Mommy Goes to School, Too!

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Categories Balance, Education, Guilt, How Do The Moms Do It, Making Time for Me, Parenting, WorkingTags Leave a comment

Last fall, when my kids were only 13 months old, I won the lottery by learning my work was going to support me in becoming a certified yoga teacher. I work as a therapist at an adolescent and family therapy program, and we wanted to begin incorporating yoga into our programming. (Think, “Yoga for anxiety,” and the like.)

On the one hand, I was completely thrilled. I’d practiced yoga regularly for over a decade and always played with the idea of becoming a certified yoga teacher. Now my work was in support of it. But, on the other hand, I felt stretched so thin already, as a working mother of 13 month old twins. How would I balance this, too? Yoga classes have long been my place for a little “me time,” a place to feel strong and connected to my body.  Would it still feel like sacred time once it was incorporated into my work?

Mommy guilt is ubiquitous, but especially present when we spend time on things other than our children.I quickly learned that this four month long training was no joke! Requirements included quite a bit of reading, two classes at our studio each week, a half hour of daily meditation, an hour of practice at home, and a full day at the studio each week. Right off the bat, I felt conflicted. I already had some mommy guilt over the time I spent away from my kids at work each week. But, this was a significant amount of additional time away from them… not to mention the added responsibilities this put onto my husband.

I found myself wishing this opportunity came a little later, when my kids were older, and I could focus on it a bit more. I was so incredibly jealous of those for whom this training was their sole focus: no kids to take care of, no job to juggle, and all the time in the world (it seemed to me on the outside) to devote to their yoga practice. In fact, I still feel a bit this way. Thankfully, I was provided the space to process these feelings with the other people in my training. The experience made me think a lot about mommy guilt: something I never really understood pre-kids. I would never give a friend grief about taking this time away from her kids, so why was I giving myself such a hard time?

When I think of other moms taking “me time”, I think, “Good for them!  They’re setting a great example for their kids. They’re showing their kids they’re more than just ‘Mom.’” Of course, my kids were too young to really understand why mommy was going to yoga school, or for me to set an example for them about taking care of myself.

Even though I still wish I could have gone through my training when I was stretched a little less thin, I know that there probably is not a time like this in the foreseeable future.

The yoga teacher training gave me one very incredible gift: it enriched my time at work.  Now that I am able to incorporate something that I love into my job (which I also love), it does make my time away from my kids feel more like “me time” and a little less like making a living. And when I do have the time to sneak away to a yoga class or practice at home when my kids are napping, my practice is also much deeper, leaving me a more relaxed mommy when they wake up.  Everyone wins.


Making Time for Me - a series on mothers finding time for themselves in the middle of the insanity of parenting and lifeFrom August 31 to September 4, 2015, How Do You Do It? is running a series on “me time” for mothers: why we need it, how we make it, what we do with it. Find the full list of posts on the theme week page.

Have you blogged about mommy time on your own blog before? Are you inspired to do so now? Link your posts at our theme week link up! We’ll do our best to share them on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter with the hashtag #metime.

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How I Get My Me Time

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When I first thought about writing this post, I was steeped in that all too familiar Mama guilt. I know you know what I’m talking about. This particular day, the guilt caught me off guard as I noticed my son, nearly three years old, singing to himself.

“Let it go,” he sang.

My heart sank a little. I know I am not the only one on the planet who doesn’t love the movie Frozen. (Mayim Bialik has a good piece on her issues with it.) But I was genuinely surprised to hear him singing this, because I’ve never shown my twins the movie. I’ve never even seen it myself, but have had enough exposure to know that song when I hear it.

To be clear, my problem is not with the movie itself, or with any movie, really. It’s the fact that I am slowly losing “control” over my twins and their experience of the world. They are growing up, and I have started to reclaim the elusive ‘me time.’

To get this me time, I have had to make some compromises. I joined a gym with childcare. Most of the time, the TV is on (hence the Frozen homage). I wrestled with this–we are a very limited screen time family. But I knew this was the only way I would be able to do something for myself. Heck, I would even take grocery shopping by myself, but the gym has the childcare and so that’s how I take my me time.

