From the moment a woman finds out that they are pregnant they arrive on a new, foreign battlefield. Long before the ‘terrible twos’ and ratbag teenage years, there is a smorgasbord of emotions and challenges new and expectant mothers must face with warrior strength.
Like the mythological yoga heroes that have gone before them, pregnant women need to be strong both physically and mentally to cope with the seismic shift in their lives.
I know this because I arrived on this well-trodden battlefield eight years ago when I had my son, Gabriel .
Until that time, I had spent the better part of two decades acting, writing, traveling and practicing yoga. I discovered yoga while studying Economics at Sydney university. Like most young people, I was struggling to make sense of adulthood and searching for tangible tools to help me do so. Fortunately, a very zen-minded psychiatrist pointed me in the direction of literature exposing these interesting practices I’d heard of called Buddhism and yoga philosophy.
I was hooked. In the years that followed, I pivoted between yoga teaching styles and travelled the globe to better understand the teachings. No matter what else was happening in my life, the yoga was my constant companion. The not negotiable. My home. Then along came the bump. And by bump, I mean – in every sense.
As Play School presenter I’ve been around thousands of kids. However, when you become a parent you realise no matter how many hours you’ve spent on the mat, or on meditation retreat, or with other people’s kids, you are entering a brand new battlefield. The real yoga begins now. It’s time to warrior up. Needless to say, there is no way I could have survived pregnancy and parenthood without yoga.
Now, as the facilitator of BodyMindLife in Sydney’s Pre & Post Natal Yoga Teacher Training, I empower teachers and parents-to-be to practice safely and confidently, through a tailored program designed for mums of any stage, situation, shape or experience. Whether seasoned practitioners or absolute beginners, these practices are not only appropriate, but life- changing. For new and expectant mothers the benefits are endless.
A regular yoga practice builds strength in parts of the body that carry more weight in the later stages of pregnancy. From the lower back, to the hips and belly, we need to build our body’s natural support system. As expectant mums lose access to deeper core muscles, the body is supported by a body that has gradually built strength in supportive areas.
Yoga is one of the only forms of exercise during pregnancy that keeps the body mobile in a safe way. The practice can be strong without being dynamic. In pre and postnatal yoga we focus on opening areas that tend to get closed off or tight like the shoulders, hips and backs of the legs.
Learning to breathe
Learning how to actually use the breath through practice to switch on a parasympathetic nervous system (the rest and restore response) can be an expectant mama’s superpower. Breath work can become especially potent when mums are seeking calmness in labour and the postnatal period.
Developing mindful muscles
We all know that yoga is more than a physical practice. Yoga gives us the tools to develop the mental skills and resilience we need in the pre and postnatal period. We learn to foster an ability to sit in discomfort in a safe way, by focusing on breath or sound.
Offering time to surrender
So much time during new parenthood is about learning to let go. The practice of yoga is incredible at teaching us to be warrior strong, and yet able to fully surrender all at once. Surrendering is a skill that is needed beyond pregnancy and well into motherhood.