Achieving Balance

Written by NPN Guest on October 12th, 2010

Balance, Healthy Living, Keeping Active, Work and Family
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Welcome to the October Carnival of Natural Parenting: Staying Centered, Finding Balance

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have shared how they stay centered and find balance. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

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The hardest part of parenting, especially for moms — regardless of your parenting style — is finding a balance between personal and family life. yoga after climbingWith natural and/or attachment parenting, we spend so much time listening to our baby’s cues, learning about our baby, what he/she wants and needs, what is best for him/her, and generally putting our baby first, that it is easy to neglect ourselves and what we want and need — as mothers, as women, as people. But we all know that we can better care for our babies when we, ourselves, are taken care of.

As hard as it may be, it is important to set aside time for ourselves, even if only in 10-minute increments, where we can focus inward, relax, meditate, or even just breathe — everyone needs a break sometimes! As a single mom of a 5-year-old and a 5-month-old who chooses the natural parenting and green living lifestyles, I know firsthand it can be especially hard to find even 10 minutes of tranquility in a busy life. I turned to yoga during my second trimester of my second pregnancy for a number of reasons, and have never once regretted it. I will tell you why.

For one, it helped me release tension and stress in my life, which I had in abundance. I had no idea that stretching and breathing and listening to your body could have such long-term benefits, lasting far longer than the 60 minutes we met for class, until after my first session. In addition to relieving my physical tensions, like pregnancy-related backaches and tight ligaments, yoga helped alleviate my mental tension by encouraging me to let go of it all and just focus on my breathing. However simple it sounds, this is a tremendous stress reliever.

Another reason I turned to yoga was because it enabled me to reflect inward and have a better appreciation for peace and relaxation, two things I had always struggled with in the past. I am a very high-strung person, always on the move, never sitting still, and constantly rushing from one place or task to another. As a long distance runner, this trait has served me well. I can go for miles and hours on the trail! However, when it comes to unwinding, relaxing and relishing in the simple day-to-day moments life brings, I struggled. I still do, but through the practice of yoga, I am finding better ways to just be present and take life as it comes, for what it is, nothing more or nothing less. It is often difficult to unplug, to turn everything off and tune everything out for a few minutes while you relax and try to find a few moments of peace, for a number of reasons: we may be concerned with what we will miss out on by doing this, our minds may wander to the tasks on our to-do lists we could be accomplishing during this time, and we may just struggle to even find the time to do this, like when baby refuses to nap. But once you set aside some time to do this each day, it will start to fit more naturally into your schedule and will become easier for you, and you will reap the rewards. It is hard to look beyond the struggles and set your worries and anticipations aside and just be. This is probably the hardest task a mother, a woman, a person encounters. But it can be done.

Third, yoga has helped me to embrace a more natural way of life, throughout my pregnancy, during childbirth, and on to my parenting methods and lifestyle choices. I have always leaned more toward the natural and “greener” side of living, always semi-conscious of my impact on the earth and life itself, and through yoga, I have been better able to home in on those tendencies and make more conscious decisions to lead a more simple, sustainable kind of life. Yoga embraces the beauty and simplicity of things in their natural state. A yogic lifestyle encourages contentment regardless of your circumstances; rather than seeking happiness outside yourself, whether in material things or in others, you begin looking inward to find it, and as a result, become more content with what you already have.

After going through a natural, albeit stressful, labor and delivery with my first child, I knew it was something I could do again, and I definitely wanted that for my second child, but without all the stress and anxiety of being unprepared. Upon completing a yoga childbirth workshop that encouraged a natural labor and delivery, I felt fully prepared to embrace the experience of childbirth the way it was meant to be — naturally. I practiced yoga throughout my entire labor, and while it was only four hours and some would consider me lucky, I was doing low lunges, deep squats and half-moons all the way through to ten centimeters. While there was still some screaming involved, looking back, I felt much more prepared the second time around, fully capable of completing the task at hand, confident that my yoga had equipped me with everything I needed to get through this. In practicing a more natural method of parenting from the beginning, I feel better connected to my child and my environment, and while some may not appreciate it, I know that in the long run, what I am doing will benefit far more than just my daughter and me.

Lastly, yoga represents balance both metaphorically and literally: Yoga helps you find comfort and relaxation in what can otherwise be an uncomfortable position, but through practice and with time, you slowly become more comfortable in those positions, and you then become more aware that you can apply this mind frame to other aspects of your life as well. Life isn’t about trying to eliminate struggle and pain, because that is not possible; rather, it is about learning to deal with and find comfort in those struggles — through yoga, I am able to do that. When you are able to accept what comes your way and embrace the trials and struggles life delivers, instead of trying to suppress them and just push forward, you can see them for what they really are and work your way through them. In struggling to control your breathing and your body by maintaining balance in complex yoga poses, you are embracing the difficulty in the task at hand and learning to achieve balance through it, as well as in all other aspects of your life. Ironically, the benefits of yoga are well balanced — they go hand in hand, and you can’t appreciate one without truly understanding the other; no one benefit outweighs another. This is the epitome of balance.

