Once a year, in most countries, we celebrate Mothers. I suspect that one of the reasons that we do so – aside from the commercial enthusiasm of those selling flowers, chocolate and greeting cards – is the tacit recognition that many mothers are under-supported and generally un-celebrated most of the time.
With the clarity of hindsight, I have no doubt that the lack of support and appropriate rest during three pregnancies and after childbirth contributed to much of the chronic exhaustion I experienced over the past 15 years, since we can’t easily stop the ball rolling once it starts! As Vinaya Saunders wrote in “How Ayurveda can support a new mother’s needs”: “Mothers feel exhausted, depleted and tired… and need extra care and support from everyone around. If these basic needs … are neglected, [it can result] in chronic health problems later.”
With that in mind, and because Ayurveda focuses especially on wellness and finding balance, I wanted to offer mothers (and their supporters!) some tried-and-true ideas for sustainable and loving self-care, so they can carry on caring for others, too.
According to Ayurveda and yoga, humans are highly complex beings, comprising inter-penetrating layers that make up the whole, as well as each individual cell – the macrocosm reflecting the microcosm. The ancient Pāncamāya model explains the mind-body connection that Western science and medicine has only recently discovered (and unfortunately doesn’t yet fully embrace).
This model recognizes that we are composed of an obvious, physical aspect, called ānnamāya in Sanskrit because it is composed of the food (anna) we take in; a subtle, energetic aspect, known as prānamāya, which gets its name from prāna, the life-force; an even more subtle aspect, known as manomāya, coming from manas, meaning the mind; an aspect of our wisdom and innate knowledge, called vijnānamāya; and a causal, primordial, or higher conscious aspect, known as ānandamāya, or the bliss layer. All of these aspects of our being need to be looked after, so they can sustain the others – and since they are interconnected, they will all benefit from your loving attention!
To support your physical body, eat good quality, natural foods. You’ve heard this a million times, but there’s no way around it: you are what you eat! Eating whole foods nurtures and sustains you, your family and the planet – our first mother.
For the energy body, take some time to just sit and breathe deeply throughout your day, or go for a pleasant walk in nature, where you will take in the energy of the sun, trees and plants around you.
For your mind, find time to do enjoyable and light-hearted things that will relax any mental tension and uplift your mood. Meet up with positive and supportive friends, watch a great movie or practice deep relaxation to calm your mind.
Your innate wisdom and intuition benefit from being listened to and followed – a mother’s instinct is powerful and trustworthy. Make choices that feel right to you, and don’t allow others to pressure you into whatever you don’t want, for yourself and for your family.
Finally, we re-unite with our higher consciousness when we are deep in meditation, as well as in deep, dreamless sleep. It’s a vital, daily re-charge, and your whole being benefits from un-plugging from the events of the day. If you’re sleep deprived, offer yourself a midday nap, a session of yoga nidra, or a relaxing massage.
Nurturing yourself is as important as nurturing others. Love yourself enough to love another, and you will be richly rewarded!