Off the Mat: Take a Breather and Reconnect

Secure Your Own

“Secure your own oxygen mask before assisting others.” The plane safety video shows neat and calm children obediently letting the nearest masked grown-up mask them. The real-life first grade boy next to me fidgets, tugging at the silly band bracelet on his wrist. I smile in a way I hope will reassure him I’d help him with his mask. Then crack open my new novel. He glances across the aisle to his mother. He’s not mine. 


Last month, my hubby and I celebrated a big anniversary. My sis was eager to leave her empty nest for a bit so we could fly away. I know folks who afford such adventures once or twice a year. And others who likely never will. We splurged on a break from full time employment and full time parenting and long commutes in New England winter. A break from my snot-nosed ragamuffin reminding me that I’m the meanest mama ever because I insist he wash hands and pick up dirty socks.

The vagaries of internet pricing protocols made it less expensive to go for eight days than for five. Eight days! EIGHT DAYS! We ate without arguments. Took long, hot walks to distant beaches without complaint. Read without interruption. I brought – no kidding – an 861 page hardcover novel and schlepped it in my backpack. And my backpack was still lighter than usual for not containing additional snacks, a change of clothes, books, markers, paper, headphones, the medicine cabinet and other kiddo accoutrements.

And I read that book. Uninterrupted. We drank piña coladas and got caught in the rain. It was an amazing escape. I came back calm. Happy to see my kiddo. In love with my hubby again.


“Secure your own oxygen mask before assisting your fellow travelers, especially children.” Flight attendants remind us this every trip. It makes total sense in an emergency. You need oxygen – heaven forbid there’s a sudden loss of cabin pressure and your kid starts screaming and squirming as you reach for the yellow cup and pull the tube but he wants his light green crayon that rolled to the floor during turbulence and besides what are you trying to put on his face anyway no no no no no no no kick scream flail. And before you realize what’s happened, you’ve passed out across his crayon and pretzel strewn seat back tray. Both without oxygen masks.

So we practice. We practice for survival. If we aren’t breathing, we are no help to our kids.

Our escape reminded of the need to secure my own mask every day, not just during emergencies, so I’m prepared to ride out turbulent times. To secure my own mask first, so I can effectively care for those near and dear to me. For me, that’s minimally 10, regularly 25, ideally 45 minutes each morning on my mat. Stretching what’s tight. Strengthening what’s sore. Connecting mind and body and spirit with breath. A place to be not Mama, not Wife. Just Me. Just breathing.


Ginny Hamilton

Ginny is a yoga instructor, Reiki practitioner, gardener, activist, and middle aged Mama. She has put down roots in South Amherst with her spouse and young son. Daily she’s amazed by the beauty the Pioneer Valley offers, though her allergies beg to differ. She believes our natural state is to be balanced in body and mind so spirit can flow freely. Because modern life gets in the way, she offers self-healing bodywork to unravel imbalances and restore energy flow. In Off the Mat, Ginny explores how yoga’s physical and mindfulness exercises help her parent and how parenting shapes her yoga practice.

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