July is over and so is my 10-minutes-a-day (yoga) challenge. I did great until it was time to leave for vacation and then I completely lost focus. Turns out traveling with a 16-month-old required a lot of energy. The ten minutes I had to myself were generally spent doing something more time sensitive, like eating or taking a shower or appreciating the people around me.
Even so, the challenge was successful in making me realize how even 10 minutes of exercise impacts my overall feeling of well being, and most days, the 10 minutes stretched into more. The small time commitment made it easier to get started. Now that I’m home again, I’m going to attempt to make 10 minutes part of my regular self-care routine, as opposed to a temporary challenge.
If you participated, how did your month go? Did you stick to it? If not, did you still get something positive out of it? Hope you’ll share.
And, if you kept at it all month, virtual high five.
When I was pregnant, I remember lamenting to a coworker how I couldn’t wait to have my body back to myself. I was thrilled to be having a baby, but I missed being able to move freely. All I wanted was to be able to run down the street at full speed or lie on my belly in bed. My coworker responded, “Oh, you won’t have your body back to yourself for a long time, you’re planning to nurse, right?”
And, she was right. Between recovering from pregnancy and nursing my daughter around the clock, my body didn’t feel so much like mine anymore. Of course, again, I didn’t really mind, but exercise became more sporadic, and my eating habits revolved more around feeding her than making myself feel healthy.
Fast forward two years from when I found out I was pregnant and it’s officially time to reclaim my physical self. In addition to wanting to be in optimum shape before I decide to have another little person sometime down the road, this week I accepted a part-time teaching job as a “games specialist” at a Waldorf charter school. While a little different than your traditional PE program, it will be my job to teach children to be physically fit, which in my mind also means I should be physically fit!
So, as I lay on my yoga mat yesterday evening and contemplated my course of action, I realized I should start small. 10 minute increments. I can claim to be too busy for a lot of things, but every single day should include 10 minutes of my own. The month before I got pregnant, I did a 30 day yoga challenge, so it only seems fitting to start where I left off and pick an activity I enjoy.
Beginning today and lasting through the month of July, I’m challenging myself to spend a minimum of 10 minutes a day doing yoga. Whenever possible, I hope to do more, but with 2.5 weeks of travel planned for July, I know 10 minutes is something I can realistically complete.
Will you join me? Do you have a favorite physical activity you can commit to for a minimum of 10 minutes a day? We can give each other virtual high fives on August 1 and feel more accomplished for squeezing a little extra health into every single day, no matter how busy we think we are, (and, hopefully, this will translate into a new life rhythm of more daily exercise).
If you need additional motivation, check out this article about how exercise makes you live longer or, if you’re a fellow yoga enthusiast, join me in following along to Adrienne’s 10 minute yoga video below as my day one pick, (Adrienne also has a fantastic series for 30 days of yoga if you enjoy her instruction). I find the hardest part about consistent exercise is getting started, so I’m hopeful to trick myself into action by committing to just 10 minutes at a time.
E. is napping in our bed. My fingers move quickly because I never know how long I have until she awakens. Some days I get hours, others minutes. The result is an inability to focus. Do I work on my novel? Do I blog? Do I catch up on sleep?
Undoubtedly, her eyes will open when I have settled into a rhythm on my own. I have learned to save everything we can do together, like eating and cleaning, for when she is awake. Generally, I cannot bring myself to nap. Time alone is worth the occasional deprivation.
This is possibly the hardest lesson of early parenthood. Everything cannot be done. Must prioritize. As much as I love yoga, it has become a once-a-week activity. Today my husband watched E. while I went to class. Tears streamed down my face as I lay in Savasana, thoughts of growing old and E. caring for me instead of the other way around. Life, cyclical and gone in a blink.
Back home, I cuddled her to sleep in our bed, lingering an extra twenty minutes, minutes I could have had to myself but were too sweet to give up. Choosing to sleep in the same space has been on my mind a lot lately. As with anything, not everyone gets it.
Sometimes I question our choice, too, on hard nights, when she cannot sleep and I am stuck beside her for hours to keep her calm. Then I remember like everything before, this will pass. The alternative would require “sleep training,” and I am just not willing to let her scream for long. Some babies go down with less of a fight and E. is called Little Beast for good reason.
Most importantly, when it works, co-sleeping is a beautiful part of our life. Moments together, close, savoring now. We don’t worry she will be in our bed forever. We know the time will come when either we will encourage her into her own space, or she will say “Peace, y’all.” Seeing as how she demands to feed herself already, I have a feeling she will be asking for a “big girl bed” sooner than we expect.
A recent parenting piece in the Washington Post struck a chord. Sometimes the path of less stress is better for everyone. Maybe we could teach E. to sleep on her own with a few nights of intense “training,” but for what? So I would have to get up to comfort her instead of just rolling over? So we could sleep without her in our bed? The truth, co-sleeping is just as much for us as it is for her. We crave the connection, too, her sweet little body curled between us.
When it consistently stops working we will find a solution. Until then, I am happy to watch her nap all snuggled in our bed while I sit in my big, brown chair and steal some minutes for myself to write. Nothing lasts forever. Part of me wishes it would. I cannot help but think back to all the nights I lay awake in bed, pregnant, talking to her in my belly as she twirled about. I already loved her intensely then.
The night we stop sleeping next to E. will be a bittersweet one.
