There’s a yogi on Instagram whose posts often show her in advanced yoga poses, sometimes while breastfeeding. She is pictured in one doing a pincha mayurasana handstand while baby/toddler guzzles away. You can check her out here if that kind of thing tickles your fancy.
I am not that mother. I am not that yogi. Yoga teacher confession time. I cannot do any kind of a handstand that doesn’t involve a wall or other vertical surface supporting me. After two babies, I’ve got the breastfeeding down, and I have sometimes obliged baby with a feed mid-yoga session. It’s always been in an upright position though – anything much more challenging than sukhasana – easy crossed legs- tends to elicit loud objections from my yoga baby.
I always thought that Instagram was full of that kind of yogi, a constant parade of perfect poses and impossible bendiness; just another subset of the constant parade of perfect #instalife and impossible #instabeauty.
Guess what, Instagram is FULL of that kind of yogi.
The one I tell myself I never want to be while still harbouring a secret desire to be exactly that. Who would want to breastfeed their baby while doing a handstand? I might. Just for the hell of it.
But I won’t because I can’t. Because it’s not even the point, at least not for me.
I do yoga because it makes me a calmer person. I roll out my mat and breathe and stretch because everything I do after that is easier and more manageable than without the breathing and the stretching. I like to feel that my body is alive, supple and energised. That’s what yoga does for me, even in some of the simplest poses. If I really felt that learning to handstand would make yoga much more meaningful, then I’d probably do it…. probably….
But guess what, Instagram is also FULL of my kind of yogi. The mama with small kids who congratulates herself if she gets one full sun salutation in during naptime. The mama whose yoga mat is more often used by her toddler for drawing upon than for doing yoga. The mama whose abdominal muscles are so weak after the miracle and the endurance race that is pregnancy and birthing that post-dinner she looks like baby number three is on the way.
I moved house, was on maternity leave and often home alone with my little ones. I found myself posting on Instagram, connecting with some of these mamas. Sometimes connecting in my own head, sometimes through comments on each other’s posts, our shared experience. Another yoga teacher I know, also with a baby and toddler about the same age as mine began posting daily as part of a daily yoga challenge and impressed by her choice to put the yoga before the chores, I also decided to experiment in the #yogaeverydamnday challenge.
So what did I learn from playing with yoga in this way?
- Sometimes I felt like I was just doing the practice for the photo, or the video, and that seemed in a way to devalue the practice and make me feel like a bit of a fake…. but…….
- It made me practice, at least a little, every day. Sometimes the sessions were 10 minutes, sometimes an hour. Sometimes with baby in my arms, sometimes with toddler on my back. But they happened and I don’t think I would have done as much yoga without that feeling of commitment to the photo challenge. And afterward, the commitment to an (almost) daily practice continued, as I realised it was possible to find time for a breathing and a stretching in the middle of my busy-minding my babies day. Maybe not a fake so much as a ‘fake it til you make it’ then?
- Social media like Instagram can make you crazy, posting videos and looking for likes and worrying about how popular you are. Thinking about ‘the great post you could create from this moment’ takes you out of the moment and reduces your experience of it to a photo. … but
- It allowed me to connect with people in different cities, different countries, in particular mothers like me and there was great comfort and solidarity in that. Being on maternity leave can be lonely, even more so when your other half is away. I had the feeling that I was not alone in my imperfect yoga practice in my imperfect kitchen. There is so much negativity about social media, how it sucks your productivity and how fake it can be, but maybe this was a perfect use of the technology. If I could only follow the right people. I found myself asking before I followed someone- would I be happy to invite this person for a cuppa in my kitchen?
- In the absence of a regular yoga class, the videos of my practice helped me with checking my own alignment. It also gave me an extra reason to try out some more complicated poses. If left to my own devices I’d do child’s pose for an hour, but that hardly makes gripping #instayoga viewing.
- The flip side of that is you can find yourself choosing your practice for how they look and not how they make you feel. But hell, maybe this isn’t really such a problem if you’re getting onto your mat and not attempting advanced back bends without a warm-up.
I’m still posting on Instagram and I’m still doing yoga, not every day, but regularly. Still working on my handstand too. Yesterday I was upside down against the wall and my older boy came over.
Mommy what are you doing? Wow. That’s really great!
100% winning at this yoga mama thing. Who needs upside down breastfeeding?