12 Things My 20 Week-Old Baby has Taught Me About My 20 Year-Old Yoga Practice
As published in Inner Fire's The Journal
“The more you learn, the less you know” – a discovery that most yogis make on their own, or through the guidance of a great teacher. I’d never have guessed that my most transformative guru would be a cooing milk addict dressed in onesies and leg warmers. But her innate wisdom and shining example affirms that all we can do is show up, do our best, and welcome the lessons that will help us evolve – on and off the mat. Here are 12 things my 20 week-old baby has taught me about my 20 year-old yoga practice.
1. Presence. She is the most present person I know. My husband interprets her signature demand, “Ahhh!” as, “Now!” All she knows is now, as if it is all that there is… My baby is definitely a yogi! The first sutra tells us Atha Yoganushasam: Now is the time for Yoga. With that little Atha/Now, a blessing is bestowed as we transition into the practice of Yoga, of Union, of Presence. Presence is love. Love is union. Union is yoga. Yoga is now, always now. And oh, how we mommas need those blessings now more than ever!
2. Vulnerability & Authenticity. She chose me to be her momma. She entrusted me to create her childhood. She spent nine months inside the most personal depths of me – my second and third chakras – the parts that delineate my secret dreams, desires, passions, fears, and self-perceived shortcomings. She knows me and she still chose me so there is no sense in trying to hide or pretend, and that is a relief. Her own vulnerability and authenticity are shining examples – she lets it all out (with sweet baby thigh rolls and shouts).
3. Surrender. Let go. Simplify. Take things off the To Do List instead of adding, and be cool with that. And understand that you’re not always going to understand. The neurological changes happening in our babies at lightning speed are a feat of nature with which we can not keep up, so… Feel all the feels of being; there’s no ignoring the dark side with a little light constantly illuminating every aspect of yourself. Albeit their lacking linguistics, babies have the extraordinary ability to call out the ego and make it beg for mercy. She’s teaching me (work in progress!) to slow down, chill out, embrace it all – even her tears and mine. It’s the ultimate Yin practice.
4. Acceptance. New body. New obstacle-infused schedule. Timing is a thing of the past. So are manicures, updated class playlists, consistent replying and posting, late nights dancing. What’s replaced those things, though, is even better – the poetry of impermanence (that mani wouldn’t last many diaper changes anyway!), impromptu dance parties to any playlist, sweet un-pressure to reply promptly (baby brain is real, and people are understanding), cuddling in bed “too” late into the morning… All good. So good. Because, what else?
5. Breathe. Slow down and take those deep breathes I’m constantly guiding my students to take. It’s scientifically evidenced to calm the nervous system, and often it’s the only option a new mom has. When consciously chosen off the mat just as it is on, the benefits of deep breathing are immeasurable to us mommas and our babies who subconsciously learn breathing patterns from us. For the breath itself though, I follow my baby’s lead – her diaphragm-optimized, full-belly breathes are divine.
6. Movement. Just as we think she’s drifting off to sleep, a wide open-mouth smile takes over and her tiny legs river dance as her arms flail '80s robotic style. She is a master of BEING how she is, doing what she needs to feel good, right now. No energy stagnating in there! My longtime asana practice has evolved immensely since witnessing my daughter’s joyfully wild, spontaneous, repetitive movement. I’m truly tuning into how I AM in the moment and moving gently, in ways that just feel right, right now (Instagram worthy or not).
7. Patience. It takes 70 tries to get the elephant teething toy into her mouth at the right angle – but she doesn’t seem to mind, nor does she agonize about moving on without harbouring resentment for a failure or gloating a win. It’s just over and on to the next thing, or more of the same – free of judgement and shame, full of patience. Eventually, it happens effortlessly – and she doesn’t seem to mind that either, it just is. Reminds me of our favourite from Mr. Jois: “Practice, practice and all is coming.” So, darling Eka Pada Sirsasana, I will continue to approach you, with patience, just as my baby regards that elephant.
8. Trust. She trusts so completely, explicitly, unconditionally, effortlessly. As I ponder how to nurture this beautiful inherent naivety whilst teaching her to use discretion accordingly, I learn to more fully trust my own intuition, heart, gut. Of course when it comes to caring for her, I encounter one controversial child rearing choice after the next, but also for myself. After all, these yogic practices are about cleansing, unveiling, igniting our intuition – time to trust that it’s working!
9. Gratitude. Countless times each day I thank her for choosing me, the higher powers for blessing me with her, my husband for being better than the best partner imaginable, my body for doing superhuman things during pregnancy and birth… All the precious moments that indescribably cause my heart to expand to unprecedented proportions. And the moments to myself – even if they are just enough to offer thanks.
10. Heart Opening. Dare you to try not blasting open your anahata chakra whilst watching your baby smile in her sleep. And I double-dare you to not shatter your heart to pieces when she’s unconsolable. According to my mini-guru, either is fine, neither is wrong – like the infamous Thai saying: “Same same but different.“ And, as on the mat, heart openers strengthen other areas of our being, physical and energetic.
11. Compassion. “Concern for the suffering of others” seems quite a light definition when it comes to your own baby, for whom you’d actually do anything. Only now have I legitimately experienced the pain of another, and the joy. Allowing compassion to flow (even at 3am) affords connection. Connection is healing, preventative, and brings us back to the present – where it’s all happening.
12. Oneness. I think that this is where all of the above culminates, and what Unconditional Love defines. Having created life, I’ve sincerely experienced connection. In only five months together, I hardly remember time before her and can’t imagine time without her. And now I know a greater sense of oneness with all that is, all that has been, and all that will be. Because, once again, she’s taught me the meaning of NOW, where all exists. “Ahhh!”
Anna Sugarman is a yoga teacher, teacher trainer, and eternal student, living her plant-based, dog-loving, sweet-toothed, fabulously-philanthropic fairytale in Brighton, England, with her soulmate and new daughter. They may be found adventuring and teaching locally, guiding retreats and teacher trainings globally, dancing to EDM, free diving and meditating. Anna enjoys imagining herself an astronaut-rockstar-scientist, but her love for playful motion and holistic wellbeing is her offering. Find more at www.annasugarmanyoga.com or on her Facebook and Instagram pages.