The leaves are turning, so suddenly, red leaves flowing over the neighbor’s fence and the yellowing of grape leaves in our own backyard. The air is redolent with the smell of roasting chiles, that perfectly New Mexican sensory experience that I’ve carried in my nostrils to the shores of the east coast and back again. Any day now, I hope to be picking apples and stewing them down to sauce.
Last night, yoga class was jammed like so many beach blankets. Often, my wandering mind will drift to New York when I am in a Friday evening yoga class. In my Brooklyn Teacher phase, that was where I landed after a week of work and striving, to begin a weekend of camaraderie and rejuvenation. Filing out from this recent one, I was transported to a crowded yoga studio in Manhattan, where people are accustomed to dodging others’ bodies with some combination of instinct and peripheral vision, hopefully a tad more mindfully post-yoga.
Hey now, hey world, this is what my post partum body looks like. It is work for me not to envy mothers whose bodies have retained waistlines and slim profiles. My Mad Men obsession and Betty Draper are not helping, either. In my yoga practice, I am accessing deep core belly with great intention alongside of promptings to relax the pelvic floor in strong poses. I am noticing that I can have a strong and capable core and continue to have loose skin on the top. I am able to do more with my body the more effort I make. This is the body imaging work that I am joyful about conducting.
It’s possible, I may have found my core on my own, without having born children, but as it stands, busting wide open with the weight of the world was my path; a direct link to knowing and engaging those muscles, drawing them back to my midline, supporting the weight of baby, toddler, stew pot. The world as it is each day, always needs a bit more holding, tending, stewarding and I have shown up in this noble lineage of foremothers.
So, the work: enlivening through the deep primal core belly rather than doctoring the outer, social belly. Practicing forgiveness and laughter, when one’s gaze wanders down my lines and a mouth opens to wonder if I am expecting. I am learning, slowly, to dress myself in a way that de-emphasizes my pooch and to stand up tall, of course. It is really too much for me to ask of myself to say no to things that taste good and rich for more than a little while. Sometimes, I fondly hold my belly and call it my beer and ice cream baby. When my husband has been away for a spell, he approaches me with his love and his hand always lands upon my center.
Last night, before the hallway traffic jam, we rested in Svasana, or corpse pose, the final piece of an asana sequence. My head touched the floor and the thoughts spread out-“here we go, mind wandering time!” Rarely, do I put such a quick, firm brake to that. I had time to unwind, a real gift. The contours of my life and body are so hemmed in by others needs and hands these days, I recognized that I was safe from being stepped on, drooled upon, requested, needed, desired by anyone or anything for those precious moments on my mat. I guided myself to release one area of knotted energy at a time: new gifts like cues to allow each vertebrae to relax and spread all the way up my spinal column, the hemispheres of the brain letting go of one another and old favorites, allowing the gums to release their grip on the teeth, eyes softening in their sockets, follicles relaxing their grip of hair. Having worked my way up body from my toes, I let the crown of my head release for a few beats and then moved into the organs as time continued to unfold. To touch internally, these spaces, my ovaries, my heart, my liver-like so many old friends that I regularly neglect to notice.
The social female body, it truly is one part of my puzzle. I thought this form was my own, but the shape of culture infects my perceptions. There are pulses of critique that are not my own, but live in me nonetheless. Self-awareness, being a wife and a mother has shown me that my physical being provides many gifts to those I love. My body becomes my own, again, on my mat, on my bike, on a mountain trail, in water and too, when I loosen the thoughts to appreciate this moment. When I can carry and dance and laugh all at once. As a fifth grader from Bedford-Stuyvesant once told me, “Don’t hate, appreciate!”. Indeed.