Reflections on Yoga & Motherhood

POSTED BY Cat Derham ON Sunday, 27 May, 2018

Reflections on Yoga & Motherhood

She turns 15 this month my sweet and sassy daughter. And it’s got me thinking how life today is so very different than life back then. Back then, before she was born, it was all about me, photography and yoga yoga yoga. I was in peak asana immersion. Hours of daily postures, teaching, traveling, workshops. You name it. I did it. And loved it. And then, quite out of the blue, this amazing little soul chose me to be her mother… I really had zero idea of what was coming. Naively imagined that most things would stay the same. My plan was to pop her out, strap her to my back and keep on moving. And for a while things did sort of stay the same. Pregnancy became an opportunity to learn more about asana. Which poses worked and which poses didn’t. And I kept practicing and photographing and teaching right up until the day that she was born. And of course, no surprise to you I’m sure, but from that day onwards everything absolutely and completely changed.

The first thing I discovered was that freshly born munchkins don’t go hand in hand with daily disciplines. They’ve got their own unique idea of structure. And most of it revolves around being in mama’s arms. Plus single parenting wasn’t meshing so well with the concept of ‘alone time’. And I was definitely struggling to get on the mat. Naptime meant exhaustion-induced corpse pose. And when she was awake, forget it. The choice was Trikonasana, or hanging with my little miracle? The answer was obvious. Nevertheless, despite the mind-altering medley of brain fog, sore nipples, and overwhelming maternal love, I still felt an incessant nagging guilt for not practicing as much as I ‘should’. Years of intense tutelage under an exacting Brahmin taskmaster had left their mark. To skip a day was basically a sin. I knew I needed to cut that thinking right out of my life. It wasn’t serving the voracious needs of this new unfurling feminine. But the cords were thick and strong. How was it going to happen?

Thank heavens for a handful of fabulous friends, one of whom had just moved to Galle, a small town in southern Sri Lanka. “It’s incredible Cat. You’ll love it. Please come and stay. I think it might do you good.” The timing was perfect. I was already seeing that western single parenting was going to involve a lot of driving, car seats, baby-sitters, play-dates, suburban isolation and money. And as I breast fed, slept and loved those first months away I kept thinking of my childhood in South East Asia. And my father, and his adrenalin infused adventures that drew us to the places where he felt most free: sailing and survival, sharks, shipwrecks and pirates. And living that quest with him had marked me forever. In fact was part of the reason that I was so drawn to Yoga: The intoxicating study of freedom. And now that I was a mother I realized that I wanted Talitha to smell and breathe and taste that same titillating life-expanding cell-electrifying energy- in some feasible way- before the systems took over. The schooling systems, the safety system, the parenting system… And combined with the crumbling edifice of my ‘sweat your prayers and just do your practice all is coming’ story… well I guess it made me vulnerable enough to take a risk.

“Yes! I’m buying our tickets this week!!” And off we went. Entering a new life, warmly embraced and loved into vibrancy. Beaches, jungles, temples, flying kites and skipping along fort walls. I was revived. A plump fruit of happiness. And utterly inspired by Annoushka’s tropical female splendor. Mother of two boys – she owned it. I began to wonder if I’d been training myself dry. Assiduously following instructions that lacked female relevance. Ascending within a system that was essentially human, hierarchal, male and power-based. It was taking both a child and a foreign country to get me back on the freedom track. Weeks turned into months. Months turned into years. We moved into an exotic house of magical decaying splendor: enormous rooms, teak floors, frangipanis and crackling white walls. Talitha in naked mango-splashed heaven. Every day a bare-foot adventure. Exploring all that each moment offered. There was good and bad and sad – Talitha got dengue. There was the tsunami. A war going on up north… But overshadowing all of that was the precious zing of wildness and the thump of our beating hearts. Of course I continued to practice and teach: At the Buddhist center, in Ulpotha, on the bulging red bricks of our terrace at home. But everything was different. Increasingly free from rigidity. My asana had more joy and less judgment. Had become part of a practice rather than the practice itself. It allowed for lightness. Giggles, snails and butterflies were all permitted intrusions. Cuddling became savasana and hugging in sirsasana is now an official pose. Guided by a voice that had nothing to do with form and everything to do with heart and soul.

Fast-forward 15 years and here we are today. Talitha turns 15 at the end of this month. We ended up spending 6 years in Sri Lanka followed by another 7 in Hawaii. And now we’re back in Europe. Where I’m from. We’re living in a city. Those harsh edges of linearity around us all the time. We’re experiencing seasons, grey skies, cold, sweaters and shoes! But we’ve got our mojo. Our juju. Our mimi power levels rocked up high. Brought all of our past into this amazing present. Truth may be emptiness but it sure feels full! I still adore the physical postures and practice them every day. Focusing on alignment. Evening out the body and neutralizing the mind. A chiropractic approach that keeps me sane and strong. That involves no guilt, religion or excessive linear thinking. But these days instead of it being my life, the asana practice fuels my life. Just part of the eco-system that makes me whole: Adjusting, working out the tweaks, breathing… and then back to where I’m being called: Homework, cleaning, hugging, teaching. Showing up with open heart for those everyday moments. And I’m thinking that maybe. Just maybe, the practice was actually preparing us for all of that: The practice of tireless service. The practice of awakened presence. The practice of surrender to Love.

It is only with the heart that one can see rightly;

What is essential is invisible to the eye”

Antione de Saint-Exupery. The Little Prince

 

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