Ten weeks after my son was born, I returned to teaching yoga. Between diaper changes and feedings, I hadn't had much (OK, any) time to do asana. I'd barely done a full 90-minute practice. But I'd had a helluva lot of time to do yoga: the kind of practice that looked like chanting lullabies at 3 am whilst bouncing on a blue exercise ball for hours on end, crying babe in arms, trying to stay calm.
It was the hardest yoga I'd ever done. Way harder than Kapotasana. And it was also the most rewarding.
Having a baby has been tremendously educational, for my body, mind and spirit. With that, here are seven things having a baby has taught me about yoga.
1. Back fat is cool, dude.
I’ve got some now myself. It used to be belly, and it's for real. I feel it scrunching my side every time I burp my son, and say hello to it again every time I do a spinal twist. And I hope to create the kind of environment where you feel safe letting yours fly free, too — a place where you can take up space, owning your body, your story, your scars. 'Cause you've earned 'em, so allow them to exist without judgment.
2. A yoga teacher isn’t perfect.
As much as I'd really hoped to be "That Girl" — you know, the yoga goddess who dropped all the baby weight in a week living on green juice and who wore her kid like a perfect papoose whilst cooing about how "dreamy" her birthing experience was? Yeah, no. I came home from the birth center and ate pizza. I scarfed down brownies at 2 am while stumbling to the kitchen to wash out the syringe we used to finger-feed my son for the first few weeks. I labored in a tub with lavender essential oils and thought my pelvis would shatter. I grew a small person, and then I pushed him out of my hoo-ha.
My postpartum body makes all kinds of weird new sounds. My waist moved up a few inches and my ass moved out. And my boobs will probably be leaking by the end of class. (Thank you to my beloved teacher that is my brand-new body. Thank you, dear guru. You are so good to give me life and breath and being. You are so good to remind me that I’m real).
3. You don’t need to be “perfect,” either.
There’s no such thing as perfect, anyway. As a teacher, I've never had more sympathy for you or your body, sympathy for every moment of weakness, every soft spot, every source of pain or struggle (especially during core work).
So take Child's Pose. Take it over and over if you'd like. Modify. Sneak out to pee during the standing series. Skip a vinyasa. Do what you need to do in order to take care of yourself. There is no prize for the most Chaturangas. Your breath is the whole point, anyway.
4. Your fancy asana tricks aren’t YOU.
Don't get me wrong: your asana tricks are totally amazing. And I give you tons of credit for putting in the time and effort to achieve them. But now I also know that they are temporary. I used to rock all kinds of cool tricks, too; and someday I may again — or not! Either way, those fancy poses are not me, and never were. And they're not you, either. So don't get too attached. They're impermanent, just like everything else.
5. It’s OK to feel ugly emotions.
Sometimes I feel sad or hopeless or scared. I get anxious and my mind runs off the rails like a runaway train. Anyone who's alive has that same experience because we're human. Meditation and yoga teach us that we are not those feelings; we don’t have to get stuck in those moments — they will blow by like clouds in the sky. That's why this practice can be such a godsend. And that's why I want to share it with you, not for the workout or the ego boost or the airy-fairy talk of love and light.
6. Your time is sacred.
Before I had a child I had endless hours to practice. And man, did I take that free time for granted! Now, barely a year into being a parent, I know how rare it is to get even 20 minutes for a fragmented practice. So I promise to do my best to start and end class on time, to pack it with a well-rounded flow, a quiet meditation, a soothing Savasana, and as much mindful content as I possibly can. Because I know this might be the only time you get to yourself all week. And that being here, just showing up and staying with it all, will make you a better parent and partner and person.
7. You are inherently lovable.
Despite what that 4th-grade bully may have told you, you are beautiful and wise and unique. (Yes, you.) You are a bodhisattva, an awakened one, a beloved child of All Things Holy. Looking at my kid while he sleeps, all of that goodness becomes abundantly clear. It breaks my heart to think that he might ever, even for a moment, forget his fundamental worth.
And that goes for you, too! Remember your beauty, your holiness, your worth. Because those things — not your fleeting bad moods or fancy headstands — are what make you inherently lovable.