By Clare Newman, Program Director of Mamata Yoga and Owner of Mamata Holistics

*Each Limb is covered in a separate blog post, the 7 remaining Limbs are located in the Health + Wellness Category*

The ancient indian text, known as the Yoga Sutras was written by a mystic, enlightened sage named Patanjali. The exact date and composition of the Sutras is relatively unknown and is often debated to have been complied 2000 years ago. Much of what we know of Patanjali today is drawn from stories and legends. He is often referred to as an evolved soul who was incarnated by his own will to help humanity realize a spiritual journey of re-connection. He assumed a physical form, experienced joy, sorrow and overcame afflictions and obstacles towards spiritual development. Noted for compiling the Yoga Sutras, he also wrote The Mahabhasya (Sanskrit grammar) and a book on Ayurveda (the science of Life and Health).

The legend of Patanjali was that he was an incarnation of Lord Adisesa (Lord of the serpents) and was born on earth to a yogini named Gonika in the form of a tiny snake. Lord Siva’s commanded Lord Adisesa to write a commentary on grammar, and so he began to meditate and envisioned Gonika, who at the time was praying for son with whom she could teach her knowledge and wisdom of yoga. Gonkia was worshipping the Sun God and prayed to Him to bless her with a worthy son. Upon her final oblation, she cupped water in her hand and prayed. When she opened her eyes sometime after, there was a tiny snake in her palms, which eventually took human form. She named him Patanjali; Pata meaning “fallen” and Anjali meaning “hands folded in prayer”.

The Sutras are comprised of 196 aphorisms or sutras that correspond to all aspects of human life. They begin with social disciplines and codes of conduct and end with the journey towards connecting to the Divine within. The Sutras are separated into four padas (chapters) on contemplation, practice, powers and emancipation or freedom. The ultimate purpose of the Yoga Sutras is to experience an effortless state of being.

The experience and journey from being, to the creation of a being is the most powerful and honorable gift to a woman. This creation should be recognized as one of the most auspicious events for a couple, as the journey into parenthood and motherhood are magical and momentous. The awareness behind this experience is often overshadowed by doubt, fear and the inability to see that motherhood is both a blessed responsibility and a beautiful gift from the Universe to nurture and lead children towards there intended spiritual journey.

The 8-limbed path, known as the yogic disciplines in the Sutras can help couples and mothers create a calming, loving and supportive environment while dealing with the emotional, physical, mental and spiritual challenges of being new parents in the western world. There is a lot of relevance and similarities to parenting and following the philosophy and practice of all aspects of yoga. This practice of following the simple principles not only help new mothers cope with the sudden and drastic change of motherhood, but also help to establish a deeper connection within. Seeing the world through a child’s eyes is an incredible opportunity for mothers to witness the subtle beauty of life and revel in the bliss of her creation.

The 8 Limbs : Mindful Motherhood

1.Yamas (Universal Vows)

The yamas are ethical rules or moral commandments that each and every being should incorporate into every day life in word, thought, action and deed. There are 5 unique yamas that should be observed, followed and practiced individually but collectively as vows to the Universe.

1. Ahimsa (non-violence)

Kindness and non-violence to all living things with the belief that all living things are connected. It is important to remember that all acts of violence, in thought, action, word or deed, spark a negative karmic consequence.
Mothers are often affected by the thoughts and words of others, especially first-time mothers. The need to be a “good mother” or the “perfect mother” create an unrealistic expectation that generally stem from a mothers approval from other mothers, family members and friends. This obsessive need for approval creates a competitive and judgmental environment, as the need to keep up with others overrules the need to nurture. Rather than judging others for the way in which they choose to nurture their baby, breast-feed or not breast-feed, mothers simply need to encourage and respect one another and honor their individuality and the uniqueness of each and every baby.

