Slow and Steady Practice – Lessons from Pregnancy #1

I am now 28 weeks pregnant, which means I have had a baby in my belly for 7 months. Wow. For those of you who have never been pregnant, that must sound amazing, unbelievable, weird, scary, as it does for me. I am constantly intrigued, excited, impressed, confused, and wowed by the fact that my body, and the bodies of all female mammals and some other species too, can (in theory) sustain life.

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I highly recommend watching at least some of the live video of a giraffe in a New York zoo giving birth (it’s over 3 hours long) to appreciate the wonder of birth.

And yet, being pregnant is one of the most common, normal, natural phenomena in our world. Women who have been pregnant, especially a few times, may even deride my wide-eyed appreciation for my pregnant body. Most females do it. Almost all of us can, so really, there is nothing special about me.

It’s like Shunryu Suzuki writes about practicing Zazen meditation to obtain clarity and eventually enlightenment or direct expression of our true nature.

“If you continue this simple practice every day, you will obtain some wonderful power. Before you attain it, it is something wonderful,                                                                          but after you attain it, it is nothing special.”

                       — Shunryu Suzuki, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind

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In the same way, being pregnant is like a daily practice to attain the ultimate goal of birthing a child. Honestly, I have felt frustration with the monotony of waking up pregnant day after day, to the same feeling of being heavy and unable to tie my shoes. However, I know this daily practice, that I have undertaken with some kind of will of my own, will produce incredible results. Just like the slow and steady practice of anything from piano to pokemon games – when you keep at something, you will progress towards achievement of your goal.

For someone like myself who has always had trouble with following routines – I prefer to trust my intuition and go with my feeling at the moment – and has a track record of giving up on instruments like piano and trumpet before I had practiced enough to enjoy playing them, the idea of sticking to daily practice that is by definition monotonous seems a bit, well, tedious and unattractive. I was listening to Tim Urban, of waitbutwhy.com on the TED Radio Hour yesterday as he talked about why procrastinators procrastinate – because we have this instant gratification monkey living in our brains who sabotage any rational yet boring plan. I could relate, and was happy to see that their was some good that comes out of procrastination. However, pregnancy is teaching me that much good comes with slow, steady practice.

The past 2 months, I have made an effort to sit and meditate for at least 10 minutes each day, and record my experience, time, and epiphanies on my iPhone. Honestly, 10 minutes is not a lot, nor does it sound like a lot, but when you consistently practice anything for a period of time, the impact of your effort accumulates. So now, after nearly 2 months of meditating regularly, I have meditated for over 10 hours! According to the some studies, it typically takes 66 days to form a new automatic habit, so I am almost there!

On the yoga mat, slow and steady practice is the only way to progress in yoga asana. Many poses require strength and flexibility, which can only develop over time. Some people may be naturally flexible but not strong, or vice versa. To develop the physical and mental stamina needed to do advanced poses like Visvamitrasana, you need to practice. No adult was born able to do them (though some kids might be able to!).

This week in class, we will delve into a slow flow to approach these two challenging postures, Visvamitrasana and Compass Pose, with a calm mind and an aware body. Using a sequence inspired by the great yoga teacher Jason Crandell and my own Slow Flow soundtrack (below), we’ll prepare our bodies and minds for this intense practice.

In this fun comparison of pre-pregnancy pose and pregnancy pose, you can see how time and consistent practice (of being pregnant) has changed my body.

Looking forward to seeing you on the mat soon! Check my class schedule and join when you can!

 

 

 

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