Yoga means connection: is there a more meaningful connection in nature than between a mother and the baby in her womb?
During pregnancy, the little baby grows at the rhythm of the mother’s heartbeat, with the sound of her voice and her breathing pattern as constant backgrounds.
The yet-unborn baby has probably a way to perceive or even absorb her mother’s happiness or sadness.
That’s why, when I found out about my pregnancy, I knew that the first gift I could offer this child would be to live the nine months ahead of me with awareness and harmony.
Instead, for a series of reasons that I couldn’t anticipate (I wrote recently about it), I soon found myself stressed, sad, depressed and angry.
What saved me? my yoga practice.*
I managed somehow to keep my practice and it literally helped me not losing my sanity.
From the time during my 6th week of pregnancy when I almost threw up on my yoga mat during a vinyasa in class, to that time when I suddenly realised shoulders stands were not an option any more.
Every time though I found a bit of peace and clarity in the sight of my toes against the light, fading purple of my 12 year old yoga mat. Even if just for a single minute, right before feeling too dizzy to continue.
In pregnancy I cried many times during yoga, not tears of desperation but tears of awareness.
Here I am. This is me, doing what I can. This is where I am at, in this moment.
Yoga during this pregnancy taught me acceptance, patience, humility.
* Acceptance of what is here and now.
* Patience with my body that is sometimes aching, sometimes rigid and tired, but still present, healthy and blooming.
* Humility to lower my expectations on how an asana should be done, on how it should look, on how I should feel.
I relish many yoga-related memories from the last few months.
The most recent one from few days ago. It was one of my last regular (non-pregnancy) Hatha classes before moving to a studio with prenatal yoga practices next month.
I was in the first row, right in front of the mirror, and I had to face the fact that my body was so radically different from what it used to be, and it resonates at such a new level and in an unexpected way than it did before.
I could have let melancholy take over, but rebelled against it and decided to let go and surrender to this new kind of energy.
Instead of trying to be the old Eleonora, the flexible thin one from before the pregnancy, I just listened to my new body and observed its reactions to the poses with curiosity and non-judgement.
It felt liberating and joyful, and ultimately, easy.
At the end of the class, a girl that I have never seen before came to me and whispered with a huge smile:
“I am in awe. You move like a fertility goddess”.
It was all thanks to the yoga, and to my decision to surrender. I felt a deep smile of gratitude emerge from inside and flood my face.
The benefits of a regular yoga practice during pregnancy are many, but you need to know what you are doing.
Naturally not all general yoga instructors are specialised in pregnancy, and in some cases it is discouraged to do yoga at all – if you had a miscarriage, if you are under 12 weeks of pregnancy, if you have special conditions that put you in a higher risk during these delicate months. Always consult a doctor and always try and find instructors that are prepared to guide you through the asanas in a targeted fashion.
There is so much to say about benefits and risks of pregnancy yoga that I am planning to write a whole article about it, so keep tuned in if you’re interested!
I would like to leave you today with a kundalini pranayama (breathing exercise) by one of my beloved teachers, Gurmukh Kaur Khalsa. It is not just for pregnant women – anyone can benefit from it.
This pranayama is called “banishing fear”.
• Sit in Easy Pose (crossed legs position), eyes closed and rolled upward. Extend your arms out to the side, parallel to the ground. Keep your spine straight and your chin tucked slightly in.
• Close your hands, bringing the fingertips to the base of your palm, thumbs up.
• Inhale and bring your thumbs to your shoulders. With the exhale, your hands return to the original position.
• Go as fast as you can, without touching your shoulders with your thumbs.
• To start with, you can continue for two minutes, breathing powerfully. Work up to seven minutes.
Gurmukh is coming to London in few days time and I am extremely grateful to have the chance to participate in her workshop!
Her book Bountiful, Beautiful, Blissful is one of my best tools when I need to gently re-centre my energy. Highly recommended to any expectant mom, at any stage of pregnancy and beyond. There is also a section about nursing the baby and how to establish new roles and traditions when the baby is born.
Yoga is more than anything else, a release technique.
There is immense strength in the act of letting go.
There is immense power in the pull from the Earth that we feel in the form of gravity when we lay in savasana after a practice.
I personally sense it like Mother Earth is hugging me.
Acceptance comes from release.
Happiness comes from acceptance.
A happy baby comes from a happy mother.
May this serve you and your (even if tiny) baby.
Sat Nam with much love,
*My yoga practice saved me among other massively important things like a supporting husband, my two adorable and adoring children, few crucially patient friends, a caring family, homeopathy, aromatherapy and an innate tendency to survival. I am a lucky girl indeed.
photo credits Alexa Roche Photography