Yoga: The mama miracle for the post-partum body
By Bare + Boho
I remember touching my newly deflated belly after I had just birthed my son. I am not sure why it was such a surprise, but the feeling of emptiness was almost a shock. I tried to sit up, but instead collapsed. I was taken aback by my body’s inability to brace herself, and dumbfounded that my body was not connecting to my mind’s call for movement. So, I lay back, confused by this new entity that had engulfed my usually strong and capable body.
The journey of pregnancy for me was so blissful. I loved every change that happened within my body, and embraced every aspect. I felt empowered, purposeful, confident and beautiful; completely at peace with my femininity.
And yet, once I had birthed my son, I was overwhelmed with slight confused as to this body that was left over from the efforts of carrying and birthing a child. I was never mindful of the potential aftermath of pregnancy, as the lead-up was too exciting and overwhelmingly beautiful to spare a thought. So, the physical shell of me that remained, was one I was quite unsure about, and almost scared to explore, because she felt so foreign.
And it was only in the quiet moments, when baby was asleep, that I found myself wondering about this new body of mine. The business of motherhood and breastfeeding and cleaning doesn’t give much space to nurture the remnants of the post-partum body. So, it was certainly not my priority, and I was so exhilarated by the joys of nurturing new life. But in the stillness, I would stare at myself and wonder, whose body is this?
Where once there was muscle, remained only mush; where once there was tone, now remained only sag, and where once there was firmness, I found only flab. I remember pressing my belly, and my hand pushed straight through and I could feel the distinct bulges of my organs. I had lost all core strength and muscle, and it left me feeling very unsure of what I felt safe and comfortable doing fitness wise.
And so my journey with self re-discovery began.
My body managed to release weight relatively smoothly after my birth, I have breastfeeding to thank for that, however it was the lack of strength that left me uneasy. I couldn’t sit up in bed, I would have to roll out of bed. I couldn’t do a push-up, and a sit-up was certainly out of the question! My upper body strength had completely disappeared, and overall there were aches and tenderness in places I had never felt before.
The whole process was both confusing and unsettling, as I expected the high of pregnancy and all the beautiful feminine vibes I was experiencing, to intensify once I had my baby. But it was really the opposite in those first few months’ post-partum. I felt disconnected to my body- the body of my youth. My breasts were completely different, my belly was a new shape and my body carried weight in completely different areas, my pelvic area was just a mess.
However, amidst the confusion I felt physically for my body, there was never a moment of concern about my ability to regain myself. I was completely surrendered to the season of birth and post-partum recovery I was experiencing, and completely in awe of my body’s ability to nourish my son through breastfeeding. The realization dawned on me, that I must come to view my body in a new light- accepting that my body is not just my own, but rather had become my baby’s vessel of life source.
And this was ok with me, and I wouldn’t change any of it for the world; as in place of what was lost, a beautiful baby was formed. However as he grew, I really felt a yearning to reconnect with myself. I was physically healing well, and my baby was thriving, so I knew it was time to begin rediscovering ME.
I would walk among the trees and swim in the ocean, and this was beautifully nurturing for my body. However I felt I needed more, I wanted to feel strong, sexy and empowered once again, and was craving to begin the process of restoration within and for myself.
As a supporter of attachment parenting, I didn’t feel comfortable with the idea of leaving my tiny baby in a crèche in a gym, and I knew he wouldn’t either. I didn’t like the idea of starting mother-baby fitness or yoga classes, as it seemed such an effort to get to a studio, spend half the time breastfeeding, and not to mention expensive.
I just felt a yearning to follow a path that would allow me to reconnect with myself, whilst connecting with my son. I wanted the option to stop and feed him, play, talk, indulge in his wishes if need be. I felt I wanted to begin this journey of restoration on my own, in my own home, in my daggy milk-stained clothes or even pyjamas if I so chose; uninhibited by time or place or people.
So, I committed to deepening my relationship with yoga, as I knew it would be the most nurturing and supportive, yet strength building option for my body, whilst allowing me the time, space and freedom to involve my son and his needs.
Although I had practiced yoga intermittently throughout my youth and through my pregnancy, I had always done so in the comfort of a studio setting, and without every truly exploring the deeper wisdom that is yoga.
As I began to surrender more deeply to our yoga sessions at home, with baby on my mat, and resting or feeding where I needed, I came to appreciate yoga in a new light, but more importantly, came to acknowledge my new body and all her vulnerabilities too. My body needed strengthening, but more importantly, I needed aligning. My mind needed to reconnect with my body, the union needed restoring, and only yoga was able to offer me this.
Gradually I felt release of emotional and physical trauma, and I felt my body change, reshape, and indeed thrive off the flow of oxygen, blood and energy that was activated when I surrendered to my poses.
I still have a long way to trek- I don’t think your body every fully recovers from the changes that take place through the carrying, birthing and feeding of new life. But that is not my goal. I have surrendered to this new body, the body of a mother who has been blessed to create and love a child. Yet, I am passionate that for me to remain conscious of my son, his needs and his emotions, I need to be mindful of myself, thoughts, feelings and physical vulnerabilities.
Yoga is truly restoring, for body and mind, and no other fitness regime, nurtures and aligns nor places as much emphasis on the connection to be formed between the mind, body and soul as does yoga.
Yoga for me is raw, honest and humbling. It will uncover your body’s failings, lack of flexibility, lack of alignment, lack of circulation and lack of strength. But it is empowering every time I step on my mat, to know that I am giving space and time, to honouring my body and breath, and engaging and exploring new depths of me through the stretching and meditation that is yoga.
Note: The views and advice expressed on this blog post are those of the author and are not representative of the Pregnancy Babies & Children's Expo.