• Diana Shadel

Pregnant in a Pandemic – That’s My Yoga

Written By Diana Shadel - a teacher at Spira Power Yoga

When I was in Spira’s 200-Hour Teacher Training in 2017-2018, I took part in the tradition of 40-Days. What that meant is that for 40 Days in January, we focused on creating productive habits, lasting gratitude, and finding meaning in life. As a student of the Teacher Training Program, we were also required to do yoga every day. I remember asking Dora “What if your body needs a break?”

She answered “Then you come to class and lay in shavasana the whole time, it will be the hardest class you’ve ever done! That’s your yoga.”

It became a mantra in my life whenever I was moving through a hard time: “That’s my yoga”. What it meant to me is that whatever the situation was, it was there purposefully. The timing and conditions were what I needed at that moment to learn a lesson, grow, and develop into a better human.

Diana with baby and her gently guarding puppy.

In 2020, on the day that we saw the first Covid death in Seattle, I had my positive pregnancy test. It heightened that fear state we were all experiencing. What does this mean for me? My family, job, and community? For my pregnancy? For my baby?

I won’t get into how this pandemic continues to devastate our world, because we all know that already. What I can talk about is how being pregnant during this pandemic has allowed me to find a new side to yoga.

Yoga was the omnipresent guidepost that kept me grounded, but not in the ways I expected. When I first became pregnant, I envisioned myself as the quintessential Zen Yoga Mama, but that was quickly unrealistic. I didn’t always have a daily physical practice. There were entire months yoga did not feel good in my body. I was already stretching to the max to accommodate my growing baby, and even a cat/cow felt too intense. During those times I relied on walking and strength training to feel present in my body and breath. There were blissful months when I found my way back to my yoga mat and even recorded a Prenatal Flow for Spira’s On-Demand site.

When I was days from my due date, I once again hoped to feel like that Zen Yoga Mama, breathing and smiling my way into labor. But of course, I was closer to a crazed lunatic, hair on fire, naked, screaming from the rooftops “I am terrified!”

Something became so true to me while pregnant; the realization that the physical practice of yoga is just making space for you to feel what’s really going on under the surface. Sometimes yoga is walking, sometimes yoga is brushing your teeth, and sometimes yoga is screaming from the rooftop that you are terrified. It’s whenever you can quiet the noise of your body and mind enough to feel how you really are. The asanas, or physical postures of yoga, do a great job of that. But if there are times in life when the asanas aren’t serving you, there are a host of other ways to connect to your “yoga”. I cherish my time as a student of Spira’s Teacher Training program because it taught me so much more than just the physical. It helped shape a mindfulness practice that gets me through the tough times.

2020 was a hell of a year for all of us. I think that we are all ready to see 2021 begin and to leave many things behind. I am lucky enough to have something I cherish from 2020: my son Harrison. He was born during the pandemic, on November 1, 2020. My labor experience included Covid tests, masks, and no visitors allowed; but in the end, none of that mattered when my husband and I met the sweet boy that I had felt so connected to, yet never before had laid eyes on. The lovesickness was accompanied by the realization that my heart was now on the outside of my body, vulnerable to this extra-scary world. Once we were home and quarantined with him, 15-minute yoga breaks became an escape to process, which allowed me to experience the joy of my son wholeheartedly.

Besides the mental break and the help it granted me to acknowledge the current state of things, I once again found a new side to yoga: the return to my body postnatal. I found myself feeling defeated at times, attempting a flow familiar to my mind that my body could no longer support. The strength of my core that I had always taken for granted was no longer there, and it felt like I needed to rebuild from the ground up. But the yoga of that moment was patience. Each week I was surprised to find myself able to do another movement or tap more deeply into my bundas. I’ve always loved the way you can see progress in yoga so clearly. The moment you can first hold a half-moon, touch your toes or feel ease in a pose that was nothing but effort previously.

Yoga morphs into being what you need it to be. While I was pregnant it was the mindful practice or slow flows, and now postnatally I am enjoying adding weights with MYP to rebuild strength. It meets you where you are, with whatever burdens your shoulders are currently carrying and helps you connect to the space within yourself that has the strength to persevere.