This pregnancy, my body—not yet fully restored to optimal weight from the previous pregnancy two years earlier—was determined to stay in decent shape.
Searching the internet for recommended prenatal yoga apps, I decided upon Brihony Smyth’s program, Beautiful Belly, which includes three classes for each trimester, and three postnatal classes with your new baby.
It was hard. And boring.
Running through my mind the first few times I tried it was, “I hate this.”
But the key to any good habit is addiction.
As I trudged through prenatal yoga exercises, after a couple of weeks the routines became more familiar. I stopped wishing for it to be over as often. I started experiencing the unusual yoga paradox of great effort combined with deep pleasure.
“Oh, that feels so good,” I would find myself thinking as I switched from plank pose to chatarunga to up dog to down dog and back again.
“That’s impressive!” my husband would marvel, as my rounded belly thrust into the air in a backbend.
“What was troubling me before?” I would puzzle to remember, as my deep yoga breathing separated me from the stress of the rest of my life.
Slowly, slowly, yoga addiction became essential to my prenatal life. If a couple of days would go by yoga-less, my body and heart would call out for me to do it again.
I needed that feeling. My legs cried in relief from the stretching of my tendons. My back thanked me profusely as I swayed and twisted. My lungs stretched and bellowed. I breathed out all of the stress and nonsense that had accumulated in my psyche. I had found a slice of heaven conveniently stored in my iPad for whenever I needed it.
As I got yoga-addicted, something unexpected started happening to my body.
Despite the fact that I was growing horizontally, I became in better shape than I ever was pre-conception.
I developed muscles in my thighs and calves that had never been there before. My arms, from all those plank poses and downward dogs, started rippling. And despite gaining pregnancy weight, I felt lighter and, most importantly of all, stronger. More powerful.
However, the most surprising effect prenatal yoga had on me was emotionally.
In truth, I don’t believe that it’s important how your body looks during pregnancy. It’s how your body feels during pregnancy that matters. And how you feel about your body.
Our bodies are our greatest vessels. They send us messages about our subjective sense of success and failure, hope and despair. When I am not feeling good about my body, I feel a subtle sense of shame and a desire to hide. When I am proud of my body, I want to connect with the world and share my beautiful self with everyone.
For years after my second child was born, I felt out of shape and overweight. This really dragged me down. My body was a daily obstacle for me to overcome and avoid.
To be brutally honest, one of my concerns with becoming pregnant again was that I was still 15 pounds away from optimal weight. “How much worse would my body become during pregnancy?” I quietly fretted. I never weigh myself during pregnancy now. I just concentrated on taking care of my body, building strength, and feeling good.
There’s lot of advice out there about how to best prepare for a new creature in your life.
I would suggest keeping it simple. Just stretch. Just breathe. Just do yoga. Because self-nurture is everything you and your baby really need in the end.