For Heaven’s Sake, Try Some Yoga!

Katie from TLCatholic shares her totally grounded, insightful, and witty experience –and ultimately acceptance– of yoga as a practice for feeling better in her body and bringing ease into her life. She’s so easy to read! And she makes a great point about yoga’s helpfulness during the postpartum phase of mothering. Enjoy!

Christian Postpartum Yoga“Bring your hands to heart’s center.  Focus on your breath.  Allow your movement to flow from your breath…”
Sitting in a classroom of Butler Hospital (for those of you who are not from Rhode Island, that’s the mental hospital, or as my politically correct husband would say “the loony bin”),  I was annoyed that this class was held on this campus, and plain embarrassed in general to be in an exercise class where flexible people appeared to be “winning.”  I stole a glance at my fellow yoga practitoners.   They were in various states of awkward contemplation, cross-legged, some perhaps finding some inner peace, others looking longingly at the cell phones far from their mats.  We were all yoga newbies involved in a study: Does yoga help ease postpartum depression?
Turns out, it really does.  And that yoga is never, ever a competition.

 

No, I didn’t have much to actually be depressed about at the time I started yoga.  I had just given birth to another beautiful girl in a set of four (girls), each of whose births was, sadly, more unnatural than the one before.  While my first two entered the world willingly without so much as a Tylenol, my second two involved epidurals.  One after an all night labor of no rest, with a sleeping doula.   You see, she had had an awful day, and the poor soul almost tried to talk me out of what I knew nature was telling me… “Are you sure you are in labor?  Really?  Oh.  Dear.”  She could not keep her eyes open, save for a vague “Breathe.  Just breathe, Katie,” before letting her head sink into her arms again, sleeping beside my husband.  Yeah things get weird during labor.  :)  In the morning, an epidural meant sleep, which meant relaxation, which meant baby came in a hour.  With my fourth child, I was induced, inspired by the fear of an inaccurate ultrasound measurement.  “This baby is HUGE!  This pregnancy is over!” were the exact words.  And after all that, she was 8 pounds and change.  Seriously.

 

Perhaps it was partly the stress of the pregnancy (borderline gestational diabetes) and her kick-started birth that inspired my first bout of postpartum depression.  Thus, I was at, yes, trying yoga at a (outpatient!) class at a mental hospital, for the first time ever, and finding, to my amazement, that I did not like it.  I loved it.  And have continued taking classes long after my free session was over.  :)

 

Coming from a reserved New England family, the only thing I knew of yoga was that it was the brunt of many jokes, and that it was “new agey” and, thus, inadvisable to those of the Christian persuasion.  When I was diagnosed with arthritis, it was highly recommended to me, but I just didn’t get around to trying it, you know?  All that “fruity” stuff.  I can stretch anytime.  I’ll take Zumba, thank you.

“I was not used to getting ‘in tune’ with ‘what my body was telling me.’  I had not cultivated inner stillness and quiet.  Turns out, as a busy mom of four, it was a skill I desperately needed to learn … “

Therefore when I had the opportunity to join this all-expenses paid study, and an evening a week away from the kids, you know, it seemed like the right time to try new things.  So I did.  All I knew going in was that I was to have a mat and say “Namaste” at some point.

 

But when I was informed we were going to open our “practice” with the “sacred and universal sound of ohm” I about died of mirth.  And I feared this was going to be more “fruity” than I thought.

 

I’ll be honest: it took some getting used to.  The language was… different.  “Warrior poses” were amusing.  But then I found they were also effective, and I got in touch with the Native American in me, posing with invisible bow drawn.  I was not used to getting “in tune” with “what my body was telling me.”  I had not cultivated inner stillness and quiet.  Turns out, as a busy mom of four, it was a skill I desperately needed to learn, since I was so used to pushing through and ignoring my various chronic pains.  Now, thanks to yoga, I can tell when I’m hurting my body during exercise, and when to change things to stop that.  Now, I can relax my thoughts and move with my breath.  Now, I “honor” my body, as the precious vessel that carries me through this life, just as it is, today, right now.  I am less critical of my own mortal image, a woman who has been privileged to be a bearer of new life many times.

 

I now believe anyone can (and should!) “practice” yoga.  In a fast-paced world of extremely high demands, we as a culture have lost the ability to “listen” to what our bodies need.  And, no news here, we need to relax more.  For ourselves, our families, and heck, our sanity.

 

As in all of yoga, you take the position that works for you.  As a Christian, I have brought time with God into my yoga practice.  I have not had to change religions or do anything against my own, contrary to the fears and insecurities of some.  When I set an intention for my time stretching on the mat, I find moments to connect with my own belief system.  I lift up my needs to my Father, remembering that everything–from dishes to stretching–can be a prayer, an act of love and kindness.  For me, when I imagine myself being surrounded by a circle of light, I am reminded of the presence of God.  Saluting the sun means I’m looking up (literally).  For me, assuming a “goddess pose” (fancy name for a certain leg stretch) is good for my sense of humor and humility.  Saying “Namaste” to my fellows is wishing them peace.  And while chanting “ohm,” I do think of the universal sound of creation, forever lifted in praise of its Maker.

© Annems | Dreamstime.com

 

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Comments

  1. What a lovely lovely post. Thank you for sharing your words and thoughts. I especially love your last line–the universal sound of creation, forever lifted in praise of its Maker.

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