2. Satya (Truthfulness)

The truth, in thoughts and word in every aspect of ones’ life. The essence of satya, is living a truthful life without any harm to others as well as themselves.
For a new mother, trusting the innate wisdom within is challenging. A mothers intuition should never be questioned, yet most mothers do not or trust their own decisions or listen to the prompting of the heart when tending or caring for their baby. The importance of not comparing the growth and development of a baby just to “fit-in’ or embellishing stories that surround childbirth for acceptance can create negative energy and deplete the purity of truthfulness. With each day, mothers begin to learn the language of their baby by listening to the sweet sounds of each distinctive cry, gurgle, moan, burp and giggle, encouraging confidence and trustworthiness. When a mother taps into their own truthfulness, this raw transformation entices a untouchable purity that can surround a baby with honesty that will carry forth into adulthood.

3. Asteya (Non-Stealing)

The act of non-stealing, non-coveting, non-hoarding and not obstructing others’ peoples desires in life is asteya. This act involves material objects, ideas, possessions as well as selfish motives towards others that may be harmful.

To covet and hoard is to be greedy. When mothers have a good intention of acquiring items for their baby, the decision needs to be assessed as to whether or not it is an actual need or a desire. For most mothers in the west, we are fortunate to take a paid leave off work to raise and bond with our baby. Although the salary may be cut drastically, most families seem to survive on the financial change with some ease. The need for material wealth such as room decor, fashionable clothes, shoes, darling hats, trendy diaper bags and trinkets aside from the essential and pricey items like the crib, car seat and stroller; the first pregnancy is the most expensive and expansive. The sacrifice for material items that are not necessities increase financial strain on a newly expanded family and can burden the relationship. It’s important for new parents to focus on what it is that actually bring a family together, not on how the family will be perceived or judged by outside influences. Accepting clothes or other gently used items from friends is a great way to save money and the energy spent looking for the latest trends for baby can be spent creating memories instead.

4.Brahmacarya (Sexual responsibility or Containment of desire)

Brahmacarya has a number of different meaning or connotations. It can be an observation of one’s desire towards sex, food and taste as well as material worth. Marriage should increase the spiritual path for both partners and lead them on a path towards a spiritual partnership – monogamy being important for this reason – which promotes mental and spiritual purity.

The journey into motherhood is filled with pressure, more so if it is the first baby. The lack of confidence is often replaced and represented in the purchase of material items. Losing the sense of Self, mothers delve deeper towards acquiring these items to temporarily fill a void or loss within. Woman go from being employees, colleagues and wives to being a mother. The challenge of caring for a baby each day without the constant interaction with other adults does not come easy for some women. Being silent and still are not only foreign but can be quite scary as mothers can no longer hide from their emotions. The focus within this yama, is how to deal and cope with the desire to be more than just a mother and to ask, “Why is being a mother not enough?”. Focusing on brahmacarya becomes about observing the person within and wholeheartedly accepting that life as a mother is the most meaningful role. Living a more selfless life of charity, goodness and kindness depicts the true act of brahmacarya.

5. Aparigraha (Non-possessiveness)

Is the act of taking what is only truly necessary and no more. Non-hoarding, non-attachment and non-grasping to material items, ideals and thoughts. Use only those possessions as tools to further accomplish the goals in life.

We live in a materialistic world in which wealth and good fortune is perceived by how much a family possess in material items rather than the intrinsic worth within. It is important for parents to consider their material possessions with attention and awareness, only focusing on what is both necessary and important. Practicing aparigraha plays an important role for new mothers as it sets the intention and focus on the matters which are truly the most meaningful. This will ensure that current material objects and external beliefs are not preventing or hindering important goals and limiting our freedoms. Change can occur when a new mother begins to identify with her idea of the intention behind an accomplishment and insecurities about failure. Being attached to a negative identity only prevents the formation of one’s real identity. Children won’t remember the clothes they wore when they were two or the amount of toys in their possession at 6 months, but they will recall faint memories of activities shared with their family or a sense of familiarity when on a nature’s walk or hike. If our aim is to create a benevolent world, than we must begin with creating memories out of love, rather than encouraging materialistic wealth.