My Daughter is a Downward Dog
Repost from Original Date of May 2010
My daughter, Rowan, is a crucible through which the depth of my yoga practice has been tested. She was only home a month when I was besieged by post partum depression, colic and sleeplessness. One desperate day I settled, with feeble energy, into downward dog. I breathed there. Resigned and listless I felt my exhaustion. I breathed and felt the sensations of pain, fatigue and self doubt live their way through my body. I breathed until I became completely and honestly present to the deep ache of motherhood – the ache of immense fear, anger, fatigue, confusion – and love.
As I descended deeper into experience my awareness held this ache like an old friend. And it asked me to change nothing. It did not challenge me to open where I had been tense from hours of pacing with my crying infant. It did not push me to stay and build greater strength where I was weak. Daniel Odier, a modern teacher of Tantra, says; “rediscover the peace of the gaze that wants nothing”. The gaze of my awareness wanted nothing that day; it simply held the immensity of my struggle without demand.
And then my baby began to cry. In days past that would have started my heart pounding but this time was different. The awareness that was birthed in on my mat simply grew larger to include her cries within it's Grace. This “gaze that wants nothing” was big enough to hold Rowan too. In that moment I was not afraid of what the next hour would bring, be it painful crying or playful calm. That day I had rediscovered the peace of being aware without demanding change. And, I came to realize that my baby's sleeplessness, her cries and her smiles were like the sensations and experiences of a downward dog. Not good, not bad, just simply there – the blessed expression of life in it's many forms.That day, I met my daughter in a much different way. I no longer felt the same pressure to “fix” her restlessness or control her schedule to suit my ideas about what should be. I no longer took her discomfort personally as if I had failed as a mother because I had not eradicated her pain. In the past I had “perfectly” aligned everything to get her to sleep and eat. But she showed me that, like in asana, there was a natural intelligence that was moving her young evolution forward in it's own way regardless of my effort and ideas.
Now, when I'm lucky, an asana, a cryor a giggle reminds of this Will that is far beyond my own and how it attempts to guide me in the soft moments when my ego forgets itself. My child has caused yoga to flood through my everyday life. She is the ease and difficulty of a downward dog, the fire of kapalabhati breath and the soft silence of savasana. She is the flow of life, without apology and before ego takes hold. She is my child and the greatest asana I have ever lived.