Crying Yoga
Somehow, exercise at home is just not as fun…

I started off with kickboxing and Zumba. Over the summer, my husband was traveling in and out of state for work, I transitioned the twins from cribs to toddler beds, and they abruptly dropped nap time. Kickboxing was a blessing during this time!

Out of curiosity, I dropped in on a yoga class one day. I didn’t expect much from it–I’d tried yoga at other times in my life and had never really ‘gotten’ it. But this time was different. This time, yoga was for me. Little by little, I left the kickboxing and booty-shaking behind and started a daily yoga practice. I have seen so many positive changes in my body and in my outlook on life (although, this may be partly contributed to the fact that my kids have started napping again!)

I can’t imagine now what my life would be like without this little treat for myself. Looking back on it now, I can see how much the positives outweigh the negatives of leaving my children in the gym daycare for a mere hour a day. I feel restored and the ‘attitude of gratitude’ cultivated through regular yoga practice helps me be a better mom and person. I guess you could say I have taken a page from the book of my omnipresent animated friends; I “let it go.”

MJ Yoga Collage


Making Time for Me - a series on mothers finding time for themselves in the middle of the insanity of parenting and lifeFrom August 31 to September 4, 2015, How Do You Do It? is running a series on “me time” for mothers: why we need it, how we make it, what we do with it. Find the full list of posts on the theme week page.

Have you blogged about mommy time on your own blog before? Are you inspired to do so now? Link your posts at our theme week link up! We’ll do our best to share them on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter with the hashtag #metime.

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Medium and Happy

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Categories Celebrations, Development, Feeding, Overnight, Parenting Twins, Prematurity, SleepTags , , , , , , , 1 Comment

(Leila and Rahul are turning 2 in a few days. They are doing very well, happy and healthy, other than a cold they have been fighting for the last week.  I would like to share something I wrote when they turned one-and-a-half.)

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Rahul and Leila have come a long way since their birth at 31 weeks gestation. At 18 months they have caught up with other children their age physically, emotionally and developmentally.

Leila recently jumped from the 5th to the 10th percentile in weight, and Rahul is steady at the 10th.  In height they are both at the 50th percentile. All in all, according to the charts (which might be slightly different that the US standard ones?), they are light weight children of average height. Not that it means much anymore. Last month I met a five month old baby who weighed as much as Leila. At their NICU there was a baby born at 24 weeks, much tinier than them. Now however, when I see them play amongst toddlers their own age, they merge right in, size-wise as well as ability-wise.

Since they were born a couple of months early it was normal, even necessary to closely monitor their weight gain. Thankfully we have had no serious problems since they left the NICU. They are both running, playing, and talking a lot. They are full of energy.

It’s time for me to let go of the obsessive monitoring. They need a break from being scrutinized and compared. They inevitably get a lot of it just for being twins. They don’t need any more, and especially not from me. In the big picture a little delay here or there is not a big deal. I have noticed that they are eating a little more than before, sleeping a little bit better, and enjoying each other.

I have found that comparing healthy babies growth and development is useless, and even silly. We all do it though. It’s natural. Parents often compare how soon their babies sit up, crawl, start sprouting teeth, walk, and talk in relation to others. Discussing these things with other mums and dads is important, especially for first time parents. It is necessary to follow-up on certain milestone achievements. If a real problem is caught soon enough it could be addressed more effectively.

There is a wide range of normal. I can see that just by having two babies. Leila crawled by 7 months, Rahul started after 9. They both had issues with digestion in the NICU. They digest differently. R has a strong reflux, Leila a poor appetite. Now L eats all the time and R eats only when he can feed himself! They both got their first teeth around the same time. According to Dr. Sear’s “The Baby Book”, when teeth come out is a genetic trait. Speech seems to be a big “issue”, and especially when there is more than one language spoken. We have 3 languages around us, and so far they are both saying words in all.

My brother didn’t speak until he was 2. My grandmother forced my parents to see doctors about this. Neither did he eat. What a catastrophe. My parents were easy-going enough to let him be. When he was ready he spoke and when he was hungry he ate. Now he talks a lot, and eats a lot. He is a professional sportsman, and a big guy. My brother-in-law spoke “late”, but apparently when he did it was in full grammatically correct sentences!

