The human body is a pretty incredible thing. It is constantly changing and adjusting as needed by the demands of our daily adventures. Sometimes these shifts happen so quickly we barely notice; many times we must be patient and endure uncomfortable steps along the way. As a yoga instructor, I encourage my students to pay close attention to the transitions in their practice just as much as the poses. These spaces are often messy but also full of learning and full of grace when we take the time to find it. The transitions, in my opinion, are just as important as the poses themselves because the work, the growth, and the beauty are found deep within those moments both on and off the mat. This is the space where our bodies and minds truly learn and take it to the next level.
Since taking my first yoga class about ten years ago, my practice has been my favorite place to explore the subject of how the body AND mind adapt to transitions and also recover. At its simplest level, I am moving from one pose to another: stretching into heart openers, cultivating strength in arm balances, honing focus in inversions. On a deeper level, I observe how my mind relates to my practice both on and off the mat: discerning the difference between responding and reacting, adjusting to life’s (sometimes unexpected) trials and adventures, and recommitting to growth when things get hard. Every day is a new opportunity to acknowledge my strengths, work on my weaknesses, observe my impatience, and appreciate my grace. This kind of constant expansion and expression is simultaneously exhausting and exhilarating.
Most recently, I have found myself revisiting this thought on transitions again (and again) as I embarked on the journey of pregnancy and motherhood. I had always anticipated this phase of my life with excitement and curiosity – both regarding my physical transition and certainly the emotional ride I was embarking on. As a yoga instructor, it was tempting to think I could just modify my home practice or regular classes to accommodate for baby as I (he) grew. After all, as a Type-A personality that likes to keep busy, I thought “why should being pregnant ‘slow me down?’”
Toward the second half of my pregnancy, I began incorporating the prenatal yoga and Pilates classes at Mind the Mat. There, I rediscovered my own connection to transition and recommitted to being a student first. These classes were my space to move, to breathe, and to nurture my body with shapes that would relax me and strength that would prepare me for labor and delivery. I felt supported not only by the instructor(s) but by the community of other mamas on a similar journey. Through these classes I had weekly opportunities to be challenged but also to rest in a way that I perhaps wasn’t creating space for elsewhere in my day at that point. I was also fortunate to have a relatively pleasantly, uneventful pregnancy that allowed me to consistently work out, practice, and even teach my regularly scheduled classes up until I delivered Jackson (Jack) on November 3, 2015.
Afterward, once I had “my body to myself again” (ha…sort of), I looked forward to getting back to my mat and subconsciously imagined I’d jump right back into my old routine, especially since I had practiced steadily throughout. However, my body quite persistently reminded me that it needed to heal, to recover, and that in many ways I needed to recalibrate my understanding of the words “strength” and REST. Dare I say that in some ways, having the baby was the “easy” part – it is the part about having patience with myself afterward that has been the biggest challenge. Did you know that post partum recovery takes 8-12 MONTHS (and sometimes longer)? While I had learned this through prenatal and postpartum yoga teacher trainings, I finally started to “get it” as I went through it myself. It has been an exercise of great patience and vulnerability to slow down and savor the “practice between the poses” at a whole new level.
Enter once again the incredible programming at Mind the Mat – this time on the postpartum side. Jack and I have been regular attendees at Mommy & Me Pilates since he was 6 weeks old and without fail every week it kicks my butt (and my arms and my core…). The postpartum yoga is the yin to the Pilates yang, rebuilding strength but also creating healthy space in my body again. It has also been incredibly helpful and fulfilling to be guided through movements and variations that are specifically designed for recovering after having a baby. The environment created in all of these classes is one of space, strength, celebration, and community.
I have come to appreciate the incredible journey that my body AND mind have just been on, and quite honestly, are still on! Lots of days the spaces and shapes where I used to feel graceful now feel clumsy. Where I used to sense lightness and strength, some days I struggle to lift my limbs off the ground. While some things are forever changed (in such an utterly amazingly beautiful way!), I have a renewed respect for how special these transitions are and how much space I can give myself to grow in this new role. I come back to my mat, especially now, for more than just the physical poses and a good sweaty flow. It is much more than that — a necessary constant re-grounding in my independence as a person, my strength as a woman, and my journey as a mother…. and now sometimes baby just comes along for the ride. (See pics below ☺)
Are you a new mama yourself or know someone who is?
I will be teaching Mind the Mat’s next round of Postpartum Core Yoga 6-week series on Thursday nights from 8pm-9pm. This class is specifically designed and taught for mamas just like myself on their post-baby journey. It will be physically challenging, focusing on core reengagement and rebuilding strength in other areas of the body through an active flowing practice, yet nurturing an effective recovery after childbirth. Perhaps most importantly, it will create a fun and open space for connection and relaxation.
Series begins tomorrow, Thursday June 2nd! Sign up here.