It was November 2008 and I was sitting anxiously in the waiting area of a basement yoga studio in North London where I was about to experience my first ever pregnancy yoga class. Although I had already been practising yoga for over ten years at that time and was completing my teacher training, this seemed like a whole new world and, to be honest, I wasn’t too sure what to make of it.
There were bean bags all over the room and we sat in circle and shared our names. We exhaled through rubbery lips and did funny walks in circles around the room. It was like no other yoga class I had ever experienced.
The rest, as they say, is history, and here I am now still practising and teaching many of the things I learned during my first pregnancy and the postnatal recovery time that followed.
I never really went back to ‘normal yoga’ (whatever that means) because in a blinding flash of the obvious I discovered something exciting about my body in the process of having a baby – it’s FEMALE!
Now, that might sound silly, but to be quite honest I had never really thought much about the feminine aspects of my body before pregnancy – and awkward reminders like my period were something I generally tried to avoid with the contraceptive pill – or just pretend it wasn’t happening (I will save my thoughts on period shame for another post).
Pregnancy, and the yoga practices I learned during my pregnancy, helped me see that my female body is pretty awesome – and giving birth helped me see my female body is pretty damn powerful.
It was a game changer and although my kids are getting older now I continue to do my yoga practice in a way that is respectful and kind to my female body – e.g. my wider pelvis, larger pelvic floor (with an extra hole), existence of my uterus and its monthly shape-shifting to name just a few obvious things that make me different from a man.
“Mother Nurture Yoga” is the name I have given to the practices which I myself have used to look after my energy and wellbeing as a mum. Broadly speaking this includes deep relaxations, long exhalations, joint liberation and lots of stabilisation. I discovered that I didn’t need stretching so much any more – my connective tissue was looser, my hormones were wilder and everything about life with my family was stretching me already. I craved containment and quietness, strength and stillness.
I have rested a lot since my first baby in 2009, but weirdly I have also got stronger and fitter that I had ever been previously.
I have no explanation for this other than to look at the natural world around me and see that all of its strength and power comes in very clear cycles of resting and growing – its just not ‘normal’ to always be making an effort.
This goes against the grain of our cultural pressures to keep going and to live at the edge of our time, money and energy. I encourage you to see there is also a power in letting go, stepping back, making space and taking care of ourselves. It is the power of waves softly lapping at the shore, the power of the sun gently opening a flower, the power of the earth underneath us quietly keeping us steady.
I call this “Soft Power”.