I completed my 200-hour teaching certification just over two years ago this past January. As in most general 200 Registered Yoga Teacher trainings, we spent a very brief section of our time learning how to teach to pregnant women. Perhaps because I am not a mother, and have never been pregnant, I didn’t retain much of the information that I learned during that module of training.
So, when I was inevitably faced with pregnant mamas in my general Hatha Flow classes I was terrified, honestly. Not OF the mamas themselves, of course – they are all radiant beings of strength and courage to me – but of teaching yoga to them. It’s scary enough to lead a room of 30 yogis up and down and on to their heads without anyone getting hurt. Adding in the women who need to take special care of themselves and their bodies during their sacred time of pregnancy comes with it’s own set of rules and regulations.
I am absolutely in awe and amazement at the power of the female body to grow a whole other soul inside of it – I mean whoa, right?? It is because of this that I decided it was time to take matters in to my own hands. So, I called upon the best person that I knew for the job – my friend and fellow Austin yoga teacher, Liz V. Liz is not only a mother herself, but also teaches some amazing prenatal and restorative yoga classes at SAY OM Yoga in Austin, TX. I knew I would be in good hands.
But besides going over the basic logistics, do’s and don’ts and sequencing strategies of teaching to the pregnant woman, she lent me a book called Bountiful, Beautiful, Blissful by LA teacher Gurmukh, to help me better understand where my pregnant mama yogis were coming from when they entered my general, all levels Hatha Flow class. Reading this book gave me a lot of insight into what the pregnancy and birthing experience can be like. But even more, it gave me so much insight about Yoga and the empowerment that it can bring to us, no matter who we are or where we are on our path.
1. Love is Power
Gurmukh begins her book with the Law of Love from Yogi Bhajan, Master of Kundalini Yoga:
Love gives you power to merge,
from finite to infinity.
Love gives you power to trust,
from nothing to everything.
Love gives you power, the powerful prayer
between you and your creator.
Love gives you vastness,
As vast as there can be.
Love gives you the hold, the experience,
and the touch with your own infinity,
As beautiful, bountiful, and blissful
As there can be.
In our society we are often made to believe that love equals weakness. However, yoga has taught me that the opposite of love isn’t hate, but fear – fear of vulnerability, loss of control, and not getting what we think we want or need. But opening yourself up to love is more freeing and courageous than shutting out emotion for the sake of money and the possibility of power. Being honest with yourself and others is about as daring and powerful as it gets.
2. Yoga is self-acceptance
“Yoga is a practice of self-acceptance rather than an exercise program for self-improvement.” – Gurmukh
It stresses me out to see books about yoga in the self-improvement section at the bookstore. Yoga brings us to a state of receptivity where we can begin to learn about ourselves as we are connected to others and the Infinite. When we come to this understanding, this learning process will no doubt lead to lasting changes.
However, yoga doesn’t preach paying lots and lots of money to join an exclusive club where there are rules and regulations about everything from how we act to how we dress, despite what our current culture seems to make of it (but that’s a different story). When we come into unity with the Infinite, the same Light that resides in every living being and makes up the entire Universe, we no doubt begin to change the way we see the world around us and everyone in it, including ourselves. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali doesn’t just give us a list of do’s and don’ts, but rather the promise of what we have to look forward to when we realize the Unity and wholeness of our being.
3. Life is suffering
As beings of Light here on earth to live out the flawed experience of the human existence, there will no doubt be suffering. Some of us are all too familiar with this idea. But like the laboring mama ready to hold her newborn in her arms, Kahlil Gibran says “Work is love made visible.” Nothing worth having ever comes easily to us. Sometimes this work involves pain.
How we think about pain actually influences how we feel it. If you say to yourself, ‘This is horrible, I can’t stand it,’ there’s a good chance that whatever you’re going through is going to feel a whole lot worse than if you believed the feeling wasn’t so dire. If our previous conditioning is to associate pain with danger, then we are more susceptible to suggestions that our pain is dangerous and requires external relief in the form of drugs…
How our culture at large views pain also influences our perception of it. If we get messages that all pain is to be avoided, well guess what? These cultural attitudes are translated into personal fears, doubts, and our ability to manage pain – manage our lives, for that matter. Our pharmaceutical companies are built around this idea.”
Just like in love, it can be difficult to open ourselves up to the possibility of pain and disappointment – but at what cost? Are you willing to numb everything to not feel pain? Do you know what else you’re missing out on? Life is suffering, according to the Buddha, but on the other side of that work and pain and suffering is great joy, excitement and surprise. Don’t let the suffering get you down. Be empowered by your own strength and ability to rise above all odds into the place of pure Light, joy, and gratitude.
Editor’s note: This is a guest post from DCOY contributor Sean Devenport. She is currently completing her 500-hour RYT.
A quiet and curious observer by nature, Sean was drawn to human psychology as an undergraduate at Ripon College. Determined to learn just what it is that makes people “tick”, she travelled the globe studying some of the ways we, as humans, can be – spending a semester on the golden beaches of Australia, and another in the Blue Mountains of Jamaica, Sean returned home to discover the key ingredient to understanding others was first to understand the Self. Since 2009, Sean has been a dedicated practitioner of yoga and life, dabbling in every style from Bikram to Kripalu. As a former dancer and dance enthusiast to this day, the fluidity and dance-like quality of Vinyasa was what really spoke to her soul. After studying under Gioconda Parker in 2011, Sean began teaching her own personal style of Hatha Flow, a melding of Vinyasa, the dedication to precision and alignment of Anusara, and Iyengar, and the core teachings of Hatha Yoga. Sean was highly influenced by William J Broad’s 2011 best seller The Science of Yoga, and strives to offer a safe and judgement-free environment for practitioners of every level to seek higher understanding of themSelves. Sean encourages students to pour the compassion and love that they cultivate for themselves on their mats, in to their every day interactions with others. Under the guidance of Gioconda and Christina Sell, Sean is currently pursuing her 500-hour teaching certification, The Alchemy of Flow and Form, at the San Marcos School of Yoga. Connect with Sean on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.