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Misha Patel: Self-love, Yoga & The Path Of Motherhood

by Misha Patel

As a yoga teacher of six years, I was keen to keep my yoga practice up during pregnancy and enjoyed the whole process so much. I was lucky, my pregnancy was smooth. I thought I was aware of the importance of postpartum self-care: I was told to take naps, have baths, light candles and eat good food. As the weeks went by, I soon learnt self-care is so much more than a few moments of pampering. Self-care was very much the act of finding love for the person that was born again through the past 9 months, the new me as a mother.

In the thick of sleep deprivation and new motherhood, there were often moments I felt that I had lost my former life. A part of me felt resentful for the things my childless friends were doing and the freedom I had before becoming a mum. The clothes that used to fit stared at me from my wardrobe and I almost felt shock when I looked at my postpartum body. My days rolled into one with the new responsibilities I had for my son, and I waved goodbye to my daily yoga practice for a while.

As a naturally busy person, I found it hard to listen to the advice from my family to “nap when baby naps” until I got too tired to stay awake. The only way I knew I could find myself again was to return to my yoga practice and go inside myself. I had a C-section birth and healing properly was the most important thing. When I got back on my mat it felt like starting from the beginning. Despite the fact I was healing well, I had to get back to basics first - child’s pose, a few down dogs and Pranayama (breathing techniques). 

Misha wears the Bertie Balloon Sleeve Chunky Jumper, Nina High Waisted Skinny Jean and Coral Boots

When Reyan (my son) slept, I attempted to roll out my mat and take things easy. My mind and ego were quick to trick me into rushing. I found myself trying to get through poses, hoping the faster I got back into the postures I did before pregnancy and birth, the faster I’d get my body, and perhaps even my old self back. In these early days, frustration consumed my time on the mat when all I wanted was to feel like ‘me’ again. I knew I had to go back to the roots and philosophy of yoga. I had to find that sweet balance between control and surrender - a place of softness. One of the most central truths of yoga is the practice of ahimsa. It is often translated as non-violence and love for all beings, including ourselves.

I can’t find the specific moment when I finally allowed myself to be kind. I was bombarded by photos of mums ‘snapping back’ into shape and perfect families thanks to social media algorithms. I simply accepted that I was going to let go of my old practice and I felt so much relief. I didn’t need to live in the past and compete with my old self or anyone else, I needed to find presence and care about my new self. I needed to love the new person that was emerging, right from the beginning again on her mat.

We call this practice Santosha, or contentment/gratitude in yogic philosophy. I started practicing yoga nidra (yogic sleep) and restorative yoga when I had time instead of trying to rush back to my headstands. These practices reminded me of the fundamental power in slowing down and accepting things as they are. I started truly loving my new body for what it is, for housing my son for the last 9 months and continuing to feed him (I also said goodbye to my old boobs!). 

Misha wear a wrap top by ExtraAF and wide leg jeans by Nocturne. 

Everyday tasks that drained me at first became part of a powerful practice. Instead of going to an evening class which I would have done in my former life, I read a precious little book by Emma Dodd to my son called “Love.” The book simply states, with illustrations, the various forms of love between mother and baby. The more I read the book, the more the simple words resonated with me. “Love is when you wake in the morning and look at me, love is when we are talk together happy as can be. Sometimes love is quiet and needs no words at all, love is there to catch you, when you’re about to fall.” I would read the book, smell my son's head, feel his cheeks and breathe slowly. I felt his breath slow down too as he fell asleep in my arms. I finally started to allow myself to soften and feel calmer. I felt deep gratitude for this time I could spend at home, navigating through each day, healing and getting to know this new little person… and the new me.

Now my son is nine months and I am further into the journey of motherhood. There is more work (a lot more crumbs, stains, laundry and running around!) but my practice comes to me every single day and reminds me that yoga is a balance between control and surrender. There is perfection in the chaos of our new lives. Motherhood is Bhakti – translated from Sanksrit as a deep love, gratitude and a calling. I see now that my son is my yoga and being kind to myself is the ultimate act of self-love. It is so much more than bubble baths, candles and naps. It is being able to recognise when we aren’t being kind to ourselves and taking action when we truly need to slow down.

Motherhood is demanding every single day. In order to stay grounded, I personally find there needs to be a continuous melting of the ego. BKS Iyengar, one of my greatest inspirations says, “In bhakti or true love there is no place for ‘I’ and ‘mine’. When the feeling of ‘I’ and ‘mine’ disappears, the individual soul has reached full growth.” Now I am back to teaching, this incredible practice of yoga reminds me of how to find love in the every day. Motherhood has allowed me to truly find the roots of the practice again, both on and off the mat.