A new mother shares her work-life-practice balance
By Lela Beem
My sights had not always been set on motherhood. Everything about it seemed antithetical to the meditation and yoga practice I had carefully cultivated. How would I have the time and energy to sustain another person’s life, while maintaining focus on my own spiritual development?
My primary teacher is Rod Stryker, founder of ParaYoga. He and his wife have two sets of twins! When my husband, Nick, and I decided to start a family, I sought Rod’s advice on maintaining practice while nurturing a family.
Rod assured me that motherhood would strengthen me as a teacher and a practitioner. A child would give me an opportunity to serve the Divine through serving others, a practice called “karma yoga.” This is the path of the householder yogi, also known as “the grihasthi stage of life.” According to the Vedic texts of ancient India, this is the time one spends caring for family and using daily challenges as kindling for yoga practice.
The basis of all yoga philosophy is Tantra. One definition of Tantra is “to be touched,” which means you allow the world’s messiness to be your teacher. The householder path asks us not to avoid human experience, but to participate fully in relationship to family, work, money and pleasure. Even with a household to run, we can — with moderation and compassion — lead a more balanced and mindful life.
I welcomed our son Jasper in early 2013. As my responsibilities have grown more complex, my yoga and meditation practice has shifted. I often abandon Sun Salutations in favor of Savasana. I’ve come to see how mothering can be a practice of yoga and offers endless opportunity to be present and non-reactive. When my son is overtired and screaming, I remember how yoga has taught me to breathe and remain steady in unsettled circumstances.
Whether or not we have children, each of us has a household of responsibilities. Attempting to practice yoga amidst the perceived busyness of our lives is a formidable challenge. Ultimately, the time we spend on the mat or cushion is a training ground for the level of presence and resilience we need to bring into our relationships and household.