written by Erika L Harper LPC
In an effort to empower and incite interpersonal confidence within women who are pregnant or may one day become pregnant this is how yoga was essential for reminding me about my power. In 2018, the year I was pregnant, I made a concerted effort to deepen my yoga practice. I found that first trimester left me too exhausted to practice yoga the way that I normally would, so I took the opportunity to more seriously lean on my asana (yoga poses) and meditation practice. What I love the most about yoga is that if you’re consistent you will glean increasingly more and more from your practice. I didn’t set out to prove to anyone about the benefits of maintaining a robust yoga practice throughout pregnancy. I also held no expectations about just what I’d be able to achieve at the various states of my pregnancy. My goal was simply to do what I could every day to make sure that I maintained my physical level and to connect spiritually with the child growing inside of me. Still a little part of me, although yoga isn’t a sport, the athlete in me, wanted to test drive my changing body to see what was possible.
My ob/gyn quickly became very familiar with my advanced yoga practice. To my amazement he informed me that given my physical level and the health of my pregnancy at that time, that I could continue to do anything and everything that I’d done before I became pregnant. I had no limitations. However, he did warn me that as my pregnancy progressed my center of gravity would shift and that I could experience a loss of balance if I wasn’t careful. To that point he added that I just needed to be smart, stay hydrated, eat healthy meals and listen to my body whenever I felt uncomfortable. Speaking frankly with my doctor gave me permission to confidently disregard those folks who discouraged me from practicing yoga during my pregnancy. I was then able to concentrate solely on communicating with my softening body.
What followed my doctor’s go ahead was the most freeing period of physical and spiritual self-expression I’d ever experienced up until that time. Yoga became an integral part of my daily moving meditation and with few exceptions I discovered that there was pretty much nothing that my body couldn’t do. I found that my deep muscles strengthened and that my form improved as my pregnancy progressed which is also a notion that typically goes against conventional advice. My favorite types of poses were inversions- in particular headstands, because they relieved me from my escalating weightiness and provided me with the challenge of attempting to balance my ever changing body. I would turn to my mat whenever I felt the persistent creep of stress and I would modify any pose or transition that made me uncomfortable.
Every morning I expressed gratitude through my sun salutations for my being entrusted with nurturing this budding new life inside of me. I knew and still know that my body, that a woman’s body, was divinely designed to effectuate creation. Most of us are able to bring forth new life, but just as powerful is our ability to also birth ideas and nurture relationships. This was the most important message that I took away from my pregnant practice. Women aren’t simply incubators for human life. Within us we hold the ability to nurture all life, because isn’t how we live our lives the product of multiple philosophies melded together and repackaged for each person according to how we were exposed to those concepts? There is a lot of responsibility and, strangely enough, peace within this realization.
If you’re pregnant or planning on one day becoming pregnant, my advice is to make yoga a part of your daily routine. Always talk to your doctor to inquire about your individual pregnancy’s limitations. Don’t be afraid to turn away advice from those around you who may want the best for you but who also constantly frighten you into not embracing the power of your body. Remember that pregnancy isn’t just a time for growth for your baby, it also serves as a time of self-discovery and growth for the goddesses housing their babies. I have yet to come across another modality as fitting and complete as yoga to help women to internalize this concept.
Erika L Harper is a licensed mental health counselor, sex therapist, yoga enthusiast and writer. In her spare time she enjoys running, reading, watching movies and eating good food with her family. Connect with her on Instagram here
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