I love teaching new students and especially those that are drawn to practice yoga during pregnancy. I wonder if it’s because there is an absolute finite amount of time available to a pregnant woman that she will really commit and “show up” to practice and delve deeper into her experience. Plus, having a baby on board commands our attention! We are constantly being brought into the moment by the sheer volume of felt sensation in our belly and all around our bodies.
Every time I guide students through relaxation at the beginning of class (and in the little moments where we check in throughout) I’ll remind them to watch and feel the breath moving in and out of the body – but to resist the temptation to control it. It’s a little quirk of our minds (and our nature?!) where as soon as we are invited to notice something, we find it very hard not to jump in and try to control it. “Did I take a big enough inhale? … why haven’t I started breathing out yet? Don’t I usually breath slower than this?” It takes quite a few rounds of breath, minutes even sometimes, before the mind will fully surrender and allow the breath just to be.
So… just watch.
Let go… Take your time. Just watch.
(The subtext to your mind being: It’s OK. It’s safe, you don’t have to “do” anything anymore)
Notice the breath moving naturally in and out of the body and each time your mind wanders away bring it back to the next breath…
(Dear mind, you can go off duty now, but please stay here)
And now here’s the killer…
Bring your attention back to the next breath WITHOUT JUDGEMENT.
(In other words: please oh monkey mind of mine… don’t boot back into overdrive and beat yourself up when you realise you’ve just taken another another trip to la la land!)
Another quirk of our minds is to judge ourselves when we perceive that we’ve “failed” at something. But how freeing would it be to just treat ourselves with kindness… to say “Hey, you wandered away. That’s OK, but now it’s time to be here”. In this sense – in our modern, results-based, ladder-climbing, skill-accruing culture this practice is actually quite radical. You are not being judged, you don’t have to achieve anything, you are perfect as you are!! Your only task right now is to notice when you are here, notice when you are not… and when you are not… simply bring yourself back.
THIS is vital practice for ALL of us humans, but especially for women who are about to become mothers. Any time spent online these days reveals that birthing and parenting have become the latest terrain for high achievement. Do you have the right nappy system? The right carseat and pram module? Have you got your bump/birth/newborn photographer booked? Are you “doing” attachment parenting or controlled crying or sleep school or baby lead weaning or….. ????!!!!!
I’m not advocating living in a maelstrom …. Of course there are some things that have to be planned for and organised! But there is also a massive letting go that nature demands of us as we head down this one-way road to becoming parents. And unfortunately there are more and more distractions popping up along the way that draw us into a feedback loop of trying to keep up with how we think things SHOULD be instead of surrendering into what actually IS.
A simple mindfulness practice during pregnancy invites us to surrender into the unknown as our bodies change and grow and nourish these little miracles inside us. It invites us to realise that we can’t control exactly how our birth is going to unfold, but instead must trust that our bodies are designed to do this – and therefore WE ALREADY KNOW, deep down in our bones, how to do this. It’s just a question of stepping aside and allowing the life to happen. Of watching this moment unfold. Of dropping our expectations, dropping our fears. And most importantly dropping that little voice that says you haven’t got this.