We love to see progress, whether in our careers or personal lives – and it’s the same with our yoga practice. But what happens when we go backward rather than forward? What if, due to injury or busyness or life in general, a hiatus from the mat results in us being so far back from what were able to do that what once brought us joy and peace now only causes frustration? Can we let go of our pride and accept the retracing of steps? Even more, can we enjoy the journey of progress a second time?
These are the questions I faced in the weeks following the birth of my son by an unexpected emergency C-section. An extended stay in the hospital was stressful, to say the least; as an anxious new mom, I constantly had one eye on my son to ensure the tiny creature was still breathing. When I did try to nod off, noises from other patients or doctors coming to poke and prod us ‘round the clock kept any chance of sleep at bay.
Waiting the recommended six weeks to exercise seemed an eternity, even though I could barely stand upright. Determined to move after two weeks of being cooped up in the hospital and at home, I bull-headedly pushed my son’s wayward pram against January winds to the local market, likely contributing to the Bell’s Palsy I contracted 48-hours later.
Patience has never been one of my virtues. Knowing what I was once capable of doing, how could I accept where I was? I was jealous of my old self, comparing what I could do before and during pregnancy to my present state.
I had to re-learn my body and re-learn my practice, day by day. My once expansive pregnant belly, taut as a drum, gave way to a jelly-like mass of stretched-out, unused abdominal muscles that felt like a molten lava cake any time I poked at it. How do you engage a core that hasn’t been used for 9+ months?
I couldn’t imagine rolling out my yoga mat and barely being able to move. I kept beating myself up mentally and emotionally thinking of what I was once able to do.
Patience. Acceptance. Focusing on the present — not the past, not the future. Letting go of ego. All the things we hear about but aren’t good at doing as Type-A, progress-driven people. On the plus side: we’re a determined lot.
At six weeks, Cat/Cow felt less foreign. At eight weeks, Downward Facing Dog felt downright good. Ten weeks on, I managed a Vinyasa using my knees rather than holding plank. I learned to rejoice in small victories.
I’ve accepted my body as it is now — the healthy body that was ready to squeeze out a 7lb baby boy. My yoga practice is for my current body, not my pre-pregnant or pregnant body. I’m back to loving yoga again.