I am “up regulated”. 9 weeks into motherhood, and I have leaned far enough into the outer reaches of my nervous system’s capacity. I know this because my skin has started to react, all my life my skin has been one of the first and most responsive exhibitors of my wellbeing. So I know the signs well. But it truly hit home when mum offered to take my little cherub for a short walk while I caught up on sleep, and try as I might, with all my yogi relaxation tools, I could not wind down into relaxation.
I am no stranger to this state. Like most Londoners I know how to burn the candle at both ends. It’s been one of the many bonus’s of having taught yoga for many years, I have had to live my yoga practice, and in doing so have had to step off that spinning wheel and find the pace that suits my body and mind. Naturally, a new baby on board disrupts the rhythm of just about everything.
Two things are at play here. The first is that as a new mother, in the myriad of advice and instructions from experts and medical professionals, I and my newborn have to find our own rhythm. What suits us, may not be what is most often recommended. And its useful to me now to remember that what is currently being recommended is often not what always has been or always will be. As in most fields, expert recommendations ebb and flow with trends and fads. Ultimately what I choose will have to rest with me for the rest of both our lives, and I would like to make choices I feel at ease with.
Which leads me to the second thing, which is how to create space for response, when I am inherently reactive. Now this I have been practising, for many years. And teaching. And here is the perfect example of the life situation arising that makes all the practice worthwhile. But for a little while, instead of being ahead of the curve, I have been reactive. Eating for survival (i.e. too much, too often, lots of sugar, and my body weight in dark chocolate). Also entertaining myself with short burst, immediately satisfying instincts (read gogging at crap TV, multitasking while on the loo and in the bath, taking my phone to bed and googling in the middle of the night). Please note, these things in themselves are no problem. If they are your choice, part of what you want in life, high in your list of priorities, important to you, or simply valuable in your eyes, I applaud your self knowledge and cheer you on your way. I am not inherently citing any one of these as ‘bad’. However for me personally, I know from my own explorations of what I love in life, that ultimately all these actions combined and overdone, do not make me feel good. I cherish the feelings I get when I am making other choices than these. So for me, when high sugar, carb and fat become breakfast, lunch and dinner, and when the quick relief entertainment takes over my mind something funny/unfun happens. I notice first of all that on waking in the middle of the night – which I have to often for my baby – I am worrying about whether the characters from Made In Chelsea are going to resolve their argument in time for their holiday. This pisses me off, instantly, why am I wasting brain power (20% of the glucose my body turns food into goes into fuelling my brain) thinking about people I don’t know. Next I notice that while feeding my little one, I am yearning for a quick social media fix. My day starts to spin into where and how can I put him down and keep him entertained so that I can look at Facebook. Oh dear. This is not where I would love my mind to be.
I don’t beat myself up – no point. I have done as well as I could with the unconscious habitual resources that I had. There have been many good choices in the midst of these habits. I haven’t filled up my diary with action, we have spent a lot of time chilling out, I do nap when my baby naps, as I have encouraged countless mothers before me to do, and I have had regular osteopathy to support my body post the birth marathon. But it is time for a self created intervention.
First – the wind down.
Before I go to bed, I oil up and moisturise my skin with a variety of good smelling (Ren Rose Otto body oil) and well acting (aveeno body moisturiser) creams. I pay particular attention to using my thumb knuckles to massage the outer edges of my sacrum at the base of my back. I lift my arms in the air and sweep my hands under my armpits to help stimulate and move the lymph nearest to my breasts. I massage my breast bone – and the marma point between the breasts that supports breastfeeding. And finally I fully and completely massage my feet. If its cold, I put socks on.
The next day I re-activate my supplements. I take copious amounts of omega 3 and make a point of using ghee on my food for the next few days. I need to increase my ojas, give my nervous system some oil to burn.
I return to the yoga mat. With a newborn, everything happens in slots during the day that happen between breastfeeding. So during our first awake slot – usually between 7-8am – I put him on his play mat in the living room and roll my play mat out. And I start GENTLY. My body is a whole new territory after pregnancy and giving birth. I take time to start breathing fully again. I use yogaglo.com to remember how to move, to be reminded how to take care of myself. And then during our second feeding of the day, I practice a meditation taught by Rod Stryker on yogaglo.com while feeding.
It takes a week. I start to feel like myself again.
Michael Pollan food rules applied again – eat food, not too much, mostly plants. I am shifting my attention towards vegetables, cooking in bulk so that they are in the fridge for making soups and chopping into grains. I buy rice and millet and cook in bulk so I can put them in salads and quick heat them for supper. I slow cook chicken to make a broth and store the meat in the fridge for lunches and quick suppers. I try to stop buying sugary foods. Chocolate still creeps in. I’ll get there.
We are 10 weeks. I am able to lie still, with him in the room, while he sleeps deeply. As I have practised relaxation, his sleeps have become longer and deeper. Who knows if the two are linked, I am sure the experts would like to tell us. But I appreciate that we can both relax better now. And I am deeply grateful for the yoga tools, tips and tricks that have saved me, again.