So I’m about six-and-a-half months pregnant. And since I can still do yoga (and write about it!) I figured I’d better start getting on the internet again, because that’s what pregnant ladies and new moms do, right?
Like a friend recently pointed out, pregnancy doesn’t have to be a big deal. It can be kind of a “new thing” about you that people notice at first, but then kind of don’t notice at all. You know how sometimes a friend will grow a beard or get a sanskrit tattoo or start wearing leg warmers all the time just because they’re sort of bored and want to change things up? Being pregnant is kind of like that, except instead of bangs you’re rocking an extra twenty pounds (see above photo).
Ashtanga yoga, while totally safe during pregnancy, is not your typical prenatal practice. Google “prenatal yoga” and you get this:
Google “ashtanga pregnancy” and here’s what comes up:
Practicing “ashtanga for two” has taught me more in six months than every yoga teacher training I’ve taken combined- so much, in fact, that I would love to write a whole BOOK about it- something like “The Yoga Girl’s Guide to Pregnancy.” If you’d read this book or want to help me write it, please contact me, I’d love to hear from you!
When I first found out I was pregnant, one of the first things I thought was “but my practice!” I felt like some essential part of me would probably die if I wasn’t able to do catching backbends anymore. I had only just been able to kind of do karandavasana after almost two years of trying. What if I was never able to do it ever again? I shouldn’t have worried- this is a video I took last week:
It’s not that great, but it’s not not being able to do it. Even if all I could do was put my elbows on the ground (honestly some days that’s as far as it gets!) I can always do some small part of a pose, and that’s always better than sitting on the couch eating bonbons. The best part about practicing Ashtanga yoga isn’t being able to do the tricks- it’s not being able to, and feeling like shit about yourself because you can’t, but trying anyways.
Whether you tell yourself you’re not trying something because “my body just doesn’t move that way” or “I’m not feeling it today” or even “I am almost seven months pregnant,” the real thing you’re saying is that you don’t think it’s worthwhile to try. Doing .01% of something isn’t so different from not doing it at all, right?
It took me several months of pregnancy to realize that doing .01% is about a billion times better than doing nothing. Ashtanga taught me this, tough-love style: be okay with doing the same hard thing and being really bad at it almost every day until you stop caring about the badness. Realize that trying hard at something- even if you never get very good at it- is worthwhile.
I’m getting bigger every day, and I’m not making any “gains” in my practice- no new poses, no old poses getting better, no new “goals” being met. And weirdly enough, I don’t even care. I even feel happy and thankful that I can still move around, that I don’t have gestational diabetes, that the tiny human inside me gets to flip around and do my backbends with me… It’s not like I traded those things for the handicapped practice- it’s more like getting rid of my expectations freed up space for a new (probably healthier) perspective.
Sometimes the best thing I can say about my practice is that I did it. If I could boil down what I’ve learned to one sentence, it’s this: Something is better than nothing.
I used to think that the above quote meant something like, “Do your practice and you’ll be a happier, nicer person and all areas of your life will improve because you’ll have a better attitude.” But Pattabhi Jois isn’t Yoda. I think what he meant was this: don’t think about why your practice is the way it is. Just DO IT. Just practice, because you’ll get something out of it no matter what. Whether you’re pregnant, injured, out of shape, too tired…you don’t need to go full power, and you don’t need to do everything. Just do your very best with what you’ve got. Trying is always better than not trying.