How it (surprisingly) improved my yoga practice.
Blog by Kye [DePauw University fanatic; Northsider; Travel addict; Soon-to-be Mama]
On December 20, 2013, two days after I learned that I was pregnant, I sent a frantic email to Cheryl Milton, my yoga teacher and friend from Invoke with whom I was planning to embark on a 200-hour yoga teacher training journey in January. It said something along the lines of, “Yikes! I’m pregnant. Very excited! I don’t think I’ll have the time, money, emotional stability…and, oh yes, TIME! to focus on yoga teacher training over the next five months. I’m super disappointed, but hope you’ll understand.” I then asked her to give me a run-down of the basic “rules” of practicing yoga while pregnant (i.e. how long can I do a headstand with a baby in my belly?). I honestly thought that it was impossible (or crazy) to attempt a 5-month teacher-training program while being pregnant for the first time.
I’m thankful Cheryl didn’t let me off the hook so easily. After expressing her initial excitement, she made a very compelling case for why the next few months would actually be the perfect time to dive deeper into my yoga practice. In the end, I listened to Cheryl, and she was one million percent right. While I feared that pregnancy would ruin – or at the very least impede – my yoga practice, I can honestly say that it did neither. As surprising as it may sound, I truly feel that pregnancy improved my practice. Here’s how:
It slowed my body – and therefore my mind – way, way down.
Before I was pregnant, I liked heated, hard, and fast classes. I was an upside-down junkie. I liked to find new ways to challenge myself and see how much I could sweat in a yoga class. For me, yoga was about pushing myself to my physical edge as much as possible. I haven’t eliminated this side of my yoga practice entirely, but pregnancy has without a doubt helped me appreciate the more subtle aspects of my practice. I’ve realized that small adjustments can lead to big improvements in a pose. I learned to be more patient with my body. I learned to think about what yoga means to me outside of the sweaty, crazy-hard stuff. I learned to appreciate the simplicity (and difficulty!) of slow-flow. I realized that your mind follows your body, and if you allow your body to slow down every once in a while, your mind will too. And that’s a beautiful thing.
It taught me to say no.
At the beginning of class, yoga teachers often explain that child’s pose is “always available” as a resting pose. Pre-pregnancy, did I ever willingly take child’s pose on my own, without being prompted? Absolutely not. I probably didn’t want to waste precious time in class allowing myself to take a break when I could have been pushing myself. Now, I’ll happily take child’s pose whenever I need it. Now, I can confidently say “no” to a pose, which is a big lesson to learn in meeting yourself where you are each and every time you come to your mat.
It helped me appreciate my body.
Though it should have been the case prior to pregnancy, I never really took the time to be grateful to my body for all of the things it allows me to do. After completing a five-month teacher training program and teaching my very first yoga classes — all while growing a tiny human — I’ve finally learned to pat myself on the back every once in a while and thank my body for being amazing. In my opinion, everyone should do this more often.
And finally, a quick note of advice:
There’s a great deal of “noise” out there about what you can and cannot (or should and should not) include in your yoga practice while you’re pregnant. I read everything from “Completely eliminate downward facing dog after 20 weeks,” to “Handstands are fine well into your third trimester.” Now that I’m just a few weeks away from delivery and have practiced regularly throughout my pregnancy, I can say with certainty that there are no hard-and-fast rules and that every yogini must determine what’s best for her own body. I chose to stop doing inversions after ~20 weeks; though it wasn’t always easy to resist headstands and handstands (I’m having a nerdy-yoga craving for Pincha Mayurasana as I’m typing this), it sure taught me a lot about yoga and myself to slow down for a few months of non-upside-down time on my mat.