By Samantha Wiltshire
Becoming a new mum, while incredible, at times magical, and completely life transforming, also involves quite a lot of ‘doing’! Suddenly on much reduced sleep we are keeping a whole other person alive, when not so long ago we were mainly concerned with just ourselves on the whole. There’s washing, the feedings, trying to establish nap routines, changing requirements and catching up with what can seem like daily new needs from your baby as they zoom their way through the first year of development. There is the squeezing of jobs into nap times while one ear is also on a potentially ending nap. There’s the time spent in the house, gearing yourself up (quite literally with nappies, wipes, carrier, toy, snacks….) to go out of the house. I now look back and wonder how much time I actually spent not doing but just taking a moment to breathe, to sense, to just be. And by that I don’t mean the stolen Facebook sessions, browsing lazily through any article that was posted. Nor do I mean that period of clock-watching time waiting for your partner to come in from work and be your adult company. I don’t even mean the occasional impromptu naps – though they were so very good too! I mean just stopping for a moment to take it in.
There can be a couple of reasons why we don’t do this often. There is the obvious one – when am I supposed to fit ‘being’ into my day? Our day doesn’t often seem to have a window for this. Then, when we do, there can be the sense of guilt, that there must be something we should be doing! I found it quite hard to access ‘being’ over ‘doing’ when I was in the house, surrounded by lots of reminders of what I could be doing. So, no matter what, I found it was important to take a walk in my day, with my baby of course, but maybe at nap time. When nap time was taken at home I often filled it with stuff. Or, at the very least, filled it with sitting on the sofa, catching my breath and making mental lists. But when it was out in the park (I lived near the glorious Greenwich Park at the time – the perfect place to ‘be’) I could simply and peacefully absorb what was around me, notice my footsteps, the fresh air, the sounds. Here my mind could detach a little from the busy thoughts, list making etc. and, as a result I was pressing the pause button and replenishing body and soul.
To draw it back to yoga, these classes were another space for me to ‘be’. Maybe it was because yoga has always held that place for me – moving my body, gently and with love, through the postures that it was so familiar with – maybe it was the indulgence of something for me, but whatever it was, even the simple act of rolling out the mat and stepping onto it had the effect of easing my body and soothing my mind. The, almost ritualistic movement, guided by my breath, held me in the space, in the present. That’s not to say that some amount of mental list making wasn’t happening in Trikonasana. Nor did my mind completely free itself from worried thoughts, inner rants, anxieties around my baby’s welfare. But as the teacher guided me, I could follow, and sometimes it may have taken the whole class time to get there, but I did come back to me, in the present moment, sensing more than thinking, feeling more than analysing.
Some of my friends who have a yoga practice, discovered yoga either when pregnant or when they were a new mum, either through mum and baby classes or as a much needed time for themselves when someone could help give them that time. Pregnancy is a time when our body takes over. It can speak to us more clearly than at any other time of our lives – telling us what to eat and drink, making us slow down and respect the needs of the body. Maybe that is why yoga can be a natural draw for us at this time. Spending time on the mat, respecting the body more than the list of mental jobs we have made, is precious for our well-being – as well as strengthening and preparing the body for birth and what follows. We can swing the other way once baby is born and rather neglect ourselves, and so continuing our practice may be the only time we are kind to ourselves and treat ourselves with the same love we treat our new-born.
Wherever it came from, be it yoga, walks through the park, sitting down to slowly and thoroughly enjoy a sweet treat, treasuring these moments, making time for them, creating space; these were crucial for me. These moments gave me the strength to carry on and enjoy this precious time with the baby I shared it with.