I got pregnant. I wanted to more than anything, but I was shocked by it all the same. I stopped yoga and all physical exercise as soon as I found out and was on bed rest for two months as well. I went back to yoga when my son was 4 weeks old and practiced regularly until I went back to work
My yoga practice was a sweet and gentle resurfacing into the world. I was physically weak and I realized I didn’t need to be strong. Again, I experienced the curious sense that my practice was even more familiar to me than when I had last left it. As though my mind had been practicing all along in some deep cavern of my soul more faithfully than if I had been physically practicing. I was able to easily do poses that before I had never thought I’d be able to do. My arms would shake for some weeks doing side planks and my thigh muscles would burn doing warrior 2, but it was peripheral.
We moved way out to the suburbs some months later. I had a very long commute. I missed my cramped and shabby yoga studio. I no longer had enough energy for the fix of self loathing and its luster had worn away. All I could do was face myself and there was not much there. I’d always chosen the easier way, I had never wanted to face pain because I knew no other response to pain than suffering. I was panic stricken when fertility, conception, pregnancy and caring for baby ripped away my blinders against reality. However I had deluded myself before no longer worked in these new circumstances. No amount of self pity, no amount of rage or self-loathing or striving could change that fact. It was paralyzing and I could feel something vital inside me shrinking by the day, as I walked around my big house with its new appliances and shiny floors not really seeing or hearing anything, gripping my baby tight to me, afraid to let him go. Our street felt vacant and flat.
The yoga at the gym was bad. I tried bikram. I did not know what it was going to be like. When I heard “hot”yoga I thought the room would be hot, not 112 degrees for an hour and a half practice. From the first moment of the practice, it was a fight for survival. My brain kept sending me big big warning signals: DANGER! DANGER! I listened to the instructor as though my ship was sinking and his words held the key to my living or dying. He said to breathe and just to breathe, that I had my breathe, it would keep my alive. And, I did that. For the hour and a half. On my drive home, the music on my iPod sounded so good. I could almost feel my pupils dilate. I got home and laid on our couch in our main living area and the lines of the windows looking to the outside were beautiful and the way the street curved as I looked out the window made my heart contract with the pain of sudden gratitude.
I started to run at night. It was late Fall and into Winter. I would put my son to bed and go for a 20 minute run/sprint up and down the hills of that little planned neighborhood with its five models of houses distinguished by colors to reflect the personality of its owners. The sky out there was . . . magnificent. That heavy black sky that seemed antithetical to gravity, I felt pulled up to it, it was black and full and 4 dimensional. The stars were bright but I was here and so grateful. I had love to give, my iPod music made my mind swell and the houses I imagined as little cottages in some clearing somewhere quaint and safe. I would finish and take a hot shower in the basic white small bathroom upstairs; I felt dwarfed in the cavernous master bathroom and avoided it. I’ve never had a better shower than in that bathroom. I would meditate for 10 minutes and sleep like the dead. That reprieve lasted only from the moment I put my running shoes on to the morning when I would wake up panic stricken again and make my way as best I could to the time I could hit the cold pavement and my pitch black night.
I was fragile then, but this is how my soul stayed tethered to my body.
The works of Van Gogh (1853-1890) and Gauguin (1848-1903) are in the public domain.