I have a confession: Yoga scares me.
I know that I shouldn't be afraid: Yoga is a pretty friendly discipline. It's not like I've had a bad yoga experience. And nothing about the powerful spiritual meditation or its deep historical-cultural roots frightens me. It's the sitting still; I'm not good at it. In general, I like to be moving, and when it comes to exercise, I like it loud, fast and falling into the "disengage your mind and let your body work" category. And I'm not good at being not good at things. So the idea of doing something I find uncomfortable in a slow, concentrated way really freaks me out.
But attending a recent mom-baby yoga class at Evolution Physical Therapy & Yoga began to change my mind. Slowly and quietly.
Picture this: a warm, gently lit studio with a candle burning and a dozen or so moms (and a dad) seated on mats with their not-yet-walking babies in front of them. Studio co-owner Susan Cline Lucey leads the group in an opening of introductions and welcome, through a series of poses, and, finally, to stretching and quiet meditation.
Typically, small, enclosed spaces filled with dozens of infants are not soothing. But this studio is utterly so. Maybe the babies sense the contemplative nature of what's happening. Maybe it's the sense of connection, as if everyone in the room is in the same ocean, if not the same boat. Indeed, as the women introduce themselves, they share tidbits about their children and what the kids' development means for parents' bodies: sleepless stages, babies who need to be held all the time and so on.
As our practice progresses, I see and feel physical relief brought by triangle pose and downward-facing dog. It feels wonderful for my shoulders and back, which still ache three years of lugging around the various over-the-shoulder accoutrements of parenthood. My favorite is the use of two small balls placed between my shoulders against a wall. Roll in small circles to find those painful points ... ahhh. The stretches, poses and breath work are good for new moms working to take back their bodies after pregnancy and birthing. It's a special treat to do something so good for your body, and to be able to bring your baby along, too.
The hourlong session is challenging in a way that is hard to come by when kids run your life. Cline Lucey herself says it best before class: "It's about setting the intention of being in a loving space full of joy, not being distracted by what you're going to buy at the grocery store."
Many of the folks I met at Evolution have been at this a while, most having done prenatal classes there, as well. Cline Lucey notes that many women try yoga for the first time when pregnant, and she gears prenatal classes toward beginners. Her friendly, welcoming encouragement makes even a fearful newbie yogi feel at ease. That approach is "with intention," as well. She doesn't want attendees to feel overwhelmed or lost; she wants yoga to be doable for families. "Yoga has to exist in the chaos of our lives," she explains.
Yoga makes good fitness sense for physical reasons. And the group experience, the sense of community, the gathering all add a mental and emotional benefit to the physical. It's also not scary. Slowing down for a moment in the rush and bustle might be a stretch, but it's a good one.