It was such a joy to sit down with Carina Devi of Mindful Mamas last week. After each of these conversations I add some tips to my working-mom toolkit and this week is filled with them. Highlights below, but be sure to check out the podcast on Apple or Spotify for the whole conversation and a special deal for Work Like a Mother subscribers.
Postpartum depression affects over half a million new moms every year, and Carina was one of them. When traditional therapy didn’t feel right, Carina circled back to something her own mother shared with her many years ago: yoga, mindfulness, and meditation. But with a newborn at home, she couldn’t exactly go out to a 90-minute yoga class. Instead she found strength in “sips of self-care” and small habits, practiced regularly, that have helped her redefine her life. Carina shares a beautiful story of struggle, strength, finding her calling, and the creation of Mindful Mamas to help thousands more do the same.
How did you become passionate about mindfulness and yoga?
My mom introduced me to yoga. Of course as a teenager I was very resistant to it and wanted nothing to do with it – like the most teenagers. When I encountered some harder experiences as a teenager and a young adult, I hit rock bottom and I leaned into yoga. It was incredibly healing, nourishing, supportive, and beautiful. And so when I was going through a depression or a phase of really intense anxiety and having panic attacks regularly, I could lean into breathwork, yoga Asana and mindful walking and it became this saving grace. It just became a little bit of an obsession when I realized that I can do anything with these practices. I can energize myself. I can calm myself. I can stand strong in the midst of any storm. It just became a really beautiful anchor in my life.
Did you know that your career would always center around mindfulness, meditation, yoga?
Not at all. When I was a kid, I started out as an actor and a model and I always thought that was going to be my trajectory. Once I became a teenager and a young adult, all I really ever wanted to do was be a mom. I just felt that calling. I witnessed my mom who just seemed so motherly. In addition to having me and my siblings, she ran a home daycare when I was growing up. So I just saw her in the role of mother all the time and I just thought it was the highest calling for someone. When I became a stay-at-home mom and I realized how hard it was, I had to go through this process of letting go of the dream that it wasn’t what I had idealized it to be. Mothering asks so much of all parts of ourselves, but I became acutely aware of all of these parts of me that weren’t getting used and I felt trapped. Suddenly I had this ambition to go out into the world and to start working again.
How did mindfulness help you overcome PPD?
Mindfulness was an absolute saving grace when my son was little and I was experiencing postpartum depression and anxiety. Even though I went to therapy I was offered medication, I didn’t find it to be effective for me. I found that when I leaned into meditation and little moments of mindfulness throughout my day that I could create with him through breathing and movement practices that it helped. I could not only completely transform what I was feeling into something really beautiful, joyful and peaceful, but I could also get to the root causes of a lot of what I was experiencing which I hadn’t found in any other approach.
So how have you used these tools during your day-to-day Life as a mom?
It’s been everything for me. My son throws a tantrum and I immediately ground myself. I deepen in my breath. I feel myself as this pillar of strength and consistency in his face and just kind of witness him moving through the space he needs to move through. Then I’m this calm in the storm that he can embrace and be soothed by when he’s ready. It’s the same if he’s bouncing around the house, going crazy or making messes and I’m aggravated. I know that I can walk into the bathroom and literally shake it off or do some Lions breath to release. I use it constantly throughout my day- pretty much every day.
How did you launch Mindful Mamas?
I was used to a 90-minute yoga practice or a 30 minute meditation and having these long spacious times to myself to get what I needed out of those practices, but of course you can’t do that with a newborn or a toddler. I had to dismantle everything. I was trying to figure out- how can I get the essence of that longer practice in 30 seconds? It really became this new way of practicing mindfulness through the lens of motherhood. And so Mindful Mamas was born out of the question of- How do I get those sips of self-care throughout my day when I can’t get a break to get time for myself? We’re teaching other moms how to weave that into their days rather than needing to step out of your life to get the self-care.
We launched on March 19th right before the lockdown. It just felt totally impossible. I went from a routine and a role at work that felt really comfortable. I had really clear boundaries between work life and my time at home with my son. Then the app launched and quarantine started and all of the rules changed suddenly. I’m learning how to do customer service, tech support and all of these new roles at work and then also re-learning how to be a work at home mom. It drummed up a lot of painful residue from being a stay-at-home mom. I definitely leaned into screen time a lot more than I wanted to- I think pretty much all parents are there. I feel like I grew so much. I look back at the mom that I was at the beginning and the mom that I am now and I feel so much more flexible.
What advice would you give to your pre mom self?
I would give her so much advice- and then there’s the part of me that wouldn’t give her any advice because she grew so much and transformed so completely. I think she needed to have all of those experiences to become who I am now. I think if I could give her one piece of advice, I would tell her that she’s doing such a wonderful job and she can go easy on herself. There’s no such thing as perfection and no one is holding her to a higher standard than she holds herself to. She’s a wonderful mom, even when she yells, even when she snaps, even when she’s upset and it’s hard. She’s still doing an amazing job.
It was such a pleasure to sit down with Carina. Our full conversation is now out on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and you can see highlights on our IGTV. Subscribe and follow to make sure you don’t miss next week’s conversation on Work Like a Mother.
Co-founder & COO
Bridget is mom to two little boys, Hudson and Brooks, and a champion of working moms everywhere. NeighborSchools itself was borne out of Bridget’s challenge to find high-quality yet affordable child care, and the realization that so many parents struggle with these same issues every day.