Guest post by Mama member, Jenni Gritters! Jenni is a Seattle-based freelance journalist and founder of Zest Storycraft. She writes mostly about the science of healthy living and is a certified yoga instructor. Jenni and her husband are currently expecting! You can follow Jenni on Instagram. Learn more about Jenni here!
I took my first yoga class when I was 13 and it was not love at first sight. I spent most of the YMCA class sighing about how slow the class moved, how annoying the teacher’s voice was, and how bored I felt as I stayed in downward facing dog for “just one more breath.”
It would take me another 10 years to fall in love with yoga, this time at a studio in Boston where the walls dripped with moisture and the speakers vibrated with hip hop music. I suddenly understood that the practice was both physical and mental, that slowing down could actually feel nice, and that my anxious brain settled inside the methodical, dance-like practice.
In Boston, I started to practice yoga several times per week, then every day. When I moved to Seattle, I enrolled in a yoga teacher training program as a way to make friends in my new city and learn more about the practice. For a year, I taught classes around the city of Seattle, made many new yogi friends, and felt like I was in the best shape of my life.
Then I got pregnant.
My first months of pregnancy were tremendously difficult. I threw up daily, sometimes hourly, and found it hard to get out of bed at all. I slogged through conversations feeling like I was underwater and couldn’t quite grasp what was happening around me. My body hurt and it was changing, too, so much so that yoga felt awful. I couldn’t make it through a class without running to the bathroom to puke and I felt weird lying on my stomach, even though I didn’t have a bump yet. I was devastated about losing a practice that had kept me tied to sanity for so long. What would I do without it?
In my fourth month of pregnancy, my nausea settled just enough to allow me some space and time to go back to the yoga studio. This time, I wasn’t the teacher– I was the student again, someone who didn’t understand her body and needed help figuring out modifications I could actually use to get through a whole class. At We Yoga Co in Seattle, there was one teacher, Anne Elyse, who’d been pregnant a few years back. She turned out to be an invaluable resource for me as I muddled through a practice I once knew like the back of my hand. With Anne Elyse’s assistance, I traded closed hip poses for open ones, poses on my stomach for those in tabletop, and twists with open-handed postures. Eventually, I started to feel strong again in this new body, one with looser joints, wider hips, and an ever-growing belly.
Now, I’m 26 weeks pregnant and my uterus is the size of a bowling ball, according to the baby apps. My baby is the size of an eggplant. I go to yoga several times each week, if not more, and it’s often the only time during the week when I feel like my old self, this person who was able to take my life mindfully, with intention, and sort out any stressors on my mat. I’ve struggled with watching my tiny body change into a baby-carrying vessel but in the mirrors of the yoga room, I still see someone who’s strong, sometimes impressively so, as I lean into balancing postures with a bowling ball attached to the front of my body. Everything I do on my mat is harder now but sometimes my baby kicks and rolls as I move through a Sun A and I know that for him, and for me, this practice is something I’ll never be able to shrug off.
In the end, yoga was never about the poses, the perfect-shaped body, the sequences, or even the music. Yoga, for me, has always been about showing up, giving myself compassion, and remembering how strong I feel when I’m grounded in mindful movement. Hopefully, that’s something I can pass on to this kid growing inside me, too.