"And hold your baby out in front of you!"
I looked around at all the other moms standing in a lunge and holding their teensy babies arm's length away. They looked effortless. My baby was the chunkiest of all the babies in that room. My arms started to shake.
Little did I know that I had diastasis recti - no wonder it felt impossible to hold up my little chubby cherub that way. I had recently recovered from a 3-month long cramp in my pelvic floor that I couldn't explain to any healthcare professional and therefore couldn't get help for. Without even mentioning my emotional experience as a mother, my physical experience felt like it was coming crashing down on me during this "relaxing" yoga class.
Before having a baby I was always fit, and most of the time it felt effortless. I could get tone in my arms or abs without much effort, and I was a rockstar at ab workouts and pilates. After having a baby, my abs were just not the same - nor was any other part of my body for that matter. For example, I could barely lift myself up onto the counter to grab something out of the top cupbaord (I'm short, so this is a normal occurance). A sit-up was totally out of the question. Being in that mommy-and-me yoga class was a reality check that I was in fact a stranger to my own body.
As the class continued, my baby kept crying. I felt embarrassed because he was my first baby and somehow his natural crying meant I was a bad mother if no one else's baby was crying. The teacher would instruct us to leave our baby on the ground and do some pose, and my baby would roll away and smack another child with his flailing arms. I tried to look around to other moms for sympathetic eyes but found none. I felt like I was failing at mommy and me yoga.
The yoga teacher would ask us to do something with our baby, explaining how beneficial it was for them. My baby would scream and refuse to participate, and the teacher seemed not to notice. I felt even more alone in this room of mothers.
A Yoga Class Changed My Postpartum Life
A few months earlier I had attended a mommy-and-me yoga class at a different location. The exercises they taught me in that class made a massive impact on me.
After having my son, the exterior of my hips hurt so bad. I couldn't get to the bathroom by myself, and as my recovery progressed the stitches in my perineum didn't even register in comparison to the pain I was feeling in my hips. I'd had a vaginal delivery, and had been in labor for three days. I had also pushed for 3 hours. So I'm sure all of that contributed the pain I was experiencing. Luckily an OBGYN visited me postpartum and I explained the pain. She gave me an elastic belly band that moms often use after a c-section. The support made my hips feel much better. But a few months postpartum, I was still experiencing pain.
During a phenomenal mommy-and-me yoga class, the yoga teacher had us do one simple exercise and my hips stopped hurting! Hallelujah! I only attended that class once, but I used that exercise at home for the next year and it made a huge difference in strengthening my hips and preventing/reducing pain.
Out of these two experiences, my favorite postpartum yoga experience was the one that gave me some tangible help on a problem I was experiencing. Yes it's fun to engage with your baby during yoga. But for a mom struggling with her postpartum body, maybe there are other reasons to go to yoga after having a baby.
My reason for creating mom-centered yoga is to take my positive experience with postpartum yoga and create a program that moms can consistently benefit from. You know what you're getting with a mom-centered yoga class: you're going to get something out of this class that you can put in your mommy toolbox and take home with you. Whether that is physical postures that change your life, information about your new postpartum body, a connection to a woman next to you, or just a positive thought to give you some energy to make it until nap time.
Bring Your Kids
Bringing your kids with you is an essential ingredient of mom-centered yoga. If you're a stay at home mom, you may not have the luxury of leaving your child somewhere while you attend yoga. Maybe you're a single mom, or maybe your husband is just tired when he gets home from work. Maybe you don't live near family, and hiring a sitter just isn't an option.
In addition, if you have a small child they are part of you. If they are nursing, you are literally tied to them. My sister-in-law was away from her 12-week-old baby recently and her milk let down. Feeling painfully engorged, she said, "I need her more than she needs me!" Your child is a part of you, and we get that. So bring them along!
We always have a child development specialist on staff during our mommy-centered yoga classes. We provide toys and a snack, so you can focus on yoga. Sometimes my kid just doesn't want to go to daycare like at a gym. And for a certain period postpartum, I wasn't ready to part with him. Leaving him at the childcare center of the gym for the first time was huge for me. If you're not ready to let your little one out of your sight, but kind of feel like you need some "me" time, our set up for mom-centered yoga is perfect for you. Keep your eye on them in the room, and know that there is someone there whose whole job is just to look after your child.
It's About You
The whole time I was pregnant, I felt like it was all about me. People would tell me, "You're doing something important even if you're just sleeping or watching TV!" I got special treatment all the time, and people were nicer to me.
As soon as my son was born, it was all about him. I loved that! At the same time, I had never had a baby before and I was in an insane amount of pain, I was dehydrated (and white as a sheet) and I was exhausted. But my adorable son was now the star of the show. It was kind of confusing to be honest. This pattern of it not being about you anymore continues on as your child grows. It's never about you ever again. The funny thing, though, is that the best way to take care of a baby is to take care of the mom. On a very basic level, if a mom is depressed and can't get out of bed, there is no way that she is going to brush her kid's teeth - not to mention the emotional support she cannot provide that her child needs.
We bring the focus on moms because that's the best way to make a family work. When a mom is in a good place, the children usually are too.
So at mom-centered yoga classes, we talk about motherhood, and our bodies, and we talk to each other. Because motherhood is so much better when we fell less lonely and more connected.