This past weekend some of our dearest friends came to visit, including a couple who moved down to Southern California just before Eloise was born. With no kids yet themselves, they had plenty of questions about new parenthood and somehow I found myself describing how important my coconut-milk shampoo has become to me. Sounds absurd, I know.
However, when your life revolves around someone who is almost six months old, every little moment on your own takes on new meaning. Where before I could care less about how my shampoo smelled, now taking a shower without worrying about whether she is crying is a luxury and washing my hair is a sensory experience. Suddenly, the littlest things feel like pampering, including the smell of my shampoo and the feel of hot water.
Coincidentally, another friend featured a post about self-care on her blog today with the invitation to write about pampering in exchange for a sweepstakes entry. This got me thinking about how self-care has transformed to include the smallest acts in these early months of motherhood. Now, a cup of fragrant tea is a moment I have to carve out for myself when there is no need to have my sweet girl in my arms. Likewise, sitting here and typing on my blog is another expression of self-care that felt like normal, everyday life before Eloise arrived.
Maybe that’s part of the beauty of becoming a parent. Where before I would get home from work and lament having only five or so hours to myself, now I am lucky to get a half hour that is entirely my own and often that half hour is filled with activities I used to take for granted as basic to my survival, like eating and personal hygiene. Accordingly, I try to treat myself with foods I look forward to eating and self-care products I enjoy using, like a scrubby face wash or a water bottle with a cool design.
In other words, being a new mom has given me a deeper appreciation for the littlest things in life, the very same things I never used to give a second thought. Of course, I try to also take care of myself in bigger ways, like arranging for family to watch Eloise while I go to yoga classes and asking for massage gift certificates for my birthday. It is amazing how just a couple massage sessions with our doula have reminded me to be aware of my body again. I also recently bought myself an essential oil diffuser after realizing how much scent can affect my mood.
Motherhood is so much about giving that sometimes we forget to give to ourselves. The weeks that have gone by where I have not been intentional about making time for myself have been the hardest. However, when I remember to take care of me too, staying at home with my girl feels like the best decision I have ever made and I am a much better, more present mother for it.
How do you take care of yourself? I’d love to hear– I know I could still use a few more ideas. And, you should also head over to Ashley’s blog and check out her sweepstakes, I made sure to enter by writing this post!
I have heard of people finding God on their yoga mats, instead I found myself. As I moved my creaky, postpartum body through yin yoga poses, I realized I am not the same person who started this blog. I’m not even the same person I was three months ago. We are constantly undergoing transformations and don’t often pause to think about it. Tonight, instead of writer, teacher, occasional traveler, I am mama, yogi, occasional writer.
It was difficult to get my tired butt to my first yoga class since I got pregnant. Colic usually hits us hard between 7:30 and 10:30 PM and the class I most wanted to attend was smack dab in the middle. Thankfully, my husband pushed me out the door, almost literally. Armed with both his parents and some pumped milk he would not take my worried excuses as reasons not to go. Had it not been for the improvement to her colic with my change in diet (I miss you dairy, wheat, and eggs!!), I would have fought harder. But fortunately, the last few nights have been a little quieter around here, so I felt tentative, but alright to leave.
I am so glad I did.
First, I discovered my body needs to move, everything down to my wrists and toes still hurt. I could feel the fear I was holding from the end of pregnancy and the beginning of parenthood melt on the mat. It is incredible how our emotions manifest themselves physically and so often we hardly notice.
Second, tears escaped. I cried as I realized how much fear I was holding onto, fear to move the parts of my body that hurt worst in labor, fear to leave her tonight, fear to make the right decisions regarding her health. Fear, fear, fear. Then the instructor began talking about what needs we have that aren’t been met, and I realized mine was the need to be brave. She then explained how once these needs are identified, she spends the day recognizing when those needs are being met as an exercise in gratitude for what we already have. As I poured through my recent life choices, I realized I am just as often brave as I am afraid, if not more so. I felt empowered.
Third, as these emotions unfolded, it struck me my fear of leaving my baby girl was unfounded. I had the most beautiful visualization of this invisible cord still connecting us, weaving its way out of the studio and all the way back to our house, where Eloise was safely cradled in a floating bag of water. Powerful symbolism in light of my water breaking three weeks early… More tears, of course. To know I am always connected and protecting her, even when we are not together or things do not go exactly as planned, happy tears.
Fourth, me. I forgot how much I love yoga, how it opens my mind and plants me back in my physical and mental self. I realized I am a new me. The writer, the teacher, the occasional traveler have made way for an improved version. So, I think it is time to rebrand myself, to figure out my place in this world as the mama, yogi, and occasional writer (among a million other things). This means new focus in my writing, I’m excited.
I leave you with a couple questions I enjoyed contemplating tonight. You do not have to answer to anyone but yourself:
First, what needs do you have that aren’t being met? If you stop and pay attention, how are those needs already being met without you realizing it? Or, what do you need to change to have those needs met?
Second, who are you tonight? Not three-months-ago you, or three-months-from-now you– who are you in this very moment? Can you sum yourself up in a few words or is that too stifling, too confining?
And, in case you were wondering, Eloise slept peacefully until about 10 minutes before I got home. Alex even time stamped photos to prove it because he figured I wouldn’t believe it! Here’s hoping all this dietary self-restraint is paying off.