A post by Angela Andiorio
My partner and I have been practicing yoga since 1999. I would describe our household as quiet, calm and peaceful…until we had children. To me, parenting is like a meditation practice in action: A continuous state of purpose, intention and presence. It is an ever-evolving, constantly changing experience, and not every moment feels enjoyable. I have learned that giving myself the gift of self-compassion when I am suffering makes all the difference in challenging moments. It sounds easy, but it was the one of the hardest lessons I’ve had to learn because I had to recognize I was worthy of this kind of self-love and kindness.
I was quite an anxious child and very sensitive. My anxiety manifested in a variety of ways over the years, the most difficult being a digestive disorder called IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) that I experienced in college. Thankfully, one weekend I tried a yoga workshop. I quickly immersed myself in all things yoga, even becoming the president of the Penn State Yoga and Meditation Society! My IBS became all but a faint memory. I finally had a self-regulatory tool that I could use anytime! As I grew and changed, my yoga practice was always there to meet me where I was.
In September of 2012, our life was turned upside-down in a new and exciting way! Our son, Surya, was born. My partner and I had recently completed our Pranakriya 200-hour YTT in the spring. We had no idea what hit us with this kiddo. He is what you call a “spirited child.” If you don’t know how “spirited” is defined it is essentially “extra.” My oldest (who is now 8) is more intense, persistent, sensitive, perceptive, energetic and finds transitions more upsetting than other children. I saw myself in him and his spiritedness, remembered my own childhood struggles, and I worried that he would be destined to the intense anxiety and fear I suffered, left thinking there was something wrong with him for feeling so intensely. I had envisioned our perfect yoga family but the reality was in stark contrast. I was riding a jarring, high energy roller coaster, dappled with continuous, intense explosions of shrieking, screaming and fighting. I found myself completely overwhelmed with this energy – drained and depleted. Ready to give up and surrender. How could I stay present and also sane? I was teaching yoga, but not consistently having a personal practice beyond morning meditation. When I hit the mat, I didn’t know where to start anymore.
I was trapped in my head: I am doing something wrong. I am alone. I am tired. I want off this crazy ride! I need a break, but when I get a break I think of my kids the entire time. I was totally burning out and resentment, rage, and guilt was building. I am a pushover. I should’ve been better about helping them manage their emotions. I found myself saying, “This is too hard. I can’t do this.” Why was parenting so hard for us? For me? I was trying to control it all, fighting all the way – staying fixed and holding on to my ego and story so hard. I would blow up eventually and then beat myself internally for displaying my anger and wallowing in my “not-enoughness.”
Meditation was an incredibly painful time. It was scary. I needed some guidance. I finally let go and allowed myself to ask for outside help from a life coach and all of this changed my life. I learned that I was so strongly in my head with my negative stories I wasn’t allowing myself to get into my body and the flow of sensations. Tuning into what I really needed or following my intuition or my gut sense about things.
Enter 2020 pandemic lockdown. We are home 24/7. All four of us. ALL. THE. TIME. I found myself overwhelmed with worry and fear. How could this ever work? When will I ever have space and time away from them? School time was an escape when I could have quiet and respite. This respite was now nonexistent. Thankfully, I already had a strong foundation.
The moment you accept what troubles you’ve been given, the door will open. – Rumi
I was grounded in my practice. I had my coach for support. I knew I had to step into my power and choose me! I chose to practice acceptance of what is and to let go of control. I practiced more meditation, yoga and self-care practices than ever before. The pandemic was a gift for me. I had more time to go inward and practice online yoga with some of the best teachers I know. That never would have happened before COVID.
There was a shift within. I leaned into the discomfort and intensity. I really was feeling grateful to spend this special time with my family and saw it as a gift. I was not alone in this. Instead of viewing my kids as something to be fixed or a problem that I created, I had to see things through a new lens. I have had to re-train myself to put the focus back on myself and my needs first. I had to embrace that my self-focus is not ignoring their needs or being selfish. I realized that the constant over-giving was depleting me. I needed to reclaim my power and renew my energy. This is when I once and for all decided that my own needs and self-care and self-love was the priority. My intention was overall wellness. My exercise, my meditation practice, my yoga, my healing. I had to learn a balance between being a householder and being a yogi. I can’t hide away in my practice all day but I also can’t over-give to the point of burnout.
A recent affirmation really resonated with me about being a parent: “When I zoom out from the parts that overwhelm me, it’s easier to give myself grace.”
It is OK to let go and surrender. It is necessary to practice self-compassion. Parenting is hard. We are all learning together as a family. I don’t have to ruminate and overthink every aspect of the day. I can choose to celebrate the wins and the progress. It doesn’t have to be perfect.
The amazing thing is that since I have made this intention to focus more on myself and to let go of control the tension in our house is lessening. I’ve been modeling this self-love by taking dance breaks, relaxing, working out, doing things that bring me joy. I have seen a real shift in my kids. They actually wanted to make their own meditation tables. They asked me to teach them yoga (not everyday, but from time to time), they ask for nighttime yoga Nidra or meditation cards. They put their hands on their hearts and take deep breaths and say affirmations. It is still imperfect. We still struggle, but now that I have committed to self-compassion I know I can self-regulate. I have always had this super power of yoga and breathing that shifted my childhood anxiety into a powerful energy and aliveness. I know what renews me and do it on purpose. I am able to step back in those overwhelming moments and know it isn’t a personal attack. Parenting has taught me so much about myself and has brought me firmly into the present. I choose to radiate light and release fear, and rest in the knowledge that I am worthy of love and that I trust myself.
Lighthouses don’t go running all over an island looking for boats to save; they just stand there shining. -Anne Lamott
Angela is a certified Pranakriya Yoga and Prenatal Yoga teacher and mother of two spirited and creative kids. She is also co-owner of Heart and Goal, a consulting business focused on helping parents and caring professionals build resilience skills through mindfulness and self-compassion. Yoga has been her cornerstone throughout many life transitions especially the transformative childbearing year. She loves the therapeutic aspects of yoga. Compassionate and nurturing, she brings a calming and grounding energy to all in her presence. She gets her inspiration from her many fantastic yoga teachers and mentors including Pranakriya’s founder, Yoganand Michael Carroll. If you are looking for her, Angela is most likely practicing yoga, cooking, dancing or spending time outdoors with her family in Southern, CA.