By Sarah Rathbone
“Well, class, looks like our sub wasn’t able to make it tonight…” “Oh, man,” I thought with disappointment. This was my third time back at the mat solo after having my little one. But then, like a like a sun ray catching evening’s last clouds, a feeling of joy began to spread in my heart. I was taking time out for myself, tending to my physical and spiritual wellness, but now in a yoga class without a teacher I had a whole hour to do whatever I wanted no strings attached. What a gift!
Becoming a parent is, of course, a huge transition for anyone. For me, finding the “me” in Mommy has been another journey all its own. With my daughter’s increasing independence I find I have more time—and greater urgency—to nourish myself and dedicate time to those things that make me, “me.” My evolution on the mat and my relationship with yoga has paralleled my early intro to parenting.
Pre-pre-baby. I began going to yoga in 2008 at a nearby studio. Yoga allowed me to build on my background in dance and gymnastics, while incorporating an element of stillness essential for my then fast-paced urban life. I sporadically attended class for a few years, but when a studio opened in my office building my practice became more regular—at least twice a week during lunch. Yoga helped me find balance amid increasing responsibilities at work and my home life. I also found a community of diverse folks all interested in getting some clarity and better health through yoga.
Pre-natal. After a two-year journey, I was elated to finally become pregnant. In the first trimester, I was so zapped that I wasn’t able to keep up my yoga practice. I was dealing with classic morning (and evening) sickness and all the worries about keeping baby healthy along with a cross-country move.
When we arrived in our new home and the glorious second-trimester, I sought out a nearby studio with pre-natal classes. Structured as a community class, the courses began with introductions around the circle and advice/requests, building a wonderful energy of empathy and support. I rarely missed a weekly class during this time. It felt great to stretch and connect with my changing body. As it does for many moms, yoga during the third trimester took on a different tenor. It was all about preparation. Breathing techniques, strengthening exercises, even endurance building became my primary focus. For many others there, this was their first introduction to yoga. Most had come to the mat to be more ready for labor and delivery—each feeling that primal pull to connect more deeply with her body and the little person growing inside. Like deep-sea divers suiting up for an epic oceanic dive, we shared our anxieties and excitement as we practiced together.
Post-natal. After 42 weeks of pregnancy, baby’s arrival was very welcomed! With a healthy baby and smooth recovery, I was ready to get out of the house and get back to movement by the time Anna was about eight weeks old. It was great to be back at the studio with some of the same women and their babies. Post-natal yoga focused on body recovery and how to engage with our smooshy little babes. Class always included a healthy dose of commiseration and support from the community—which anyone who has gone through a major life change can appreciate.
Post-post-natal. When my baby started climbing over the bolster fort I’d built to contain her, I had to stop going to weekly class. Surely a combination of factors (like a wrangling a nonstop toddler and more months of interrupted sleep) were at play, but during my yoga hiatus I began to have significant aches and near-crippling pain in my hands. My mood was often unusually low and I was back to grinding my teeth at night during the hours I actually was able to sleep.
My very wise partner suggested I get back into doing something for myself and return to yoga…alone. It was a revelation, acknowledging that I deserved time to myself. That I needed time to myself, to care for me and my body. To take control of my physical and mental health.
Of course, this meant admitting the difficult truth that my baby wasn’t actually a baby anymore. Instead she’s fully on her way to personhood. This was a big step for me on my lifelong journey. If we are fortunate, our lives are full of these transitions. Each one bringing a little pain perhaps, but also with it growth. I hope that through my continued practice, I will become a stronger, healthier mom—but more importantly—I want to be a stronger, healthier me.
Back in class, after my fellow yogis and I heard that our sub hadn’t made it, we all decided to stand together and start our practice as a community instead. As we set our intentions in silence and prepared for class, I gave thanks for the opportunity to care for my mind and body, for myself and for my family.
A Chicago native, Sarah Rathbone lives in Seattle with her husband, Jon, their
daughter, Anna, and their cat, George.