These days, you can easily find Monica Manzano-Eleazar practicing or teaching yoga, traveling with her family, or tackling a happy mix of her passions–whether through special events or through her blog.
This mum of two believes that motherhood is “yoga off the mat,” teaching her to be mindful when she’s with her children, to unplug and be present when she’s with family. Monica admits that it’s a daily struggle, but she tackles them with the intention of prioritizing what matters most first; and everything else will follow.
Read more about this inspiring woman, what it means to be mindful in parenting, and how she thinks that traveling with kids is a worthwhile pursuit.
Tell us more about who Monica Manzano is.
I am a wife to Montri and mother to Santi who is 8 and Maya who is 1.7. I graduated from Assumption College with a degree in Mass Communications and majored in Media Productions. Although I am not in the media industry, I do enjoy creative output whenever we organize events for FLOW Retreats or when I write for my blogs. I teach several styles of yoga in the studio, privately in houses and of course, my favorite will always be out in nature. I am an advocate for Gentle Birthing, Attachment Parenting, and Waldorf Education.
My biggest accomplishment so far is my home water birth to my daughter Maya; but raising her and her brother as mindfully as I can everyday is another big accomplishment.
I post photos on my personal Instagram account (@dharmadreamsbig) about my parenting and work balance with my favorite hashtag #MindfulMotherhood.
You have so many things going on. Why is that? How are they all related to each other… or are they?
I’ve always been into so many things because my interests vary. I really love yoga, travel and family so I try to apply all my interests into all the things I do. At present, I am leading yoga retreats, events and workshops for FLOW Retreats and I write at travel blog My Little GlobeTrotters where I encourage people to travel with tots in tow!
Let’s talk about parenting and your very special journey. How have your children, their birth, and their childhood affected your way of life and thinking?
I must say that becoming a parent brought more meaning and direction in my life. It seems that all that I am and all that I do has been shaped by the arrival of my children. There are just too many lessons to be learned from them! I always call my kids my little gurus because they show me all that I need to learn to become a better person in this lifetime.
Santi’s birth 8 years ago was a traumatic c-section which, in retrospect, was a learning experience because if not for his birth, I wouldn’t have had such a transformative home water birth (a VBAC!) for Maya last year. I wrote about this experience at birthingbeyond.blogspot.com.
I am raising my children in a mindful and spiritual manner, keeping them away as much as I can from electronic media (We don’t own a TV at home!) to preserve their childhood. My son currently goes to Kolisko Waldorf School in Quezon City where they teach education wholistically which resonates with my life values. I attended a Block 1 Training for Waldorf Education back in Palawan years ago and it was so beautiful, I cried because I knew that this kind of education really was for all levels of a child (and parent!) physical, mental and soul.
It’s very challenging actually because my work depends so much on technology. I do market all our events online through blogging and social media which requires me to be on my phone or laptop a lot. My kids are there to remind me to unplug and enjoy life outdoors. So, I try my very best to give quality time with them without distractions. This is why I love traveling; it is my undisturbed time with my family.
You travel a lot. Your latest project is the blog, My Little Globetrotters, highlights traveling with kids. Why did you find it important to explore this idea and write about it? Where do you want to take this project?
I wanted to give a voice to other parents who either are currently traveling with children or to those who want to learn how to do this. We live in the Philippines where in some of the social circles traveling with kids without help is very tricky. I share a lot of my tips on how to be hands on in traveling with your children. Since I am a believer of Attachment Parenting, I also include many of the practices such as breastfeeding, babywearing, etc. in my travel tips and stories.
My Little Globetrotters is a travel blog which has been in the pipeline for awhile now. I have been blogging for over 8 years at dharmadream.blogspot.com about my life experiences which includes raising (spiritual) children, eating healthy, yoga and travel but I wanted a blog that only focuses on traveling with kids. And so that came about late last year!
Can you tell us more about your yoga practice and your work? When and how did you discover mindfulness?
More than yoga asana, Motherhood is yoga off the mat. Mindfulness through the breath is what I teach in all my yoga classes. Mindfulness while being with your children is so very important because what we tend to forget is that all of your family — your husband and your kids all get energy from you. If that is so, we constantly need to re-charge just like our electronic gagdets! Being outdoors, under the sun and around nature does that. Breathing deeply and being mindful of the present does that, too! Praying, chanting, meditating even dancing revitalizes your spirit! So, I find pockets of time during the week to replenish my soul so I Have much more to give to my family.
