When I experienced a searing pain in my right hip while going up the stairs, followed by a deep ache that wouldn’t go away, I immediately recalled my pregnant, unstable pelvis. This was familiar pain. During both pregnancies, I dealt with pretty terrible sciatica. Thanks to the fluid nature of my pregnant bod, the pain frequently switched sides to keep me guessing. In addition to deep aches in my hips most of the time, they would often buckle or give out when I went to stand up.
In the first days and weeks after having baby number two, my husband would get up with our toddler each day when she woke around 6:30am so I could snooze for a bit longer with baby. Once consciousness hit though, I found myself reaching for my phone to mindlessly scroll Facebook or the NY Times before getting out of bed. Frequently I was grumpy. I am not a morning person and I don’t drink caffeine.
As my mood continued to spiral out of control, a part of me was like, ‘Hey Jen, get it together. You have to get a handle on this.’ I decided to write some affirmations for myself or set an intention each morning before indulging in a mindless scroll. After a few minutes of social media, I would check back with the affirmations or intention I wrote before getting out of bed.
When creating these affirmations, I would first call up a negative emotion or challenging experience I had been working with. Then I would act as my own best friend/skilled therapist and say what I needed to hear. For example, feelings of isolation and loneliness prompted me to write I feel connected to a sacred network or mothers.
This self care practice helped me to start the day in a positive, intentional way. When I set my attitude on the right course before even getting out of bed, it echoes throughout the rest of my day. I’ve noticed an improved outlook and ability to handle each day’s stresses.
15 Affirmations for Your Postpartum Self
- I see beauty in this chaos.
- This too shall pass.
- I savor the sweet moments of this challenging season.
- My patience overflows.
- I feel content doing less.
- Striving for perfection robs me of beauty, meaning, and growth.
- I take time to be creative.
- I feel connected to a sacred network of mothers.
- I am confident in my choices.
- I trust my intuition.
- When my baby cries, I breathe deeply and stay calm.
- Everything I did today was enough.
- I choose nourishing foods for myself so I have clear energy to care for my baby.
- My ability to love my baby even in hard times is a powerful gift.
- I take time to care for myself.
I hope you’ll find these affirmations helpful. I should also add that these affirmations can work for all kinds of situations – not just those related to postpartum difficulties. What affirmations are you working with right now?
Today I went to my first yoga class in probably a year. That’s pretty bad considering I’m a yoga teacher.
I haven’t been intentional about making time to attend a yoga class for several reasons:
The classes available at the times I regularly have childcare haven’t really worked with my schedule…although they could have if I had planned in advance to attend and blocked off my calendar.
- Many of the classes available at the times I regularly have childcare don’t really appeal to my pregnant bod (i.e. Toasty Core Strength Vinyasa)…although I’m sure I would have enjoyed Yoga for 50+.
- After my first pregnancy, I noticed sub-optimal changes in my core after attending a yoga class. I didn’t know how to engage my transverse abdominis so all the planking and boat poses were setting me back instead of helping me strengthen.
- Reinforcements (my husband) arrive home too late for me to make it to an evening class. But there are later classes that I could make.
- But then I’d have to miss putting my toddler to bed on another evening (I’m already gone two nights a week).
So those have been my excuses. I imagine that with two kiddos at home, there will be even more excuses. (Please note that I’m not saying these are merely whiney-pants excuses; they are valid logistical complications that require a certain amount of energy and planning to overcome).
I’ve been telling myself that maintaining my home yoga practice is the same thing as going to a class. Wrong!
At home, I either do yoga while my toddler is awake and playing, or I put her in front of a 20-30 minute TV program (mom guilt), or she is taking a nap and could wake up at any moment. I can never really fully devote 100% of my focus toward myself in these situations.
In addition, I’m missing out on the community-building aspect of going to a class, the inspiration an instructor can provide, and the challenge I’m sure to avoid affording myself at home.
Back to this class I went to on Saturday. I wasn’t planning on going but I was a grade A grumpoose that morning and really struggling emotionally. After already telling my daughter we were all hanging out together that day, I informed her I was going to take a yoga class. (Saturdays are literally the only day a week when all three of us can be together for the day.) When it came time to leave she started to cry and told my husband, “I’m upset that Mama’s leaving.” Dagger to the heart with a twist.
I was headed to prenatal yoga. I went every week when I was pregnant with my daughter. I’m 34 weeks pregnant with my son and this is my first prenatal class. It was a welcome opportunity to connect with baby boy in a way I hadn’t allowed myself to so far.
As a yoga instructor, I’ve developed this kind of judgmental voice in my head when taking another teacher’s class. It can be difficult to turn down the volume of that voice and just be present in the class like any other student. Sometimes the voice is telling me that a particular instruction might not be best for where my body is at (which is a helpful thing to listen to!) but other times the voice can be snarky, critical, or kind of like Larry David. I’m not proud of it but that’s the truth. Perhaps if I start going to more classes, I’ll get more practice quieting that voice.
Despite my mental high horse, I enjoyed myself. The room was full of that pregnant mama juju and we all were having hot flashes. We laughed and shared in the beginning and I was thankful and amazed that the hip work we did ended up feeling so nice (not too deep or destabilizing).
