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Parenting & Motherhood

3 Yogi Moms Share How They Stopped Being So Hard on Themselves

Motherhood can be tough, even if you’ve made a career out of staying calm and centered. In honor of Mother’s Day, we asked 3 yogi moms how they cope with the pressures of motherhood, and how yoga can help.

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Janet Stone, internationally recognized yoga teacher and mother of two daughters, ages 10 and 14.

Janet Stone with Kids

Why Moms Are So Hard on Themselves

“Enjoy every moment.” “It goes so fast.” Well, when I’m facing the pressures I place and possibly the current culture places on me to be an attentive, loving, understanding, nurturing mother; a beacon at school activities and in the learning arena; to cook organic, locally grown, everything-free meals; and to support my kids financially and educationally by running a small business and earning enough to live in our city, it doesn’t always seem to go that fast (although it’s certainly been the greatest adventure of my life).

How Yoga Can Help

How can we release these pressures when they seem to be built into the system? This is where the YOGA of yoga comes into play. The secret to slowing down, simplifying, non-harming, honesty, non-grasping, etc. is a daily practice. Many moms are convinced they don’t have time for yoga or meditation, but for me it’s imperative to make the time every day to return to yoga not only for my personal practice, but so that I may be a present, compassionate figure for my daughters. Some musts for me:

—Making time every day to sit in meditation for at least 11 minutes with pranayama. This helps me expand my view of myself and my situation so I can approach things more clearly.

—Taking a strong and grounded stance with slow, long breaths. This slows me down and connects me back to the ground, foundation, and strength I need in difficult situations.

—Making a list of all of my expectations of myself. This allows me to see how impossible this list is and become more honest about the time and attention I have to offer.

See also Mom-asana: Reserving Energy, or Making a Don’t-Do List

—Communicating openly with those around me. This gives me the opportunity to ask for help when I need it.

—Looking into my children’s eyes…really taking a moment to look, pause, breathe, and stop talking. This helps me be more present and stop thinking about my own agenda.

—Being playful. This helps me lighten it all up and laugh with my kids or other parents.

Want more tips like these? Sign up for our Yoga for Strong Moms online course featuring Janet Stone. 

Coral Brown, senior Prana Vinyasa Flow teacher and Holistic Psychotherapist, and her 7-month-old son, Seamus.

Coral Brown and Baby
Bethany O Photography

Why Moms Are So Hard on Themselves

I think there’s a lot of pressure from the culture, whether it’s our family culture or culture in general. People give you advice and they want you to follow it—there are expectations and there is judgment. And that’s only the external … the internal stress comes from wanting to do it right, to raise a healthy, happy baby and person. When you give birth, you realize this is an actual human being and you don’t want to screw this up. It’s particularly intense when you realize [how much of the brain is formed] in the first 3 years of life and that you are responsible for this critical development by nurturing and stimulating them, whether it’s through reading to them, talking to them, etc. They are completely dependent on us, which is a lot of responsibility and pressure. It’s different for everybody, and hormonal spikes and plummets happen. It’s hard in those moments to be objective and bring yourself back without having a practice that you’re very committed to, like yoga, meditation, or mindfulness. 

How Yoga Can Help

Yoga has really helped me as a mom. Just being able to stay mindful—which is the state of yoga, mindfulness—and be compassionate with myself and give myself space, has helped me face challenges like not having sleep, having to go back to work, etc. The consciousness of yoga/mindfulness helps keep me tethered and grounded when there are a lot of opportunities to fly off the handle or flow into fear space. For me it is about the practice of taking a breath and finding the space between the stimulus and the response. Being non-reactive and mindful enough to take a pause so my higher evolutionary self can respond.

I also practice ahimsa (non-harming) with myself, or not being so judgmental with myself, as well as santosha (contentment), which helps me release my expectations and be with what is. For example, I expected I would practice asana during my whole pregnancy, and that wasn’t happening for me, so I released my expectation around that. You can find relief by experiencing santosha with what you have and making it enough and better than enough, no matter what your situation is.

Asana can also help. After a birth, whether you had a vaginal birth or a C-section, the core is so distended, and the center has shifted so much. There is a need to come back to the center physically and emotionally. Balancing poses that get low to the ground, like Low Lunge, are good for someone whose center of gravity has completely shifted. You can even include the baby! 

Also, you’re rebuilding your body and it’s not going to be the body you used to have. Even if it ends up looking the same, it feels different. I have realized that it’s more healing to say, “No, I don’t want my old body back. I love my new strong and powerful body that feeds my baby,” rather than looking back and missing something that’s no longer here. 

See also Coral Brown’s Do-Anywhere Daily Mindfulness + Gratitude Practice

Acclaimed yoga teacher Colleen Saidman Yee and her family.

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Why Moms Are So Hard on Themselves

There was a time in my life early on when I wanted to be the perfect mom to my daughter and three young stepchildren. Not yet realizing that no mother was perfect—and that I was enough just as I was—I worked too hard trying to give everything to everyone, and I became exhausted, worn down, and depleted. I felt completely unsexy.

It took me a while to finally realize that throwing out my to-do list and climbing into bed with a good book, or going out dancing with my girlfriends, or getting back into the routine of taking a few yoga classes every week, actually benefitted my kids. It took me a while to realize that only by taking care of myself in a profound, meaningful way, would it possible for me to care for them deeply.

See also Self-Care: The Ultimate Mindful Mother’s Day Gift

How Yoga Can Help

As usual, it was my yoga practice that reminded me not only that I was enough, but that I was still a sexy, sensual human being. For many of us, the truth that we are damn sexy women gets lost in all the caring for others. I started to find the juice and sensual aspect of moving the body in and out of poses while focusing on the pelvic floor. It did wonders for my self-image and eventually released the tension of feeling like I was never doing or giving enough. My suggestions for sexy self-care for moms are:

1. Practice observing your breath, so it’s always right there in that sexy tool belt whenever you need it. It will bring you back into your body, and remind you that you even have a body. Say to yourself, “Inhale, I feel my feet, and the steadiness of my legs. Exhale, I feel my chest and the and the lightness of my heart.” 

2. Play with using your practice to fall in love with yourself. By becoming intimate with every aspect of your body in asana, and watching all the comings and goings of your mind in meditation, and feeling the breath as the bridge between the two, you are already telling yourself “I love you.” 

3. Stop forcing yourself to be an idea of what you think you should be, and instead have fun. This is the best example that you can set for your kids. Write down 10 ways that you have fun and do one a day. 

4. Say, write, sing, shout, “I am enough!” over and over again until you believe it. 

See also Yoga for Inner Peace: Reconnecting With Your Roots