Newborn Yoga

Did you click into this post hoping to find tiny babies bent into paschimottanasana (seated forward fold)? Alas, no pretzel babies here. Maybe a future project. I’ll think on it. I can offer you a snap of a two year old’s spontaneous down dog at the playground – complete with romper and chunky legs. You’re welcome.

Our little family welcomed a new member at the end of April. Since then, it’s been the standard rollercoaster ride that you might expect – variable sleep, lack of dependable routine, physical healing, and stretching of expectations and patience all around. It’s also been delightful.

As I was using one toe to rock the bassinet last night at 9:30, in the dark, eating a bowl of cereal as quietly as possible, and doing my darndest to keep my eyes halfway open, I realized: I’m in the midst of one of the most challenging yoga practices of my life.

Aside from a three-second savasana when I finally land in bed at night and before I’m out cold, my asana practice has been on hold. It’s enough on a body healing from labor, recovering from the last weeks of pregnancy, and surviving on minimal sleep to simply get done what needs to get done

It all feels chaotic, unbalanced, and without anything to stabilize. And also completely right.

I’m realizing in my more coherent moments that it’s supposed to be like this. Any suggestion that adding a new human to the planet is less than earth-shaking and disruptive is straight up untrue (though really common, I find!). It rocks the mama’s world and body, shifts family dynamics to the extreme (especially in the first raw and intense weeks), and requires that everyone bend well beyond comfort.

Even that sweet pea of a tiny baby struggles to make sense of a super-sensory world after the gentle peace of mama’s belly – just watch him try to control his arms, or focus in on anything, or calm down to sleep. It’s no easy thing.

As my tired toe rocked the bassinet, I thought: I can’t do this. It’s too much. I’m too tired. My body is going to give out. I’ll never make it. What do I think I’m doing, anyway? Who do I think I am, that I have the audacity to birth and raise children?

These are exactly the type of thoughts that pop up in a challenging yoga practice, whether during asana (movement/pose) or mediation or attempts to follow the yamas and niyamas – doubts, fears, a sense of being far too small and weak to manage the challenges that life puts forth.

I took a class from a yoga instructor once who pointed out, in the midst of a series of intensely challenging movement sequences, that thinking of what remains ahead (twenty more minutes of yoga practice, another huge pile of laundry, another night of newborn nursing and soothing) can be daunting. But surely, we can all do one more – one more minute, one more repetition, one more shirt folded, one more night of nursing, maybe even just one more breath. One more, forever.

That’s been my mantra the past few weeks, and while it doesn’t necessarily spare me from the mental crankiness thought loop, or prevent the full-on meltdowns when sleep deprivation and lack of alone time come to a head, it does make a sweet little space. Through that vitally important little space, I pull confidence in my endurance and find enough peace to enjoy my babes even through bleary, exhausted eyes. Because, as every darn person in every checkout line and at every playground likes to remind me, I should “enjoy these precious days – they go so fast!”

[Side note: I think most of these well-meaning individuals haven’t been in charge of a three week old for many moons. Glad to know only the sweetness sticks around once life resumes a more reasonable rhythm later on. There is so, so much sweetness.]

We’re finding a new normal, my little family and I. One more diaper, one more rendition of “Wheels on the Bus” for a needy toddler, one more patient deep breath to make room for love and let the crankiness evaporate. One more, forever.

One comment

  1. Anna says:

    Thinking of you in this challenging, messy and amazing time! It just keeps changing with new challenges and messes and new wonderful things, too. Amos and Eowyn and I have started doing a bit of morning yoga. We take some deep breaths and then everyone does their own poses for a few minutes. Thanks for sharing your thoughtful approach even when you don’t have much time to think clearly!

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