Mantras for Gentle Parenting
Contributed by Sarah Martyn LMT, RYT.
As I reach the end of each Yoga class, I invite my students to contemplate the connection they have made with themselves, and therefore with the universe, in the last 75 minutes of their practice. I ask them to invite peace, harmony, kindness and gentleness into their lives. It is their choice whether or not they accept the peace and calm they have found on their mat to take with them into the rest of the world. It is also their choice whether they allow external influences to ruffle their feathers and invade their calm, or whether they will use what they learn on their mat and apply it to the rest of their lives. I speak about all of these things…and then I leave my mat and return to the role greater than that of a Yoga teacher. I return to being Mommy.
On any given day, nothing is guaranteed to test my Yoga principles like my three rambunctious, crazy, wonderful children. Your own children can test your patience, your temper, and your peace more than pretty much any adult person is capable of. On some days, I leave a Yoga class calm, serene, filled with the peace of the universe, and then thirty minutes later find myself screaming at my children loud enough for the neighbors to hear every word. I am human; these outbursts happen. I am keenly aware, however, that the way we speak to our children becomes their own inner voice. The way we treat our children is often the way they learn to treat the world. If I want them to be loving, kind, honest, peace-filled adults, then it is important that I model these things for them, as my actions speak far louder than my words ever could. If you are a Yogini mama like myself, and looking to incorporate your practice into your gentle parenting, I offer to you my three mantras not only to help get you through but more importantly to love the days of mess, noise, and chaos.
1. “My children are not giving me a hard time, they are having a hard time.”
Yoga teaches us compassion; we learn to recognize that even violent acts in this world are born out of suffering and ignorance. Next time your are on your mat, I invite you to contemplate the fact that every sentient being, including your own child, is simply trying their best to find happiness and lessen suffering. Our children are very new to this world, to their own bodies, minds and feelings. Bringing this Yogic concept can help us even when our children are having temper tantrums in the middle of the grocery store. It helps us to be understanding of the fact that our children are not trying to create anxiety and stress for us; they are simply trying to find their way in the world, and sometimes that’s a fairly difficult thing for a little person.
2. “Pratyahara and Pranayama”
This isn’t so much a mantra, but a reminder to myself to practice these two limbs of Yoga throughout my day, and to practice them together. Pratyahara, if you are unfamiliar with it, is one of the eight limbs of Classical Yoga. It is a “withdraw of the senses”. Our senses are said to be like five wild horses pulling us in all different directions and as Yogis our task is to reign these senses in, to use them as we wish instead of letting them rule us. This comes into practice very well when you have three children, two of whom are wild boys who are ALWAYS feeling the need to make as much noise as possible! When the noise, or the clutter, feels overwhelming, take a moment to consciously draw in your senses, letting any stressful sounds or sights fade into background noise. Some of you reading may think it’s not very nice to “tune out” children, but trust me that this can be a sanity –saving practice! With my Pratyahara I practice Pranayama, or breathwork. We often hold so much tension and stress in our bodies through our breaths (next time you feel overwhelmed, notice the quality of your breath; most likely it is fast and very shallow in your chest). Yoga teaches us that just as our breath is altered by our mindstate, we can learn to alter our mindstate through our breath. Taking just ten conscious, slow, deeeep breaths can be all that is needed to bring us back to a place of peace and calm, better able to truly be present with, and enjoy, the company of our littles.
3). “You have to MAKE time to take care of yourself, because if you wait to FIND time, you will forever be neglecting yourself.”
This is so very, very important. And yes, it is a Yoga principle! Yoga teaches us that it is only when we care and connect with ourselves that we are able to effectively care for and connect with others and the world. This is nowhere truer than in the depths of motherhood, where so many of us feel pulled in every direction, always caring for others before ourselves. Whether it is getting away to a Yoga class, leaving the dishes in the sink in favor of a post-kid-bedtime bubble bath, taking the time to prepare nourishing food for ourselves, or taking a two-minute meditation behind the closed bathroom door while the kiddos watch Sesame Street, we must make the time. When we are nourished on every level, we are better mothers, spouses, friends, and Yoginis.
And remember, neither Yoga nor parenting are about perfection. They are a journey, where each moment, each step, is an opportunity to practice compassion, be present, and find joy. Our children can be our greatest Yoga practice, not only for the ways that they challenge us, but for the ways that they show us the purity of true, deep, unconditional love. When we can learn to find Yoga (unity) in the present moment, it can greatly help us to know that the challenging moments will pass and can be opportunities for growth; it can also help us to be more present in the fun, joyful, loving moments we are given with our amazing, unique, Divine offspring (which of course are the moments that pass much too quickly). Namaste!
Find out more about Sarah at www.sarahtrout.webs.com.