7 year old to keep it down...it's uncertain when my flexible nature will feel torn, bent out of shape or pressed a little too far.
The yoga of mothering is a toughy. Nobody said it would be easy...and nobody was right. Reaching for one distraction after another, the pen off the desk, my cup that held water, a printed cardboard schedule, his yummy snacks, my hairband...all of these things provide just a momentary preoccupation for the wee one. He is busy, curious, constantly wondering at the sound of his own voice. I stepped into my flexible pants of patience, wisdom, kindness and understanding as I follow him to the edge of his exploration. The seven year old chases us out the door with his latest antics on "if life made sense" repeated over and over...I took out the dharma of listening, silence, spinal twists and laughter to make it through that pose...down the sidewalk and back again to the yoga lobby where we could see their dad through the glass in balancing stick. I felt his pain.
Would I rather be there or here? Which one takes more courage these day? Which one makes me sweat the most and reach in for strength....I guess today that answer is the yoga of mothering...and so I take another breath and walk with my kids outside again...peering into the parking lot wondering how we have found ourselves there in this surroundings...why didn't I stay at home with the kids and let dad come alone? ... the answer was clear as I turned back to the window...he smiles at us, just seeing us there...he looks over again and again in between sips of water and postures. That is all the payment I need. That is my reward. He loved seeing us there. He was the yogi with his family in the window. . . he was proud and happy...and I breathed into it, sitting down into cross-legged position to find another activity for the little ones.
As the class ended and I could see my partner covered with sweat and a broad smile of contentment, I tuned inward to the workout my back had received toting the 9 month around the walkway and lobby for the past 90 minutes. I checked in with my heart, buttocks and lower legs...yep, all feeling pretty worked...could I ever use a shivasana!
To end the evening, I got to move into gratitude and do my best to find all the blissful gifts of our combined yoga practice - his on the mat and mine, off.
The littlest one goes down after a busy night in the studio and outside...I can still hear his unready-to-settle cries in the other room while I write...but, mom is exhausted and it's okay for him to work his lungs out a bit while I cool down. Non-attachment. Seeing the sun set over the horizon I catch a little trataka before finishing my blog. Yes, the yoga of mothering is still my greatest challenge. 100 degrees in a Bikram studio is a piece of cake compared to parenting full time, no doubt.
Tonight, I let my breath deepen before the 7 year old returns from an evening scooter ride with dad, who is now feeling more balanced from his practice....it will soon be my turn for the bedtime routine. Withdrawing my senses - pratyahara - I find the still place within from which all energy is drawn and renewal can happen. Checking in I notice my back could use a few more conscious breaths and my eyes, a brief rest from the computer screen,... I will check back in with a candle flame tonight...a little more trataka for the eyes and mind could only make me feel more sublime.
I may not have the same studio practice I had for so many years....but I'm still a yogi...and perhaps more of a master than ever before, though I'm still practicing. It may take me some years to get this right. Good thing it's a journey.
To all you moms and dads out there...thank your kids tonight for keeping you fit...and taking your practice to the next level. They are our greatest yoga teachers.
May Bliss be in your house tonight as it is finding it's way into mine -