It seems crazy to say, but it was just over a year ago that I handed over the studio space and put myself on maternity leave. A lot has changed in my life in this short, fast year- and then, in some ways, not much has changed at all!
What was interesting for me last year, was that I had ZERO capacity to try anything new, to care one ounce about yoga trends, new cafes, I haven’t done ANY cardio except walking with the pram, I let my crystals gather dust, I think I remembered to put them out for one full moon. I (eventually) stopped berating myself for not meditating and practicing asana every day. And do you know what? I feel amazing.
What was my big secret? Well, I tried on a new regime, one that I have resisted for many, many years- the ‘slow the f*$! Down regime’!
In this age, to be a ‘successful’ (I loathe that word) mother means to be a wonder woman. After reading this article one day when I was pregnant, I decided in an instant that I needed to hand over the yoga studio. This article was about a woman who ran her own consulting business and was calling a client very soon after giving birth in hospital. I felt sick. Really, I believe we as a society have a LOT of work do in this arena- but that is for another blog post all together. Long story short, it was in that moment that I made the decision to slow down and savour this sweet little moment in my life where I have a baby. I didn’t want to be distracted.
I guess you could say that I was very, very unsuccessful last year :) I let my social media empire (haha) collapse, I put off updating my website for 9 months, I didn’t teach except for a handful of little covers. I let things go for a long while trusting that when I was ready, when the time was right the opportunity, the community would appear. I need to add that this is not an easy thing to do. If you are as passionate about your work as I am, it is not easy to stop. Aside from the habit of work that is ingrained in us from a young age, we realise that a lot of our own identity is wrapped up in our work. I remember having moments where I questioned my value, where I felt uneasiness that I wasn’t bringing in $$$, but I think the lack of sleep made it kind of easy to brush off the thoughts and have a nap!
I have to admit that early on in my motherhood journey I was terrible at having naps- I was so disappointed in myself for failing to meditate every day, feeling like I was selfishly denying Quinn this right of passage into a conscious ‘zen life’. I honestly believe for new mums, you just need to survive. Everything goes out the window.
However, slowly the feeds get shorter, the sleeps get easier and longer, showering and eating happens more often by some form of magic and you find little windows of time to welcome back little moments for yourself. This is when the magic starts to unfold and you get to choose your adventure as a mum. It was somewhere in there that I made a conscious commitment to keep this simple slowness going. I was almost determined to not care about losing baby weight, being a career mum or even being one of those really polished, together mums. Just thinking about being one of them was exhausting. But one thing I did realise is that yes, you absolutely get to choose who you want to be- the transition to motherhood is a beautiful opportunity for reinvention because the body you had, the life you led is completely blown apart and you have this moment in time to reflect and rebuild.
I decided I just wanted to be a really good mum, and for me, that meant filling my cup as much as I could, acknowledging that Quinn is the priority. There were many times after I made that decision where I would feel tempted to sign up to F45 down the road, to skip meditating and vaccum, to find a ‘mum friendly diet’ but I would quickly catch myself and reel it back in and just remember the hypothesis of my little slow experiment.
One day, while I was compiling an endless to-do list of what I would do when I put Quinn to bed, I had this spooky voice in my head just saying ‘ojas, ojas, ojas’… and I thought- oh yeah, what a good idea! Ojas is one of the three Vital Essences in Ayurveda. You can read a good summary about the Ojas and vital essences HERE. I often use the oil lamp analogy: If you think of the vital essences as an oil lamp, then the oil in the lamp is the Ojas. This is our foundational essence, without it, there is no chance of lighting the lamp. The flame is the Tejas, the heat and electricity that results from this flame is the prana, the transformational essence that helps us evolve. Of course, without ojas, the other two essences are not able to be created or stabilised.
I think as a culture we generally underestimate the toll childbirth takes on the body and how little opportunity there is for recovery when you are swiftly thrown into the trenches with a new baby. There is also an expectation that we ‘lose our baby weight’ quickly and ‘bounce back’ as if nothing massive in your life has happened. When I found myself going to those places in my mind, I felt a little alarm going off- it just didn’t feel right, and I am glad, because when we look at the ancient science of Ayurveda, and this concept of Ojas, the message is very different.
