Friday, August 17, 2012

Body, Heart, & Mind of a Post-natal Yogini



I started taking yoga classes in my late 20s, at the time considering this my "prime". It satisfied my ego nature, as I was able to do backbends quite easily, which are some of the more challenging postures for the general population.  However, after over a decade of practice, many imbalances were revealed.  I lacked strength in my core and hamstrings and lacked flexibility in my hip flexors and gluteals.  It was frustrating that many yoga postures were still out of my reach. I even had a few instructors comment on how unusually limited I was, given how I had a flexible spine. Ouch.  Instead of letting this bother me, I grew humble and just accepted that this is how my body was.  And that humility helped greatly as my teaching experience grew. I was able to relate to my students better.  Also, I was able to focus more on meditation and energetics like qi gong.  As it should be, working with my limitations was a doorway to deeper yogic practices. 

Then I became pregnant and had my baby by an emergency c-section. 


Oh my, oh my, has my practice changed!  It is like starting all over again, except I have a very complete toolbox and know what will likely work. The amount of time put in is so different now. Before, my asana practice would usually be ~ 1 hour long in the morning or afternoon and I would meditate every evening for ~ 30 min. before bed. Now, I'm lucky if I can get 45 min. of asana (posture practice) in right before I hop into bed (if my son doesn't need me first!)  My meditation is <15 min.  Sometimes meditation is on the fly while I'm nursing or sitting at the park.  Not really "formal" at all.

Even though I practice for less time, I am definitely seeing changes.  My hips are way more open than before giving birth.  I am able to do lotus pose (padmasana) quite comfortably for the first time in my life.  Used with fish pose (matsyasana) it is helping immensely with the issues that came up for me during pregnancy and from the surgery. Note for women wishing to get pregnant: Please, never take a C-section lightly. It is a major abdominal surgery. I've had gastrointestinal  issues ever since, but that can be talked about in a later post...

So, my body is different. For some reason, I'm holding onto the last 15 lbs gained from pregnancy (and I was definitely not svelte before that!)  Still, I am continuing to heal and transform on every level. Keeping my body open is helping to make space in my heart and mind as well.  The brief contemplative practices of meditation and qi gong (maybe along with oxytocin?!) seem to be just enough to help me be a more loving mother, wife, family member, friend, neighbor, and inhabitant on this beautiful planet. 

It is our motivation, intention, and gentle approach to working with ourselves that is important, not so much what we do or how much we do.  Most long-time yogis know this. Just practice, that is yoga, regardless of life circumstances. This is hard to teach to beginners.  It is difficult for many to be still, to accept that they can't do everything, and take responsibility for what comes up in their practice.  I am glad to say that I know many students who have and are now yogis for life.  And for myself, I know that this is only the beginning.