Yoga, Parenting, and (Usually) Keeping my Cool

I haven’t taught public classes in almost 3 years—I stopped just before the birth of my daughter Luciana, who will be 3 at the end of July. My husband and I welcomed a little boy, Huck, in early January of this year. Parenting is yoga in action 24 hours a day—along with the indescribable love and joy I feel for my kids there are the skills of staying present, navigating the uncomfortable or the unknown, being willing to get back up when I fail miserably, and showing up no matter what.

When I was pregnant with Luciana I had many of my students say to me “You’ll be a great mom—you are so nice—you must never get mad.” That always made me laugh—ask my husband: I have a hot temper and I’ve unleashed it in plenty of moments I’ve regretted. Since I’ve become a mother it’s been more important to me than ever that I not let myself fly off the handle on any sort of regular basis—and anyone with a toddler knows that’s a tall order on some days.

For me, as I’m sure for many of you, the physical and spiritual elements of my practice are intertwined. My soul feels lighter as my body lets go of tensions on my mat, and if I’ve had a breakthrough in my spirit my asana practice reflects that in more stability, more agility, more ease. As I’ve thought about how to regulate emotions when it seems impossible, I’ve found myself thinking of what I do on my mat when I’m overwhelmed, frustrated, or feel defeated. They work on my mat and they work with my kids.

1. Breathe: Luciana has sat and watched many times as I’ve closed my eyes and taken some deep breaths. It may look weird, but it’s much better than using a tone I’ll want to take back. Yoga is where I feel like I learned to breathe.

2. Observe: Much as I observe my body and my limitations and abilities while I practice, I try to observe myself in a challenging moment as a mom. I try to let any judgement go. If I have the wherewithal I ask myself what’s coming up; I remind myself this is a moment, it’s not forever, and that I can stay calm. I can stay calm.

3. Faith in myself: at the end of the day I can beat myself up (and I have. Lots.) for the moments that were so wildly imperfect. Or I can rest knowing I did the very best that I could and I’ll get to try again tomorrow. Kids—and adults and yoga poses—are always evolving. There are no last chances.

I do get mad. But that it’s not the first or even tenth thing that someone notices about me lets me know that, as always, my practice reaches over and helps me in my life as long as I keep showing up for it.

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Melanie is a Los Angeles based actress and yoga teacher. Her acting career has been largely in theatre (what? in LA? Yes. There is great theatre in LA.) and television commercials; though she’s had forays onto the large and small screen, most recently in the beautiful film I am I with Simon Helberg and Jason Ritter, premiering at the Newport Beach film festival. Melanie is also a yoga teacher, and was on the schedule at Yoga Works from 2001 until 2011, when she stopped teaching classes a month before her daughter Luciana was born. She currently teaches privately and online at myyogaworks.com.  She started her blog, Figs and Feathers, as a way to have a creative outlet that she was in charge of. It’s evolved into a place she posts about being a mother and an artist and where the two worlds meet.

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