By Lela Beem
It’s the middle of the night. I’m lying in bed waiting to be summoned for duty as mother to the small child I brought into the world. He’s in the other room starting to stir. Within minutes, he becomes inconsolably demanding. Despite feeling like I am glued to the mattress, I rouse myself and stumble to his room.
A 2-foot tall person in striped pajamas is clamoring like an inmate at the bars of his crib. His cries grow more frantic as I approach. I try all the stupid sleep book recommendations: pat him and leave the room, stay hunched over with my hand on him, pick him up and then put him down.
Nothing works. Eventually we move to the rocking chair, his tiny body writhing in desperation. I hold him tightly and slow down my breath, attempting to salvage my interrupted dream as I rock with eyes closed. Deep within me, I remember why it feels this way for my child. All children work hard to separate and distinguish themselves from their parents. In learning how to function in the binary world, we must sacrifice the blurred boundaries of infancy and become individuals. While this separation is vital to discovering our unique destiny, it is also painful.
Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras teach that the root cause of sorrow is believing we are separate from the Divine (kleshas 2:3-2:9). Yet cultivation of this belief is an essential part of human development. The ego is a necessary component to our existence, but the more we cling to and identify with it, the more deeply we suffer. This self-protection keeps us isolated from the oneness some part of us longs for.
As my son searches for a womb-like restfulness in my arms, I recall my own deep longing for the same sense of home. It brought me to the yoga mat at age 21 when I was at my most unhealthy and alone.
I distinctly remember an epiphany in dancer pose as a moment of profoundly relaxed presence. Time slowed, and my breath took over. My skin was permeable to the air. I experienced a state of yoga, at one with my Self and my surroundings.
By the time we are adults, there is no returning home. Our parents, if they are even still alive, are often not the source of comfort we might hope. Though I’ve become accustomed to soothing myself through the aloneness of adulthood, my desire to be held in a safe embrace has not changed. Yoga has been the practice that reunites me with a feeling of belonging—a sense of home found within my body, breath and mind.
Lela Beem, E-RYT 500, is co-founder of Grateful Yoga of Evanston and The Amala School of Prenatal Yoga. www.gratefulyoga.com.