What yoga means to me now

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Last night, I put Orson to bed and then left the house for the evening for the first time since he was born. What did I chose to do with my evening? I went to yoga. He hadn’t settled that well, which was unusual going by the last few weeks, so I left the house feeling a little apprehensive. I drove to the studio and struggled to find somewhere to park, so only just arrived in time. It was packed and I had to squeeze my mat into a spot right at the front by the teacher. With everyone already settled on their mats I was clumsy, dropped my water bottle, struggled to unroll my mat. By this point, I was feeling stressed, anxious and wondering why the hell I had decided to venture out on a cold, wet, rainy January evening to take my first ‘proper’ yoga class in 9 months.

And then it started. I closed my eyes. I took a deep breath, and then another.

We moved slowly.  At times I forgot there was any one else in the room.

The teacher, guided us through the most wonderful class. She was measured, patient, grounding. I eased out my limbs, bits of me feeling so different since I’ve become a mother. Yet, so much feeling familiar.

The thing is, I haven’t stopped doing yoga. I just do it differently now. The month before I became pregnant I undertook a ‘Warrior Challenge’ in which I went to a yoga class every day for a month. I’d been a member of my studio for the past year going to a few classes a week. I was reading yoga books in my spare time. I’d undertaken a meditation course and was meditating every morning. I was perfecting arm balances, strengthening my transitions and embracing the eight limbs of yoga. I was attending retreats and workshops. Yoga had started to become my life.

And then, I fell pregnant. I went to pregnancy yoga classes a couple of times a week. I embraced the changes to my body, connected to my baby growing inside me, strengthened myself for childbirth. It opened me up to mindful hypnobirthing, natural birth, my strength as a woman. I did more reading, I attended yoga birthing workshops, and I was more in love with yoga than ever before.

Before Orson arrived, I had planned to keep my own personal practice going by attending a few classes a week at the weekends and in the evenings. But that’s just not how it worked out for me. I had a gorgeous baby that I was breastfeeding on demand, who would only sleep if I held him in my arms. He needed me. The intense early weeks and months of motherhood don’t allow space for much, let alone a yoga class. As the months have gone on, I’ve felt further and further removed from what I thought was the most important aspect of my yoga practice.

So, getting back on my mat at a yoga class last night, was amazing. But, it also made me realise that it’s not the most important part of my yoga practice anymore. I don’t at the moment have time for lots of classes. I can’t make retreats and workshops. My yoga books have mostly stayed on the shelf. I am however practicing yoga every day. I’m practicing in how I chose to live my life. I’m more mindful than ever before. The moments that I have to roll out my mat at home feel even more precious. I go to mum and baby yoga and I may spend 80% of the class looking at my little boy but it’s such a special shared experience. And you know what, that hour that I had in class last night, I relished. I was present the entire time. And I finally listen to my body. Really listen. It has changed so much that it needs respect. I need to get to know it all over again. I make it a priority to take a step back and deeply breathe. My yoga practice now is a gift, not a right.

So, in so many ways, yoga is life to me even more now. It’s every moment of every day.

The reality behind the pose

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This photo was taken a few months before I found out I was pregnant. I’m not going to lie, at the time, I thought I looked hot. I had newly bleached hair (that I’d wanted for years), a new tight black dress and expensive makeup. I was on the way out to party at a friends wedding reception. When I made the photo my profile picture I got tons of likes and comments and that was what I thought I wanted.

But the reality was totally different. Now I look back at this photo and I can see in my eyes that I’m not truly happy. I was still in counselling, getting better but still needing it. I was struggling with low self esteem, bleaching my hair as a front. Craving attention and hating it at the same time. When this photo was taken on route to the wedding reception I’d already polished off a whole bottle of prosecco to ease my social anxiety and by the end of the night I was a mess, predictably. I’ve always been a messy drunk. At my best, sick, at my worst, aggressive, at my absolute worst, a cheat.

The thing is, I had a great life, an amazingly supportive and loving husband who’s my best friend and soul mate, family that are there for me no matter what, fabulous friends. I had a rewarding job, health and hobbies. But I was obsessed with what people thought. There were so many things that I wanted to change about my appearance. I exercised and counted calories but never got to where I wanted to be. I felt self-conscious unless I was made up, like in this photo. Then I just wanted attention to make me feel validated.

Now, I’m a bit of a mum cliché. Saggy bits, grey hairs, aching back. I haven’t made my appearance a priority. My wardrobe (which is mainly nursing tops and leggings) is in serious need of an overhaul. So this week I embarked on getting fit again. But, I’ve come to terms with the fact that I might never fit in my cute dresses again. My body has housed and nurtured a little baby, then delivered him to the world. It’s nourished him exclusively for 6 months and continues to do so. My body is amazing. This time, I’m not getting fit to be able to wear a slinky dress again, I can do that anyway, I’m proud of my body! No, I’m getting fit so that I’m the best and healthiest version of myself. So that I’m the example that I want to be to my son. I want to be strong, confident and healthy. Motherhood has changed me like nothing else has. So although I may never look like this again, I know that now, I’m the best and happiest version of me.