Here’s the thing. Everyone has an opinion, everyone will want to tell you what worked for them during their pregnancy. Because they care about you, and they want to help. That’s the headline.
It’s a massive minefield. And it’s exactly what you don’t need when you’re navigating completely uncharted territory.
As I said last week, in the known/unknown blog, there’s only a certain amount you can control. But that amount, should be yours to navigate.
This doesn’t apply exclusively to pregnancy yoga. We learn how to set boundaries any time we’re on the yoga mat. There’s something about that rectangular bit of rubber (or cork, or whatever) which creates a feeling of safety. You’ll often hear me say:
“Your hand might come off your mat, try not to be freaked out by it.”
It’s surprising how many people instinctively stay within that artificial boundary. This is ok, as soon as I point it out, students are usually fine with defining their own boundary. Sometimes it means going to buy a wider yoga mat, which may also be part of the appeal.
During pregnancy, we cycle back around to hormones a fair bit. They do hold a lot of sway so I’m not going to back peddle on this one! There are a few really important ones which I’ll probably dedicate an entire blog to at some point in the future.
Suffice to say, there are a lot going off during those 40ish weeks and a big one is relaxin. This hormone is specifically designed to help the body loosen up so that we can make the space we need to grow a baby and eventually birth him or her.
This is all fantastic and miraculous. I mean really, take a moment to soak in that your body is preparing to birth a baby for all that time. Whether you believe it intellectually or not it’s true and it’s happening. Your body knows and you can trust that.
Stand your ground
However, we also need to recognise that it might make us a bit easier to convince than we may be usually. This is because we’re unsure. No matter what our situation, we’re changing our family dynamic in a significant way when we add another human into the mix. We can sit and argue about which child is the most difficult but, ultimately, it’s all a massive change. With change brings uncertainty and with uncertainty comes an increase in questioning our own beliefs.
Make some space
These six themes really weave together. So, here’s a review of the making space theme. Space is at a premium both physically, when we’re growing a baby but, additionally, time and headspace are no longer so much under our direct control. This loss of space is another reason why we feel easily coerced into decisions we may not choose at another time.
When we take time to practice yoga, we allow ourselves some space with which to navigate this uncharted territory. To understand and reinforce our core beliefs. This is going to make us feel a lot clearer and steady whilst relaxin is doing its thing.
The unsoul mate
When we’re pregnant we’re in the health system. Unless we’re completely off grid, that’s usually a common truth. The problem is, pregnancy isn’t a medical issue. It’s precisely what a female body was made to do. Yet, here we are. As with so many things, having to navigate within an imperfect system.
My first recommendation is to see it for what it is. A square peg in a round hole. There will always be a conflict between the medical system and our own intuitive wisdom. As women, our agency has been taken away over the decades and placed in other hands. I could talk much more about this, but I’ll leave it at that for now.
Second, know that you do have choices. You can push back on a lot of things if that’s what you want. You can also choose to go with the protocol. Or a mix of both, which is probably where most of us will end up. The yoga is in making an informed decision: being open to opinion and knowing your own mind.
When we come to the yoga mat, as I mentioned before. We are within its boundary. Within the practice itself we can set our own boundaries aswell. Usually when I teach yoga, I offer options. When I teach pregnancy yoga I really take this a step further. Because the reality is that the pose can be just a pose. Or it can be a portal into understanding your own inner intuition and having the courage to move with it.
To give an example, let’s say we’re doing a lateral side stretch in all fours. I’ll often begin with a pose like this because it’s accessible for most pregnant bodies, it helps to set the foundation and it provides a base from which lots of other poses can spring.
From all fours you’re going to walk your hands forward and off to the side.
The distance you curve is up to you.
What you’re feeling for is the tightness. Where is the place which you feel you need to pause and breathe? If you don’t go far enough you won’t get much out of the pose. If you go too far you risk overstretching or bypassing the place which is signalling for your attention.
Externally, that may not look like much of a stretch, but you know what you need, and I am in no way going to question you.
In the end, you get the stretch that’s most beneficial to your body AND you get to know how it feels to navigate the pose for yourself. Yes, I’ve determined the pose but you get to define it for yourself.
This is effectively what we’re doing every time we step into a medical situation in which we don’t really belong.
Trust yourself. Believe in your body. Hold your support network close. It all knows what to do.