Ashtanga practitioners are taught not to practise for the first three months after giving birth. That can seem tough when we learn to rely on the practice to see us through life’s challenges. Just when we face one of the biggest changes life brings, practice – that rock of stability and continuity – is off the menu for a while.
My daughter Arwen was born in May last year. When it came to it, those three months without asana practice flew by. I came to see that stage, not as a break, but as part of the practice. A friend said to me “You use discipline to practise every day – now it’s time to use that discipline to not practise every day.” That made complete sense. Sometimes not practising is part of our practice and requires the same processes – like commitment and non-attachment.
Finding (some sort of) stillness
At the same time, having a baby brought me the rollercoaster of hormones and emotions that all new mothers face. I needed a way to avoid becoming completely submerged in that, so I started sitting in meditation for half an hour each day. A major emotion I experienced as a new mother was sorrow at how fast life changes. Change often works in a more subtle way in adults, at least most of the time. But babies change before your very eyes. I was hit hard by that sense of transience and time passing – and sitting helped me find the sense of inner stillness and stability I needed.
When it was time to restart asana practice, I took it very slowly. As I practise at home without a teacher for long stretches of the year, I created my own ‘re-entry programme’ – starting with the standing sequence and adding three new postures a week. That kept things safe and stable and I experienced no injuries. I also found my body remembered the postures again quickly.
As much as I can do, every day
In terms of finding the time to practise, I couldn’t do it without having a very supportive partner who keeps Arwen busy, happy and fed until I’m finished. But there are always days when I have to stop early. I’ve really learnt that ‘dailyness’ in practice is the key to everything – not how much I do.
I now stick to the Mysore schedule like glue, but many of these practices are shorter than they were. Before having Arwen, I would sometimes practise later in the day and switch around my rest days. Now I’ve got a stronger sense of the need for regularity and consistency – same time each day, as much or as little as I can do. If I miss that slot, there probably won’t be another chance. So if I want to keep up a daily practice it has to be first thing in the morning, straight after waking up.
Best start in life
Right now I’m in Maui practising with my teacher Nancy Gilgoff. It’s amazing to be here with Arwen, knowing that she’ll get to meet Nancy and maybe even see the yoga teaching room and the incredible work that goes on in there – when she’s still only eight months old!
– Louise Jolly
Did you enjoy this blog post?
Sign up for our monthly newsletter in the right hand column at the top of this page, and receive great content like this direct to your inbox. Don’t worry, we won’t bombard you with anything else – just interesting, relevant, inspiring articles from fellow Ashtangis around the world.