When you enter the world of motherhood, so many practices from your “old” life slip away. It’s not uncommon for you to have feelings of grief for your pre-baby life amongst the joys of having a new baby. No longer do you have the luxury of taking long periods for a daily yoga practice. If you were someone who rose early to meditate, you might now be rising early to feed your baby instead.
Rather than clinging to the way you once took time for yourself, it can be helpful to rethink your approach to self-care. How can I better integrate a way of living mindfully, nourishing both myself as well as my children?
The concept of sādhanā is one that could be more helpful at this time in your life than any other. Contemporary spiritual teacher Jaggi Vasudev, defines sādhanā as this: “Everything can be sādhanā. The way you eat, the way you sit, the way you stand, the way you breathe, the way you conduct your body, mind and your energies and emotions – this is sādhanā. Sādhanā does not mean any specific kind of activity, sādhanā means you are using everything as a tool for your wellbeing.” 
The very practice of sādhanā can be integrated into everything you do. Of course, when you haven’t slept for more than two hours in a row for days and baby is crying, keeping your thoughts and energies positive can be immensely challenging. What sort of practical tools can you call upon to help bring you back to a place that feels centred and calm?
Your children will also benefit from a more mindful approach to your every day – the calmer and more mindful you are in your daily rhythms, the more they will mirror this. Your nervous system is so intrinsically linked to theirs – when you breathe well, they will feel it, when you relax during breastfeeding, they sense it, when you are calm at bedtime, they mirror this too.
Many moments within your daily routine can allow you to integrate such a yoga practice. The more banal the task, the more space there may be to find something in it for yourself. Here are some simple ideas to help bring sādhanā into your daily life. Some of them you might already know, but if you are like me, I always like to be reminded!
Pranayama while you wash the dishes
Of course, any conversation around motherhood and living positively will always come back to the breath. Our breath is the gift we always have to hand and knowing how to harness it is a gift for life. You may have learnt certain breath practices, or Pranayama, during pregnancy that can still be helpful in the journey through motherhood (even once your children become teens!). Practices such as Nadi Shodana, Viloma Pranayama (three-part breath) and even Ujjayi Pranayama can be grounding and reduce anxiety and exhaustion.
I particularly like using Brahmari Pranayama – the humming bee breath. Because it can be heard, it’s a great breath for bringing you back into yourself. Classic yoga texts claim that the most noticeable effect of this breath is to induce a feeling of happiness. Similarly, it can also be beneficial when feeling you are in a stressful situation beyond your control – feelings of instability and vulnerability can be lessened by practicing this breath. Little kids love Brahmari too as they play at being a bee, while for older children, if they hear you practicing this breath it could be a not so subtle sign to give you some space!
How to practice Brahmari Breath
While this breath is most effective with the ears covered, it can be done without, especially in the case where you might need to be doing another task.
Begin by establishing a comfortable seat or standing position and allow an awareness of the breath as it moves in and out of the nose. Close the eyes if possible.
Block the ears with the heels of your hand, index fingers or thumbs, whatever feels most comfortable.
On your exhalation allow the lips to vibrate, making a humming sound. It doesn’t need to be a loud sound, it’s more important that you feel it internally, especially vibrating through your heart centre. Allow each sound to fade at the end before inhaling and beginning again on the exhale.
If you prefer an audio guide you can follow Moving with the Moon author and creator of Bliss Baby Yoga, Ana Davis’s guidance on how to practice Brahmari Breath by clicking the play button on the track below.
Asana while waiting for the kettle to boil
Some gentle stretches in the moments waiting in the kitchen for the kettle or toaster, for example, can be enough to open the heart and tighter areas of our body. Using the kitchen bench as a high version of a chair can feel good for half Downward Dog, by placing hands against the bench edge. Holding onto the bench for Malasana, squat, can be a beautiful stretch for the sacrum and lower back. Standing with your back to the bench, holding it and leaning forward can be a feel-good opener for the chest, especially if you are breastfeeding.
