02 5 / 2012
guest written by Jessica James of www.solpoweryoga.com
As a yoga teacher I was considered successful. I taught privates exclusively, had celebrity clients and was booked months in advance, yet I secretly felt a little like a fraud. Almost like my success as a teacher came faster than my practice could support, because I hadn’t mastered the handstand. I felt that if I were to teach and accept people’s hard earned cash then I should be able to perform the tricks as well, and worried that I couldn’t be taken seriously if I didn’t have the handstand mastered. While the rush of balancing upside down on my hands for 10 seconds led me into a deeper state of at oneness that we call “yoga bliss”, it was honestly ego driven. I was determined to be “worthy” to teach, so I sought out the best gravity defying teacher in town and my practice shifted from a moving meditation to inversion boot camp, complete with grunting, cursing and “atta girl” coaching. I was just starting to get it, or so I thought…
Jessica in handstand.
I found out I was pregnant and quickly shifted my practice by excluding most poses that twisted my mid section and ab work. I continued practicing inversions, but I had someone spotting me, and inherently lower expectations for myself and from my teachers. I was pregnant… of course pouncing like a cat from a pushup position into a handstand would be difficult. But I remained committed to my practice through my pregnancy like it was a lifeline. The support from my peers and colleagues was overwhelming. No one was judging me or measuring my abilities as a yogi and teacher. My pregnancy was, appropriately, my focus.
Jessica in Astavakrasana, or Eight-Angle Pose. Inspiring and impressive, right?
After my delivery I was strictly instructed by my doula not to exercise for six weeks. She warned me that if I went back to soon I could undo my healing making it harder for my body to bounce back. I felt stuck. What? No Yoga at all? I had a whole new way of being in the world, new responsibilities, a lot of pent up energy and I was told that my practice was suddenly off limits? The one thing that kept me sane, the one thing that I ran to for comfort in times of big change was just beyond my grasp.
I heeded my doula’s advice and counted down the days until that “yoga bliss” could be all mine again! I waited…
Three days before my six weeks was up, my boyfriend’s instructor knocked on the door for his private lesson. I greeted and escorted him to the yoga space downstairs. My boyfriend and new daughter, Ava, were still sound asleep. I woke my boyfriend telling him it was time for his yoga when he surprised me: He offered to watch Ava while I took his session. I knew he just wanted to sleep longer and thought watching Ava meant sleeping next to her, but I jumped at the opportunity, and played it off accepting his generosity. I changed and headed downstairs secretly hoping Ava would wake and my boyfriend would experience some of what I had been doing for the past six weeks.
The instructor was my pre-pregnancy gravity defying inversion coach. He seemed genuinely happy to see me; we did the regular new-mommy small talk, then got to work. He didn’t mess around. No more than five minutes in, I started daydreaming about changing a diaper. I thought, “Holy hell, what have I gotten myself into? I am hating this!” I can’t blame my instructor, he’s a guy, and was used to my pre-baby attitude of “if I don’t get this I am no good”. He had me in a standing splits and was picking on the alignment of my hips! He wanted them square, but I practically had a new set of hips on me! I tried. I gritted my teeth through mustering up everything I had, to hating my teacher, wanting to punch him, and then eventually just collapsed to the floor in a puddle of tears.
I apologized and blamed my crazy post-baby hormones. He felt badly and backed way off. We finished the session and I ran upstairs quickly resuming my position as “mommy”. Ava had done her part and tormented her daddy, who was equally relived that our roles had fallen back into place.
The following day my back was a mess. I tried to delicately place Ava in her car seat while pain shot up my back. I sat on my yoga ball with my new daughter and cried again in mourning of my yoga practice. My body was ready for activity but apparently not that kind. I began to quietly skip out of my boyfriend’s private classes, and started to practice by myself again. I tuned in, listened to what I needed that day and began to let the practice lead me.
While taking myself through my own sequences I was reminded of why my clients liked my brand of yoga in the first place. Yoga was the one thing that they could do for themselves, at which they didn’t have to compete or even be very good. They just had to show up on the mat and breathe.
As my yoga journey spiraled inward, I reemerged with a different sense of self. I was a mother now; I had to take care of myself so that I could care for my daughter. Instead of following my ego I began to follow my bliss. My practice is not “back”, I still haven’t mastered handstand, but no one cares. Truth is the only person who ever cared about my handstand was me.
Every single one of my clients was anxious for me to return to teaching, and when I did I came with a much deeper understanding of the practice. I discovered that the quality of my teaching and my mothering is in direct proportion to my dedication and cultivation of self-love. I got my ego out of the way and allowed my practice to finally become an expression of love and devotion. I found that center and sense of self that I thought mastering handstand would give me, but I found it within myself, not within a pose. In a way, my practice was reborn and with it, so was I.
Jessica James has been practicing yoga seriously for 8 years, and for the last 4 years she has taught movie stars, pop stars and all sorts of fancy people that pay her to keep them looking “Hollywood ready.” As a teacher, she has developed yoga sets that sculpt the body and clear the mind. Yoga has brought a whole new dimension to her life, and she loves both her practice and her clients. She is currently developing and shooting a Prenatal Vinyasa Flow program (DVD) due out this Summer. For more on Jessica, visit her website: www.solpoweryoga.com.