I love my mama body. It’s beautiful. I am in total awe of its capability to create, carry & birth a child. And a vehicle to be able to move in ways that nourish my soul.
But it hasn’t always been like this. Quite the opposite in fact.
There was a time I hated my body
It might surprise you that I used to be a triathlete. I’d train 6 days a week and move my body in ways that would make me stronger, leaner and faster come race day. When I stopped competing I put on 15kgs in less than a year. I’d gone from training up to 30 hrs a week to working full time, eating take out and almost nil exercise or movement. And for the first time in my life I was body conscious and ready for change.
But I took the wrong approach. And by wrong I mean uneducated. Unlike today, where there is a plethora of info about clean eating and healthy living, back then no carb ‘diets’ were the lifestyles of choice so naturally I did this. I ditched the carbs and started working out in the gym morning and night. The weight started to shift and the more I lost, the more motivated I became to lose more. By the time I’d dropped 10 kgs I was addicted.
I’d hit the gym at 5am before work and then head to work with a small bowel of cereal in my belly. For lunch I’d eat a can of tuna and a piece of fruit and for dinner a bowl of soup. WTF! Despite people telling me I was getting too thin I loved the way I looked. I could fit into any clothes I wanted and loved the exercise high I’d get after a 5k run or weight session. I had a go hard or go home approach that filtered into all aspects of my life from exercise to my work in the PR & events industry.
As I reflect back on that time I was happy but I hated my body. I was addicted to the scales and would ride the emotional rollercoaster for the slightest shift in weight.
In 2007 I backpacked to Europe and tried to keep my diet the same as at home, especially when I knew I wouldn’t be able to exercise in the same capacity. Upon returning back to Australia I fell ill with a parasite from OS. Only I didn’t know it until months later. I’d have weeks where I’d suffer from random bouts of gastro. But rather than rest, I returned back to my training & eating routine. I was so disconnected to my body I had no idea the havoc I was contributing to.
After 6 months and dropping to a dangerously low weight I was admitted to the infectious disease ward and treated with some seriously strong drugs. In total it took 2 years to recover. During this very vulnerable time I discovered yoga. My saving grace.
I could barely walk around without feeling exhausted so my doctor suggested a gentle yoga class. It didn’t take long to connect to my body in a way I had never experienced before. I had no idea I was a chest breather either. The stress of my work and lifestyle had really taken its toll.
After practicing for a year or so I remember lying on my mat during relaxation and thinking to myself ‘this is exactly where I am supposed to be’. It was the first time EVER I had let go of the thinking mind and dropped into the feeling of the body.
It was from this moment I recognised the magic yoga could create if we allow it.
Yoga during pregnancy
Whilst I was pregnant I put all of my learnings & teachings into practice. I honoured my body and my unborn baby with nourishing food & movement. Even after being told at my 20 week scan that I had to give up the physical side of yoga (due to a high risk pregnancy condition) I never stopped breathing, meditating or connecting to my body in ways I had learnt through my yoga practice.
Post birth, like most first time mothers, I felt a huge disconnect to my body. I also felt the need, like many, to quickly return to my pre-baby yoga practice and exercise routine. Only, my body wasn’t the same. I loved reading Andy’s blog ‘Coming Back After Baby’ where she highlights the very confronting fact our bodies are NEVER going to completely return to what they were pre-baby. And she’s right.
Not only did I now not have the time to return to my previous style of practice, but my body didn’t want me to. Despite my mind telling me I needed to shift the baby weight with strong vinyasa and strength building classes, my body was telling me the opposite. It would whisper slow down, practice yin, shift into a restorative practice for a while and give me time to heal.
Eventually I listened and slowly the connection returned.
Embracing the new
So even if we can shift the baby weight our body is never the same and because of that we need to reframe our thinking post birth. Accepting & embracing our needs as a mother.
I resonate less and less with this concept of pushing our bodies through extreme exercise. I prefer to nourish my body with movement that feels good & is 100% aligned with how I feel in that moment. For me it’s yoga. For you it could be running or swimming or something completely different. The form is irrelevant, the concept is the same.
Let’s ditch the ‘go hard or go home’ approach and instead embrace our mama bodies.
It carried & birthed a baby, we should honour it, not punish it.