Om Girl

6.25.07: A bait-and-switch class reminds me why I love yoga


Two days ago I made special arrangements with my husband so that I would be able to attend an evening Yin Yoga class. Yin Yoga, in case you're not familiar with it, is a gentle, meditative form of practice that emphasizes holding postures for extended periods of time, allowing the body time and space to open, allowing the mind time and space to move into the present moment. Just what I needed to undo a day's worth of dealing with a screeching toddler.

Or not. When I got there, unrolled my mat, and settled in for a nice, relaxing 90-minute practice, an announcement was made: The regular teacher was on vacation. The substitute was unfamiliar with Yin Yoga. This would instead be an Ashtanga Vinyasa class.

Now, I don't know how much you know about yoga, but Ashtanga Vinyasa is just about as far from Yin Yoga as you can get. Lots of jumping back, standing poses, headstanding, shoulderstanding, arm balancing, back bending, and other super-challenging, sweat-soaking, power-yoga stuff. Plus about a gazillion renditions of Chaturanga Dandasana (, a.k.a. Four-Limbed Staff Pose, a.k.a. push-up position, a.k.a. ouch.

What to do? I briefly considered huffing off...but no. This was a rare opportunity to actually take a class. I was already here! So why not stay? Plus, this was a form of yoga I was very familiar with.

Once upon a time, I did a Vinyasa-based yoga practice nearly every day. I started practicing in the mid-90s, and explored many different styles, found a swami to study with, and even became the editor of a national yoga magazine for a while (read a very old story about that part of my life here Like everybody else who finds yoga and sticks with it over time, I reaped the benefits: I was fitter, calmer, saner, thinner, and--you can verify this with my husband--nicer.

But when I was pregnant, I let the physical aspects of my practice slide. I took a few prenatal yoga classes in the first trimester, but by the time my belly really started popping out I was so freaked out by the changes in my body I decided to hop off the mat for a while. I continued to meditate, but I skipped the asana--my advanced maternal age made mine a high-risk pregnancy, and that, too, freaked me out. I figured it would be safer to just walk.

Post-baby, it's been a challenge finding the time to practice regularly AND keep up the cardio AND strength work I need to do to keep burning off the mommy fat. But I try to snatch time here and there. I'm slowly but surely getting my form back. I made it through that Vinyasa class--I did just great, in fact. I muscled my way into advanced poses I hadn't done in a couple of years. I left feeling invigorated and proud of myself--and completely clear on why I loved yoga so much in the first place.

Today, though, I feel mostly sore (my delts are so tender, it hurts to type). I can see that I should have kept up a physical practice throughout my pregnancy--prenatal yoga would have made recovery from my C-section so much easier.

But that's all in the past. I'll try to remember that all I have is this moment, this breath, this opportunity to bend a little--even when I don't get the yoga class I really want. It's all good. Isn't flexibility what motherhood is all about?

Hillari Dowdle is a freelance writer based in Knoxville, Tennessee. Right now, she weighs 146.8 and vows to stay away from the Oreos in the freezer.