how my yoga practice changed after giving birth

Hindsight is a marvellous thing.

I write this while my 9-month old son crawls around my feet. I was so delighted, frightened and excited when I found out I was pregnant – it had taken us a year plus one miscarriage. Nearly immediately, however, I started to feel very, very sick. The exhaustion was unlike anything I had known – I felt like I had drank a bottle of drowsy, night time cold medicine… but all the time.

So, my yoga practice had to change. I have practised and taught alignment and breath-based vinyasa for many years, with elements of restorative yoga and meditation. Suddenly, it was all I could manage to do restorative. Sometimes, arranging the props was like a workout for me! I usually fell asleep, rather than meditated, but I comforted myself with the thought that yoga is sometimes just about what you need on that day, without expectation or judgement.

Months went on, and I became HUGE. I looked like a cartoon. The amount of people who asked me if I was having twins… my belly was just that big! This further changed my practice. I prioritised breath work, as I felt so tight in my lungs and out of breath all the time. Yoga was still my safe haven – my home – but it was unrecognisable to what it had been before. I kept thinking that it would return to how it used to be after pregnancy.

Then, Wolf Walker was born. I was incredibly late and needed an induction. But, I didn’t take it, so it meant I had to have an emergency caesarean. I didn’t mind really, as I just wanted Wolf and me to be safe. I never had surgery before, and didn’t realise how slow and painful the recovery would be. I really had taken for granted having at least passable core strength!

So, my practice had to change yet again.

Getting even a few minutes to myself was a major triumph. On most days, for the first few months, it didn’t happen at all.  But at some point, I realised you don’t find time for yoga – you make time. So, with the help of my husband and some self-discipline (which I have hardly any!), I got on my mat more often. Even just for some breath, or some cat and cow or a downward facing dog (I had forgotten that down dog is a calf stretch!). Generally, my intention was just to ground and come home to myself. For my own sake as well as for Wolf’s, my husband’s and – after four months when I started teaching again – my students’.

The ego is a nasty enemy sometimes. I kept comparing myself to what I used to be. I felt tight where I had never felt tight and weak where I hadn’t been that weak before. I couldn’t move gracefully, or even touch my toes! The first thing I had to accept was that I was back to the beginning.

When I started considering myself a beginner again, it really became the beginning of getting to know my new body and my new self as a mother. I became more accepting and patient, even compassionate, with myself. I tried to turn around the negative thoughts to be encouraging, positive ones… and slowly, slowly, I’m finding my way home.

I don’t know if my practice will ever resemble what it did pre-Wolf, but I feel different within my heart and have accepted that my body might always be different too. I had to remind myself why I practice, which wasn’t for those party-trick poses, not to show off or even for strength or flexibility, but rather, to fan the internal flame of kindness, peace and love within me. And with that as my intention, touching my toes is way down on the list.

You start where you are. That’s all you can do.Having grown up in New York and Los Angeles, Kate started studying yoga in 1998. She was the weakest, most inflexible person in the yoga room, but persevered as the quiet and calm internal state was unlike anything she had ever known. She has done numerous teacher trainings, with Max Strom’s in Venice, California being the most influential for her. Kate now teaches a mindful, conscious but strong and challenging style of vinyasa flow, with attention to breath and alignment. She specialises in teaching multi-levels, so that students can work with respect to their own bodies and moods, rather than their egos. Kate believes yoga is a way of life that has the power to make us kinder, more patient, more loving and full of grounded peace. She is also qualified to teach pregnancy yoga and is a certified doula. www.katewalkeryoga.com

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