Saturday, December 17, 2011

Babies and Yoga

The following is a long version of an essay that I wrote and submitted to Yoga Journal for (hopefully!!!) publication. It is completely and totally unedited because I worked in drafts. But hopefully you will enjoy reading it regardless!

I know this sounds cliché, but I never expected my life to change this much when I had a baby. I rolled my eyes at the people who teased me for thinking I would have time and energy to do yoga with my baby, and I scoffed at the people who mocked me saying “sleep now, because you're not going to get any for the next 3 years!” It was going to be different for me, I had yoga under my belt. I would be doing downward facing down over my baby while I cooed at him and made him giggle, and we would curl up happily for naps during the day, and if we were up at night, well, that's alright too. Boy, was I ever in for a rude awakening.

After 20 hours of difficult labour that was primarily in my back, I delivered a healthy baby boy, Andrew, into the world, and from that moment on, every plan I had went out the window. I was blessed with a sleeper, thankfully, though not the sleeps-all-night sleeper. But we got in decent amounts of sleep at night, and he was a wonderful nurser. But yoga? Ha! Life had a few surprises in store for me. Andrew might have been an eater and a sleeper, but he was not okay with being put down, not for yoga, not for sleep, not for anything. From the time he was three weeks old until he was 3 months old, Andrew slept in his swing. And it had to be on. And you could forget about carrying him around in a sling and happily going about your day tidying or making a meal, because he wasn't having any of that. Andrew wanted to be held, and talked to, and smiled at and teased into a giggle; he had to be the center of attention every moment.

Two days before Andrew turned 2 months old another wrench got thrown into the works, and I ended up in the hospital having diagnostic surgery for a mystery pain in my abdomen. It turned out to be my appendix, which was about ready to burst, and I spent a couple weeks recovering. Andrew and I lived on the couch when we weren't in bed. It was 6 weeks before I could even think about moving my torso in a crunch-like way, and 8 before my digestive system felt like it was working normally again. Yoga had been the farthest thing from my mind, and he was almost four months old; I felt like a complete failure. What had happened to my dream of mommy-and-me yoga?

It wasn't until Andrew was almost a year old that I really started to integrate yoga back into my life, but in a very different way than I had planned. Instead of the quiet yoga time I would have during his naps (which I admit, I thought would be longer and more frequent than they actually are) I've given over to my toddler's demanding nature, and I instead practice freely when he's up. A typical practice starts with me unrolling the mat and letting him run all over it laughing and screaming for about 5 minutes. Then, I shed my socks and flip on a video, or prop up an issue of Yoga Journal and open it to a sequence, or sometimes I just wing it and do whatever pose comes to mind. I often swan dive right into my son's sweet-smelling hair, or push up into cobra to look into his grinning face, with an open-mouthed kiss coming right my way, or even get perfectly balanced in Tree Pose to find myself almost knocked over by the force of him trying to climb me.

Yoga isn't like how it used to be. It's not a long practice anymore, nor is it peaceful and relaxing. Instead, yoga has finally brought into my life the lesson I truly needed to learn. Go with the flow, take it “one pose at a time” and enjoy the time you have in each one, even if Tree Pose only lasts for a few blissful seconds. Andrew has finally taught me to live in the moment, and I couldn't be more grateful for that. Besides, there's always times for that good intense yoga session in about 4 years when he's going to school, right?

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