The Dance of Yoga: Finally getting to know my post-baby body

A few weeks ago Rebecca Garrison, a fellow Walnut Hill alumna, made a blog post about how having a baby changes your body. And it really made me think.

This is a girl who, unlike me, was still rockin’ a super-strong-dancing-4-hours-a-day body when she got pregnant. Who was (is) a freaking Pilates instructor. And SHE was having trouble getting to know her post-baby body? SHE was struggling with aches and pains and abdominal weakness? Really?!?!?!

It was like a light turned on for me. I realized that the problems I was having weren’t my fault, and that my post-baby inability to pick up where I’d left off physically wasn’t due to some kind of character flaw or innate laziness…it was because I was trying to get this completely new body to do things that it just wasn’t ready to do!

OK, I admit, I didn’t figure this out all at once. But that blog post definitely started it.

I love my body. I love the fact that it grew and nourished a healthy and (frankly) ENORMOUS baby. But even though I had played with moving it and dancing it, and I was making headway in that area, I knew in my gut that I was lacking the pure physical strength I needed in order to keep going injury-free. I couldn’t feel my muscles. I couldn’t connect to the strength I was used to, especially in my torso. It was FRUSTRATING.

And, really, it makes sense. Pregnancy stretches you in incredible and irrevocable ways. Of course it changes you.

…and this was THREE WEEKS BEFORE HE WAS BORN. Man, was I uncomfortable!

I didn’t know how to move this body. I didn’t know how to trust it. I didn’t know how to take care of it.

But being aware of the problem and applying a solution are two different things. I wanted to learn how to move and trust my body again. I wanted to feel strong again. So I did what I would have done pre-baby: I signed up for a yoga course.

I’d been dying to start a home practice again, but couldn’t seem to get back into it on my own…so 30 Days of Yoga seemed perfect (its tagline is “A course in finding, and keeping, your own home practice of yoga,” after all). I downloaded the video of my selected practice as soon as I could…

…and that’s where I ran into the problem of not-knowing my post-baby body.

The practice? Awesome. Marianne Elliott is great, and the flow is good and everything should have been fantastic. But it wasn’t. I was expecting to have to work hard and feel out of my depth. I was expecting to struggle a bit. I wasn’t expecting to not be able to do it at all.

I think in hindsight that a lot of the flow was a strain on my body, but what made me stop at the time was this: The main transition, repeated throughout the practice, involved bringing your leg out of downward dog and forward between your hands, moving you into a lunge. And I just couldn’t do it.

I’m not saying “it was hard so I stopped trying,” or “I didn’t like it,” or “it didn’t feel good.” I mean that a) I didn’t have the abdominal strength to even remotely attempt it and b) the belly that used to be fairly flat in spite of my curviness…isn’t anymore. There just isn’t room for my leg to go that far. Mama has a belly.

And that’s when Rebecca’s “Babies change your body” post really sank in.

Oh…I can’t just do my old exercises more gently or push through anyway…I actually have to change the way I do yoga (or anything else). I need…modifications!

And then I found some. I went to Curvy and found everything I needed:

Modifications for curvy women. Modifications for people who need to build strength again. Modifications for me.

Anna Guest-Jelley also has a selection of sample yoga flows that are just-challenging-enough so that I can rebuild my strength and body-connection without pushing past my edge and into seizing-up-and-hurting territory (a place I’ve become all-too familiar with since Xander was born).

Up until my epiphany, I would have (I’m SO ashamed to admit it) scoffed at the modified postures and looked for something “more challenging.” Now, I embrace them WHOLEHEARTEDLY for the pure awesome that they are. I’ve been doing them every night since Saturday. And I can already feel a difference. I feel more physically alive than I have in years. I feel stronger and more flexible. For real.

The best part is that I don’t regret my 30 Days of Yoga purchase at all. I’m looking forward to the daily emails I’ll be getting over the next 30 days. I’m loving the feeling that people all over the world are practicing yoga with me. Heck, I found Curvy Yoga through Marianne’s site (she and Anna offer 30 Days of Curvy Yoga twice a year, and I am SO signing up for it at Christmas!).

