Yoga Parent - Rebecca Ryan
Imagine my delight to discover that Rebecca has written a book named Mindfulness for Mothers specifically to help mothers of young children find their center through a series of simple meditation and mindfulness techniques. Rebecca has taken her experience as a yoga and meditation teacher, a long-term meditator and mother of two to create something that sounds so user friendly and practical, to restore calm for busy and frazzled mamas.
I love that her focus is on the mindfulness aspects of yoga and that she acknowledges the challenges that mothers of young children face when it comes to taking care of themselves and their own sense of peace.
Here Rebecca shares some of her journey as a Yoga Parent. How she found her way into yoga and mindfulness, how it has helped her in parenting, and how she has seen it benefit the mothers she has worked with.
Sandra: How has becoming a mother influenced your yoga practice?
Rebecca: Becoming a mother had a huge impact on my yoga practice. I really enjoyed yoga throughout my first pregnancy and found a great prenatal yoga class to go. I was able to adjust my yoga practice to suit my growing baby and my changing body. After having my baby I found it much harder to adjust my practice than during pregnancy. However, I knew the benefits and I felt they were worth the effort of trying to keep going with my practice now that I was a mother. I found a great mums and bubs class to go to and when my daughter was too big for us to keep going to that I built up my home practice and included my daughter. That was such a great experience for us both. My daughter is now 11 and my practice keeps changing but I’m open to that, more so now than when I was a new mum.
The other influence that becoming a mother had on my yoga practice was that becoming a mum lead to me become a yoga teacher. I was inspired by how amazing pregnancy and birth was for me and I credited my yoga practice with much of that, especially the birth preparation part. I felt so capable and so supported by the many yoga tools that I had leading up to birthing my daughter that I wanted to share that with other mothers. When I started my yoga teacher training I knew that prenatal yoga was where I wanted to end up specialising. This allowed me to view all the yoga teaching, history, philosophy, and asana through the lens of new motherhood and allowed me to pass these insights onto my students.
This also lead me quite naturally to the book that I have written, ‘Mindfulness for Mothers.’ My prenatal yoga students often shared with me their birth stories and showed me their precious new babies. Time and time again they said that the breathing and the present moment awareness techniques that I’d taught them were the most useful in birth and in the early days of motherhood. This matched my own experience so it made sense to me that I try to share this with as many mothers as possible. The book was my way of trying to reach more students and sharing the benefits of yoga that I had experienced.
How does being a yoga practitioner influence how you relate to your children and your significant other?
In my relationships I find it is the philosophy of yoga that has had the greatest influence. I’m not one for remembering all the Sanskrit words for everything but sometimes there is a word that is just right in Sanskrit and the translation doesn’t quite convey the full meaning. For me that is Ahimsa. It means more than simply non-violence. It is compassion and boundless kindness, not just for others but for yourself. That last part is important. Compassion as a practice is incomplete if you don’t extend it to yourself. As a parent that can be very challenging. Living with Ahimsa as a goal and drawing on that attitude in my relationships with my children and partner has been one of the greatest gifts of my yoga practice.
What is your best practice for managing the activity, noise and chaos that comes with children?
My best practice for managing the chaos and noise that comes with children is to embrace that craziness and be present. I do this throughout the day with little mindfulness practices such as trying to listen mindfully when the kids are talking to me. Or to really watch them play and interact with each other to see what they are interested in, what takes their focus. I also like to take short pauses in my day to stop and breathe. Just a few seconds at the front door and also before I start the car or walk off down the street to do something. There are so many distractions in my day that if I don’t deliberately pay attention to my children I can miss what is happening in their lives. When I have time my other practice is to meditate. There are countless ways to meditate. My preferred practice is seated, for about 20 minutes using a breath awareness and mantra technique. If I don’t have time for 20 minutes meditation I sit anyway, maybe for 5 minutes. I try to be kind to myself and acknowledge myself for making the effort, however small it is. I think these daily practices add up and they are the basis of my self-care.
Do you have any wisdom for other parents out there?
My wisdom for other parents would be that taking care of yourself every day is as much a part of parenting as all the things that you do for your children. I think self-care as a parent is fundamental and crucial. This is a piece of wisdom that I have acquired by doing the opposite and seeing first hand how difficult everything feels and how hard it can be when I don’t take care of myself! Now that I have had that experience I try to prioritise my self-care more. My self-care is based on yoga and meditation and this suits me. I would say to other parents that whatever you base your self-care on is fine. The main thing is to find what works for you and make a commitment to that practice for yourself and your own wellbeing. This parenting thing is a long-term gig and endurance is needed. I try to build up my reserves on good days and then I’m better prepared for the harder days. Knowing that I have the skills to nurture and nourish myself after the crisis has passed makes it easier when I’m feeling overwhelmed.