Begin (again).

For a seed to achieve its greatest expression, it must come completely undone. The shell cracks, its insides come out and everything changes. To someone who doesn’t understand growth, it would look like complete destruction. — Cynthia Occelli

An apt description of my postpartum yoga journey.  15 months since the birth of my son, my practice has been completely upended, my body reshaped, and my mental state fluctuates wildly. I can feel a shadow of myself one day, and then the next I find I've more energy, creativity, and strength than ever before.  Throughout I've found it helpful to approach my postnatal practice with a beginners mind and I'm bringing this idea to my students as well.  Rather than overwhelm a room full of new mamas with a zillion options, in an effort to keep longtime practitioners engaged while simultaneously offering a safe space for beginners, what if postnatal yoga was really a space for everyone to explore an intro level practice? 

As a yoga teacher with pre and postnatal credentials, I have the added experience of exploring yoga in my own body through pregnancy and after birth.  My teaching is now informed from both training and personal understanding.  What I've found is the unique challenge of approaching yoga with the curiosity I had the first time I rolled out my mat, while allowing space for muscle memory and accumulated knowledge from years of practice.  Life becomes instantly more complicated with the birth of a baby, and there's relief in straightforward physical postures. Discovering yoga after pregnancy is a wonderful time to learn or relearn the basics of asana, pranayama and meditation.  I try to offer my students a space to approach their practice in this same way.  For those returning to yoga after giving birth, there is an incredible opportunity to begin again.  The postpartum body invites mothers to approach familiar poses with wonder, patience, and compassion. 

Whether you are new to both yoga and motherhood, returning to the practice in a new body, or moving through post birth experiences for a second or third (or more) time, you might find comfort in how effective the simplest of poses can be.  Revel in the simplicity - how the most basic of poses can provide challenge.  Feel the pose as if for the first time, and refine it.  Return to poses you had to forgo during pregnancy (twists!).  Rebuild your abdominal muscles from scratch, and perhaps discover them stronger than ever.  I used to avoid abdominals at all costs, I mentally disliked the work.  Then it became necessary for daily life - to ease low back pain, to feel good in my jeans again, to be able to pick up my son day after day as he grows.  It's taken much longer than I every dreamed, but starting from scratch and working diligently has produced a deep core strength I've never had before.

All that said, postnatal yoga classes are more then a place to awaken and tone stretched-out and saggy abdominals.  It takes tremendous courage to start (or start over) a practice.  For many mothers, it is an enormous effort just to leave the privacy and comfort of home and enter into the public realm with baby.  Crying might be viewed as disruptive, diaper changes could turn messy and chaotic, unspoken assumptions about exposed breasts hang in the air.  My biggest priority when I show up to teach and hold babies is to offer a safe space for vulnerable bodies and spirits, a place for you to find support and affirmation for your own journey through motherhood.  Come as you are and begin (again).

(Join me Tuesdays 1:30-2:45pm at 8 Limbs Capitol Hill)

Happy (lunar) New Year

New MoonAs I deepen my practice, I find myself surrendering to a lunar-centric cycle of life.  I notice my personal rhythms seem better aligned to the moon.  Shifting from observation to implementation however, is where the real challenge lies.  The Sutras say that our lives settle easily, comfortably into the deep grooves of our habitual patterns.  We won't get out of these patterns without slowing down to recognize them and then choose a different action.  I am free to act differently, and yet this choosing is perhaps the hardest part. I finally gave myself room to breathe this January.  I'm never ready for a new year when the calendar says I should be.  It's too soon after the hectic holidays, too dark, and too cold.  My appetite for routine needs time to build back up.  In the relative stillness this month I reflected on life's ever-present busyness.  The pace of life around me won't change, I have to decide how I engage with it.  Yes, absolutely, sounds great, will slow down...check.

And of course what did I do this morning to celebrate the new moon and new year?  Convince myself that I should go to a morning yoga class and run errands and so on and so on.  And once I've settled on should, I set in motion a familiar pattern of obligation, efficiency addiction, and guilt if I change my mind.  So, mind made up, I set my alarm.  Alarm buzzes, I get ready for my day in semi-hurried fashion, rush through breakfast, pack up a bag, panic at the time and run out the door per usual when I have to be somewhere before 9am.  The rain outside stops me -- I forgot my umbrella.  Back down the hallway.  Rush, rush rush...I'm now late.  Umbrella in hand and heart rate elevated I race once more out the door.  And then I stop, for just a moment, and see the absurdity.  I'm stressed out about getting to a yoga class.  I'm rushing around so I can go relax.  I'm so focused on getting to my practice that I forget to be in my practice.  The pause is just enough to break the spell.  I stop, slowly turn and walk back to my front door.  It's cold and wet outside.  I don't have to go anywhere.  I'm a yoga teacher for goodness sake, I can practice at home.  Heart rate slows, breath lengthens, body relaxes.  Another day will be better suited to joining others in the studio.