I just wrapped up an amazing 6-week Prenatal Yoga series with so many amazing yoga mamas at different stages of their pregnancies. My heart is bursting at the seams with inspiration and new ideas about how I can better serve these women as they have one of the most amazing, most anxiety-filled, happiest, and biggest transitions of their lifetimes—the transition into motherhood (or, in some cases, into motherhood again). I keep thinking back to my own pregnancy way back in 2011-2012. I try to remember the discomfort I felt as well as the excitement, the overwhelming joy and gratitude as well as the frustrations, and how I tried to be a voice of calm and mindfulness when I wasn’t always feeling very calm or grounded myself. I struggled with many things, but throughout it all, my yoga practice (and lessons I’d learned from yoga philosophy) really was a saving grace. I’ve been doing some digging into the archives of blog posts I wrote during that time in my life. I’ll be sharing them with you over the next few weeks and months. Below is one of my favorites. I hope you like it, too—and, if you are pregnant right now, I hope you can relate.
Lots of love,
5 Things I Learned Practicing Yoga for Two: Insights on Pregnancy Yoga
|Photo by Tatiana Vdb, used with Creative Commons license|
I’m 16 weeks pregnant–far enough along that I want to share my news with the world! Can you believe I’m growing a PERSON!? This is by far the coolest thing I’ve ever done with my body–and I can get into some pretty rad looking yoga poses (well, I could a few months ago, anyway). Being pregnant has changed my outlook on a lot of things, but it’s also dramatically changed the way I practice yoga. It’s also revealed a lot to me about how I practice. Here are five things I’ve learned from practicing during pregnancy so far.
1. It’s not just about self-care anymore. I call it practicing for two because that’s how I see it. Yoga isn’t just “me” time for me any more. It’s not just about my own health and my own sanity. It’s something that will help me calm my nerves and get some exercise, both things I believe will make my body a better environment for a growing life. It will make labor and delivery easier (still keeping my fingers crossed on this one). In the earliest weeks it made my pregnancy more real as I got used to the idea that there was a little person growing in there, and now it feels like a way for us to bond.
2. Repeat after me: There’s no shame in modifying. There’s no shame in modifying. There’s no shame in modifying … At first, I felt really uncomfortable with modifying my practice–partially because I didn’t want my classmates to know my secret yet, but mostly because my ego is bigger than my belly will be at 8 1/2 months. I didn’t really know that this would be such a struggle for me, but there are many things I didn’t know about myself that I’ve discovered in the last few months. I just keep reminding myself that I have the rest of my life to practice yoga my way–right now, I’m practicing taking care of my baby.
3. Let go of the need to control. As someone who’s practiced yoga for the better part of 10 years, I have pretty awesome control over my body. When my teachers tell me to lift my chest or engage mula bandha, I understand it in my head and in my body. But no matter how much I will this little person growing in my belly to kick (I still haven’t felt any “flutters”) he or she just won’t budge. This unborn baby now controls when I eat (all the time), how much (a lot), what kinds of foods (lots of citrus, apparently), when to sleep (as much as possible), and when to pee (about every 5 minutes). And I thought becoming a parent meant I got to make the rules. How silly of me!
4. It’s OK to be a beginner. In poses where my toes were once touching, now it’s better to keep them apart. In standing poses where my feet were once supposed to be 3-4 feet apart, now are a bit closer together. When everyone else twists to the left, I twist to the right–or maybe not at at all. It’s kind of a lot to remember, and I still mess up more than I get it right. This has thrown me off my game in ways that I’ve never imagined. But I’m trying not to sweat it. I do what I can, go as far as my body will let me, and enjoy the opportunity to be a complete beginner again. Beginner’s mind is supposed to be a good thing after all, right?
5. Everyone has advice–ignore it and do what you know is best for yourself and your family. It’s still early in my pregnancy, but I admit to already becoming upset on several occasions when people offered me advice (with a little judgment mixed in) about what I should or shouldn’t eat, how I should sleep, whether or not to find out the gender of the baby, daycare, and so on. But if I’ve learned anything from my yoga practice, it’s how to practice compassion for others while trusting my own instincts and intuition. I’m working on accepting and being grateful for the good intentions of others, and letting all the rest go.
This post originally appeared at YogaJournal.com in 2011.