Princess: Posing through pregnancy
December 12, 2015
All I can say is thank God for yoga.
I don't write about yoga much because it's kind of like my church. I learned a long time ago that a yoga studio is a sacred place and you don't want to disrupt that by offending the relationships you have there, because that is where you go to heal from whatever damage you've done to yourself elsewhere.
I was never the yoga type. I wasn't all long-limbed and lithe and with that hair that all those yoga girls have. God knows I wasn't at all spiritual, and my idea of finding inner peace typically involved a beer and a snack followed by a long nap. The truth is that I started doing yoga so I could lose weight. My motives were entirely superficial: I wanted to do hot yoga so I could literally sweat my ass off.
Little did I know that yoga would become such a grounding force in my life.
The other day, one of those beautiful yoga girls with the hair and the long legs and the impossibly flat torso came over to my house to take pictures of me doing yoga. Somehow there I was, dressed in yoga tights, a bra, Mukluks slippers and a pom-pom beanie, my pregnant belly totally exposed, glinting in the late-morning sun.
When I looked at the photos afterward, I was blown away.
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I have always felt uncomfortable in my own skin, almost to the point of shame. It was like I had on too many layers but couldn't take them off. I have always been so critical of myself, even when I was at my smallest. All I could see were my flaws.
Pregnancy has had a way of changing all that. For the first time in my life, my body has a real job to do. I think that's the reason I've been calmer in pregnancy than I ever have been. Whatever navel-gazing I'm doing is now very literal — I mean, my belly button is inside out, for crying out loud. I can't go much deeper than that.
You have no control over what happens to your body in pregnancy. Your belly grows and grows and grows and then grows some more. You have heartburn, fatigue, back pain, constipation and insomnia, only you're not allowed to take any medicine that will actually do anything to fix it. You have to pee every five minutes and lie awake at night while this thing kicks and jabs and rolls and punches so you never forget that (holy sheet) there really is something alive in there. And one of these days, it's going to have to come out, and that's all on you.
I guarantee that if men were the ones having babies the world would be a totally different place.
Anyhoo, yoga has always been a time to check in with my body. Some days that's a taller order than others. In pregnancy it's not only fascinating but totally essential. I can take care of all those little aches and pains and get used to the changes that happen on a daily basis. I can practice my balance day-to-day so I'm able to adjust to my constantly shifting center of gravity. This has been huge in terms of allowing me to keep up with other activities I love, like hiking and skiing, without risking a fall because I'm out of balance. If I can stand on one leg and bring my foot over my head in a backbend with a twist like we do in bow pose, I can ski on a groomed run and have total confidence that I'm not going to fall.
Yes, I feel like a walrus in class, and yeah, it's super awkward for me to get into some of these poses, and of course I have the grace of a baby elephant.
But when I saw those photos of me, doing yoga with my big, pregnant belly, I was shocked.
It was in many ways the culmination of almost 10 years of regular practice, to have the knowledge and confidence to know what I'm doing and how to adapt to my new and ever-changing condition. To be able to convince my doctors, "Yes, it's hot yoga, but I know how to be in a warm room and not overheat. I know how to breathe and not overdo it."
But it was the first time in my life that I actually felt proud of my body, of what it can do. It's nothing short of a miracle, really, and you guys know I don't usually talk like that.
It was also the first time I fully understood what yoga has given me. It has literally turned back the clock so that my "biological age" is considerably younger than my "chronological age," which is one of the reasons why I'm able to do this whole advanced-maternal-age thing in the first place.
A regular practice has given me the ability to navigate the foreign waters of pregnancy on a daily basis, so it's not so scary. It's given me a teacher who, after having had two babies of her own, has given me more care, guidance, support and love than any midwife or OB-GYN ever could. It's given me a community of people who have been with me through this entire journey, cheering me on like spectators on the sideline of a marathon.
Then there's the quiet time at the end of class when I take long, slow, deep breaths and repeat the phrase "Happy healthy baby, strong, brave mommy" over and over again until I have no choice but to believe it.
They say yoga is a way to unify the mind, body and spirit — just like the Aspen Idea. So I'm living it, and I'm living in it. And soon, I'll be passing these beautiful life lessons, and this beautiful place, along to my son.
The Princess is happier than she's ever been. Email your love to firstname.lastname@example.org.