The instructor was trying to disentangle the tiny yogis from long curtains that framed the golden morning outside ...
My 1-year-old daughter was in her highchair, covered in smashed blueberries and pounding on her tray like an enraged, Smurf-eating yeti. I looked up from my email, trying to summon energy to care about the mess, when a message caught my bleary eye.
It was from my old yoga studio, an invitation to their new Mommy and Me class. One eyebrow lifted wearily.
“Yes, please!” shouted my aching back.
“Too early,” whined my burned-out brain.
“It’ll be perfect,” soothed my rose-colored hopes, and that settled it.
On the first day of Mommy and Me class I woke up early and nervous. I got myself and the baby ready. Then I packed my mat, water bottle, diaper kit and a glut of toys into a straining bag that protested with a quiet ripping sound. I hauled it and the baby out to the car and drove away nearly on time.
I hauled my squirming offspring and sack of bricks up the two flights of stairs to the studio.
I breathed deep and grunted to myself, “This time is for me.” I had to pee, but we were late, and frankly, it wasn’t worth the effort in a public washroom, where I would be popping off the seat every thirteen seconds to keep the baby from toddling off and licking something.
I hefted into the lobby. The first thing I noticed was that class hadn’t started yet – I breathed relief – but then I noticed why. The other moms were seated at the ends of their mats with legs crossed and eyes closed, gently bringing their minds and bodies into the present moment.
But the present moment was whacking two out of five of them on the face with building blocks. One mom’s zen was being pierced by the sound of her son screaming. The instructor was across the room trying to disentangle the remaining tiny yogis from long curtains that framed the golden morning outside.
I took advantage of the chaos and slipped into the room unnoticed. I unfurled my mat and set up our toys so my baby could play beside me in the most peaceful and charming way. She sat there and looked at me with eyes as big as sippy cups. Then, an ear-splitting shriek erupted from the little buddha on my left, and my girl leapt into my lap. She remained stuck to my body like a terrified octopus for the next 45 minutes.
She clung to my leg as I lunged in Warrior, crawled under my belly and grabbed my nose in down dog, and sat on my face when I laid down for bridge. I kept telling myself, “This is the beautiful mess; just breathe…” but it was hard, because Beauty had her foot in my mouth, and kept tackling my poses to the ground.
By the time I rolled up my mat, my heart was hammering like a sewing machine. I gathered up the light of my life and all of her accoutrements and shuffled out to the car feeling stunned.
“Holy cow,” I thought. “I suddenly hate yoga.”
It took a few weeks to shake off the experience. I still had one class to go on my drop-in pass, but couldn’t stomach another round. I got crankier each day, with body and brain screaming for release while I screamed back that I didn’t know what to do.
Finally, an answer came. A friend had just finished her yoga teacher training, and invited me to her first class.
Normally, I would have said I couldn’t get away from Mommy duty for that long, but something made me want to try. It probably had to do with the fact that this friend and I had been pregnant together, and while I felt motherhood weighing me down like a pair of cement mukluks, my colleague had found the time and energy not just to practice yoga, but to complete an intensive program. I was fascinated.
I got up extra early so I could put the baby down for her nap before I left. I passed the monitor to my husband, and suddenly found myself pulling away from the house alone. The drive was spookily quiet, and I fought a panic all the way that I was forgetting something important.
I arrived, found a space for my mat, and looked up at my friend. She sat smiling at the class, looking irresistibly serene. I couldn’t take my eyes off her… but soon had to, because looking up in downward dog is hard on the neck. All through the class, her voice grounded me, like rain on the windows.
As the minutes passed, something changed in my body. It was like getting the feeling back in your foot after sitting on it for too long. I trembled in every pose, but that wobble brought me home. I could feel my arms, legs, and core, and knew exactly where they were in space for the first time since mid-pregnancy.
My muscles were weak, and I’m sure my tongue stuck out as I fought to align my hips and shoulders. But when my parts moved, I knew where I wanted them to go. My eyes welled up; I had a quiet reunion with my body.
After that class, I understood that I could not continue being a permanently on-duty parent. I had to force myself to get away. It was hard to rework the routine and pure agony when my escape plans went awry. But from then on, I knew that my time off to exercise was a non-negotiable need. It has remained the one thing I always go back to when my body and brain get whistling like a kettle… which is currently thrice per week.
Laurie uses the kids as freeweights when needed, but prefers to sweat in blissful quiet.