For resources on seeking balance in general and on yoga specifically, see our resource page.

Photo credit: lululemon athletica

Heather Paladini is a single SAHM natural mama of two beautiful children, 5 years and 5 months.

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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be updated October 12 with all the carnival links.)

  • The World from Within My Arms — Rachael at The Variegated Life finds balance despite her work and her husband’s commitment to art through attachment parenting. (@RachaelNevins)
  • Balancing the Teeter-Totter — Rebecca is rediscovering balance by exploring her interests and passions in several different categories. She shares in this guest post at The Connected Mom. (@theconnectedmom)
  • Balancing this Life — Danielle at born.in.japan is slowly learning the little tricks that make her family life more balanced. (@borninjp)
  • Uninterrupted Parenting — Amy at Innate Wholeness has learned that she does not need to interrupt parenting in order to find balance.
  • Knitting for My Family — Knitting is more than just a hobby for Kellie at Our Mindful Life, it is her creative and mental outlet, it has blessed her with friendships she might not otherwise have had, and it provides her with much-needed balance.
  • Taking the Time — Sybil at Musings of a Milk Maker has all the time she needs, now her girls are just a bit older.
  • Please, Teach Me How — Amy at Anktangle needs your help: please share how you find time for yourself, because she is struggling. (@anktangle)
  • A Pendulum Swings Both Ways — Kat at Loving {Almost} Every Moment found herself snapping with too little time for herself, and then veered toward too much.
  • Finding Balance Amidst Change — It took a season of big changes and added responsibility, but Melodie of Breastfeeding Moms Unite! now feels more balanced and organized as a mama than ever before. (@bfmom)
  • At Home with Three Young Children: The Search for Balance, Staying Sane — With three young kids, Kristin at Intrepid Murmurings knows parents sometimes have to adjust their expectations of how much downtime they can reasonably have. (@sunfrog)
  • Attachment Parenting? And finding some “Me Time” — As a mother who works full time, Momma Jorje wants “me” time that includes her daughter.
  • A Balancing Act — Sheryl at Little Snowflakes has concrete ways to help keep centered with a little one and a new baby on the way, from exercise to early bedtimes to asking for help. (@sheryljesin)
  • Aspiring Towards Libra — Are your soul-filling activities the first to be pushed aside when life gets hectic? Kelly of KellyNaturally.com aspires to make time for those “non-necessities” this year. (@kellynaturally)
  • SARKisms for Sanity — Erica at ChildOrganics has found renewed inspiration to take baths and laugh often from a book she had on the shelf. (@childorganics)

6 Responses to Achieving Balance

  1. Dionna  

    I have never taken a yoga class for myself. We have been trying “family yoga” – all three of us get up a little earlier than usual and do about 15 minutes of yoga. Kieran isn’t quite in the groove, and much of our time is spent asking him to stop climbing on us while we are attempting to do a pose. It’s not quite relaxing yet. ;) I would like to try an adult class *all by myself*, and I know our local rec center offers classes that aren’t exorbitantly prices. I wonder if they’d be more beneficial sans two year old ;) Thanks for the post Heather!

  2. CodeNamePapa  

    I’ve taken a yoga class before, and I wish I was more flexible *before* that class so I wouldn’t have been in so much pain!

  3. Lauren  

    You’re inspiring me to try yoga during this pregnancy! I had so much pain during my last one, and I love the idea of really centering myself as well. Thanks for describing your experience so well!

  4. Melodie  

    My oldest daughter is doing kids yoga and my husband is doing hot yoga. I really should be doing yoga too but I never have except for when I was pregnant. A part of the reason is because I am not flexible at all and I find it embarrassing to go and show a class full of flexible women how out of shape I am. I had an excuse when I was roly poly with pregnancy but now? Your post has at least inspired me to think more about it. Thank you!

  5. Amy  

    Hi Heather,

    You outlined my experience with yoga exactly! :) I found it during my 2nd pregnancy when I decided to do natural childbirth – no matter what. I love all types of exercise, but yoga brings peace and balance in all ways. Thank you for the comprehensive post and reminder!

  6. Heather Paladini

    Thanks everyone for the great feedback! Mom and baby/kids yoga is certainly fun, however, mom defnitely gets more benefits going solo in my opinion! :) I have been wanting to try hot/bikram yoga for some time now, just haven’t had the chance. Hoping to sometime soon, but for now, I mainly practice at home, one, because it’s free, and two, because it’s easier with a baby! ;) Another great resource is the FitTV channel, they have a great instructional yoga program on a few times a day, fyi! Good luck to you all and I hope you will try yoga again!

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