Friday, October 31, 2008

Teeny yogini

One of the best things I've done for myself over the past year was to treat myself to a yoga membership at Exhale. It's semi-swanky and there are a lot of Lulu-ed out people wearing enormous diamonds, but the teachers are amazing and their studio, which is 4 stories underground, is one of the most calming, retreat-like spaces I've ever practiced in. I love that place. It's been my cave, my sanctuary, the place I go to be renewed, and whenever one of my teachers asks us to think about something we're grateful for, I always find myself thinking of them and my ability to practice there. It's my one indulgence and I don't ever feel guilty for having it.

Practicing in the yoga cave has been a journey in many ways. Last winter, when I felt filled with a freezing cold blackness for months on end, I'd go there and come out feeling warm, even if it was just for a few minutes. Then I started to heal, in no small measure because of the comfort and guidance I received from the teachers there. They watched as I got back to my formerly strong self, and celebrated with me when I found out I was pregnant again. They are some of the only people who don't make me feel weird when they come up and want to touch my belly. And they don't get annoyed if I have to child's pose it or modify a lot during class (this was especially nice during my first trimester, when I felt so sick and off balance that I'd sometimes only make it through 10 minutes of class).

It has been meaningful for me that I've been able to practice for my entire pregnancy so far. I like to think that the baby will have been practicing since she was conceived, whether she grows up to enjoy yoga or not. What I do know is that she enjoys when I practice--it often feels like she's practicing inside me during class, and she likes to kick in this one particular way during savasana. I think she will be a Radiohead fan, because my teachers play Radiohead a lot, and that she will know my teachers' voices almost as well as she knows my and Lunchboy's voices.

Pregnant yoga has been an exploration all its own--poses change every day as I lose a bit more range of motion, or find it harder to make room for my growing belly in lunges, forward bends, or side stretches. I've learned to practice next to a wall because my sense of balance is all off and since the baby is now kicking all the time when I'm upright, which can make me tip over. Also, doing chaturanga and some of the other load-bearing poses is getting more and more challenging as I get heavier. My body isn't used to supporting almost 30 extra pounds. At first I got frustrated that I couldn't do poses the way I used to (hello camel--my ab muscles are already overextended, there ain't no more backbending to be had), and then I just relaxed into it. Practicing regularly has kept the worst of the back pain at bay, it's kept me sane during this whole housing experience, and it keeps me from feeling calcified and as if all the blood in my body is stuck in my legs. I always feel better after class.

Today I had a really special experience with one of my teachers, who always gets the biggest smile on her face when I come to her class. I've told her before about how the baby seems to like yoga. At the end of class, while I was blissfully draped over a bolster during savasana (I have learned to LOVE props), she came over and started to rub my feet. Right as she touched me, the baby started to kick, so I took her hand and put it on my stomach. "OH!" she said, as she got kicked a few times. For some reason it felt very important to share the sensation with her. My teachers have always seemed to have a sense about who needs to be adjusted or who might just need a few moments of human contact during class, and perhaps it was a reverse of that. But she's been such a part of this pregnancy that I wanted to share that feeling with her, even just for a second or two.

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