The Day I Lost My Beginner’s Mind: Motherhood & Yoga.

Via Nancy Alder
on Jan 23, 2012
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I think if the award for crappiest mom in the Northern hemisphere was given out this past Thursday I might have been the top candidate. To say I am not proud of how I behaved is an understatement.

The elves, my lovely children who are 8 and 6, woke me up before six, which is generally verboten in my house. They also woke up our 6-month-old puppy that arose in a particularly spunky mood. As the morning proceeded each elf began to push my inner mom buttons. My daughter refused to wear the pants I picked for her because they were “too shaky” in the legs. My son threw away a perfectly good Wii game he loves because it frustrated him to tears. Oh, and the dog? She refused to go to the bathroom outside after a thirty-minute attempt in 12-degree weather on my part. Did I mention I was tired, had no breakfast and had still not combed my hair by the time we had to go to the school bus? Gorgeous, calm and well fed I was not. Raging, exhausted and looking like I was Gilda Radnor’s hair double I was.

To put it mildly, I lost it.

I screamed at the dog to pee. “PEE!!!!”  She did not. I screamed at my kids to stop being so spoiled and get ready to go to school. “PUT YOUR COATS ON NOW!” They did. I madly opened the door to let the dog out again and slammed my forehead so hard I got a goose egg. I made the dog quiver. I made my son cry. I made myself cry. I was pathetic, embarrassing and if you looked in the window you might have actually seen me stomp my feet on the ground. Oh yea, it was ugly.

But here’s the thing. I am a yoga teacher and a yoga practitioner. I have many tools in my yoga mat bag that teach me how to be calm and present.  I know what it is like to be successful one day, fail the next while celebrating both. This past Thursday morning I briefly forgot where my inner cache of yoga wisdom could be found.

On the mat and off, my yoga stems from a new place. I may have slept funny and my body may hurt in a different way. I may feel refreshed and energized. I may have had a morning from hell and be ashamed at the way my anger took over my rational mind. I may have a new approach to my practice, but I am always reminded that I am human: equally flawed and perfect.

Yoga teachers and students approach the mat with a beginners mind. We move through poses as if they are our first experience with wonder and freshness. This fact is true because each day we are different, and each day our practice is new.

Parenthood is like yoga in that you never know what the same experience will be from one day to the next. Shaky pants can be the bane of an elf’s existence on Monday and by Friday the most important thing she owns. Yogurt can go from being a sole source of sustenance to one that is met with “oh disgusting” exclamations. Most of all, these shifts can happen within hours or even moments.

To be a mom you must have a beginner’s mind just like the yogis: you are always doing something for the first time even if you have done it a thousand times before because it is never the same. Ever. I forgot this past Thursday that I was a yogi and a mom and momentarily thought I knew how it would go. I approached my kids as an expert rather than embracing the fresh new way the morning unfolded. I said a lot of “you KNOW how to do this” instead of “what way would work for you today.”

After my morning of maternal failure I ran off in tears to teach one of two yoga classes I had back to back that day. I would have given anything to find subs and to instead whisk my elves off to ice cream or the zoo or anywhere to show that I was sorry. Instead I had a moment to hug them, reassure them I was mildly crazy but human, remind them I love them and let them go to school. I walked into my classes and taught my students about balance. Or rather I taught them to embrace the lack of balance we all have in our lives and in our bodies. We fell out of poses, we moved in new ways and we breathed. We felt like beginners and we gave ourselves permission to both accept and embrace our flaws.

I will never be a perfect mother or a perfect yogi. I will still periodically lose my mind and yell and I will have moments of ego and judgment on my mat. I will drink wine and curse and struggle with reading the Bhagavad Gita. But I will use deep breaths and self-reflection in both of my roles.

I will be a mom and a yogi with a beginner’s mind. Rather than fight the challenges I will embrace them and laugh when I wobble on one leg or two. I am thankful that I can welcome the flaws and the perfection equally and see the worth in both.


About Nancy Alder

Nancy Alder is a 200H Registered Yoga Teacher in Connecticut. She teaches her students to connect with space and breath from a place of safety and humor. She writes for many yoga blogs and chronicles her daily practice to find the beginners mind on and off the mat at her own blog, She is co-founder of Teachasana,, a site by yoga teachers for yoga teachers. When not writing or doing yoga she is in awe of her elves, busting asanas in crazy places and counting the days until the next snowfall.


22 Responses to “The Day I Lost My Beginner’s Mind: Motherhood & Yoga.”

  1. dionne says:

    Nancy you are the greatest! Thank you for sharing!

  2. judie611 says:

    LOVE THIS!! For a second there, I wondered if you had somehow found my journal and posted it here. I have two elves the exact ages, am a yoga teacher and student, so I can relate word for word. Thank you for sharing this with us.

  3. […] any being in any state. Let none through anger or ill-will Wish harm upon another. Even as a mother protects with her life Her child, her only child, So with a boundless heart Should one cherish all […]

  4. Emily Perry says:

    Nancy, get out of my head! I have similar days all the time, and that you for the great reminder! Beginner's Mind! Ah, yes!

  5. karlsaliter says:


    "I was mildly crazy but human"… one and the same, my friend.

    Nice one, Nancy. I can relate completely, and will spare you the examples.

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  7. Jennifer Errickson says:

    Fantastic! I have two elves as well – 8 and 11 – and a new puppy… also, two additional, neighborhood elves share our chaos each morning… One elf prefers socks that do not match and one prefers pants that are too short… a daily lesson for me to relinquish control. I am also a yoga teacher/student and have left many a morning with my heart in my stomach feeling that I should have been able to apply my "yoga tools" more effectively.. Thanks for the Beginner's Mind reminder – I began my day with that intention.. and it really helped!

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  9. Marnie says:

    Yes, Yes, and Yes.

  10. Yoga mama says:

    Thank you so much for the reminder, it makes SO much sense. My spirited elves are 1 and 3, and every moment IS different – a new beginning.

  11. Thanks so much for reading and letting me know that my chaos has a companion elsewhere. 😉

  12. thanks for reading Marnie!!

  13. So glad it helped and I re-read what I wrote today again so I reminded myself that I needed to start fresh. Every day it is a practice just like the one on our mats. Perhaps that's why Jon Kabat-Zinn considers parenthood the ultimate experience in mindfulness. Thanks for letting me know I am not alone in the non-yogic maternal moments.

  14. Lol I am so glad you can relate, this example was but one in a week/month/life full of examples!

  15. Thanks so much for reading.. so glad hit home!

  16. I am so thankful that there are others out there willing to jump in the "flawed motherhood" pond with me. Glad to do it with you Judie!

  17. Thanks for reading Dionne! YOU are the greatest!

  18. Yep, this is my life. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  19. Thanks for letting me know you can relate and for reading!!

  20. Such a great point YB! Glad you like the pic… it's from a couple of summers ago, but could be done just the same right now with that elf. she's always wearing some hat 😉

  21. […] the other mothers in your neighborhood serve the same purpose. As a mother, you can reflect enough on your own childhood to know that your child will undoubtedly make friends […]

  22. […] was still in diapers. And now I was taking it for granted, showing up at 24, in my second year, and getting pregnant like it was no big […]