Eight weeks ago I become a mother. While I’m in love with my new son, our life together has yet to settle into a sustainable rhythm. It’s times like this when I am so grateful to have a yoga practice. It helps keep me somewhat sane and connected to the person I want to be.
As I return to asana and adjust to my “new,” postpartum body, I’m afforded great opportunity to remember some basic lessons of yoga
1. Plank to chattarunga is hard.
No joke! After years of practice I sort of forgot how challenging this transition can be. One minute I’m steady in plank, the next I’m flat on my face (much like the rhythm of recent days!) But, for building your core strength there’s nothing better!
It’s also good to remember that when you’re doing 2000+ plank-chattarungas* a year, keeping the head of your arms bones lifted is crucial!
2. A little extra around the middle really can get in the way of deep forward folds and twist.
After 9 months of avoiding them I couldn’t wait to twist again. But something is in the way! When the belly feels like an obstruction I breathe more deeply into the back of my heart, expand my back body and let it lead the way… which is what should happen even without the excess around the middle – whether that middle is the middle of the belly, or the middle of the mind.
3. Headstand is the bomb.
There’s nothing so refreshing as a little inversion break. Since long holds in handstand still elude me, I tend to opt for headstand. Like plank, it too builds core strength. But it also shifts my perspective and refreshes my tired brain. Perhaps I’ll do one now 🙂
4. Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutes) and Hip Openers are a great way to reestablish practice.
A decade or so ago, while at an artist’s residence center in Vermont (the same place where I discovered my calling to teach yoga), a yoga instructor gave this piece of sage advice which I still find to be true today. “After a long absence from practice, it’s helpful to return with hip openers.” Hip openers such as pigeon, bound angle, janu sirsana, and quad stretches clear out buttock, hip and back tightness subsequently opening the body to a deeper breath which calms the nervous system and provides fuel for the rigors of standing poses, the energy of backbends and the introspection of forward folds and twists.
5. Yoga is Always There
Whether it’s been 6 days, 6 weeks, 6 months or 6 years, the yoga practice is always there. It doesn’t leave. It’s a home we can always come back to.
6. Stability Enhances Freedom
Whether it’s the steadiness of muscular contraction or the steadiness of a consistent practice (asana, meditation, gratitude lists, inspiring daily readers, or healthy food choices), holding fast to those things that enhance our lives is essential, especially in times of great change or chaos. The practices themselves may look different than they once did, the body might not be as strong, but finding small ways to continue to daily incorporation of those practices that keep us steady, leads to greater freedom. Otherwise the changes, the chaos, “the flow of life” can become a free-for-all, or a deluge that pulls away from who we want to be.
7. Breath is essential.
This should really be first.
Just after delivery I found my hamstring attachments were painfully tight. But, being unable to exercise, I couldn’t do much about it. Every now and then I would sit in a pose or take a standing forward fold while having a conversation with my mother. Just forming the shape of a pose isn’t nearly as effective as forming a shape and then settling into the breath. The two work together. Shapes without breath are just shapes. Breath without the shape is just air. The two intertwined create yoga. And the yoga brings harmony, balance and refreshment.
* Conservatively – 10 P – to – C transitions per practice x 5 practices per week x 50 weeks a year = 2500