March 14, 2014

The Yoga of Pregnancy. ~ Leigh Shulman

Pregnancy Pigeon Pose

Finding Myself Below the Big Belly and Boobs.

Here I am, turning the corner into my third trimester of pregnancy, and I’ve been fighting it every step of the way. I am exhausted, sick and achy.

Pregnancy is indignity.

Good lord, I’ve never thought nearly this much about bodily functions. I pee constantly.  An errant wafting odor sends me running to vomit, and the politics of pooping takes up more of my time than seems right.

Pregnancy is discomfort.

My groin aches as hormones soften my tendons and muscles, turning the simple act of rolling over in bed into a three part process that includes pillows and groaning. As this belly of mine grows, the pain around my coccyx inches ever closer to unbearable.

I simply cannot do what I did pre-pregnancy, and I hate it. I have no choice but to slow down, and that is simply not my style. I am not who I was before.  The old me doesn’t cry in front of people. She avoids conflict and anger as much as possible. She sets high goals, pushes toward them and accepts no excuse for failure.

The pregnant me is not me. I don’t quite know how to address who I’m becoming. I don’t recognize this new person. She naps at least once a day and putters around the kitchen looking for snacks when she should be working. She cycles between sadness, hurt, joy and every other emotion imaginable. She cries at the drop of a hat. I know rationally and consciously why this is happening. Deep in my reptilian mind, in the core of my being, I don’t really believe that pregnancy is an excuse to slow down.

Pregnancy is acceptance.

At first, I fought it. When I felt so ill I could barely move, I tried to keep going even when my body said a big, fat no. I stuck to my work schedule and deadlines. When I was angry or upset, I kept to myself, wrote in my journal and didn’t openly express my feelings.

Then one day, for a few hours, I forgot to struggle. It happened when my nine year old daughter, Lila, and I were dancing in the kitchen to Paul Wall.  She laughed at how silly I looked waggling my belly around when I moved, so the idea of relaxing and having fun in these last single child moments with Lila took precedence.

I remembered how the first weeks after Lila’s birth were the happiest of my life, because I completely unhooked from everything else. No time, obligation or expectation. Somehow, my mind simply didn’t feel pulled in different directions anymore.

Pregnancy is a blessing and not because of the usual reasons.

Yes, I am changing, and this change is a unique opportunity. How many life events transform the world literally overnight, allowing us to see with new eyes? Those that do are usually extremely painful. A death or a tragedy.

Pregnancy and birth bring life and joy, no matter how uncomfortable the process of change may be. Here’s another truth: this isn’t just about pregnancy. My fear and vulnerability are not new. The pressure to always move forward comes from a very deep place of doubt. I worry that I’m not good enough and that I won’t find happiness. I compare myself to others, which robs my life of joy.

These doubts did not materialize in my psyche the moment sperm fertilized egg. No, they’ve been with me all along. Pregnancy simply made me forget myself long enough to face my fears. As with any perceived physical limitation, pregnancy shook up my patterns, leaving me without the defense mechanisms I’d built to protect myself from scary things. Change is painful, but if we allow ourselves to open to these tender spots, we can soften and accept without judgement. We’ll have a wonderful opportunity for growth.

Prenatal Yoga.

Pregnant Upavishta Konasana

I relax into paschimottanasana, a seated forward bend. This yoga pose, intended to balance the nervous system, simply requires me to sit on the floor, legs together and then reach forward for my feet, bringing my head to my knees.

Some days, the palms of my hands easily rest against the palms of my feet. Other days, my legs and back refuse. If I fight the stiffness, it hurts more. I berate myself for not being able to achieve more. I want to run and get out as soon as possible. When I soften, use supports and give myself a chance, my hands wrap around my feet and the tightness dissipates. Pregnancy, of course, requires me to modify the pose to accommodate my ever burgeoning belly. Even if I want to run away, I can’t because I have to face a growing part of myself.

I have two choices.

Either, I wallow in the misery of change and regret or I surrender. Although, I want to surrender my body, mind and soul aren’t always in alignment. I am  lucky to have only three more months between now and the time this little boy is due.  Until then, I will cultivate gratitude and accept the parts of myself I’ve tried to avoid. This acceptance, second only to the arrival of a baby, is the greatest gift I’ll receive from nine months of pregnancy.



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Editorial Assistant: Ashleigh Hitchcock/Editor: Bryonie Wise

Photo: Leigh Schulman


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