Friday mornings at 7:30, you can find me leading a small group of women in an informal yoga practice. We roll out our mats on a bleached, cracked basketball court that is adjacent to our local recreation center, check in a bit about our families, and then commence to lift our arms up to the sky.
Life with small children affords precious little time for yoga. Though I am able to squeeze in twenty minutes here and there at home, I had been missing a community in which to share my practice. Before I became a mother, I found that sense of community at the yoga studio, in the simple act of breathing in tune with the people on either side of me. But these days, studio classes are priced beyond my budget, and besides, classes always seem to be scheduled during a playgroup, or nap time, or when I need to be making dinner. What to do? I’m not a trained yoga teacher, but I am a longtime practitioner who can come up with a series of poses. I decided to invite some mama friends who also have experience practicing yoga (and also struggle to find the time to do it) to join me outside this summer for some well-needed sun salutations.
I quickly became attached to our outdoor yoga group, and found myself inviting people left and right to join in. It wasn’t just the pleasures of starting my day outdoors with an hour of invigorating yoga that had me hooked; it was the connection I felt to the other mothers who were practicing with me. Some of them are good friends and some are people I don’t know well at all, but I respect and can learn from all of them. All of them are women who consider an hour of quiet in which to tend to their own bodies and souls to be nothing short of luxurious. It’s not unlike the pleasure of sitting down to share a bar of excellent dark chocolate or beautifully presented martinis with friends. (How strange to realize that I am now at a place in my life in which I’d pick an hour of yoga over either of those things!) The group seems to attract the kind of women I easily draw inspiration from: caring, creative, down-to-earth people who seem to be doing a darn good job balancing family, work, and friends. They’d do anything for their kids. But they also have lives!
One mother has four kids between the ages of six and fifteen. Another has two little ones and is six months pregnant with her third. We are a diverse group, and yet–isn’t there something extraordinary about the connection we can feel to other mothers? Though we don’t talk much during our yoga group, I walk away at 8:30 feeling stronger in body and mind. The fact that our children are not actually with us is key. A playgroup can leave me drained, wishing for more time to really talk with other mothers and in need of a break from children. Quiet yoga in the company of mothers I respect creates a space in which I can take a step back, look around, and know my children to be the gifts that they truly are.
I look up to the mothers of older children, quietly gobbling up their every comment on the world of older kids. And proximity to pregnant mothers, and mothers of babies, brings its own kind of inspiration. It connects me back to the purity and hopefulness of early motherhood – the sweet smell of a newborn’s head, the intimacy of nursing, those peaceful moments when all is bliss. It can be easy to forget that mode when you’re wiping bottoms and washing scraped knees to the tune of desperate sobs. I welcome the reminder.
Since I lead and organize the group, often participants will thank me with touching sincerity, or wonder aloud if I’m getting enough back, considering all I’m giving. What they don’t know is how restorative this regular gathering is for me. I am repaid richly in inspiration, ideas, reassurance, and connection. It’s not unlike tree pose: supported and grounded by the presence of other mothers (both within this group and far beyond it), my arms float upwards, buoyed and light, opening towards the sky in a gesture of giving. It flows naturally. How cool is that?
For more reflections on motherhood, come visit my blog, Homemade Time.
About Meagan Howell
Meagan Howell is a freelance writer and social worker who loves art, books, yoga, friends, music, being outside, and helping to build communities of all sorts. Meagan lives in Maryland with her husband and two children and writes about motherhood at Homemade Time.