One of the things I have always loved about yoga is that there’s a style and practice for everyone.
Unlike many other physical practices that are bound to one set of rules or only a few adaptations, yoga in the western world has evolved over the years from its Raja Yoga underpinnings. Nowadays it offers everything from seated meditation through to more modern asana styles of vinyasa yoga and more.
Not only does this mean that anyone can find a practice that suits them, it also means there’s a practice suited to all stages of your life. The practice that brought you to love yoga may only be your portal into the world of yoga – the stepping stone that helped open your eyes to all yoga has to offer.
A Masculine Approach
As we all know, the origins of yoga came from men with practices that were designed for the male body. The evolution of yoga means that now as women, we have much more choice to find something that supports us throughout our life cycle.
My own yoga journey began with the more traditional style of Iyengar yoga, but it was in fact the strength and challenge of a Bikram practice that encouraged me onto my mat daily and to become a teacher.
Now I know you might be ready to stop reading here having seen the “B” word! While Bikram yoga gets a bad rap due to the man himself and the pertinacity of the teachings, there was something to be said for the encouragement and support in getting on your mat a minimum of three times a week. It was this “showing up” and making my practice a priority that helped me traverse a more challenging episode of my life in my twenties.
Training as a yoga teacher in this style then inspired me to do other in-depth trainings, encompassing other styles of yoga such as Ashtanga and classical Hatha.
Of course, the journey of pregnancy and motherhood is a life changer both physically and emotionally. This also means that the yoga practice you have had until this point may no longer fit.
I see many mothers-to-be come to their first prenatal yoga class still wanting a strong practice, and I watch this wane quickly as their pregnancies progress. With time a softer, more opening, nourishing asana sequence is often welcomed and so develops a feminine yoga practice.
Postnatal & Motherhood
For me post-birth I returned to a strong hot yoga class only to find myself craving restorative poses and the chance to rest. This was unfamiliar territory to me and the weakness in my body was also a new experience. I learned to be softer, gentler with myself, again inviting in the feminine, and gave myself more permission to rest.
Watching your body regain strength after birth can teach you so much, as well as deepening your knowledge and compassion when it comes to teaching yoga. As I grow older and occasionally go to a much younger person’s class (usually vinyasa), I often see such a lack of understanding in regard to older or postnatal bodies. In fact, I often question whether I was the same when teaching yoga in my younger years. Sadly, I most probably was.
While your body can often come back close to its pre-birth strength, this newfound understanding of balance cannot be lost. I found my own practice started to follow my cycle, with a stronger practice around ovulation and more rest around my dark moon time.
My body and emotional balance felt a greater sense of harmony and I also welcomed the variety in my practice (and teaching). That’s not to say I didn’t still find it hard at times to find the self-compassion to take it slowly – attachment to body image and the need to push myself often fought my intuitive desire to take a gentler approach to my practice.
But of course, around the corner comes perimenopause and the need to re-calibrate your body and emotional balance once more.
Your cycles may go slightly wayward which means if your yoga follows this rhythm you may need to change your practice depending on how you are feeling. Changes in hormones and emotional balance as well as changes in how your body metabolises what you eat will also affect your practice.
Finding the balance between softness and strength becomes even more important and through this time, yoga can give you such stability. I know that that once I pass menopause, there will be another opportunity to recalibrate to my body’s needs, but this is still a few years off so for now I’ll be riding the peaks and troughs that are my hormones!
Your life path gives you the gift of wisdom, of knowing, understanding, and listening to your body. Part of the process is knowing how to listen and integrating this into your yoga practice. The benefits you gain are in learning to adapt to your own practice. Through this, you also learn to understand the needs of other bodies and become a more compassionate teacher.
Nadine O’Mara is an experienced prenatal and postnatal yoga teacher, doula, mother of two daughters, and our Bliss Baby Yoga Co-Director and Online Course Content Manager, who also runs her own business, Conscious Birth. Nadine shares her wealth of knowledge through contributing and editing content for our Bliss Baby Yoga online courses and social media, including being a co-facilitator of our Online Level 2 Fertility Yoga Teacher Training course. Nadine provides doula support, birth education and yoga for women and their partners in and around Bellingen on the NSW mid-north coast, as well as offering self care and restorative yoga workshops.
If you are passionate about supporting women through yoga, we offer a range of Bliss Baby Yoga online courses including Prenatal & Postnatal Yoga, feminine-focused Restorative Yoga and Yoga for Fertility, as well as online extension modules including Pelvic Floor Anatomy & Physiology for Women’s Health, Prenatal and Postnatal Anatomy & Physiology, and Supporting IVF with Fertility Yoga. We also offer Online One-on-One Mentoring Sessions with our experienced team of Bliss Baby Yoga facilitators.
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