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)