Pregnancy does some amazing things to a woman’s body. I marvel in front of the mirror at how much my body has changed. The most obvious is the bump out front that leads the way wherever I go. Then there’s bigger breasts, shinier hair, changes in skin tone and texture, stretch marks, swelling, postural changes and a symphony of other ‘side effects‘.
I hope I can be forgiven for feeling differently about my body at this time; of scrutinising and analysing every new bump and mark. To be honest, I love my pregnant body. I love the curves I’ve never had, the knowledge that my swollen belly houses my first child. But this doesn’t mean I’m never critical and self-conscious of the changes I see. Sometimes I’ll catch a glimpse of myself while out shopping and be shocked (but pleasantly intrigued) by what I see.
Navigating other people’s looks and comments can be cause for analysis too. People tend to look at me more often – friends and strangers alike will check out my bump, smile and pass by with or without comment. I’m often left wondering exactly what they’re thinking, what they see when they look at my enlarged and altered form.
Then I step onto the yoga mat and catch a glimpse of my reflection. ‘Wow, my bump looks big in this asana‘, I think to myself. As I move through my practice I notice how I have to alter each pose to accommodate my belly, my energy levels and my changed centre of gravity.
I’m reminded though of the need to feel an asana from the inside out rather than worrying about what it looks like from the outside. You certainly don’t have to be pregnant for this to apply. We’ve all found ourselves asking a similar question during our practice at one time or another: Does my [insert body part here] look big in this asana?
Perhaps you’ve assumed happy baby pose – lying on your back with legs spread, knees pressing down towards your armpits as you hold onto the soles of your feet, your bottom exposed in its full glory to whoever might be looking. But who is looking? And does anyone really care? Instead, notice how it feels. Do you feel the alignment in your bones? Are you comfortable or gritting your teeth? Are there any adjustments you could make to find your ‘steadiness and ease’ in the pose?
Being pregnant on the yoga mat (and off) is no different to being human on the yoga mat (and off). We all have our insecurities and concerns. We all have our egos (even if you’ve tried to leave it at the door it’s doubtless making itself known, at least sometimes). But switching the focus from the external form to the internal feel of an asana can help find an inner alignment that feels so good, what it might look like from the outside becomes of little concern.
I try to take this approach off the yoga mat too. I notice myself waddling, not walking, through the supermarket and wonder if people can tell (they can, they’ve told me as much!). Then I think, ‘Who cares!’. This way of ‘walking’ is right for now – so be it.
Now that I’m on the home stretch of my pregnancy I sometimes think about what my yoga practice will be like without my little one on board. To be sure, I won’t be launching straight back into my old practice. My body will be different again, as will my needs. Coming back to an inside out approach will help me to find my place on the mat, to practice with steadiness and ease.