I took over a year off from yoga. It was a horrible idea, I know. But there were extenuating circumstances.
I was pregnant, and this time around, much unlike my first pregnancy, this baby Took. Control. Of. My. Body.
I ached and was exhausted right from the get go. This baby was not messing around. She declared herself Mayor of Uterusville, set up a master control center and proceeded to operate it exigently from within the womb. Her demands manifested themselves as undeniable cravings.
“You will wake up, cook and eat a hot dog and a hamburger today. Do it now!” said this baby.
“You will not drive by this McDonalds. That’s right, turn the wheel. I need a double cheeseburger. Now!” said this baby.
And so I found myself, like many bewildered women, at the mercy of the life force growing inside of me after a decade-long purification of diet, a well-established (life-changing) yoga and dance practice and a body that I knew well, that worked with and for me, a body in which I felt healthy and vital.
She bumped me right out of the driver’s seat.
What can one do when she finds that she is no longer captain of the ship? The only thing a good yogi can do…go with it.
And so, I didn’t resist.
I watched as all that control and all that conscious effort flew out the window. Poof! Disappeared—for over a year.
And now here I am. I have a thriving and beautiful six-month-old, a body that is beginning to feel like “mine” again, and a heart that is longing for a yoga class.
So, I look up the schedule, find a time that works for my family and I plan my escape. I pump extra milk (all the while singing Madonna’s “Express Yourself!”), compose a list of instructions, kiss husband and children goodbye and walk out the door.
Any new parent knows the cocktail of Leaving New Baby for the First Time: it’s a nervous, apprehensive thrill chased with a shot of guilt. And I’m no different, but there’s no turning back now. I’m in the car. Whooooosh! Down the hatch and off I go.
When I open the door to the yoga studio, the teacher, whom I have not seen in a year, welcomes me with a warmly: “I’m so glad to see you again. I love how I can gauge where I’m at in my practice by the type of people and vibrations that I call back into my life.”
Whoa! I can’t even remember when I last showered. She remembers my vibration after a year. Not a bad way to start.
I hit the mat (dear old friend) and the teacher speaks:
“We’ll begin today on our backs.”
Thank you, Jesus!
First up, leg stretch—Supta padangusthasana, right leg first.
“Begin by pointing your toes and, on the inhale (or was it the exhale? I can’t remember!), lift your leg off the floor.”
Easy enough, inhale and…
Sh*t! That leg is heavy! (Grunt, strain, liiiift.) Okay, the leg is in place, the leg is straight, and man oh man, that hurts! How can something so simple be so difficult? This used to be easy!
But I will persevere, continue, breathe, expaaaand. I will be the perfect yoga student today. I am going to will this leg into a peacefully delicious stretch.
I flex my foot and lower my leg, point the toe and lift again. Still heavy. I attempt to sustain leg stretch with my leg at a 90-degree angle.
Holy balls! Why is this so hard?!
“Are you working too hard?” the teacher asks the class.
“If you’re working too hard, ask yourself: how can I do this with ease?”
Hey now! That’s a question most of us haven’t asked ourselves in a while.
How can I do this with ease? How can I be easier on myself? I can’t speak for y’all, but I should definitely be asking myself this question more often.
My body relaxes, my chi flows. Yum!
After a minute or two, my mind wanders a bit (bad yogi!) from the painful, expanding deliciousness of the stretch and eventually my thoughts settle on my work situation, which has been stressful since going back after a way-too-short maternity leave. Needless to say, things have not been good on that front.
Most new moms I know muddle through most days in a milky hormone haze, crying on the drive into work, lamenting the inequity of their geography (Why the hell don’t I live in France or Norway, or Canada?!), staring at pictures of the baby when we should be organizing, planning, working.
And, my boss? Don’t even get me started! Most days I can’t even stand to look at him.
But here, now, with my leg up in the air, my breath ebbing and flowing in gentle waves, the desire for ease burgeoning within me, I consider my boss, really consider him, and sit with that energy for a bit instead of resisting.
I begin to wonder—how much of the persona that I’ve assigned to my boss is based in reality? How much of it is a projection of my exhaustion, my anxiety, and my anger onto him? I realize that his true identity and the one that I’ve created for him are two very separate things.
And I suddenly understand that my boss might not be actually be an elitist, misogynistic, pseudo-intellectual prick out to ruin my day.
Wow! Was I really carrying that around all this time? No wonder my leg feels so heavy.
I ask myself, is this the easiest way? And, from within, an answer:
”Why don’t we just let this one go, shall we dear?”
And, with a change in perspective, a spirit lifts.
I feel compassion for my boss. I feel compassion for myself. I feel compassion for all new mommies and partners and babies at home.
My leg loosens.
“Now, when you’re ready, on your next exhale, don’t rush it, lower your right leg.”
Don’t rush? What a concept! Tell that to my idiot boss! (Back to the breath, dear.)
I return to the task at hand, aware now that the leg that is lowering to the floor is not the same leg that I had to push and strain and will into the stretch a few minutes ago. It’s happier, I’m happier. I smile…and move into the next stretch. I focus my attention on the left leg, which is not exactly in the same state of bliss as the one that I’ve stretched and expanded and loved.
My left leg is still pissed off at my boss, I guess.
But…this time I’m just a wee bit wiser.
As I begin to raise my left leg, I hear the teacher’s first question resonating within me, “How can I do this with ease?” and my left leg begins to look a little different.
Instead of pushing it up and feeling the crushing weight of it, how about considering the leg, sensing its energy, its reach toward the ceiling, its desire for lightness.
And this time, resistance falls away easily. I allow my leg to experience lightness, and my leg allows me to experience lightness. A blissfully mutual understanding.
And here it is…
Light bulb! Aha moment!
When we let go and stop trying so hard, we realize that our leg (or whatever is heavy in our lives) isn’t as heavy as we make it out to be. Neither is our work situation, or family situation, or whatever. Neither are we.
We are not as heavy as we are making ourselves out to be. (Let that sink in, love.)
And, as I let that sink in, I remember now why I came, why I fought the guilt, the uncertainty, the insecurity of being in a yoga class, sharing my post-pregnancy body (and not the Kardashian or Klum version of a post pregnancy body, but my variety of post pregnancy body with lumps and bumps and stretched-out spots).
Isn’t yoga really about experiencing universal truths through the simple act of connecting breath to movement?
My leg wanted to lift, and so did my spirit. My leg wanted to be light and so did my heart. My leg wanted to be free from anything that would weigh heavy on it, and so did my mind.
In other words, we don’t have to make it happen, we just have to get out of the way and remember to ask the question: how can I do this with ease?
And, in this studio, with this teacher, in this moment, I found one answer:
Don’t force. Allow.
Don’t push for an outcome. Trust the process.
Don’t strain. Just breathe.
And, most importantly: no matter what has been dragging you down, it’s probably not as heavy as you think it is. Just let it be light.
Author: Jaimee Christinat
Editor: Catherine Monkman