Redefining Your Practice after Motherhood

Ashtanga Yoga teacher and professional rock climber Olivia Hsu talks motherhood and why she finds her yoga practice more liberating since having her son.
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Olivia Hsu

Olivia Hsu and her son Walker

Having a kid was never a major goal...

in my life. It wasn’t a huge want or desire, so to end up becoming a mom has been a real gift and a really surreal and cool experience. It’s been the ultimate practice on so many levels. It puts everything into perspective and demands a new level of presence. I used to think about being present in a more fleeting way. I’d focus on something for a set amount of time, and then it’d be done or I wouldn’t think about it. But for the first four weeks after my son, Walker, was born, I literally carried him 12 hours a day. It was all consuming. When you’re getting up at 3 a.m. to feed your child, that’s a whole different level of being in the moment with another person.

Olivia Hsu

Olivia Hsu's son Walker

I used to have this idea that things needed to be a certain way...

in order to practice yoga. I needed a clean and uncluttered room, fitted yoga clothes, and an empty stomach. I wouldn’t even go into the studio if I didn’t have a full two hours to practice. Now, I’ll do two or three Sun Salutations while Walker naps, then go upstairs to soothe him. If he falls back asleep, I’ll come back downstairs and continue. I now have this really disrupted practice, but it’s actually been liberating to no longer have all these parameters in place. Doing anything on my mat is a luxury, and it’s amazing. It doesn’t matter if I just ate. It doesn’t matter if I’m wearing pajamas. My practice is all the time.

Olivia Hsu

Hsu practices when and where she can despite her surroundings being "imperfect."

I’ve learned that there’s a difference between how you look and how you feel...

and in the end, how you feel is more important. People see me and say that it doesn’t even look like I had a baby, but I feel stiff in yoga poses, and I recently went mountain biking and had to walk uphill because of my limited postpartum fitness ability.

Olivia Hsu

I'm slowly easing back into it.

I’ve known plenty of people who’ve gotten back into yoga or climbing or running too quickly after having a baby, and then they end up with injury or prolapse. I’m working with a pelvic-floor specialist, and I read the book The Fourth Trimester by Kimberly Johnson, which has been really helpful for my recovery. If my doctor tells me to wait three months to do something, I’m waiting three months. But it takes a lot of patience and discipline, which I’ve learned from my yoga practice.

Olivia Hsu

I don’t feel like I’ve lost anything.

There were phases of my life before I got pregnant when I was climbing a lot, and I had to take a break from my yoga practice—and then work hard later to get back to where I’d been. It’s a lesson in the kleshas [personal obstacles] and letting go. If you are clinging to something, and you’re attached to it being a certain way, you’re going to be bummed when it needs to be adjusted or you can’t do it anymore.

See also 8 Instagram Yogi Moms Who Inspire Us Daily

Olivia Hsu is an Ashtanga Yoga and Hatha Yoga teacher in Boulder, Colorado. Learn more at oliviahsu.com.