Mindfulness in pregnancy and beyond
Pregnancy humbled me as a yogi, even when I thought I was already humble enough in my practice. I don't want you to wait until you are pregnant or injured before taking a leaf from my book and looking at the way you approach things in a new light. How can you be more humble and start doing things mindfully?
When I started yoga, I came to it with a pretty solid footing. Flexible and energetic from a young age, I had already worked my way through childhood gymnastics, dance classes, muay thai kickboxing, and swimming before I found yoga.
I maintained a regular meditation practice and I had tried yoga many times in my 20's but was still caught up in the notion that you have to do, do, do to be really healthy. As some have said, I was a human doing rather than a human being.
Does this sound familiar?
What I felt was, yoga just wasn't fast enough.
If I'm really honest, it wasn't really punishing enough to be considered a legitimate exercise. At least not the yoga styles I tried.
It wasn't until I started thinking about balance in my life that yoga moved back to the forefront. I was living in arguably the busiest, most rat-fuelled city in Australia, with a go-go-go work ethic, fighting the waves of commuters into the cbd every day to work, and running from there to push my body through hours of muay thai training.
You'd think I would go home and collapse into a deep, golden slumber, right? Wrong.
Most nights I ran home from training, showered and ate quickly, and spent the next few hours fidgeting, tossing, and over-thinking in bed.
Why?...Well, to be honest, sometimes something can be staring me in the face and I look right past it.
Despite all my training, despite my meditation practice, despite knowing it intuitively, it took a while for me to cotton on that my lifestyle was not well balanced at all, and it showed up in two ways.
Firstly, I realised my lifestyle was overly rajasic, a Hindu term I'd been familiar with for many years but had neglected to consider for myself. Rajas is one of three qualities or Gunas in Hindu philosophy and denotes energy or motion. The other two qualities are Tamas, considered heaviness, or ignorance, and Sattva, meaning purity, goodness, or wholesomeness. It is thought that we have all three of these qualities inside us all the time in varying proportions. In some schools of thought, too much rajas or too much tamas in a person is considered an imbalance.
--> When I looked at my life then, I saw too much rajas, no doubt about it. I was super rajasic and it was my health and well-being that was paying the price, even though I ate really well and worked out religiously.
The second sign of imbalance came in the form of my attitude. Again, I saw this steely edge in me that didn't belong. There was a certain competitiveness, seeping into bouts of aggression. Aggression doesn't have to be physical, it can be found in your thoughts and your actions, and that's where I found mine. It seems the go-go-go attitude, the over-performance and stress at work, and the hardcore approach to exercise was bringing out the masculine in me. Here I am referring to the yin/yang understanding of masculine, and feminine energies, not gender.
--> I saw an imbalance in the way I was approaching my life by overloading it with yang energy in the form of over-working, over-playing, over-exercising, over-thinking...you get the picture.
So, how balanced is your life, truthfully? Are you mindful of the way you approach things?
After pondering balance in my life, my true yoga journey began.
I slowed down. I listened to my body. I aimed for balance in my actions and attitudes.
And what happened?
I got more sleep.
My health improved.
I was stronger
I was happier in myself and my relationships.
I felt myself beginning to shine from the inside out.
It was great!
But it wasn't until 2016 that my yoga reached new heights in a way I had not even contemplated. I got pregnant and, consequently, for the first time I became truly mindful in my yoga practice.
Suddenly I needed to modify the practice for my condition. Instead of starting at a well-worn point and continuing my reach forward to stronger, better positions without thinking, I was literally forced to stop and change the way I practiced, and I had to do it mindfully.
In the first trimester I stopped doing some poses from the get-go. Other poses had to be modified, and still others changed more and more over time. At times I watched while others in my class performed difficult asanas, fighting against envy and the desire to do them myself. It was hard.
there were some days where I honestly wanted to just lay down in Savasanna for the entire class.
I had never felt that before.
I was humbled.
I felt like a true beginner for the first time, in spite of my years of practice, and in spite of the balance I thought I'd achieved.
It was the first time I really had to place my baby and my body above my ego. It was there that I learned the true nature of listening to your body.
I thought I had been listening, but underneath it imbalance was still lurking. Sure I had really found a certain gentleness in the way I approached life. Sure I had tipped the scales way back to a more centred self. But, prior to my pregnancy, I never went for the 'easy' modification. If there was a higher level to the pose, I went for it. I never slowed down and really considered the results of each pose.
Are you really listening to your body and mind, and are you really thinking about your energy state as you do things?
I got more out of practicing yoga in this way than I have from all my years of practice. I felt more connected to my body, my energy state, and my growing baby. I felt more compassion and understanding for people who really struggle with their own demons in their practice, whether those demons be physical or mental.
I was more mindful than I have ever been and, as a result, I had some of the best yoga classes I've ever had.
How mindful are you in the things that you do, and how is that going for you?
What I'd like to suggest to you is, whatever it is you apply yourself to, have a go at doing it mindfully.
Really put yourself in the shoes of a beginner and feel what it is like to do it as if for the first time.
It may be yoga or meditation, it may be a sport, or it may even be something you do at work. We are constantly changing and growing. It isn't enough to simply do things without awareness, without listening. Bring your full presence to the activities you perform each day and see what comes to light for you. See what flashes of inspiration you have. See what empathy and understanding you develop, for yourself and for others.
Go on, give it a go.
Have a go at doing something in true mindfulness, doing it for the first time even if it is your thousandth, allowing yourself to simply 'be' in that moment.
And when you do, let me know how it went!