One of the first things I tell Moms-to-be in a prenatal class is that it is a place where you can actually be pregnant.
This may sound silly, redundant even, but a women fulfills so many roles – wife, daughter, sister, co-worker, confidant, taxi driver, grocery buyer (add your own) – that while people may be overjoyed to hear our news, we are still required to fulfill all of the duties that come with those roles. All this, while our bodies work at a literally dizzying pace to create brains, hearts, bones, lungs and cute little toes.
We are held on pedestals while pregnant, we become public property, but in a manner of reverence, from my experience, as if we are the saviours of the future – which we actually are.
But after we have our babies, for many there is a sense of being dropped, as if that relatively comfortable hammock of support is pulled out from beneath us. We are left alone – with no manual – in a state of complete exhaustion. And when does our body and nervous system heal and renew? When we rest.
Pre and Postnatal Yoga provided me with a sense of stability. I have seen many women make the transition into Motherhood with grace and ease. I was not one of those women. After my first birth I developed post-partum depression. My birth went nothing like imagined, ending in a scheduled caesarean birth. After following every conflicting tidbit of advice and intervention, I couldn’t breastfeed. Even with support, I spent three weeks without stringing three consecutive hours of sleep together.
Leading up to my birth I attended prenatal yoga classes. We focused on grounding, breathing, and moving – in that order. I came to understand the idea of being grounded in a way that felt embodied. The weight of my baby and work my body was doing caused fatigue that could no longer be avoided. I needed to truly rest. One of the phrases I have become fond of over the years is that it requires a tremendous amount of energy to hold onto our tension. Prenatal Yoga class became a place that I could truly surrender into the support that the ground offered and rest. It is one of the most important lessons that yoga has taught me to this very day.
With time and distance I look back at my birth experiences, and while I still feel some of the sadness they brought me, I also see their gifts. Not only in the incredible children I created, but also that I was gifted a different perspective and deep empathy I can share with my students. I look back and know now that a birth day, like a wedding day, is truly only the beginning of the parent-child lifelong relationship or a loving marriage.
At eight weeks post-partum I began to attend Parent and Baby Yoga classes. I had no choice. I had already paid for them, darnit. I began to test the limits of how long it could possibly take an adult and baby human to leave the house. I felt nervous bottle feeding in a class full of nursing moms. My daughter screamed or ate for most of the first month. But I kept going back. Despite the obstacles, both those that were real and the ones created in my mind, it was a safe place. It felt good to move if I wanted to and it felt good to make a choice to rest. It felt good to be in community.
These days I playfully dub Parent and Baby Yoga as “Yoga Anarchy” and these are the rules:
- There are no rules.
- Except that we work within our limits.
- I come with a plan and am ready to throw it out the window if it is not what our energy calls for.
- Baby calls the shots now. You are never late for class.
- Babies cry. How good is it to know that other babies cry too?
- Babies have blow outs, find their toes, are bottle-fed/nursed and are always right beside you.
- Sometimes babies sleep. Glory be.
- Gracious volunteers come to class to snuggle your babies. If you consent you can have some baby free time while they lovingly rock and bounce your gorgeous babies.
In my opinion, yoga offers us life skills. We can feel over time and often in an instant that ground can be pulled right out from under us and our whole world is turned upsidedown. While a strong Warrior Two Pose is a lovely goal, simply getting out of the house, grounding, moving, and breathing are the essential life skills that got me there.
And if nothing else, we can explore grounding, breathing and moving as a life-long practice because:
“Blessed are the flexible, for they shall never be bent out of shape.”
~ Robert Ludlum
For more information and how to register for Mom & Baby Yoga, please visit Yoga Loft Kamloops.
Tania McCartney is the owner of Grounded and Sound Yoga and mother of two creative young girls. A BFA in Theatre from York University and a 750 hour yoga teacher certification, with several other pre/postnatal and therapeutic yoga workshops has guided her toward her gentle and explorative style of teaching. She has been practicing yoga since 2000 and teaching since 2008. If you have any other questions you can find her on Facebook at Grounded and Sound Yoga.