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Birth as Yoga

I took a yoga class a few years ago. There were many different sizes and abilities doing the pretzel-like positions, led by a pretty fatly instructor. (She had to fight for her yoga degree/license because the governing board didn't think she could do the sport/exercise justice. She won.)

I've never been back and have zero desire to do yoga ever again.

People burped and farted... a "release" those in the yoga-know say; they chuckle and roll their eyes at me when I scrunch up my face at the distaste of it all. "At least I didn't fart in class," I want to say every time. Inside my head I add, "Because if I had, class would have adjourned toot sweet."

During that fateful class, I tried my damn'dest to "settle my mind," to think of nothing, to just be. But, I kept thinking of the Coco's on the corner and how they have the best pies in the morning and if I slipped out right. about. now., I could probably get a slice of hot cherry pie with whipped cream swirled on top.

"Oh, for crying in a bucket, Barb. You're supposed to be quieting your inner thoughts!"

"Quiet, quiet, quiet, shhhhh, shhhhh, shit, shit, shit... I suck at this, I suck at this, I suck at this, why am I here anyway?!"

I make up songs in my head as I consciously shove pie a la mode out of my head. I want to be shoveling it into my head via my mouth.

I remember I laid on my back a lot. Or sat up tailor sitting. Others had the agility and skill to stand like cranes or do a variety of animal-named poses; cat and downward dog are the only ones I can ever recall because kids and pregnant women do them a lot. My fat body seemed crippled compaired to these other yogatheletes, so I "breathed" and "cleansed" and thought about pie.

Oh. My. God. Class was fucking for-EVER long, too. I seem to have picked the longest yoga class in history. I kept waiting for the Guinness people to come punch our cards saying we were going to make it into the World Record books.

F-I-N-A-L-L-Y, class ended. "Namastes" were whispered and nodded back and forth and, goddess bless, I was excused to go shovel pie.

I'm on the sidelines watching people ooohh and ahhh about yoga, the latest hula hoop craze (oh, and those are back, too) to make it really big. I wonder what my great-grandkids will think about yoga, will they chuckle at the contortions and exhortations? Or will yoga be like Tai Chi is in China; the national wake-me-up.

In some ways, it's a drag being on the outskirts of a popular activity like this. I am not hip to the lingo, can't wear the tight-fitting, but queerily cute clothes and, for criminy's sake, I can't even do the basic shut-the-head-up exercise.

I was sitting at the beach the other day, pondering my yoga aversion, wondering what I do do to quiet my mind. Do I? Can I?

My breath slowed as I dreamily walked into a laboring mama's home, the curtains drawn, the chanting (fill-in-the-blank) music accompanying her waves of moans, sensuality thick in the air. I could see myself next to, and never taller than, her if I could help it, breathing long and deep... in... in... in... hold... hold... out... out... out. Woman smells swirl around the select few invited into the sanctified space. They are holy to me. Holier than any incense I've smelled in muted churches around the world.

Sitting here, writing this, I am softer, slower, very careful of what comes out of my mind without being a cruel editor. My heart, always sappy, has melted into an oozing, flowing, enveloping, crystalline mass of feelings... feelings that all lead towards the laboring mother and her soon-to-be-born baby. I am her sentry, quietly "holding the space"... sitting with a clarity I don't have in the outside/real world. This attuned place keeps me alert, even when I am exhausted; I note time passing, yet it is never anything but right now that exists.

When I realized that Birth was my Yoga, I breathed a huge sigh of relief that, finally, I had worked my way into the yoga club. I might not be pulling my leg up behind my head or leaning over, balancing on tippy-toes, but I am, just as precariously balanced, in that place that serves women and families... while, at the same time, helping all of us in the vicinity to stay here on earth while also touching the strands of heaven... all at the same time.

Reader Comments (11)

There are many kinds of yoga. Hatha yoga, or the physical form, is just one expression of it. Yours sounds awesome. =)

September 11, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKatherine Anderson

FWIW, I like yoga a lot, but I'm absolutely terrible at clearing my mind. I use it mostly for exercise/physical therapy, which I know is heresy for the more serious practitioners, but whatever ... If the physical side of it gets intense enough that I end up not thinking of anything, that's just the cherry on top for me. Also, I would be absolutely mortified if I farted in class.

September 11, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterchingona

This really felt good to read. Thank you.

September 11, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKate

very authentic! thank you!

September 11, 2010 | Unregistered Commentersacredma

Beautiful! I am one of those that LOVES yoga and going to yoga class, I find it so relaxing and it feels so good to stretch and bend and push my body's limits (and you KNOW I'm a fatty boom boom myself!), but Birth is a yoga, too. Walking into a labouring mama's home, leaving my personal issues, traffic and unpaid bills at the door, clearing my mind and focusing on the here and now IS yoga. And what a tasty, sweet, uplifting yoga!

I find cooking to be yoga as well.....creating beautiful, delicious food in my kitchen, chopping and slicing and stirring and taking in the aromas.....it's an amazing way for me to de-stress and unwind.

Anything can be yoga for the mind and spirit....even the most mundane activities...folding laundry, cleaning the house, making the beds......or just sitting and staring out the window with a cup of coffee in the early morning silence...and activity I'm especially good at!

September 12, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterColleen, LM

I have enjoyed yoga very much, mostly because I'm extremely flexible. They lose me, however, when I need to balance. I sway and swerve, eventually tipping over like a a woozy drunk. I found that my experience in yoga classes varied greatly, depending on who the instructor was. I haven't been since 2007. I guess birth has also been my yoga these last few years. It's time for me to go back. Great post!

September 13, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJen

Ok - Your thoughts during yoga class are my thoughts too. Hilarious! I love your honesty.

And I agree that your real yoga space is birth - and so beautifully described in your own words. :) Thanks.

September 13, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAnisa

I like your yoga! As someone else said, the physical form is only one part of what yoga is. It's a spiritual practice, and it sounds like you have found your unique way to "yoga" spirituality. It's true people have "releases" in yoga, but one thing that instructors are supposed to teach is "root lock" (mula bandha), which is basically a kegel, to prevent farting and other untoward releases. :-)

September 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLori

The women you serve are lucky to have you. The way you describe your role is just so beautiful. I hope when it is my turn to take that journey that I can find a guide who cares as much as you do. Thank-you for sharing.

September 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDanielle

Thank you! What a kind comment. :)

September 25, 2010 | Registered CommenterNavelgazing Midwife

As a kundalini yoga teacher, the title of this post intrigued me.
Yoga means union; union between yourself and your spirit. Therefore, yoga is an inherently personal experience that brings you in touch with who you really are.
You certainly don't have to go to a yoga class to achieve this.
It is beautiful that you find the connection between birth and yoga, because as a predominately prenatal yoga teacher, I find the same thing.
Birth can be such a beautiful expression of the true woman inside the mother (or vice-versa!), that I see yoga (not the kind of yoga you did) as an excellent preparation for birth.
It was wonderful to read your perspective. Thank you. ;-)

April 6, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAlissa

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