As of Monday, I am on maternity leave from my FT job. Hard to believe. I am truly in the calm before the storm.
When I say storm, keep in mind that one thing I really miss about the Appalachian summers of my youth are the dramatic thunderstorms that came each afternoon and evening. That distinct feeling and smell in the air as they approach, looking up to see if the clouds are dark yet to signal a run for cover. The mix of fear, awe, and excitement as we count seconds between thunder rolls and lightning strikes watching the storm roll in from the comfort of our home. Something is going to change, things are going to get blown away, the power will go out, something might get smashed, but it is a force of nature that can’t be stopped. There’s a mix of patience and anticipation that comes with watching storms roll in.
The past several weeks have been very challenging on my ego. I am discovering just how much of a, “but I can do it all AND have it all!” person I am now that I am in a situation where I am truly not in charge. My life and my body are in surrender (note: surrender does not mean “giving up” – more on that in another post) to this little girl and the process of bringing new life into this world. Let me tell you: It is humbling and I don’t think I’ve every really used that phrase to the extent I use it right here right now.
I have been realizing, more and more, that we truly do teach the things we most need to learn.
Here are some things I often talk about in class:
“The definition of Ahimsa is to live so fully and presently in love that there is no room for anything else to exist” ~ Julia Butterfly Hill
Rest: one of the most advanced yoga poses known to humans.
You are perfect just the way you are.
Each body, each person is different. Don’t compare yourself to others.
A foundation of an honest yoga practice: Ahimsa is being kind to your body by honoring it as it is. Being kind in thought and action towards yourself and others. It means sometimes, you really have to give yourself a break.
This one has been hard.
About a month ago, I started feeling some pain under my skin around my belly button. When I brought it up with my midwife, she told me it is my rectus abdominis muscles separating. (Those are the “six-pack” muscles.) Apparently, it’s completely normal, especially with petite women. Despite the “it’s normal,” assurance, I kind of freaked out for a good week. It’s still small, but I can definitely feel it after physical activity – sometimes even walking for a few blocks or being in table-top hurts due simply to the weight of my belly.
I don’t want them to separate any further, so I have had to seriously cut back on asana. I can’t tell you how much I miss it. I miss the community. I miss walking in to the two studios that have been like home over the past six months and just moving and breathing the way I want to next to other people – especially right now with a completely open schedule. I have to take care of myself and do what I need to do, instead: take it easy.
I realize I have been comparing myself to others. The other women in the community who seemed to have been practicing regularly right up to their due date. (there are LOTS of yoga babies arriving in the Sacramento area. It’s crazy!) I have no idea, really, what their experience has been/is. Being patient with the rational knowledge that arm balances, jump-backs, back bends (not recommended for the ab thing) and inversions are just not in my practice today but will be back soon has been an increasing battle with my ego. However, doing those poses would be doing just what I encourage students not to do: watch other people and do something that could lead to an injury rather than listen to the body.
What this has taught me: I really, really appreciate asana and the community of yoga more than I ever have now that I am limited. I get so excited to teach and provide a space for other people to experience and explore the amazing ways our bodies move, breathe, and feel.
What I have to look forward to: There is going to be a long road back to regular asana practice and my expectations will have to shift. The opportunity: I will be able to re-learn poses I have been doing for years and, as a result, be able to teach them more effectively. (Bhujangasana, can’t wait to see you again. I think we’ll have the opportunity to really get to know each other this time around.)
Despite the gradual separation of muscles and changing energy levels of each moment, I still wasn’t getting the message I need to chill the eff out. I have been making great effort to “fit it all in” before the baby comes by working, teaching, and committing to all sorts of things over the past eight months. (It’s even hard for me to let someone carry my groceries to the car. I’ve only relented once.)
My body kept dropping hints and then finally said, “Fine. You think you don’t need rest? I’m going to open up and bring a nasty cold that will land you on the couch for close to a week.” I spent last week 35 weeks pregnant with a cold. I had no choice but to rest.
Okay. I get it. I have a hard time taking it easy. I have a hard time letting my body rest. I have a hard time finding compassion for myself.
But don’t we all? Isn’t that why those teachings hit home no matter how many times we hear them? Isn’t that why it matters each and every time we say them?
At the end of many of my classes, I say something to the effect of:
Honor where you are on your path.
That, right there, is my yoga practice right now. That is the teaching that guides how and why I teach, how and why I take each breath and step in my life. Maybe I say it so frequently because I really, really need to hear it.
It’s called a practice for a reason.