You’re also an entrepreneur. Can you tell us about your businesses, INDIGObaby and FLOW Retreats?
I started INDIGObaby with Denise Gonzales-Bernardo when our first born sons were only a few months old. She handles that business on her own now as I have focused most of my attention to yoga and travel related ventures (FLOW, My Little Globetrotters)
FLOW Retreats started in 2009 soon after I took my teacher training with Greenpath Yoga. My business partners Noelle Hilario and Denise Bernardo were in my house and we were discussing how awesome it would be if we merged all of our passions into one weekend retreat. That kickstarted our Surf-Yoga-Samba retreats which we have evolved into a variations of wholistic retreats all year ‘round in the Philippines and beyond. We are on our 2nd year of doing international retreats and it has been great!
Tell us about being a mummy! Your two kids are several years apart. What has changed for you in terms of your parenting philosophies the second time around?
It’s true what they say, having a child second time around makes you a more chill mom…because I am! With my son, I had a hospital birth because I didn’t know any better. We weren’t too sure about ourselves so we trusted others more than my body. Compare it to my homebirth with Maya, I was definitely more prepared, more confident and more relaxed that everything would turn out fine… and it did!
I remember not having a yaya with Santi for the first year, too. I just turned into this tiger-mama-don’t-touch-my-baby even to my own relatives! With Maya, I had a yaya early on because I need the help managing 2 children and all that I do for work!
In terms of parenting philosophy though, I am raising them the same way — mindfully. All that I do, I ask myself: How is this affecting them, soul deep?
How do you balance all your passions and commitments? What do you prioritize? Share what a day in your life is like.
The mornings are always cuddles and kisses because I co-sleep with both children. Maya is still breastfeeding so she also gets another feed right when she wakes before I change her nappies and get ready for breakfast. Then we all have breakfast together before my husband brings my son to school and I do my yoga class or emails for the day. I fetch my son from school around lunch time and head back home to spend time with the kids or do errands for the house or go to business meetings. I make sure that we all have dinner together, not unless we have an important event to attend.
Weekends are spent conducting Mystery Tours or Yoga Retreats for FLOW; Sacred Pregnancy & Conscious Birth or Sacred Postpartum Workshops with my doula Irina Otmakhova. Otherwise, I am at home or traveling with my family.
What do you have planned for the rest of the year?
As the holidays are nearing, it is actually getting real busy for us with the events piling up!
At the end of November is the 6th year anniversary of Flow so we will have a Surf-Yoga-Dance Retreat in Baler on November 28-30. Registration for events is up at www.flowretreats.blogspot.com.
With a very busy daily schedule like yours, how do you balance your time between your work, advocacies, and your being wife and mummy of 2?
I must be honest that this is a daily struggle. I can’t help but remember one of my spiritual mentors advice on this, “Prioritize the bigger things in life and the small things will take care of themselves”. So, I always weigh things to how they relate to me and my family’s personal growth and survival. Energetically, we must always remember that all things come from God or the light.
On the other hand, how do you take care of yourself?
I love getting massages! But I don’t get it enough because I still get mommy guilt whenever I am away from my kids. Whenever I get my free time, I spend it with family. Truthfully, Yoga is my answer to all needs. Whether you need to lose weight, firm up, beautify, have patience or feel love, Yoga answers all needs! It is amazing!
Another beauty tip is to hydrate naturally. I drink a lot of water and fresh juices like calamansi with ginger or kamote tops or coconut juice all throughout the day.
I always say that there’s a “Spoiled Mummy” in each of us. What do you think makes you, Monica Eleazar-Manzano, a Spoiled Mummy?
I am spoiled by life! I truly believe that your thoughts shape your reality. So far, I have been very successful in my life’s experiments because I am able to manifest my dreams. You can call it miracles or manifestations but they are all given by the light for us to share to the world. And this is why I write and mentor others to live more fully, through yoga, through health and through travels.
We can all be spoiled, if we choose to live life with rose-tinted glasses. There is ALWAYS something to be thankful for. If we live by this, more blessings suddenly arrive. So start having a grateful attitude and watch things unfold.