Internationally recognized yoga teacher and mother of two Janet Stone, who will lead our upcoming Yoga for Moms online course (enroll now and be the first to know when this mom-inspired course launches), is offering YJ readers a series of weekly "mom-asanas" for serenity, strength, and grounding. This week's practice: the yoga of loving your post-baby body.
Most women have a deeply rich and often challenging relationship with their bodies. Becoming a mother does not seem to take these challenges away, but instead often highlights our already contentious connection to the form that carries around this amazing soul of ours. So how can yoga help mamas reconnect with and honor their own bodies?
Yoga has many profound tools to support us in improving the often adversarial relationship we have to our bodies. Some of us may use a vigorous asana practice to bring us back into our radiant power. Some might dive into pranayama practice in order to reinhabit their body in new, expansive, and loving ways. Some may use meditation to accept and celebrate the gift of their body, whatever form it currently appears in.
Practice: 7 Things to Consider
Here are 7 things to consider if you're feeling the intense weight of change in your body:
1. Look at the miracle you’ve created with the wonders of this body. Consider all that it has given to make this (or these) other lives possible and nourish them and carry them.
2. Take time each day to thank your body for all it is doing for you, all the ways it gives to you, and all the ways it strives to stay in homeostasis in the midst of this wild ride of life.
3. Contemplate the most important things in your life and then check in to see if your body is able to be present, function, and participate in these activities and relationships. If it isn’t, ask yourself what you need to do or change in order to show up for what matters to you most.
4. Nourish yourself. Once you’ve slowed down the self-berating machine, you can begin to find ways to nourish your body so that it can experience the highest level of vitality for its current circumstances. Which means: even if you’re sleep-deprived, lack time for a regular fitness regimen, etc., you can create small and potent ways to nourish and truly feed your body.
5. Claim 11 minutes. Give yourself and everyone you love the gift of taking 11 minutes for yourself each day and if possible, devote some of that time to your yoga practice (whatever that means for you). It can consist of simple Sun Salutations (modified if necessary if you've had a C-section, etc.), or one of my breath practices. What matters most is that you move a little, in a way that integrates the breath with the body. This will help build a stronger container for all you give out.
6. Be realistic. If possible, avoid all fashion magazines as well as shows and advertisements that display unrealistic images of bodies. Instead, join a moms' group. Use your time in the group to discuss real issues and also set aside a chunk of the time for moving together. You can all take turns leading. This way, you inspire each other, because you’re with people who can relate to and reflect a version of your current life circumstances.
7. Revive your sense of humor. Shine a light on the ways that birthing (if not through your body, then through the process of bringing a child into your life and watching as it takes over … everything) has changed your body. Share it with your family and laugh about it as often as possible. So much shame has been placed on the changes that take place after we become mothers, and I’m suggesting that we create a revolution of embracing the power of the body to create and sustain life and the ripples, marks, excess skin, and lumps in the strangest places that come from that.
I’m speaking from experience here. As someone who had used her body in potent physical ways for sport, adventure, and then eventually for years and years of dedicated and long yoga practices, the changes felt real, profound, and certainly confusing. To this day, I find I don’t want to demonstrate certain pranayama practices in public, as it would require that I show off the Shar-Pei like wrinkles on my abdomen and the abdominal split I was left with after my second daughter’s birth. However, when I do choose to lift up my shirt and demonstrate in front of a group, so many women come up to me afterward and thank me for showing the real side of what a post-baby body can look like.
It takes courage to embrace what we have been through and what we are going through now. In doing so, we model to our children what it looks like to be human and to love yourself.
Mom-asana of the Week: Pigeon Pose
Pigeon offers space to open and soften. From Downward-Facing Dog, come into Pigeon by bringing your right knee between your hands, close to your right wrist. Allow your right foot to rest comfortably for you. It will be somewhere between your left wrist and left hip, depending on the bend that feels best. Fold forward gently over your front leg, stretching your arms out in front of you. You can set a timer for 1 or 2 minutes (or more) so you can really relax. When you are ready, switch sides. If your knee feels uncomfortable on either side, roll onto your back, and come into Thread the Needle.
For more space and support: Bring a blanket under your right hip. Adjust the blanket so the hips are resting evenly. Bring a bolster up close into the belly and allow your body to soften over the bolster. Let your arms rest alongside the bolster, and turn your head to the right.
ABOUT JANET STONE
San Francisco-based yoga teacher Janet Stone started her practice at age 17. A student of Max Strom and meditation teacher Prem Rawat, Stone teaches vinyasa flow at events around the world. Her new kirtan album with DJ Drez, Echoes of Devotion, hit number 1 on iTunes’s World Music chart this year. Stone has two daughters and offers this advice to moms: “Motherhood offers infinite lessons in the realms of surrender, empowerment, grace, mistakes, and patience, and then some more patience—as well as the endless unfurling of transitions and change. Practicing yoga amidst this adventure can support us in myriad ways to find our center.” Learn more about her upcoming course, Yoga for Moms.