Mother’s Guilt & The Life of the Yogi.

Tuesday morning. April 5th, 2011

Nantucket, MA.

It’s true- I haven’t blogged in a while. There are months in which I feel it’s important to focus on community and career; blogging in hopes of motivating students to come to practice, and sharing my yoga trials and tribulations with my fellow yogis. And then there are months that simply require all my focus go to family; kids with colds, a baby with bronchitis, and inter-familiar drama. March, and so far April to a lesser extent, was one of those months. Not only was there the re-entry from my YogLa trip, but there were new family living arrangements to get used to, an extremely challenging week spent navigating hours of meditation and pranayama during Andrei Ram‘s Self Realization course at The Yoga Room, and then Griffin’s first case ever of acute bronchitis. This included an all-too-dramatic trip to the ER for nebulizer treatments and a chest x-ray last Friday night. Parenting and self-exploration have definitely been the focus. There hasn’t felt like a lot of time for blogging.

For me, my career development of as a yoga teacher has not always as easy to define as some of my other professional trajectories. My life as a dancer seemed like one series of performances and a natural progression of auditions and critiques: there were many external goals to focus on. My 3 year foray into magazine publishing felt like one big job interview and many martinis: one freelance job would lead to a connection which would lead to another freelance job. And at least in the beginning, massage therapy felt like an endless stream of 60 minutes treatments: doing good work to re-book, repeat, repeat, repeat.

Teaching yoga to make a living, and teaching it well, is not always so simple. It comes chalk-full of contradictions and challenges. There’s walking the delicate line between encouraging students to come to class for their own benefit, and needing to self-promote in order to pay the bills. There’s the process of trusting the universe to reward ernest dedication to the practice with a fully attended workshop, and the reality that sometimes it takes a really good poster or flyer to get students through the door.  There’s the hustle… and the flow. There’s no corporate ladder to climb, no easily projected pay-increase, no company IRA, or stock options to buy into.

Teaching from the heart, putting your personal drama aside before every class, caring for your students, keeping them safe, being prepared and thoughtful, supporting the theme or focus of your class with solid background information, maybe some great music and ambience, and creating a supportive container- these are the things that make a great class, and ultimately light up your teaching career. Much of it is subjective. There’s no real road map. And usually your on your own; there’s no boss looking over your shoulder.

Fortunately yoga teaches us to be compassionate and non-judgemental. So I can hope that by putting my heart into my classes, and my best intentions on the mat, that in turn, my students will not judge me – and if they do (because we’re human after all) that they will judge me with compassion and empathy… especially the moms. I get a lot of moms in my classes.

I know that guilt is a useless emotion, and I’m trying my best to wrap my head around that. But guilt for a Mom is a gnarly and unique beast, and Mother’s Guilt has become my personal Achille’s Heal. I know that in order to become a better teacher I need to continue deepening my studies, my personal practice and my continuing education. I tell myself that time spent in yoga workshops is akin to the weekend long seminars I would otherwise be taking in managing low back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome or CranialSacral Therapy. But for whatever reason, in our current society, it feels like a business trip to New York City for a workshop on team-building skills is met with more approval than a 5-day retreat focused on the Supreme Consciousness… So, the guilt ensues.

Last month, I sat in hour upon hour of pranayama and meditation. I had made a comitment to studying with Andrei, and I had high hopes of reaching enlightenment. Okay, maybe not enlightenment- but damn it, I wanted to learn how to deepen my meditation practice at the very least.

But as I inhaled through my left nostril and exhaled through my right, I was repeatedly distracted by thoughts of my baby boy spending his mornings in daycare. Did I really need to pay someone else, hourly, to watch my kid, as I attempted to breathe? Didn’t my autonomic nervous system take care of this for me anyway? I sat in meditation, and the inner monologue unfolded something like this:

I’m a bad mother. I should be with my son; probably at some play date for 1 and 1/2 year olds. Damn it, I should get up and go get him. I should be making him a super milk smoothie with tofu and sprouts, flax seeds and hemp- not letting him eat his friends PB&J on white bread. Maybe I should go get him and bring him to the ECC, and talk to other moms about early potty training.  Why am I sitting in lotus trying to feel my 6th Chakra vibrate? I’m the worse mother ever. OMG- I’m thinking. I’m not supposed to be thinking. Stop thinking. Guilt is useless, remember? Wait a minute, how can I not feel guilty, I’m a MOTHER! Shit, I’m thinking again. Fuck.

You see how this was going?  By then end of the 5-day retreat I was a MESS! I had cried in mediation, I don’t know, 10 times maybe?

A few months back, there had been some previous discussion with a few of my yogi-contemporaries about my hardened exterior. One of my more recent goals had been to soften, to open up. Well, by Friday it was easy to check off that box; I had no exterior left… and a meditation cushion covered in snotty Kleenex.

And then, at the very end of the week, something happened. I felt stripped down. Naked. Open… and ready to share. I realized that though there is a REALLY good chance that I’m not going to reach enlightenment, at least in this life, that my yoga practice is, surprise, GOOD FOR ME! And yes, it helps me to be better mother, a better partner, a better friend and a better yoga teacher  (I know, stop the press!).

Could it been that there was some truth in the title of Andrei’s course: Self-Realization? Had I had some kind of epiphany? Hmm, that’s probably too big a word… but, I think I may be on the right track.

I’ll let you know how it continues to unfold. 😉

Ps. Griffin is well on the path to recovery from his recent battle with bronchitis! But have you ever seen him look so sad? This was taken last Friday night at the ER.



  1. Do what you do that brings you peace and calm in your life! Mothers need to “feed” themselves first, without guilt! In doing so you enlighten within you all that is needed to nuture your child. Mistakes are made for sure and to learn from but the love of a mother is forever! I Love You, Jane “If you bungle raising your children, I don’t think whatever else you do well matters very much.” Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Have faith in yourself!

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