Letting Go Part 1 was about letting go of the past, letting go of old wounds, healing that inner child, and using yoga as the practice of letting go. Part 2 is about having to let go of your asana practice and body as you know it in order to grow another human being.
I had struggled with infertility for years and being an “advanced maternal age” didn’t help either. After letting go of being pregnant, I got pregnant. Then, hearing Zoe’s heartbeat on an ultrasound and being reassured by the doctor that “all was good” in my belly, I finally relaxed and enjoyed the long 40 weeks of being pregnant.
I tell my students every class to listen to your body, modify accordingly, and if something doesn’t feel right, don’t do it. This advice is the mantra for a pregnant woman because every woman is different during their pregnancy; they have different symptoms, different bodies, and different states of minds. What may feel good for one woman may not feel good for another. I believe that if you had a yoga practice before you got pregnant, you can continue to have a practice during pregnancy and after birth. That’s where the letting go comes in to play.
I was fortunate to have a relatively easy pregnancy, I never had morning sickness which can be severe in some women. Fatigue was my biggest symptom, sometimes I felt narcoleptic, I could have fallen asleep anywhere at any time! I was able to maintain my practice with limited modifications for many months until the swelling came. I had severe carpal tunnel around month 7. It was so bad that it would wake me up in the middle of the night. Searing, sharp, shooting pain and numbness from my finger tips to my elbow, OUCH!!! Practicing yoga was impossible, especially down dog. I couldn’t put any pressure on my wrists so I tried to modify by coming down on my forearms for down dog (dolphin pose). It took the pressure off of my wrists but then my shoulders were screaming!! After suffering with it for a few weeks without relief, I called my friend Marcy who is an acupuncturist. She gave me treatments with her needles and sent me home with a laser box. I used the laser on all the meridian points on my fingers and wrists and it took away the pain! I used that laser right up until I gave birth and it truly was a lifesaver, I was able to do down dog again!!
By the time I was 9 months pregnant, my practice had changed so much I felt like I couldn’t call it yoga. Every pose was modified, steady breathing was a chore, balance was non-existent, being on my back hurt, every part of my body was compromised, I didn’t recognize my feet. This is when you have to let go of all the expectations, the ego, and have compassion for yourself, your body is not your own.
So after 40 weeks of letting go of your yoga practice, letting go of good sleep and letting go of the body you once knew, crazy pain starts to rack your body and voila! You are in labor!!! Every birth story is unique and however it unfolds there is a good chance that this is the ultimate in letting go. Depending on circumstances, birth plans have to be thrown out, ideals and egos have to be let go. This is when being present is crucial. The only control you have is your breath, your ability to withstand pain, and doing your best to get this baby out of your body safely. Once that baby is in your arms, everything and anything that you’ve held on to is gone. You forget about the pain, the blood, the fatigue. For me this was the ultimate moment of Samadhi, or bliss. Nothing else matters for this one moment as you stare into a face that you created, a face that you will continue to stare at in amazement and with unconditional love. Being a mother has allowed me to let go of even more things, things that I didn’t know I was holding on to. It has opened my heart, my eyes, and my mind. It has given me more strength to get through this life by enjoying every moment and seeing things through the eyes of a child.
Once you take that baby home there are a million more things that you need to let go of, physically and emotionally. You have to let go of sleep and having a clean house. Getting yourself back onto your mat after birth is a whole other topic!
I have taught many pregnant women yoga, many of them friends of mine who were going through their pregnancies at the same time I was. It was interesting to hear about their experiences because some were so different than mine and some very similar. I took all of this information along with the pregnancy modifications that I learned through my training and compiled a packet of guidelines for our pregnant students. 3 Bridges Yoga is committed to keeping our students safe and successful in their practices, especially during pregnancy and after birth. Check out our video here.
This blog was inspired by one of my friends and fellow yogi and mom, Val McNally. Val came to yoga to support Bjorn and I at 3 Bridges. She is athletic, strong, tall, and graceful, but I always joked that I wouldn’t want to meet her in a dark alley!! Val was one month ahead of me in her pregnancy with her daughter Alta and in my eyes as a teacher there was nothing Val couldn’t do, she was invincible!! She was coming to yoga towards the end of her pregnancy while having contractions!! She was hard core and I was amazed by her. Val has had her setbacks as have I yet we have experienced the joy of motherhood, experienced the road to healing, and experienced the reality of letting go.
Here is Val and her two wonderful children.
1. How long have you been practicing yoga and what got you started?
I started practicing yoga in March of 2011 to support you and 3 Bridges. I was 12 weeks pregnant.
2. What pose(s)has given you the most benefits, which one is most difficult?
My body feels the most release of tension in rag-doll. I dont know, there is something to be said about just letting your head dangle. Pigeon and fish are by far the most wrenching on my body.
3. What was the most challenging thing in your practice during pregnancy, what about after birth?
Physically the challenge during pregnancy was touching my toes but mentally it was holding myself back. Even after birth taking it easy was still a challenge, I definitely over did it a time or two and am still paying for it a year and a half later.
4. How has your practice affected motherhood? How has being a mom affected your practice?
I turn to Ujjayi breathing a lot throughout my day and have made it a point to teach my kids about the importance of a balanced and calmed breath.
I am looking for a different experience these days when I practice yoga. One of my goals is perfect the handstand and I will work towards that but for my everyday practice I aim for a clear mind and total relaxation in every pose.
5. What advice would you give to a pregnant woman, either on or off the mat?
Breath and stay positive; enjoy the cravings; and keep moving unless your body is telling you other wise.