I found out I was pregnant with Grace one week before we were due to travel to India to spend a month practising in Mysore. After much deliberation we decided not to go and we opted instead to rent a house in a small hill top village in Spain, intent on immersing ourselves in our own private retreat. The setting was idyllic, we were surrounded by orange groves and there wasn’t a single neighbour in sight. I started each morning with a gentle ashtanga practice (except for a couple of days when the nausea was just too much!).http://polvam.ru
I really focused on the breath and softening the entire practice, omitting anything that didn’t feel right for my body. My priority was to ensure that I practised safely so it made sense to really take the effort out of the practice and to dedicate it to this new life that was developing inside me. This time I spent practising each morning enabled me to focus on just the two of us, building a connection with the baby from the very beginning of pregnancy. I had planned to spend the afternoons meditating but the oppressive heat combined with a lack of energy in those first few weeks proved to be strong hindrances. Instead I spent time learning to chant the sutra, introducing Grace to her first lessons in sanskrit!
As my pregnancy progressed I continued to teach and practice ashtanga, noticing a marked increase in my energy levels after the first trimester. I felt really great throughout the rest of the pregnancy and I attribute that to our lifestyle and ashtanga yoga. Grace was very active in the womb and funny enough seemed to always kick during the opening and closing mantra at class. I practiced asana until the week before I gave birth and spent the few days before giving birth out in the garden cleaning up after winter (it must have been the nesting instinct!).
We opted to have a home birth after doing lots of reading and researching into the subject. My primary concern was safety and I decided that I would feel very safe in my own home with a mid-wife who had got to know me so well during the pregnancy and in whom I had complete trust. If I felt safe then my baby would feel safe too. I wanted to have a natural birth from the outset and I knew this would be possible for me if I could confront all the underlying fears that surface during pregnancy and if I had total trust in my own ability to give birth. I used yoga nidra relaxation and antar mouna meditation throughout the pregnancy and found both very beneficial in helping me to resolve any fears that came up. I believe that these powerful practices combined with my asana practice enabled me to have complete faith in my body and my breath to bring Grace into this world without the need for any intervention.
My labour started at about 1.45am on 22nd February 2007 and Grace was born at 8.50am, just over 7 hours later. Her arrival was a truly magical experience there were no bright lights or panic or drugs involved. I felt completely loved and supported through the whole labour by both David (who was so intuitive knowing when to encourage me and when to say nothing!) and by Philomena, our fantastic midwife. Grace was so alert and present when she was born, and I felt so strong and empowered by the whole experience.
Becoming pregnant and giving birth has given me a whole new insight into the practice. I no longer have any attachment to achieving specific postures since there is no point. Pregnancy teaches us that our body changes and it is far easier to accept and embrace that than trying to rebel against it. Life with a newborn is very different (in a wonderful way) to how it was before. I no longer have the luxury of spending the morning doing yoga as I used to.
I started ashtanga again 6 weeks after giving birth and I’m slowly building up my practice day by day. Some days I practice with Grace on a blanket beside me and when she gets bored and wants to be entertained I talk her through each posture I’m doing, giving her a running commentary on my practice. She finds this very entertaining! The key thing for me is to create the space to get on my mat even if it’s just to sit and breathe or meditate for a short time as this enables me to recharge and take care of myself, so that I can take care of my baby to the best of my ability.
I realise that Grace and I are very blessed having David as a father and husband. His enthusiasm for the practice continues to inspire me on a daily basis so even if I haven’t managed a full asana practice, being around the energy of such a dedicated practitioner definitely rubs off!