Postpartum Ashtanga Yoga: Redux

5 AM plunges into my dark room like a freight train racing through a cold winter night. The alarm on my phone begins—the harmonium followed by Abida Praveen’s deep alap to the tune of “Ali Maula.”

Darkness. I look down. My (almost) 3-month old son, Dhyan, is lying asleep on my chest, our tummies touching. He’s acquired our toddler’s cold and has spent the night alternating between nursing and wiggling back to this snuggly midpoint. My eyes are foggy and shoulders tight, and grrr….Yep, there goes my mommy tummy. I think about coaxing him into the swing I’ve placed next to our bed so that I can roll over and catch a few more hours of rest before the house awakes.

But NO. Then I think of the smiling photo of Guruji that hangs in the Woodley Park yoga shala where I practice Ashtanga yoga, and the warmth of the room as I step onto my mat. More, that magical energy that comes at the end of my practice—that positive light that beam through my day, and by the time that I finish that thought my hand has nudged my husband (aka, patron saint of yoga ) and feet have carried me out of bed toward the door.

Welcome to postpartum yoga. If it was hard to get out of bed before children, it’s grueling with them. Some mornings I succeed. Some mornings, not so much. But still, I try. On the mornings that I make it—I feel like Wonder Woman all over again–even if its practicing with my 3 month old beside my mat as my companion

The second time around I’ve realized the spiritual journey is what counts. The spiritual journey of practicing through pregnancy and the postpartum period is magical. It has provided me with a special connection to both of my children from the time they were in utero to the present. I believe the  greatest gift one can give oneself  is the practice of Ashtanga—pregnant or not.  

The Journey. After the birth of my 3 year old I wrote this post about postpartum practice. It all still applies in my case, but the spiritual journey is wider and deeper than before. There is mindfulness that comes with each new practice on the mat. The start of each practice is like the quiet stillness of the world at 5 am and the light of awakening. The practice provides its own light and internal awakening that provides me with breath, and that breath is the gentle reminder to stop and pause before I react to events throughout the day. It sets the pace—like the notes in the alap of a raga in Indian classical music—it is stepping onto the mat each morning that provides the foundation for the journey wherever it may lead.

What I’ve learned: Every pregnancy and postpartum return is as different as every child born. The physical asanas and bandhas do come back together in their own time. Now it’s time to Stop, Breathe, and Enjoy the journey.

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