Recently, I had the wonderful experience of spending four full days in prenatal yoga teacher training with a small group of amazing women.
Before the workshop, I’d been excited to learn more about how to teach pregnant women yoga. I had done regular yoga while pregnant with my first baby. This was before making time for a yoga class got really complicated. I had also loved being pregnant, giving birth, newborns, breastfeeding, the whole messy, juicy lot of bringing babies into the world. Teaching women who were on the cusp of this magical time sounded perfect for me.
What I didn’t know was that nine years after giving birth to twin boys, my second and third babies, I was in need of prenatal yoga myself. Why? It wasn’t for my pelvic floor, although that also could use some help. It was actually for much more than the physical elements of a prenatal yoga class.
It was what I needed to slow my racing ass down.
I am a new yoga teacher, still within the first year of my YTT 200 hours certificate. I have been working my lotus blossom off on my asana (the physical postures we Westerners like to call “yoga”) to prove to myself that I was worthy of teaching yoga. I have also been working my lotus blossom off on teaching asana, even as a substitute teacher for an advanced class, which made me even more asana–obsessive and slightly anxious. My asana practice has benefited from this work, although it has also shown signs of unthoughtful wear on my shoulders and knees.
My teaching has expanded substantially, and I love teaching the advanced yogis, watching their beautiful forms and fierce determination. But I was also wholly grateful at the beginning of the summer when I was able to stop teaching the advanced practice and slow the pace down for my own practice and body.
What I hadn’t realized until prenatal teacher training was that I had been way overdoing it.
When the beautiful and calming prenatal yoga teacher, Janice Clarfield, glided into the studio, I immediately became aware of how fidgety my body was. When she started talking—taking slow, melodious, pregnant pauses—I became conscious of what a speeding chatterbox I can be. When she launched our training with a guided breathing practice, I instantly fell into deep meditation like a very long overdue slumber.
When she eventually asked us to open our eyes slowly, with a downcast gaze, straddling our inner and outer worlds, I remembered what I had been missing in my asana zeal. Oh, yeah, there is this part of yoga.
For four full, luxurious days, I was reminded again and again that yoga is much more than asana. The richness available in this tradition needs to be better represented not only in my future prenatal classes, but in every class I teach. And it needs to start at home, with my own practice.
It is that breadth of practice, combining the poses with breath work and meditation, every day, that will make me a better teacher, a better yogi, and a better human.
I knew this before. I had been trained to do more. But I had allowed myself to be distracted by the more urgent pull of asana, particularly in teaching people how to get in and out of poses. It is totally understandable. I know this. It is also not surprising for me. People who know me well, myself included, could have predicted it. Yet, even self-aware of my tendencies, I had allowed myself to be continually sidetracked by the simpler experience of our physical bodies. Of my physical body and those of others.
So, for all of you following my do one pose a day blogs, there is more coming your way. Keep doing those poses, but consider adding some daily, seated breath work and meditation to your practices. I hope to start writing more about it soon.
Don’t groan or start to avoid my posts—this is the good stuff, I promise. An asana practice may wring you out in that obvious physical way, and take your mind off of itself through pure physical sensation and work, which is great and to be done. But there is so much more to be had. Think crown jewels. Nectar of the gods. Samadhi baby. Deep, nourishing celestial peace. For true.
It is still hard work, often harder. But it is possible. And it is coming. To a mat near you.
Do Yoga. Today. Every day.
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Asst. Ed: Renee Picard/Ed: Sara Crolick