Post-miscarriage: returning to practicing yoga for one.
By Roselyn Tantraphol.
The raw days that followed my miscarriage felt like watching a time-lapsed recording of months of pregnancy preparations – except the universe chose, cruelly, to play it in reverse.
Folic acid supplements pushed into a drawer. Calendar appointments for visits to the doctor’s office disappearing from my iPhone. Library books on natural childbirth in a hospital setting cascading like a paper waterfall into the car trunk.
Going back to eating for one was the starkest reminder that there was no longer a pea in the pod. Vitamin A, calcium, 72-plus grams of protein…eh, whatever. I no longer had to be so careful about balancing out each day’s meals.
Perhaps the most heartbreaking of the post-miscarriage rituals was the return to practicing yoga without modifying poses to accommodate pregnancy.
I practice a style of yoga called Mysore-style ashtanga yoga. Perhaps you’ve heard about it because celebrities practice it. Perhaps you’ve seen people doing it — connecting breaths to movements and sweating through rhythmic transitions. If you’ve tried it, you understand the practice’s unique way of teaching us to let go.
I adhere to the traditional version of ashtanga yoga — which originated in Mysore, India, and is now practiced all over the world – that is done in a silent room with students going at their own pace. I practice early in the morning, sometimes getting up as early as 3:20 a.m. to do so, since my teacher’s studio is located an hour away. I practice six days a week, no exceptions. (Ashtanga practitioners only take one day of rest a week, but also refrain each month from practice on the new moons and the full moon, to honor nature’s cycle.)
The focus, clarity and daily life rhythm created by this practice gets you deeply in touch with your body, mind and spirit. After first finding out I was pregnant, I cautiously played with the poses to see where my edge should be and sometimes imagined my edge a few months from then. In the standing forward fold of padangusthasana (big-toe pose), I pictured my belly being so big some day that I would not be able to drape my torso over my thighs.
Turns out I would miscarry before my belly even gave away the slightest hint of pregnancy.
This practice teaches surrender because it asks us to be on the mat so consistently, to practice through all of life’s inspirations and challenges. In love? Broken-hearted? Stressed at work? On your dream vacation? You come as you are to your yoga mat, and you practice.
Poses are sequential and get progressively more challenging, and, much like a martial art, you don’t move on to the next one until your teacher feels you are ready. From so many angles, and on a daily basis, you are reminded that you don’t necessarily get your wish, whether that desire is for an easy practice that day, to hear your teacher say “next pose” – or to experience what it feels like to practice with a baby bump.
Driving in the pre-dawn dark, I used to talk to my growing baby, explaining where we were going and how this practice has changed me – how it has taken the anxiety, regret and doubt I held about various aspects of my life and transformed the emotional froth into a grounded sense of radical acceptance and even joy.
It was on the mat — with the sound of my breathing and the collective sound of everyone else’s breath in that Mysore room — that I started feeling so connected to this miracle of life inside my uterus. I had practiced day after day in this room’s stew of body heat, perspiration, and hypnotic breath-based beats, bonding with, essentially, a stranger that I already poured out unconditional love for. It didn’t feel early to me.
The morning after the ultrasound displayed a flat bar across the screen because there was no heartbeat to register, my practice was reserved, even though I returned to jumping back in transitions and going deeply into twisted poses like pasasana (noose pose). The next day, I flew – my body and my breath moving together like gears, my internal heat cranked high, my concentration solid. I even got a new pose that day.
The third day out was hard. After taking shalabhasana (locust pose, a backbend done on the belly), I turned my head to one side and simply laid there. Surrendering isn’t a binary experience to turn on or off – it’s a process that the mat offers a safe space to explore. I knew tomorrow would be a new practice — for one trying to let go.
Roselyn Tantraphol is a former journalist now based in Michigan and working in the communications field. She practices ashtanga yoga, teaches yoga and writes the YogaRose.net blog, which is ultimately about passion and the search for balance and inspiration–whether it’s found on the mat, at a Detroit Tigers game or in a Radiohead track. You can connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or LinkedIn.