Using parenthood as a mirror to identify opportunities for growth
By Kerry Maiorca
I was midway through my second teacher training at the Iyengar Yoga Institute of San Francisco when my philosophy teacher asked the class to contemplate the foundational principles of practice (abhyasa) and nonattachment (vairagya). At the time, my obsession about having a baby with my husband was at an all-time high.
The philosophy was great in theory. I could get on board with the idea of not attaching to possessions or how awesome (or not awesome) my backbends looked. However, I argued with my teacher that there had to be some exceptions. How could I be expected to not attach to my husband’s love or my desire to have children? In those cases, wasn’t nonattachment just cold?
I had demonstrated my dedication on the mat the day I nailed the balance in handstand. But even after eight years of asana practice, I hadn’t truly begun practicing yoga until the night my philosophy teacher used principles from “The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali” to help me see I was addicted to escaping the present by dreaming about becoming a mom in the future.
My first baby was my yoga studio. My husband Zach and I opened the studio in November 2004, and I worked nonstop for the next year to build our community. The sustained focus required as a small business owner thrust me into the present. There was no time to dwell on my future hopes for motherhood when I needed to take care of a leak in the studio or send out the monthly email newsletter. Despite the hard work, I was more content than I’d ever been.
Our son was born in 2006 and our daughter in 2008. As a new mom, I was often paralyzed by my attachment to doing everything “perfectly.” I’d obsess over birth plans, nursing and sleeping arrangements, and the perfect foods, thinking these decisions would make or break my children’s happiness. Somewhat ironically, I initially followed the “attachment parenting” approach to the letter, never considering that attaching to a theoretical framework was a poor substitute for parenting to my family’s needs.
Experienced parents tell newbies, “It goes so fast, enjoy them while they’re young!” Yoga practice helps me continually find my way back to the present moment, rather than constantly looking forward to that first step, first word or first day of school. Right now is all there is—even when right now feels like it will last forever because a willful 4-year-old wants to put on her own shoes at a snail’s pace when we’re already running late. After more than seven years, I’m not always skillful or graceful at this mom business, but I’m much more aware.
Parenting is a mirror that can show us in our best light, but also reveals blemishes we’d rather pretend weren’t there. The experience of being a parent is nothing if not revealing. When approached from a conscious place of sustained effort and nonattachment, it can also be a beautiful extension of yoga practice.
Tips for the practice of parenthood
- Breathe deeply when you feel impatient
- Prioritize focused time with your child
- Avoid dwelling on the next stage
- Explore attachments to parenting “perfection”
- Remember parenting is a practice
Kerry Maiorca, E-RYT 500 and RPYT, is the founder and director of Bloom Yoga Studio and leads its teacher training programs. As a yoga practitioner and writer for more than 17 years, Kerry explores the intersection of yoga and daily life on her Thinking Yogi blog.