After class, I headed down the street to a local cafe, Wild Love Bakehouse, and struggled to decide between a classic chocolate chip cookie or a chocolate chocolate chip cookie with sea salt. So I bought both. I ate half of each one and headed home to make lunch.
My time away didn’t fix any of the problems that surfaced in my household that morning, nor did it really change the fact that I was mad or grumpy. But it did give me a ‘time in’ for myself so I could press pause on the drama and get out of that triggered mental space. I think that brief distance was valuable.
How do you find time for a movement practice when you have young children? Do you schedule mornings away for yourself? What strategies do you use to take care of yourself at home in the midst of a challenging situation?
“That was delicious…I like to use food adjectives to describe this class,” she said as she staggered into the prop room with her savasana hair. I smiled and replied that I was glad she enjoyed class so much - we had just finished Yin yoga - but on the inside I was whining with jealousy.
Since becoming an incubator for human life (sounds more epic than “pregnant”), I have left Yin yoga out of my personal practice. Yin yoga targets connective tissues and joints in the spine, hips, and legs. During pregnancy, the body produces a hormone called relaxin, which relaxes muscles, joints, and ligaments - great for the expansion required during labor, a little less great for stability, steadiness, and digestion. I personally feel that doing Yin while “on relaxin” would turn me into a puddle of goo, leaving my frame too fluid to support the rest of me. The problem is, I really miss my Yin.
When I first began practicing Yin, I knew it was something I needed in my life because it made me want to cry. Sounds crazy right? Instead of pushing to the limit, we go to 60-70% of stretch capacity in each pose; that’s because we’re trying to stimulate connective tissue (fascia) as opposed to stretching muscles. It’s a “back off to go further” approach. During the 2 to 5 minutes of stillness in each pose we relax muscular effort and attempt to release held tension. That’s where the emotion comes in to play for me: The “made me want to cry” thing indicated some deeply held tension that needed to unwind. When I practice Yin, when I practice yielding, I can feel my body literally rearranging itself. As I commit to stillness, my fascia slides around under my skin, mobilizing, hydrating, and aligning. I watch this reorganization with an attitude of “whoa that is so mind blowing and cool and weird.”
Yin is impactful not only for the body but also for life off the mat. It’s an opportunity to retrain our response to life’s stresses; we can learn how to yield and go with the flow when things are out of our control. I try to practice this on I-40, when I’m mentally anywhere from “everyone is an idiot” to “all these cars are out to get me.” With mindfulness I can catch myself in the pattern of bad traffic, white knuckles, and held breath. Then instead of maintaining the tension, instead of pushing back, I try to find my breath and relax. From that headspace, the idiocy of my fellow drivers (it’s never my fault) seems way less significant and I’m free to flow on to the next thing.
Even though I’m not holding physical Yin poses during my pregnancy, I’m still trying to put the skills I’ve learned into practice…I have a feeling they’re going to come in handy sometime in the next two months. What about you? Do you need a little restructuring for your spine, hips, legs, and maybe even your attitude? I’m not saying it’ll be easy but it has the potential to be transformative. I teach Yin Yoga on Mondays at 6:00pm at The Glowing Body and I’d love to see you there.
Some of you rather astute and intuitive folk have started asking about my growing (albeit still rather small) belly. And yes, there’s a bump in the making (and yes, I’m super pumped about it)! This is one of those times in my life where I think, Holy cow, what would this be like with out my yoga?! I’ve never experienced such a rapid and constant rate of change; add hormones to the mix and a girl’s bound to feel crazy at least once or twice or ten times.
I shared this crazy change feeling with a friend and she offered an idea I think works for all people, not just the pregnant ones. Think of a mountain. Each season, the mountain looks a little different – vibrantly green in the Spring and Summer, burning with oranges and reds in the Fall, and a little bare in the Winter. Different people and animals visit the mountain at different times as well. Despite the constant change, the mountain is still the same mountain. It might get worn down in a few places but its essence is unchanging. We are in the same boat as the mountain. Even as life happens, even as we grow and develop new skills and perspectives, our essence remains unchanging. We acknowledge this same essence in one another when we say Namasté at the end of a yoga class.
I’m joyfully managing this pregnancy due mainly to the skills I’ve gained from my yoga practice (think: self-care like a panda). Deepening connections with other women has also been an integral part of my process. Over the past year and a half, through focused study and personal experience, I have absorbed some pretty vital information I can’t wait to share with other women. The Yoga for Women’s Health & Healing training I attended with Dr. Saraswati Markus in May served as a capstone experience for me, validating several ideas I’d intuited and providing a more cohesive framework from which to present those ideas.
As a result, this summer is full of special offerings for women: another Yoga for Women series and two workshops, Yoga & Your Fertility and Yoga for Your Monthly Rhythm (details below). I’ve also planned my workshop calendar through November, which includes another Target Practice focusing on hips, a Down Dog Clinic, and a super special Self-Care Retreat co-taught by the lovely Sarah Fields. Keep your eyes peeled for more information on those offerings in the future.
I’d love to hear from you! Drop me a line and let me know how you’re changing, what you’re learning, and where you’re traveling this summer.