Essentially, something like childbirth is going to massively deplete your Ojas- so you essentially have no oil left in the lamp. To make matters worse, most of us go running down to our nearest gym as soon as our babies can go to a crèche and start clocking up miles on the treadmill to get back into the skinny jeans stat. But the problem is, there is no oil or fuel in the tank so you are only depleting yourself further; this my friends is one of the reasons why many modern mothers face so many difficulties with milk supply, baby’s sleep, personal recovery, hormone balance and so on.
I want to be clear, this is not just relevant to new mums; the same applies to any ‘watershed’ or big event in your life- new job, move house, whatever it is you will get depleted! But of course, we aren’t so good at cutting ourselves some slack and going to bed early and getting a massage until eventually we wind up with adrenal fatigue, inflammation, sleep disorders, mood disorders – I could keep going.
A beautiful friend of mine told me the other night that I made motherhood seem like such a positive thing when comparatively all she hears are tales of woe – that was a massive compliment to me. I truly believe that motherhood is an incredibly positive thing, it is a gift to be cherished, not rushed through. I am grateful for my yoga because it helps me see how this small window in a woman’s life can be incredibly transformative for a mother as well – in a very positive and powerful way.
So lets forget about the skinny jeans – because really, when do you ever get to go out as a new Mum? What are we striving for? To build our OJAS.
How do we do this? We can build our Ojas by:
Eating well- this was a big one for me as I love a good juice fast, liver cleanse intermittent fast here and there. When breastfeeding this all goes out the window. Eat to nourish yourself and your baby. Simple. Eat lots of wholefoods, made with love, eaten mindfully and most importantly WITHOUT GUILT. This has been incredibly refreshing for me. There are more specific ojas building foods – google is your friend;
being in nature- well guess what? Quinn LOVES the park- give him a bird and a tree and he is set for the afternoon.
finding ways to nourish yourself- massages are a good one. I think you need to find little self love rituals in your home that you love. For me Abhyanga (self massage) has been a big one.
talking less- whilst I do talk to Quinn (and sing badly) a lot, there are definitely some amazing moments of peace silence with a new baby.
moving less – sleep when your baby does and stop counting your steps- the greatest gift for me last year was a divine Yin class at the end of my street on Monday nights- heaven.
practicing dharana (single pointed focus)- well that’s easy, just focus on your baby! Forget the dishes and the laundry- it really can all wait! Meditation is also a game changer- I meditate when I put Quinn down for his big sleep and I love it. But really when we do just focus on our babies, I think it makes the mundane incredibly spiritual. Although we don’t do much, there is something about these magical babies, their purity, their joy, their squishiness that feels almost otherworldly – they are still SO sensitive to energy and very much connected that I feel I have learned so much from Quinn.
So a year has passed…
Despite my very slow, very ‘lazy’ year, I can happily say, I have lost all of my baby weight while barely breaking a sweat, my meditation practice is better than ever, my skin is lustrous, my hair is shiny, I eat better than I ever have before – and I eat treats without guilt.
So a few weeks ago, I went to my first vinyasa class. It was hot, it was packed out and it was damn challenging- it felt so amazing and I was reminded of the importance of striking a balance in everything. With my cup full, it feels great to break a sweat- it feels invigorating instead of depleting. If you feel depleted by your practice, I would venture to say that you should consider if you need to try a change of tract and consider some slower styles to help replenish your ojas- first fill your cup!
Lately I have been looking at my little boy, who is nearly 11 months old, talking, crawling, standing on everything and in the most clichéd way possible I ask myself where the time has gone – I still feel like it is novel that I have a child, that I am a mother, and yet, it is a hat I have been wearing for almost a year. In those moments I feel so grateful that I slowed down and sat for hours on the lawn watching and playing and cuddling because in spite of all that slow, my god, it has gone so fast!
Already this year is moving at a different pace- an exciting one as I get to rejoin the living world and share my passions. I know I will never get another year like that, but I do know that the beautiful simplicity of motherhood is a lesson and a lifestyle that will live with me forever.
I love to hear other stories of motherhood and I also hope that I have inspired you to slow down! If so, ask me questions, and leave a comment!