Handstand. I got this.
But I haven't got it just yet. What's holding me back?
Well, the wall. But wait, that's what's holding me up! But again, no, what's holding me up are my arms, my hands, my core...
My... Own... Strength.
Strength that I have developed, cultivated, created. My own strength.
So why the wall?
We learn much through our yoga asana practice - through our physical experience of the postures. We learn how we approach a posture, how we hold a posture, how we allow an experience to unfold within ourselves, and through that we learn about how we approach life.
So here we are at my tango with the wall. I've had handstand at the wall for a while - probably close to 2 years. But have I tried handstand without that support? Without the one who holds me up (so I believe), the one who says "I've got your back"?
What does that tell me about myself? Maybe I like feeling that support, maybe that I am afraid to fall (to fail) to take a step (or jump or leap) away from my friend the wall.
Here we are at a New Year, a New Beginning... 2014. It's time to take that leap! And I will start with handstand. I will get away from that wall.
What leap will you take in 2014?
Congratulations! You're PREGNANT!
Oh, the long-awaited (yet all too often surprising and overwhelming)
+ sign on that little test strip.
Whether you were planning this or not, there are many questions that immediately come to mind... and one of those might be, "Oh, how will I stay fit through pregnancy? I am excited to be having a baby, but I don't want to lose my body!"
While this question brings up many debates, it IS a valid question, and I want to address it honestly. As women in our Western culture, many of us work hard to maintain some level of fitness - whether you are a marathoner or triathlete, or you put in the consistent effort because it makes you feel good - I commend us all for that! Fitness is a key to health. And when we have established that level of health, and we know what it feels like to feel good, we don't want to give that up, because we also know what it feels like to feel "bad", and bad can mean missing a workout for x number of days. I know this from my own experience! If I don't exercise (read: practice yoga), I get grouchy, I feel bloated, I eat poorly, then all hell breaks loose! (Not really, but seriously!)
So, here is another question, yoginis! Should you continue practicing yoga during pregnancy, and if so, how? where? how often?
We have all heard that yoga is good for pregnancy... and the answers to this question are as diverse as yoga!
On one hand, you can seek out a yoga studio that caters to your particular stage in life, offering only pre- and
post-natal yoga, plus perhaps a number of other classes and services that you can explore as your belly and your family grows.
But if you are a yogini who has been practicing at X studio for 10 years, has a strong practice, but also a desire to connect with other pregnant women as well as continue your own practice, what then?
Well, you don't have to leave your studio, your Kula - your tribe. Many studios also offer a Prenatal Yoga class on a regular basis - either weekly, or as a workshop.
Whatever it is you seek, I highly encourage (did you see that? highly encourage...) you to try a PRENATAL specific class - some sort of Prenatal class, ANY sort! And here's why, according to the teachings of the Niyamas, as laid out by Patanjali in his Yoga Sutras, those ancient teachings that tell us how to conduct ourselves in this life.
First of all, because of Sangha - or community. Through Prenatal Yoga, you have the opportunity to connect with like-minded women in the same stage of life.
1. Saucha - purity - take care of yourself - sleep, eating right, allowing for space and time to breathe. There is a myth out there about pregnancy. That myth is that pregnancy is a time to let yourself go. To eat ice cream and pickles, to lay on the couch and catch up on the last 5 seasons of Mad Men. Here's news - it's not! It is a time to get straight with what your body really needs. To begin to listen to it... underlying those cravings of ice cream and pickles is actually an indication of something your body needs. And yes, you do need more rest than you needed pre-pregnancy. And you need exercise. Yoga will help - will support you - as you seek what is the right balance for you.
2. Santosha - contentment - be where you are, accept that life is unfolding just as it should; live in the present, as it applies to where you are in your pregnancy. Pregnancy is a time when we are inundated with information, with do's and do-not's, advice from well-meaning friends, aunts, in-laws and the lady behind you in the check-out line... and it all can get ever-so overwhelming. Be content that the choices you make right now are based on the knowledge that YOU have in this precise moment of your life. Accept that those choices are the absolute best choices based on the knowledge that you have, and be content with that... because, why would you do anything less?
3. Tapas - practice - your yoga practice in and of itself has SO many benefits and connections to the birth process and your transformation into motherhood, from breathing to focus to opening up and letting go. BUT, these benefits won't be taught in a general group class, at least not specifically. That special connection, that "how yoga can help YOU", and drawing the line from yoga to pregnancy and motherhood, will only be spoken about in a specific Prenatal Yoga class. And, it is valuable! (VALUABLE!)
4. Svadhyaya - self-study or reflection - examine what pregnancy means in your life, holding the truth that is to come, how your life will change, and reflecting on YOU, how you will take on all the joys, the challenges, the hopes, dreams, and disappointments. The act of self-reflection, of truly knowing your SELF, will assist and support you when you encounter the times to come.
5. Ishvara Pranidhana - Learn the gentle art of S U R R E N D E R. I mean it! The act of birth is an act of letting go - from physically letting go so your baby can enter the world, to letting go and knowing that your child is of you, but is not you. Letting go to the birth process, knowing that you are not in control and being OK with that. Letting go of your need to look like you did at 21 in your bikini. Letting go of the preconceived ideas of motherhood, so you can experience your own journey rather than someone else's. Letting go.
There are so many more reasons to practice Prenatal Yoga, and I could go on and on. I hope that this short list, described through Patanjali's wisdom, has helped you to realize how yoga can support you through all that is to come.
Join me at Kindness Collective, January 19th, for a 6-week Prenatal Yoga workshop! Register here: http://bit.ly/1bascTf
I love these weeks between the holidays, almost more than any other time of the year... from Thanksgiving through the New Year. It's an exciting time of giving ...and receiving, of love and hope.
But all of this frenetic energy can leave me feeling ungrounded and overwhelmed.
When I feel ungrounded, I like to take a seat, and with each breath, ask myself the three most important questions... then let the answers come, and be at peace.
Kristen is a certified Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapist and Life Mentor. She offers online and in-person healing sessions. She lives and teaches in Denver, Colorado