move. smile. release. Uma Spender (previously Jessie Neave) - name in transition - new website coming soon!

Uma Spender (previously Jessie Neave) - name in transition - new website coming soon!

Conscious Family

Monday 9th June 2014

The idea of conscious family has been brewing within me ever since my ‘conscious pregnancy & conscious birth’ journey left me in a very new situation…it was amazing to me how spiritually unprepared I was for the next inconceivably challenging chapter. During the pregnancy I had so easily married my Yoga training and discipline to creating the miracle of life within my body - the euphoria of housing a tiny human is beyond explanation and can make even the most conservative women go a bit koo-koo spiritual. I found myself slipping easily into deep meditation and had a profound visual & felt sense of my energetic body - it was yogini bliss! For almost the entire 9 months I was mentally preparing for what was the inevitable climax - the birth, I had hoped for and trained for was going to be as conscious, as Yogic, as it could ever be. I was consumed by reading and everything I could get my hands on from the very disturbing ‘History of birth’, to Frederick Leboyer's  groundbreaking  ‘Active Birth’. I was excited, nervous and as prepared as anyone has ever been… 

After a marathon labour I found myself holding my holding my beautiful, perfect  son - more in love than I had ever been and utterly shocked that I was a mother. Until you hold your little creation it’s virtually impossible to know how that will be, there’s nothing that can prepare you for that smash in the face of love. I went with my instincts, it was beautiful. I had friends who had babies…we talked…I made my way as we all mostly do….but I was struggling every day to find time for my spiritual practice and as my Yoga slipped away from me I began to feel lost. This was the time I needed my practice most - the huge evolution and movement from ‘maiden’ to ‘mother’ called for deep inner strength - the marathon of birth was a speck in the far distance in comparison to the task ahead. If someone had told me that I was going to be responsible for the foundation blocks of happiness and well being for an entire human being I might have invested some more time into thinking about how to prepare for that! I did not feel qualified....I had been used to at least 2 hours of Yoga, pranayama & meditation before breakfast, every day - even through my pregnancy and now I was having trouble peeling myself off the couch when my baby had a nap - the very idea of any solid time for myself seemed like a joke - and I didn’t know how to make that time a priority. If I was given the luxury of ‘me time’ I didn’t know what to do with it anymore - my body was an exhausted, hormonal, milk factory that did not want to do the same things it used to and meditation was only ever a short prelude to sleep. I made my way, of course, as we all do and I loved so much about being a mum that I felt like I just had to surrender and stop dreaming about “my old yogic life”. In time my body was more like the old friend I had known, especially after breast feeding was finished, and I began to teach again. I found myself getting to the studio with an hour before my work and staying for an hour after. I was so hungry for the practise I had known. Then one day I realised I was battling with huge guilt surrounding my spiritual (and selfish) needs - I allowed the extra time to practise because it was work - I could justify the time away from my family. 

When I really got my head around this I was totally shocked. Why did I need to get away from my family to be spiritual? Wouldn’t my family benefit from me honouring myself? Wouldn’t they enjoy sharing that beautiful & authentic part of me anyway? Why did I have such a bad relationship with selfishness?

Once I had acknowledged this looming shadow i started to notice it everywhere around me - my students who were parents would greet me with “thank god I’m here - this is MY 2 hours for the week”, or “I’m so glad I was able to get away this time” etc etc. I was confused about how we had gotten it all so wrong - if it was truly to be a ‘spiritual’ practice shouldn’t it be fortifying the bonds we share with those closest to us? How could we shift from the very ancient idea of Yoga that isolates the practitioner (traditionally a man) from the real world to a more integrated and accepting, softer & more feminine approach? 

It was around this time that the idea of the “family yoga retreat” sprouted. Of course I think that as parents we all need time for ourselves and going on a yoga retreat without family is absolutely valid and necessary, but the family retreat aims to give you tools to share a spiritual life with your children - life that is not separate to a yoga practise - the practice is simply life. Further more, children are the most spiritually aware, awake and present beings on the earth - they are the best teachers - they are hungry to share anything you can with them that is present and alive with energetic truth.

And the journey continues....18 months after the birth of my second son, I have found myself almost possessed with the idea of integrating my Yogi values and practice with my family - my life. 'Conscious Family' has become something I feel compelled to share. I'm taking the next few months to really focus on writing, if you have stories or experiences to contribute I'd LOVE to hear from you. I will be handing the Monday night classes over to the lovely Katie Stackhouse for a few months, I will be teaching a few here and there - details below. I'm continuing with the monthly Sunday workshops - also adding a Sunday evening 'moving meditation' . 

Looking forward to seeing you on the mat -

Om Shanti


ps I have decided to extend the 'early bird' price for my September Bali Retreat until the end of June - but only for my mailing list. (You are welcome to get friends to sign up this month too!)

pps thanks for all the feedback on my last guided's a new one, inspired by Thich Nhat Hanh. Enjoy!