They say it takes 9 months to grow a baby and 9 months for your body to get over it…..I figured I’m pretty fit and healthy?….So I gave myself a couple of weeks.
Ha! The birth actually went really well, despite going into labour 3 weeks early. I had my daughter at home, with no drugs and no interventions and after 10 hours of pretty intense labour, our two midwives, my husband, our very new daughter and I were sat on our sofa with a cheese roll and a glass of fizz each. Total magic. My husband and I had brought our daughter into the world in exactly the way we hoped we would and we were off our rockers on love and life. Fortunately, I didn’t have any stitches to contend with so I honestly thought that after a few days, once my body had recovered from the marathon of childbirth, I’d be back on my mat in the hot room. Hmm! It took me a few days just to get off the sofa and even then it was for a walk or a few minutes of very gentle yoga at home. I gave up on the ridiculous target I’d set myself and just went with what my body needed each day. After a few days I was out and about, after two weeks I was at the Edinburgh festival and after six weeks I was back at work, on a film set……but……I had no desire to come back to the hot room. At all.
It was a huge shock to me. I thought I’d be desperate to get back on my mat. My last Bikram class at HYS was two days before I went into labour and my practice was my best friend throughout pregnancy. So what was going on?! My body was screaming for a class…..it felt much heavier than before having a baby, my pelvic floor was very weak, my stomach was like jelly, I had RSI developing in both wrists, my back was agony from breast feeding, my knees and hips felt weird and my tired face felt like it was falling off my head and yet, the idea of taking 90 minutes away from my daughter, to do something for myself, just didn’t appeal to me at all.
Once my daughter had left my body, I was no longer a warm home for her to live in. I was no longer the big pregnant woman that people would smile at and offer their seat to. I felt like my body had been demoted. All of a sudden I was a squishy, tired mess with a droopy face and no seat on the bus. So this was where my healing process started….it wasn’t about fitness, physical wounds or injuries…it was, once again, about self love. I was throwing all my love at my daughter, my husband, our friends for taking care of us….but zero for myself. My body had just performed one of the most mystifying tricks….it had grown and delivered a very healthy little human. In one of the most vulnerable times of my life, my body had been a steadfast friend and not let me down. I had to start treating it with the respect it deserved and fire some love in my own direction.
I also started to feel anxious about going back to class. “What would people think?”…..Together with countless other entirely useless questions like “What if I have to sit down loads?” or “What if I’m so stiff that I can barely do anything?” or (my favourite) “What if people think I look really terrible in my yoga clothes now?”. I hadn’t felt anxiety about class like this since I was a beginner! For those of you that don’t know me, I’ve been practicing for 12 years and teaching for 5…so it was a bit of a shocker! I recognized this as anxiety though and nipped it in the bud pretty quickly. I gave myself a good talking to, I continued to practice more and more at home and quite soon after that I was back.
My first class was wonderful! Everyone was super lovely, the heat warmed my soul and I left the studio feeling whole again.
Yoga is a life long therapy. You can’t practice for a short period of time and expect it to heal you forever. As much as we’d all love a quick fix, it requires time, and commitment. You don’t have to be flexible or strong….you just have to be there. I was waiting for a day when I felt confident enough to get back to class but all I really needed was my yoga clothes and a towel. My mat was already there waiting for me. It’s also your mat. Our mats. The community at London Bridge never fails to catch me and make me smile.
My advice to anyone wanting to return to class after having a baby is this…
- Wait for the all clear from your Midwife or Doctor. Coming back to class too soon may set your recovery back.
- Do what makes you feel good and don’t do anything that doesn’t.
- Your body is going to feel very different so take classes slowly and treat your body with lots of care and respect. You’re very welcome to continue with the pregnancy series when you first go back to HYS if that makes you feel good (especially if you’re breastfeeding….you might find a few modifications more comfortable).
- Remember to feel MASSIVELY proud of yourself. Every day. (That one is for everyone whether you’ve had a baby or not).
Without practicing yoga, self love and gratitude I’d be hanging out in a constant state of moderate anxiety, wasting hours of my life worrying what people think of me, focusing on the negatives and allowing that little monkey in my head to find ways of feeding that feeling.
And get back to the hot room.
Jo Horton is back teaching Tuesday evenings with us 6pm and 8pm, her classes are not to be missed