A Yogi’s Return to the Mat

A Yogi’s Return to the Mat

Time spent away from practice 'can be a really good thing'

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0040“Be connected, be always learning, be fully aware and be present.” –Joi Ito

I intended to write throughout much of 2015 how the physical and emotional changes of pregnancy impacted my yoga practice. Those journal entries and that reflection never happened – and my son is now 8 months old! The truth is I never really felt like myself while I was pregnant, and perhaps that is why it was hard to write about it. Many days I was downright sick or physically uncomfortable from constant nausea. My growing belly (read: my growing everything) limited me from moving around the way I am used to and my own yoga practice gave way to other commitments and distractions. I continued spending time on my mat as a teacher, but struggled with the realization that an eventual return to my own mat meant I had to accept being a beginner again.

What I’ve learned in the months since recommitting to my yoga practice is that time away can be a really good thing. Unlike my days as a competitive tennis player – when taking even a day off could agitate my confidence and rhythm – when I step away from asana practice, I’ve discovered my practice comes alive in other ways. The time spent on my mat is never lost or forgotten, but rather the lessons learned and absorbed in my body show up on their own time (yet it never seems random). I’ve also discovered ways of being that come to the surface when my practice is lacking, such as self-judgment and impatience. I wrote this following one of the first times on my mat at home after my son was born:

“Right now my yoga practice is about acceptance. Acceptance that I need more time. Time to heal and recover from a nine-month journey of carrying my son. I need to step on my mat with bare feet and to start breathing. I need to take it one step at a time, one day at a time and refrain from comparing myself today with myself a year ago. I need to stop comparing myself to other women who I know are more fit and flexible than I am today. I need to accept myself as I am right now. This is a huge challenge.”

I recall the day that I started to feel comfortable in my body again – it was around the time when my son turned 6 months old. Clothes started to fit better, my energy was increasing, I was getting stronger from working out. In looking back now, of course I could have been kinder to myself in the initial postpartum months – but I appreciate the ways in which my yoga practice showed up. There is no time spent on my mat that doesn’t serve a purpose or reveal something helpful to me. And so I continue to do the practice and reverently return to my mat.


UPCOMING EVENT

Rock Your Bliss NC, presented by Yoga Off East – Wednesday, February 24, 6-9pm – Yoga & Blisscrafting at The Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, 2001 Campus Dr. Tickets and info: www.rockyourblissnc.eventbrite.com

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Kathy Sell Smith
Kathy Sell Smith graduated from Duke in 2001 where she shared the university's Athlete of the Year award with men's basketball player Shane Battier. She was the first female recipient of the award. Kathy returned to Durham in 2009 after earning her master's degree in Cultural Anthropology at the University of Oregon and spending five years as the head women’s tennis coach at Princeton University. She is a certified yoga instructor, having completed a 200-hour teacher training at Franklin Street Yoga Center in 2010 and is enrolled in her 500-hour advanced training at Blue Lotus Yoga in Raleigh. Kathy is the founder/owner of Yoga Off East, a neighborhood power yoga studio that opens spring 2016 on Ninth Street. Kathy and her husband, Ramsey, reside in Durham with their two children and chocolate lab.