When asked, I usually responded to questions about my children’s age, weight, birth order etc. And then I asked similar questions back. Sometimes I even initiated such dialogues. I knew it was silly, but I needed to hear that Leila and Rahul are smaller than others to validate their experience of early birth, as well as mine being their primary care-giver. It has not been easy with their tiny milk feeds. After birth they wouldn’t drink more than 1 to 3 ml of milk at a time. By 1 year R could take 120ml. But because of his reflux he had to stop and burp every 30 ml. Each feed was drink, burp, drink, burp…  Leila woke up every 2 to 3 hours to drink at night, and still does. Most babies around us sleep through the night and eat comfortably. I couldn’t help comparing.

I was listening to a studio talk by Richard Freeman, an inspiring senior Ashtanga teacher the other day. I am paraphrasing what I understood from it. He said as soon as we realise that our Asana posture is medium, that it could look better, and it could also look worse, there is a release. The pressure dissolves and the breathing starts. It is no longer about having the perfect posture. It is more intrinsic and personal. That’s when the suffering stops and the practice can deepen.

The same goes for size. As soon as we can acknowledge that we are medium, that we could be taller or shorter, fatter or thinner, there is a release. We can move on and think about other things. I once told a close friend that her son was tall. “No” she responded, “he is average height.” Her honesty struck me.

Rahul and Leila are changing all the time, as I am. When I am around them I want to be actually present. I want to encourage them to have fun, and to laugh. They have enough time to follow curriculae and perform in the future. We can all stack 4 blocks and order rings according to size. It makes no difference to me if they can do it now, or in a few months. They are full of love and energy and that is what really matters. I want them to be Medium and Happy.

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Natasha lives in Chengdu, China with her husband Maher. She is mum of  twins Leila and Rahul, and was an Ashtanga Yoga teacher until her little yogis became the teachers. You can find more of her thoughts and stories at Our Little Yogis.

 

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Practice at home with your little yogis

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The yoga industry has become a multi-billion dollar industry, attracting hordes of us to join the trend. It’s wonderful that more people are benefiting from yoga, but it’s not so straightforward to know what you really need. Some studios are looking and acting like high-end spas. Yoga clothing and equipment is becoming specialized, even hyped. There are whole lines launched by big-name designers. You can buy yoga tank tops, bras, pants – long, short, wide, or tight. Then there is everything you can put on top of your practice wear, skirts, jackets and hoodies. There are scarves to keep you warm and looking good while you walk to and from the studio  and then to use as a blanket in Savasana the final relaxation. There are yoga gloves and shoes that grip. Not sure what the deal is with those, that you can practice without a mat on a ship maybe?   There are eco-friendly yoga mats,  funky bags, chakra-balancing jewelery… There are  hundreds of yoga magazines featuring hot, fit models in wild postures. They must eat healthy, organic, and take strangely named supplements.

And then there are as many studios as corner stores offering many styles. There is Vinyasa, Iyengar, Ashtanga, even Chocolate yoga, and Doga (Yoga for dogs). How do you choose? And all teachers say different things don’t they?. Taking a yoga class can be costly. A single class can range from $10-$25. Multiple class passes or monthly memberships are more affordable, but depending on the studio, still quite pricey. And how many times a month can you, MoM get to the studio anyway? What’s supposed to be an ancient method to simplify and unify our thoughts and outlook has become a daunting world to join. How can you start simply, without either running for your life or falling for all the crazy marketing?

My suggestion: develop a self-practice. Do it on your own floor or on 1 good quality yoga mat (they wear out quickly otherwise). Wear comfortable clothes that you find in your cupboard. Do it any time other than right after a meal. Take ten minutes or an hour, by yourself or with your little yogis alongside. More likely they’ll end up on top of you, under you, or both.

Whatever style of yoga you do, you can find something to do on your own, it’s the premise of a real yoga practice anyway.  In Ashtanga Yoga, which is the style I chose, self-practice is encouraged from the start. Owning your practice, your breath and movement, is the basis of the Mysore- style practice. In such a class people move at their own pace, through the sun-salutations, a set-sequence of poses, a closing section, and Savasana the final relaxation. Each person’s practice grows in length and depth over time. There is a teacher in the room who guides, assists, and adjusts the postures. Depending on the teacher, Ashtanga can be taught quite militantly, and the name Mysore for the South Indian city where it was developed has often been mistaken to represent “my sore!” So it is important to seek out a teacher who feels right.