“A course in finding, and keeping, your own home practice”? Absolutely. I can already tell that it’s going to live up to its name. Just not the way I expected.

Now I’m really and truly getting to know the body I have now, instead of trying to make this completely-different post-baby body behave just like the body I had before I grew and pushed out an almost-10-pound baby.

And that…is awesome.


11 thoughts on “The Dance of Yoga: Finally getting to know my post-baby body”

  1. What a beautiful post! Thank you so much for the shout-out; I’m delighted to hear you’re finding the info helpful. Don’t hesitate to email me if you have questions!

  2. Hells, yeah! Our bodies are SO different after babies, which I guess makes sense when you think how that kid pretty much totally displaced all your organs for a few months, and stretched your skin multiple times its normal size.

    It’s kinda weird that we don’t really think about it till afterwards… Maybe it’s one of those things they keep on the hush-hush or else we wouldn’t have babies. 😉

    Anyway, yay you for finding a yoga practice that works for you! (I never could do it, no matter what my size.)

    1. It’s so funny…I remember the physical experience of being pregnant (Hello, my frigging LIGAMENTS stretched! PAINFULLY!!!), but for some reason it never occurred to me that it would have long-lasting effects, or that I would have to find a brand new way to move! Craziness!

  3. Meg, I’m so HAPPY that my blog helped someone. Since I just started, I’ve been feeling a little disheartened that my blog has so few followers AND one of my posts really pissed of one of my instructors. So I’ve been thinking, “god, who wants to read my incredibly narcissistic and self indulgent posts? and is ANYONE getting anything from these?” But, I have FOUR pregnant clients at the moment and I needed them to know as I did not: that its OK to struggle after your baby is born. It’s ok that you’ll have tough moments and that it will probably be hard to find your body again. It’s ok that you might not love your baby every second of every day or be the best mother always. I want them to know that it WILL be worth all the struggle and even with all this you’ll still be happy you did it. Women now-a-days seem to have one of two attitudes “I LOVE babies I can’t wait to have them and it won’t be hard at all!” or “WHAT?! I’m going to poop on the delivery table, stretch out my vagina AND have trouble getting back into shape?! Screw it. Its not worth it.” Both are so wrong. Will you poop on the delivery table? Probably. But you’re in LABOR and anyone who cares is too immature to breathe. Are you gonna stretch out your nether regions? Yup. But I like mine better now so there! And Did I have trouble getting back into shape? Yup I did. But I’m GLAD I did. Go read my blog if you want to know that why on that one. Also, have you seen pictures of my amazing, awesome, super-smart, capable kid? She was worth every second!

    So Meg, keep embracing those modifications! They were created for a reason! And they are so much better for you right now. You need to do what is better for your body right now, or you won’t be able to do yoga at all. Keep moving that body! Movement HEALS. And when it hurts? STOP. You’ll get there eventually.

    1. Oh, also, you are right. I was Dancing with professionally with Prometheus when I got pregnant. I had to perform at the ICA in Boston 7 weeks pregnant. I don’t even want to go into how much that sucked. That was sheer will power. And I not only teach, I own a classical Pilates Studio in Boston. (one of the bigger ones too!) And it was STILL hard to get my abs back.

      1. Oy. I can’t even imagine. I taught two 90-minute DansKInetics classes a week for the first half of my pregnancy, and I still remember the nausea and tiredness. I can’t imagine dancing ANY more than that. *gags* *passes out*

    2. Thanks, Rebecca! <3 Everything you said is so very true.
      Keep writing your posts and putting your stories out there. There is ALWAYS someone out there who can relate to your stories and who will be helped by your message. 😀

  4. A lot of those modifications are applicable to those with other physical limitations as well. I may use the lunge one myself because sometimes my hip injury makes it difficult to bring the back foot all the way forward between the two feet.

    What a great post, with such a beautiful photo of you and Belly Xander! 🙂 It’s nice to know there are resources out there to make yoga accessible to everyone!

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