Monday, January 5, 2009

Yoga, Yoga, Yoga Mamma!

I am a Yogi. However, I wasn't always a Yogi. I had other designs on how I should unwind - they weren't exactly what you would call Zen.

I worked very hard long hours in a competitive industry. At the end of a week or a long production my co- workers and I would blow off steam by wracking up one hell of a bar tab. And then on my own time when drowning my week was not an option I would grab my gym bag out of the hall closet and head to my local Kickboxing Gym where I would be run through drills leaving me as wiped out as a hangover. Once I was skilled enough to check out the ring I was paired to fight against my weight class, which just so happened to be a 15 year old acne faced boy. A few rounds to the head left me curled in a ball on the ring floor pleading for my mommy.

This clearly was not going to work out. Vanity would not permit me to get myself beat to a pulp. I couldn't be the fashionista TV producer by day with a glowing shiner. I was too old to sport Goth make up to cover my facial blunders. So I decided to try out Taekwondo. It was a sport steeped in history. I would have to learn an ancient form of discipline, I got to wear more protective padding and I could still blow off steam by kicking people. This I thought was going to be the greatest balance to my life. I began to take three or four Taekwondo classes a week and actually got into peek physical shape.

After a year of practice, and as I neared my black belt, I found was not getting the benefits I was looking for in a mental and physical outlet. I was still restless, prone to bouts of insomnia and anxiety. I figured it must be all the work I was taking on and the fact that I was still grieving the loss of my mother. I decided to add counseling into the already full schedule of work, social engagements, bar tabs and Taekwondo workouts figuring that was the missing link.

My therapist suggested I keep a journal and try an outlet for my grief like boxing. Yeah right. I was already doing those things. That's when I stopped paying for the therapist and went back to the gym to kick a few ladies before heading home to a bottle of delicious dinner...all things in moderation right?

Then someone suggested I try a Yoga class. Yeah, that's too slow for me. I am a fast paced high- strung person. I need to wear myself out in order to wind down. But, as I soon found out - this is not the case. In fact, a naturally hyper person,, prone to worry and anxiety, needs to get out of their head. They need the polar opposite of speed - what they need to do is slow down!

It was no time before I had quit everything but work in order to practice yoga. For the first time in ages I was sleeping through the night. I had reduced my coffee intake letting a natural high take it's place. I even opted out of after work debauchery so I could get to bed at a reasonable hour in order to wake early to attend a yoga class. My boyfriend said I was becoming a nicer person....which must have been true ...because he liked me enough to ask me to be his wife.

I bailed on life in January 2007 and headed to a month long yoga retreat where I became certified to instruct yoga. This was a perk as I had only intended to go there to get some rest, to work on my personal yoga practice and personal life. It became abundantly aware to me as I went through this process that this could be such a beneficial practice for the pregnant woman. I began to think about pre-natal and post-natal yoga. This is odd as I was pretty firm I would not have children of my own as I really enjoyed my career which in order to become successful did not leave room for a family life. Nor did I have a biological clock ticking. It just struck me as though this would be a practical practice for a mother carrying a child.

Now as a transformed woman- a yogi, who is married and now with child - I have to sing the praises of my yoga practice for helping ease me through the changes of my body as the pregnancy takes over. On days where I feel gawky and awkward, when growing pains and leg cramps battle to take over, I head to my yoga mat. When I have a bad bubble of gas, stuck, causing acute pain that leaves me breathless, I head to my yoga mat. When I am over tired and teary, I head to my yoga mat. When I am happy and hyper, I head to my yoga mat. At this point I am addicted to my practice - wild horses couldn't drag me away from it in my regular weekly routine.

For me there is a sense of calm and well- being that comes from my personal yoga practice. It's the best medicine. And when I feel the need to self medicate - I head to my yoga mat. I will probably still hang with the work crew periodically after a week's work. All things in moderation are part of my new balance- but- rest assured for these 40 weeks I am the designated driver by choice and by default!

I have been teaching yoga eight to ten hours a week since my tenth week of pregnancy. I am my own Guinea Pig when it comes to learning the body of a woman in the family way. How does the relaxin affect the joints and muscles? How does the balance shift as the body becomes more rotund? How does the baby react to certain postures? It's fascinating to me.

I have spoken with a few labor and delivery nurses and my midwives about my yoga practice. They all light up and say I should do great during labor advising me to keep up with my practice. And if I require any more encouragement or proof I need only look at my friend who is an Ashtanga Yoga fanatic who recently went through her pregnancy without missing a class. She had a fast natural delivery and within a few weeks was right back into her yoga practice. She attended regular classes - they were not geared toward maternity (which is completely advisable if you are already practicing this style of yoga prior to pregnancy.) She can surely attribute her regular practice of yoga to a healthy delivery and healthy baby.

Yoga during pregnancy helps to alleviate bloating due to water retention, ward off miserable nights of discomfort while trying to get into a comfortable position in bed, creates space in the abdomen for the baby, can adjust the position of the baby in order to help get that limb out from under your rib cage or off your bladder! Yoga will help to keep abdominal strength up, strengthen back muscles (which is vital to supporting a baby belly) and help to pull the shoulders back. Women who carry babies and baby bellies are prone to rounding the shoulders causing muscle pain in the mid back and neck. A prenatal yoga class instructor will also likely lead a series of Kegel exercises which will help post labor. Breath work and focus are developed during a regular yoga practice which will carry a woman quite far during labor. I will defiantly report back on this when my time comes!

If you are new to yoga and want to register for a prenatal yoga class - it's best to find a certified instructor who is aware of the correct postures for pregnant women as there are some that should be avoided during early pregnancy. Some classes will ask that you begin after your 14th week of pregnancy and may even go so far as to ask for a doctor's note prior to your participation.

Once practicing beware of bone alignment, muscles and joints - the relaxin has kicked in and your will find yourself to be more flexible than ever before. Be cautious not to over do your stretching, go slowly, savour your "you" time.

No excuses now! Don't let your ugly bare feet and the fact that you have no pants that fit any longer stop you from heading out to try a pre-natal yoga class! Go get yourself a pedicure and some big girl pants and then hit up your local yoga studio for some quality mom and baby time. Get to know yourself, your body and your womb-mate before the big delivery day.

Seriously girls, knocked up or not, yogatta try this!


Duck Yoga Retreats said...

OMG! I can totally relate to this entry!! I think I was right there with you when we found our yoga and bailed on career life in 2007. it's amazing how parallel our story is. I don't know if I'm your ashtanga friend, but it sounds like me! I totally say go to your mat as often as you can during your pregnancy. whether it's gentle,hot (only if you've been doing consistently before you were pregnant), vinyasa, ashtanga, whatever .....DO YOUR YOGA!You and your baby will reap all the benefits. I believe in my yoga practice, it ROCKED MY WORLD for the better! Transformed my life and my being. i can relate to when steve said you were a nicer person. it's amazin how it changes you and your body. isn't cool what awareness and balance can do! YOGA YOGA YOGA MAMA!

Earth To Mother Ship said...

Of course you are my Ahstanga friend!

I have added a link to Duck Yoga- any one out at the beach should contct Heather for yoga instruction & retreats!