I’m sitting in a kind stranger’s room in Austin, Texas, in the early morning, on a day where I will focus much – though not all – of my efforts on getting ready for the workshop I will teach for the next five days. And so it occurs to me that I should ask myself why I do this: why have I traveled 1500 miles to facilitate a training about pregnancy, birth, and early parenting and how yoga impacts these most basic human processes.
There is of course the fact that I love to travel – especially to cool destinations like Austin where I get to eat at Tacodeli. That’s not lost on me. But there’s something deeper here.
Something that’s beneath the several hours we will spend tomorrow delving into the anatomy and physiology of pregnancy (which I also love).
Something that’s beneath the yoga techniques we will practice in the days that follow based on that anatomy and physiology.
Something that’s beneath the psychosocial aspects of pregnancy and birth that we will explore.
That’s beneath the process of engaging a group of folks in learning about a subject they’ve expressed interest in – cause the teacher trainees would not have signed up if they weren’t interested. And for a teacher, there’s nothing much more fun than working with other teachers, because we’re all invested in figuring out how to translate what we’re learning into something of value for others.
I think that deeper something is love.
It’s about coming to a greater understanding of a process that affects all of us. Of how the ways we approach birth in our culture impact us individually and collectively. About shining a light on our belief systems about this fundamental part of human life. (Birth, death, and what goes on in between – it doesn’t get any more basic than this.)
What yoga does for me is slow my spinning mind down long enough so that I can actually see – no actually FEEL – how I feel about things. And when you’re talking about birth, which is a major life passage in women’s lives because women are the ones that doing the work, and a major life passage for the rest of us because we’re the ones doing the arriving – I think it’s a good thing to take the time to examine what it means to you. In eight years of teaching these workshops, I’ve never had anyone say “Gosh, that was trivial. I wish we’d spent less time on that.”
Yoga fosters a natural progression toward mindful awareness, which is a place I like to hang out when I am able. And mindful awareness facilitates a progression toward open-heartedness, which in turns leads to love. That’s why I think yoga is such a profound practice for pregnancy – because it brings light to the dark places – the unexamined places in the mind and body that can trip you up when you least expect it.
Cultivating awareness of body, breath, and feelings at a time when all of these are shifting is like providing an anchor in a storm. When are able to drop the surface story and really begin to feel – and honor – the depth of what is actually happening, life becomes so much more workable than when we are tackling our projections – which like stories on the big screen, are larger than life and more distant.
Cultivating awareness of body and breath usually leads to a sense of spaciousness, which is good for tense muscles, anxious minds, tender hearts, and for people who are preparing to make room in their lives for another human being. When we consciously cultivate that spaciousness around our own personal hard spots – be they the pangs of birth, or the challenges of parenting a fussy baby or defiant child, or the most difficult job of all, parenting ourselves – we give ourselves room to move, play, bend, adapt, grow. To become more forgiving, and loving, and kind.
That’s what’s beneath all the technical information we’ll be exploring the next few days in this teacher training. We’ll be exploring love.
I’m going in.
The water’s fine.