(See also following section - "Parenting as Karma Yoga" page 527.). So let us explore the possibilities of sadhana as appropriate and possible within the everyday realities of modern motherhood.
What To Do
Previously in the book, in topics both general and specific, as well as in Chapter 9, I have recommended particular yoga practices and programs which help physical illnesses, pre-natal ailments, and neo-natal recovery. When any of these situations arise, it is wise to take the time to commit yourself to the relevant techniques in some sort of program. This time of sadhana will help speed up your recovery, and will benefit your baby and the other members of your family. You can think of yoga practise as therapeutic and / or preventative. Even during periods when there are no pressing health problems, that is the time you can make great progress with yoga and delve even deeper into its spiritual realms.
Obviously, the very early post-natal practices must be tailored to suit the place you are in. Even in hospital, and even in a bed, there is much you can do in the way of simple exercises, breathing, relaxation and meditation to speed your recovery and satisfy your needs in looking after the baby. It may not be the most peaceful place, and you may not have a completely uninter-rupted time, but every little bit you can fit in will help. For those who have being doing their practices during pregnancy, there will not be so much difficulty in handling these distractions, since an experienced yogini can more easily maintain inner awareness within imperfect surroundings.
In the later post-natal period, each woman's particular needs will vary according to her general level of health and fitness, her birthing experience, and her previous yoga experience. For specific details on the most appropriate program for your needs, see Chapter 9 - "Post- Natal Health", page 2027. If you have specific medical needs during this period, you may need to contact an experienced post-natal yoga teacher as well as liaise with your health practitioner regarding any techniques which may not suit your condition. And by the way, don't let anybody tell you that "you should stay off the yoga until you've recovered from childbirth". This only indicates they don't understand what level and what practices of yoga I am talking about in the recommended programs. Such people are probably the same ones who believe that "yoga shouldn't be done past the first 3 months of pregnancy"!
More than just the physical purposes of the practices, those programs also include methods to help you stay focussed on the primary ideal of sadhana, that of growing in your spiritual self. Even if you are sore and stiff and tired and cranky, and you don't think the yoga is "fixing you up" quickly enough, still the practices will be working subtly on your being. Keeping in touch with that level of reality is especially important during the early years of motherhood.
How and When
So if you're agreeable to doing some yoga sadhana, and clear about which program(s) you should do, the biggest problem of course still remains - how to find the time!
Early motherhood is indisputably the busiest and most restrictive time in any mother's life. Like never before, you will find you have the shortest ever time periods between compulsory events like: baby feeding, baby changing, feeding yourself and others, getting yourself and others ready to go out, preparing yourself and others to have people visit, catching up on sleep, etc, etc. There will always seem like a backlog of things that need doing and on top of that will be the unexpected things which crop up from time to time. "And as well as all that, she is telling me I should find time for yoga sadhana once or twice a day!" Yes! And the reasoning is as follows.
Apart from the baby's imperatives of breast-feeding and sleep, and your own imperatives of food and sleep, all other things can either be postponed or delegated. Without them the sky will not fall and their absence will not directly affect your ability to look after yourself and your baby. On the other hand, a time of daily yoga sadhana is the best antidote to those demands placed upon you by a little baby and can best restore your capacity to then get around to the other things that await your attention. In other words the priorities are (i) baby, (ii) yourself, (iii) third parties. This is the only workable formula which can satisfy all needs.
In planning and carrying out this formula, do not be dissuaded by the cries of others who think that your yoga time is selfish, superfluous, or of lesser importance than their own priorities. Motherhood must include times for self replenishment or the whole mother and child relationship can break down. Looking after yourself as a close second to the baby may appear selfish, but in reality it is not. It is a powerful coping mechanism and mother rejuvenation medicine which I see as part of the baby-care, mother-care and family-care