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A Practice for My Mom

A daughter reflects on the way yoga has brought she and her mother closer.

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My mom, Kimberly Gibson, on one of her favorite hikes in Carmel Valley.

by Hillary Gibson

As I sat in Virasana (Hero’s Pose), my palms pressed into Anjali Mudra, the teacher invited us to dedicate our individual practices to whomever, or whatever, spoke to us. My mom floated into my thoughts. I pictured her sitting in the same posture as me, connecting to the same mental space as me, 3,000 miles away in California. I immediately felt a rush of comfort, a peaceful feeling of grounding. At that moment, I realized the profound impact that yoga has had our relationship.

That was last September, the beginning of a four-month internship in Washington, DC, during my senior year at University of California Berkeley. Going was a welcome and exciting opportunity, but I was surprised by the magnitude of my homesickness during the first few weeks. After dedicating that day’s practice to my mom, my anxieties quickly subsided and I felt the comfort of home. I was settled.

My mom and I have been practicing yoga together for a little over a year, though she’s been a badass yogini for as long as I can remember. I have spandex-filled flashbacks of reluctantly going to yoga class with her when she couldn’t find a sitter. Today, we have an awesome friendship, united by our mutual love of yoga, hiking, and everything related to nature.

But our relationship wasn’t always so healthy, and yoga helped it to transform. Like for many adolescent girls, the high school years were rocky ones in my house. When I was 14, right after my older brother moved away for college, my parents went through a less than amicable divorce and I found myself caught in the middle. Throughout high school, my mom and I lived mostly as roommates in our three-bedroom house and saw little of each other. We tried talking with a therapist, but ultimately agreed that it didn’t help to have a mediator. Instead of looking for someone to blame or hold responsible, we needed to find a place of mutual understanding. Yoga helped us find that place.

It’s also helped me learn perspective and empathy. In my relationship with my mom, this has meant viewing her as an individual human being enduring equal suffering, not simply as my parent.

When she came to visit me in D.C., I took her to my yoga studio where we sipped herbal tea and snacked on ginger cookies (my mom’s favorite) set up in the sitting room. We practiced side by side, and again I dedicated my practice to her. That time, though, my thoughts only had to travel a few feet.

Back in California and a week away from graduation, both of us about to begin new chapters in our lives, I continue to dedicate my practice to my mom. She introduced me to yoga, and has always been there for me, even when I wouldn’t accept her guidance.

This Sunday, for Mother’s Day, I’m going to make a surprise visit home and a bring my mom a much-needed new yoga mat. And I dedicate this post to her, and to all the other yogi moms out there.

Hillary Gibson has been the Web Editorial Intern at Yoga Journal and graduates this month from the University of California Berkeley.