First Trimester Practice: Adjusting to Change

"I feel different. It seems like there's something going on down there in my low belly, like fireworks or something." 

It was an early Saturday morning, the 1st of July and I was settling in to make a new pot of chai for the weekend.  My husband was sitting in the kitchen, sipping his cup of coffee, and reading the news. I had been back from Switzerland for a week and was enjoying being home for another week, prior to embarking on another trip that would separate again that summer.  

"Hmmm? What do you mean by fireworks?" he asked. 

"Like some crazy, little sparks, you know... like something is happening... DOWN THERE." I replied.

"Really? Do you really think you feel something?"

"Yes, definitely. Like there's these little explosions or a party going on in my low belly. " I paused "I might be pregnant." I mused.  "Well, it DEFINITELY FEELS like there's something happening. Like a symphony of parts moving together. I can't really describe it in words."  

"Mmmm? Really?" asked my husband, a little bit distractedly, " Could you really feel if you're conceiving or not?" 

I sighed and then shrugged. "It's probably nothing, maybe just my imagination." I replied. 

Fast forward 3 weeks, and we were reunited again, well into our family vacation with the kids at a remote property south of El Nido in Palawan. 

"Mama, let's go diving, come and explore with us." said my girls. 

"No, go ahead, I'm feeling sick." 

"But the water is gorgeous! Come play with us." 

"No, really go on ahead. I think I need a rest, I feel very tired." I replied.  Gosh I thought, this is what it must feel like to be getting old. 

Needless to stay, I only started feeling worse.  I thought maybe it was the food.  Given that I eat very limited to no seafood, and primarily vegetarian on a regular basis, I rationalized that I was not accustomed to eating so much fish.  I was sorely missing my usual diet of fruits and veggies at home so the first day of morning sickness, I brushed the thoughts of pregnancy aside.

But, no, there were other tell tale signs that I could not ignore.  First off, I had a very vivid dream the night prior.  In my dream one of my friend's daughter who doesn't usually interact with me when I visit her, was insisting that I play and spend time with her.  In my dream, every time I kept handing her over to her mom she found a way to convince me to hang out a little longer. Needless to say, it was both a very vivid and random dream.   

On the second day, feeling a tingling in my chest and another onslaught of morning sickness, I blurted out, "I think I'm pregnant." 

"Well... I didn't want to say anything, but I did notice that you're developing a bit of a pooch" retorted my husband, to which he had to quickly duck to avoid what ever projectile object I had in my hand. 

I was very tired the remainder of the trip but tried my best to keep going on and enjoy this special time with my family, despite the fatigue, the daily round of nausea and inability to eat anything besides very simple foods like a slice of toast or fruit.

My daughters thought this was hilarious, snapping this photo of me passed out on the deck.

My daughters thought this was hilarious, snapping this photo of me passed out on the deck.

It wasn't until we came back from this trip to the Philippines that I decided to confirm my suspicions. Sure enough, there it was staring me in the face.  PREGNANT. 

So many emotions, a huge roller coaster of highs and lows.  It is interesting that even when one 'plans' on pregnancy how surprising the news can still be.  I wish I could say that I was purely ecstatic and excited, but that would not be true.  Since my older children were 13 and 15 at the time we confirmed I was pregnant, I remember thinking "am I crazy to think about doing this all over again?"  Doubt and fear were bedmates with happiness and joy.  

Up to this point in time I was still following my routine of daily practice, oil baths and doing my best to maintain my commitment to a sattvic diet.  One thing that really made me sick was the smell and even appearance of animal based foods.  I craved fruit and veggies, specifically veggies prepared in curries and spicy foods.  The food cravings I experienced in the first trimester were nothing at all like the foods I craved with my previous pregnancies. Thankfully, I did not develop a sudden craving for meat, which I did even when I was eating vegetarian with my first child.  

After returning to the US I emailed my teacher to let her know the news as she was in India at the time. I was eager to ease back into my normal routine and was looking forward to practicing at the shala after weeks of traveling.  

I sent my teacher specific practice related questions about additional modifications beyond those recommended in Yoga Sadhana for Mothers, however all this research and reading did not prepare me for her reply.  I recall having a very difficult time accepting her advice and the disappointment I felt.   "The Jois family recommends no practice, AT ALL in the first trimester."

I had just done my practice that morning before I received her email, and felt so good afterwards that it seemed so inapplicable to me.  Also, for some reason I felt stronger in jumping through and jumping back in between seated postures, which apparently can happen when one is in the first trimester of pregnancy. So, this for me was a difficult pill to swallow. 

Despite my initial response to her message, I fully gave in to her advice.  I didn't practice for several days, and my mood took a sour turn.  Not only was the morning sickness still intense, but dizziness and overwhelming fatigue hit me in waves.  I was miserable and missing the physical practice and all the lovely hormones released after breathing and moving on the mat.  

I very quickly realized that despite all my pontificating on studying the other limbs of Ashtanga yoga, that much of my personal practice was still mired deeply in the third limb. 

About a week after I stopped doing my regular asana practice, I rolled out my mat.  Desperate to move, I tried one sun salute, but after about three rounds I felt so dizzy and sick that all I could do was just lie there.

I began to realize the seed of an idea at this time. The universe was providing me a response to my intention to delve into the full spectrum study of yoga in the context of tradition, with this amazing blessing of life. This became more apparent later on as the months rolled by. 

I did take rest from practice the remaining weeks of the first trimester.  I began to cultivate a daily meditation and pranayama practice. Sometimes, I would just roll out my mat and sit or lie in postures to ease some of the aches related to the changes that my body was going through.

This adjustment to change was only the beginning of this nine month journey.  Ironically enough, about a week before I was hit with that first round of morning sickness, I received an approval to my application to study with Sharath at KPJAYI in October.  Based on my doctor's estimate, I would be around 4.5 - 5 months at the time I would be scheduled to travel. Luckily enough, these four weeks were weeks that I COULD travel, meaning that I was clear of the "no fly zone" based on various time sensitive tests that were recommended in the weeks preceding and weeks after my return.

As I came close to the end of my first trimester, I had to face the question of whether or not to make the journey to Mysore for a month. Faced with advice from many different directions and sources, it was a decision that I considered and weighed for weeks. 

In the end I did make the decision to go - the considerations, plans and my journey there to which I'll be writing about in my next post.  

I am writing this within just a couple weeks left before the oncoming birth of our baby an there is one word that comes to mind every day. Gratitude.  Immense gratitude for this gift of life, the mystery of conception and growing another being that has been with me through these past 9 months.  This being that has travelled to Asia and back twice.  This being who has experienced the peaks and valleys with me on this spiritual journey.  For that is really what yoga is. Yes, the physical postures helps ease stress, anxiety, back pain and may make your body more toned, but overall, this practice is first and foremost a spiritual practice. 

I am grateful for the physical limitations that pregnancy has brought to the asana practice, for without it, I would have continued to make this my primary focus. Pregnancy took me out of the obsession over asana and provided the space to study yoga beyond the physical form.  

I am thankful for the extra time to read and reflect on classical yoga texts, to listen to interviews with master teachers, and to renew my dedication to a daily meditation practice.  As my body and energy begins to slow down and becomes more grounded in preparation for birth, I am directly experiencing what it means to surrender to the divine - Ishvara pranidhana. I give all my prana to this higher force that brings another spirit into being.  

Thank you little spirit for this gift, Mom & Dad are looking forward to meeting you soon.