A yoga teacher on how her practice informed her healing through injury, pregnancy and motherhood

4 months ago 45
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Yoga happened to me after an accident I had in around 1998 while rock climbing. The accident left me bed ridden for a long time, it was during this time that I started delving into the spiritual to empower myself and find hope and inspiration.

I found the book Autobiography of a Yogi and this sparked my interest. I just started looking around for forms of yoga that would help me fix myself. Soon, I found myself at the Sivananda Yoga ashram in Kerala, where I found a practitioner doing Ashtanga yoga and I was mesmerised. It looked like the kind of practice I felt ancient yogis must have done in the jungles, and I and decided this was the style I would learn to master. 

Because I have been practising Ashtanga for the last 20 years, and believe deeply it. Once I found out I was pregnant, I continued with Ashtanga yoga instead of starting up a regular prenatal workout. In the months before I conceived, I had been practising a very intense Ashtanga form of third series (think leg behind the head poses, backbends, handstands and arm balances), which is not always associated with feminine fertility. Since the pregnancy was not really planned, I had to navigate my way through it step by step, finding what worked for me in my practice and what didn’t.

“I had to really tap into my intuition and body awareness as I practiced through the different phases of my pregnancy”

I asked several friends with babies who were advanced Ashtanga practitioners, asked my teachers, read up as much as I could, and eventually had to really tap into my intuition and body awareness as I practiced through the different phases of my pregnancy. I did keep in mind the basic contraindications while practising—I was very gently in my first trimester, while in my second trimester I did a strong physical practice, but avoided all twists, deep backbends and some inversions. I intuitively felt that I needed to find deep relaxation and softness in my practice, so I avoided all arm balances, and did some gentle core work. 

In my third trimester, my focus became all about preparing myself for labour as I was sure I wanted to have a natural water birth without any medical intervention. The crux of yoga became poses to open my pelvis, assist the baby to be in the right position, as well as double-down on the breathing exercises I would use in labour. I worked on visualisations and meditation to relax the nervous system, which is a very important component of managing pain in labour. 

Yoga helped with the physicality of having an open pelvis and to connect to my breath during the painful contractions, but mainly yoga helped me in having a strong mind and determination to move beyond my fears during childbirth. 

“For now the focus of my practice is to be able to feel good in my body so I can take care of my baby.”

Since I had a natural physiological birth, and didn’t have any tears, my body has been able to recover pretty well and although it does feel extremely stiff because of the hours of breastfeeding, I have slowly got back to practising gently. For now the focus of my practice is to be able to feel good in my body so I can take care of my baby. 

All in all, yoga is a way of life rather than just a physical practice I do for a few hours a day. It determines my lifestyle choices, the way I think, how I live my life and gives me a sense of belief in a power greater than me which is benevolent, kind, compassionate and loving despite all the negativity that might surround the world right now. 

— As told to Avanti Dalal

Also read:

What Madonna’s yoga guru taught me about self-discipline

How to exercise at home when you're pregnant

How a celebrity’s post-partum depression helped me make peace with my own

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