But also a teacher who can guide you to do it on your own. It’s certainly not easy to do day in and day out without the combined energy of the teacher and other students. It’s  do-able though. One of my students, a mum of two, initially held back from self-practice because she wanted to leave her brain outside the class and just do as she was told (in her words!) It was her time off. I can understand that now. Others are afraid to forget the sequence, or afraid that they’ll hurt themselves from bad alignment, all issues that can be surpassed with some guidance, practice, and confidence.

Try to remember a few things you like from a class, and take them home mindfully. Following a teacher’s instructions while your thoughts are wandering from your neighbor’s strange clothes,  to why she can balance but you can’t, to whether you’ll cook broccoli or spinach when you get home isn’t really getting us any closer to yoga.

 

Other than finding time for it and the random thoughts, there are other obstacles for us mums practicing at home. Except when both children are asleep, I have to deal with their fights, my hair being pulled, or face scratched. I’ve was once ambushed in an inverted posture by my two and had to call for help. They often hug my standing leg just when I am in the hardest one leg balancing posture.

I also get the adjustments though. They sit on my back in forward-folds. I haven’t gone as deeply into postures since I was pregnant.

It’s good fun when they imitate me. The first time Leila copied some of my arm movements she was under four months old. I was shocked, and realized the value of practicing with them around. Today I asked R what he was doing on my mat. “Yoga,” he said while his hands, feet and head connected to the ground in his tenth down dog of the day. Having them around lets them know my practice is for me, but that they are welcome to join in, even if it is just lying on my mat underneath me. The postures come naturally to them. If I didn’t know better I’d be jealous of their flexibility. I’m hoping that my hyper-active yogis will also  imitate me in the final relaxation some day.  Here are more of our Mat Moments.

I can’t lie, there have been times I wish I could be in a studio and not have to deal with screaming, running toddlers dropping food on my mat, not to mention the number of times I have to stop part-way through because someone can’t handle it. When we travel and there are studios around, it is my break to go to a class.  We just spent ten days in a Canadian city where the studio down the road offered a first-timer two week unlimited trial for $25. Good deal for the five classes I managed.

A friend of mine on a tight budget did that for months. She took classes by shopping the deals at yoga studios in her city. She took the discounted one-month pass at one studio, and then a holiday special price at the next one, and the free class at another…

If you are seriously inclined to start some yoga on your own, even for a few minutes a day, I’d recommend the initial investment of studying with a teacher, someone who can guide you through a self-practice that would suit you. Eventually, you know what’s best, and the cost drops.

Workshops with senior teachers if they are available at your studio are great. They’re packed with tips that you can take home and work on for months.

Or buy a DVD that you can watch and re-watch. If it’s a good one, it won’t be surprising that you catch new tips every time.

David Swenson’s “Ashtanga Yoga -Practice Manual” is a comprehensive book available at his on-line shop for $30. It has 650 photos, including variations for all poses. It is worth it both for beginners and experienced practitioners. He is one of my favorite teachers, funny, and down-to-earth.

This is the Yoga Journal’s online home-practice page.

Just a note: learning solely from a DVD or teaching yourself from a book is not comparable to having an experienced teacher visually check in with you.

Your self- practice could be an hour of asana, 15 minutes of sun-salutations, a session of breath work in a seated position, or a 5 minute Savasana lying on your back. Whatever it is, it’s yours and it’s worth it.

Do you do your activities at home around your little yogis? How do they react? Do they participate?

Related articles: Little yogis  by Wendy Altschuler (www.yogachicago.com)
My children and yoga  by Paul Dallaghan (www.yoga-thailand.com)
What is “Mysore Style”?  by Paul Dallaghan (www.yoga-thailand.com)

 

Natasha, mum of Leila and Rahul was an Ashtanga Yoga teacher until her little yogis became the teachers.

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Full Circle – with my Heart and Hands Full

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I’ve come full circle, back in Koh Samui, at Samahita Yoga Thailand (SYT) two and a half years after my last serious training here. This time I’m here with my husband M, and my 21 month old boy/girl twins Rahul and Leila.