If you have the practice, a few careful sun salutations can be great for stimulating your prana and opening the chest. Even a good Tadasana pose, lengthening into the whole of the body can be powerful if you only have a couple of minutes.
Pelvic Floor Toning while waiting at red lights
As most of us know, giving some attention to this delicate part of the body is a central part of our wellbeing, especially for the future. Having something that triggers us to practice some pelvic floor strengthening work, such as sitting at a red light, will bode well for building and maintaining the health of these important muscles.
Meditation while going for a walk
Walking meditation is a Buddhist approach to mindfulness and can be powerful for us all as mothers. As you walk, try feeling the ground beneath your feet with every step (walking barefoot is best if possible), notice your spine – lengthening from the coccyx to the crown of your head. As mothers, we spend so much time bending forward to our children that we need to pay attention to standing tall! Feel the sensation of clothing, or your baby, against you. Go through the other senses in your mind: notice the temperature around you. What sounds do you hear? What do you see? Can you notice a taste on your tongue? Keep coming back to your senses every time your mind wanders.
If your baby is awake and old enough, share your experience of these senses with them, children are so in the moment that they are better at a walking meditation than we are!
Meditation while you are breastfeeding (or bottle-feeding) is also deeply calming and nurturing for mothers and babies. Uma Dinsmore-Tuli in her book, Mother’s Breath, gives guidance on the “Feeding Breath Meditation” that is similar to a walking meditation – placing awareness sequentially around each sense while baby is against you.
Chanting while folding the clothes
Chanting a mantra can be healing not only for ourselves but for our children too. A mantra sung often to babies and young children will be familiar to them for life.
I used to love singing the mantra to the Green Goddess Tara: Om Tare Tuttare Ture Soha, said to be the protector against danger and fear. It is soothing to both our nervous systems and to those of our little ones.
Restorative Asana while putting children to sleep
If you don’t have to physically hold your child while they go to sleep but they need you in the room, consider taking your legs up the wall or onto a chair (or even onto their bed). It will nourish you far more than sitting impatiently waiting for them to go to sleep. Child’s pose with a bolster or a couple of pillows also works. My father used to meditate while we were going to sleep when we were kids. I now do this often, especially as my kids get older – they don’t try to talk if I am meditating and so it helps get them to sleep faster!
-  https://isha.sadhguru.org/global/en/wisdom/article/the-what-why-of-sadhana
-  Uma Dinsmore-Tuli (2006) “Mother’s Breath”
If you are passionate about nurturing women during pregnancy and postnatally, and offering holistic yoga classes with safe, appropriate and nourishing practices designed specifically for pregnant women and new mothers, you may be interested in our Bliss Baby Yoga Online Prenatal & Postnatal Yoga Teacher Training course. We also offer Online Extension Modules to enhance and further your learning in this area, covering topics including Prenatal & Postnatal Anatomy and Physiology, Pelvic Floor Anatomy and Physiology for Women’s Health and Perinatal Nutrition & Ayurveda,
Nadine O’Mara is an experienced prenatal and postnatal yoga teacher, doula, and our Bliss Baby Yoga Online Course Content Manager and Co-Director, who also runs her own business, Conscious Life Yoga Conscious Birth. Nadine shares her wealth of knowledge through contributing and editing content for our Bliss Baby Yoga online courses and social media, including being a co-facilitator of our Online Level 2 Restorative Yoga Teacher Training course. Nadine provides doula support and yoga for women and their partners in Northern Sydney, as well as offering self care and restorative yoga workshops for mothers, mother’s circles, family yoga and retreats for women and/or families.
Illustrations by Sophie Duncan www.deerdaisy.com
Further Reading related to this topic:
- Self-Care Tips for New Mamas by Star Despres
- Extended Exhalation Breath with Lauren Tober (VIDEO)
- How Yoga Can Support Postnatal Mental Health (Including Three Simple Practices) by Maria Kirsten
- Chanting, Mantra and Mudra for Pregnancy and Birth by Jennifer Allen
- Healing the wound: How can we best support mothers after caesarian? by Nadine O’Mara