Yoga Practice – A lifelong journey of learning how to mother ourselves
As Mother’s Day approaches, I am reminded that I never had children of my own, something that always surprises me. I love children, and I always assumed I would have them. It’s not that I didn’t want them; it’s just that my life didn’t turn out that way.
It’s okay: I have filled the void by finding other ways to mother. I’ve mothered my friends, lovers, animals, and other people’s children. I’ve helped raise my sister’s children and their children’s children. I have a grown stepson and a multitude of at-risk teens whom I mentor and mother in my own I AM Dreams With Wings workshops. I spend several weekends a year at prisons listening with a mother’s unconditional love to the men and women in blue. My mothering plate feels pretty darn full. Then why does it bother me when mothers bring their babies and toddlers to my beach yoga class to play in the sand while we practice?
It’s not that their children aren’t cute and cuddly, but they can be distracting and noisy. As we greet our practice with our palms together, connecting and chanting “Om,” I hear screeches and cries and mothers shushing their children. I take a deep breath and exhale an exasperated sigh thinking, “Oh, great, another round of Romper Room yoga.”
With every breath, I practice letting go and recall the following quote from “The Mother,” the co-founder of Integral Yoga at the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in Pondicherry, India: “The true aim of life is to find the divine´s presence deep inside oneself and surrender to it, so that it takes the lead of the life, all the feelings and all the actions of the body.”
I begin to soothe and mother myself while reminding myself that yoga is not about perfection or having things be the way I think they should be. It is the practice of allowing things to be as they are—kids or no kids.
Some days it’s easy, and I enjoy it when one of the toddlers crawls over to my beach mat and plays underneath the arch of my down dog. Other days, I beg our teacher Joanne to add “child-free classes” to her schedule. This has gotten me nowhere except into self-judgment for being grouchy. When did I become like this? What part of me doesn’t like kids? Is it the part of me who doesn’t have one to bring? Is it the part of me who misses her mother? Aww, that may be the catch. Further questions arise: Who will mother me? How do I mother myself? Am I allowed to play in the sand?
As I flow through my sun salutations, I try to be mindful so as not to judge the situation, or even myself. I hear my teacher’s voice, “Notice where you are and how your body feels.” I allow myself to observe my judgments and then let them pass through the way I imagine a mother would. I move forward in my practice through each asana telling the child in me, “It’s really all okay,” and my body relaxes, too.
Between classes, I learn more about my teacher.
Jeanne Ortiz grew up on the sands of the Caribbean. After the birth of her first son, Jeanne wanted to give him the same feeling of freedom she’d had as a child. She began teaching yoga on the beach as a way to entertain him as well as to take care of herself. Jeanne began inviting other moms, creating a community of moms in need of some self-nurturing time. “It’s a community of moms helping moms,” says Jeanne. “What a wonderful way to mother yourself,” I thought.
At the end of class, I lay on the beach in savasana, listening to the waves crashing on the shore, to the giggles and cries of happy children playing in the sand, and to the voice in my head saying, “That’s what we are all here to do, child—mother ourselves as a good mother would.”
Lorelei Shellist, author of Runway RunAway: A Backstage Pass to Fashion, Romance and Rock ‘n Roll, is a speaker, host and model, Image Consultant, Inner Beauty Empowerment Coach, and the founder of Fashion Icon Archetypes™ Personality Programs. She holds master’s degrees in Spiritual Psychology, and in Consciousness, Health and Healing from the University of Santa Monica. Lorelei coaches executives, women, and at-risk teens, and facilitates spiritual psychology workshop activities with prison inmates through the Freedom To Choose Foundation (freedomtochoosefoundation.org). Visit: loreleishellist.com