Right after my advanced teacher training course at SYT in 2009, I spent three months in my grandfather’s home city in India. It was there, in the peak of the summer, that after a round of IVF I got pregnant. There was the usual pregnancy stuff – fatigue, dizziness, and some vomiting. Overall, ok though. I had a long nap on my yoga mat every afternoon! Before the end of the first trimester, I insisted on returning to Chengdu, my current home city.

At 16 weeks things became more complicated. I had a major bleed, and spent the next four months in bed. The first month was spent in two Chengdu hospitals. I needed help. My mum flew in and without warning was roped into spending the next 9 months with me. Yoga helped too. The breath work calmed me through many sleepless nights.

At 26 weeks, upon the advice of doctors we flew to HK. The medical facilities there are outstanding.

From the 29th week on, I was in hospital again, being pumped with medication to keep the contractions down.

Then on a Sunday, at 31 weeks exactly, L and R seriously wanted out. I was transferred to another hospital, one with an NICU. They were born in an emergency natural delivery at The Queen Mary Hospital. R spent 3 weeks in the NICU, L spent 6.

As expected, life during the NICU phase was rather stressful, filled with fear, anxiety, and isolation. Thankfully M was there for the delivery and spent the first 2 weeks after the birth. He then managed to return to HK every weekend for the next five months.

Only after both the babies were safely home, and upon M’s ceaseless insistence, did I get a yoga practice in once in a while. Mostly it meant a few minutes of feeling out my body, and then a half an hour nap on the mat. It has gradually changed as the weight dropped, and the flexibility, strength, and focus have come back. This me-time was only possible thanks to my mum and MIL who were with me.

We returned to Chengdu when L and R were 5 months old. The four of us were together for the first time. We were happy, but of course there was some anxiety as for most new mums, and a feeling of isolation.

It’s around this period of time that I began surfing the net while feeding in the middle of the night. I found this site, HDYDI and other personal blogs where MoT’s told their funny stories, their touching stories, their “How to deal with…” stories, I could finally relate. I wasn’t the only one exhausted, stressed about premature babies, their weight-gain and illnesses.

There were undertones of stress in my system for a long time. It was only when L and R were 14 months old that I consciously made the effort to ease up. I couldn’t do it all, couldn’t be perfect and shouldn’t need to be. One insight from a MoT stuck with me. With two, she quickly let go of the expectation for perfection.

I also had to let go of expectations: that I would be able to give equal amounts of attention to each child at all times, that I would always be calm and level-headed, that I would have breast – fed directly and not pumped all the milk into bottles, that I would have lost more weight by now, that I would be practicing and teaching yoga by now, that I would be going out with friends more…and on and on.

A good friend of mine often brought up the fact that I wasn’t doing anything for myself. After some reflection, I realised that I wouldn’t pressure myself, but certainly needed some outlets. Another friend of mine, mother of 4, and ex Chengdu International Women’s Club playgroup coordinator once told me, “if it’s not sleep issues, it’s going to be something else. You just got to make time for yourself somehow.”

Her words rang true. So to start with, I filled her position as playgroup coordinator when she left Chengdu, a small task, but a big step for me. It was my first connection with adults in a long time. Soon after, I started a blog. I have always been a private person, so it’s a big deal. Some nights I write in the middle of the night. But it’s my thing and I enjoy it. It’s my way of organising and expressing my thoughts; and then letting go of them.

I am signed up for an On-line Features writing course. I have always romanticised writing, and until now, didn’t have the confidence to do any of my own. I’m not planning to become a writer, but I am thoroughly enjoying the class.

In the mean time, yoga has gradually seeped back into my life. Being back in Koh Samui at SYT practicing daily, trusting my body’s abilities again, makes teaching in the near future seem realistic. M takes care of L and R while I breathe and move at my own pace from 8-10am every morning.
I have let go of many expectations of myself, but feel more motivated than ever to do the little things that make me happy and feel fulfilled. Being here with M, R and L is certainly one of them.

So as MoM’s with never enough time in a day, what do you do for YOU?  Did you have to “let go” of expectations you put on yourself?

These are some related posts and a challenge, that stuck in my mind:

Taking Control (www.goddessinprogress.blog.com)

It’s the simple things (www.seanasmith.com)

52 weeks of ME! Challenge (www.dolli-mama.blogspot.com)

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