Pregnant, Poised and Powerful

A beautiful standing bow, made even more so by the beautiful baby in her belly!

A beautiful standing bow, made even more so by the beautiful baby in her belly!

When you meet Christina, you are first struck by her perfect complexion, her beautiful dark eyes and her sparkly smile.  But after you talk to her awhile, you see an inner determination that is not immediately apparent.  Walking away from our interview, only one thought came to mind.  That girl is fierce.

Christina first came to Bikram yoga after serving in the Peace Corps.  She returned in 2010, and after hearing about Bikram often in Seattle, decided to give it a try here in Vancouver.  She moved here to be with her then boyfriend, now husband, who also practices at the studio.  Christina had tried yoga at her gym, and while she liked it, she found it lacking.  Plus it was cold in there.  As luck would have it, Groupon provided the pathway to the studio.  In the beginning, Christina found Bikram yoga to be, well, noisy.  There was so much talking.  And the poses were the same every time.  But after a while she learned, it’s not the poses that need to change.  It’s you.

After practicing for over a year, and soon after she got married, Christina found out she was expecting.  This came as a surprise, so she and her husband decided to keep it quiet.  She went to class as usual and remembers feeling absolutely awful.  Actually, she said class sucked.  She felt heavy, like every movement required more effort than it should have.  She also felt metaphorically heavy because of this secret she had.  Her own family didn’t even know.  But eventually she knew she had to tell the instructor.  After calling her over, Christina was told by the instructor that she shouldn’t be practicing in her first trimester.  Christina emailed Rajashree, who assured her it was okay to practice.  However, nausea and fatigue kept her out of the hot room until her second trimester.  (Please refer to Rajashree’s pregnancy recommendations on the Bikram yoga website for more specifics).  

Christina, true to form throughout her pregnancy, listened to her body.  When she didn’t feel well during her first three months, she “laid on the couch.”  Knowing she’d eventually go back, she discussed Bikram yoga with her midwife.  While the midwife “wasn’t a fan,” she told Christina to stay hydrated, keep cool and keep her heart rate as low as possible.  (Christina emphasizes how important it is to drink more than you may want to, hydration is crucial).   Other instructors at the studio reminded Christina that it wasn’t about the temperature in the room, it was about her core temperature, which was regulated by sweating it out anyway.  Studio owner Erika (who had delivered a healthy baby after doing Bikram yoga throughout her pregnancy)  provided pose modifications and support.  In her typically assured manner, she says that if her midwife told her it wasn’t okay, she would have found somebody else.

Second trimester:  hooray!  As Christina started feeling better, she went back to the hot room.  And this time…she felt like Wonder Woman.  She felt flexible and amazing.  Her family, however, didn’t feel so great about it.  They saw the photos and worried that she could be hurting the baby.  Some friends were shocked, one even commented that she was cooking her baby.  To this friend, she replied, “then she’ll come out perfect.”  This kind of poise is present whenever she is questioned; remarkably rare among the nervous first-time-moms set.  When asked how she maintained the courage of her convictions, Christina shrugs and says she just knew she could do it.  Even when she got frustrated, she didn’t give up. She remembers one class where she slept the whole class.  She says, “the hot room gives you what you need.  I guess I needed a nap.”

Feeling like Wonder Woman in her second trimester.

Feeling like Wonder Woman in her second trimester.

In the uphill struggle that marks the third trimester, Christina says the poses began to get harder and harder, and she remembers when she wasn’t able to do eagle anymore.  The wide legged stretch on the floor felt great, but weird when her belly began touching the floor.  Her husband reminded her:  All you need to get out of yoga right now is breathing.  Concentrate on that.  So she did.  And finally, the day after she did reflexology, went out to dinner, had wine and went for a walk with her husband, she went into labor.  Her doula came, and was thrilled with how well Christina was doing using prayanama to get her through the contractions.  She used anything and everything to get herself through in her typically resourceful manner:  hot compresses, therapy ball and soaking in the tub.  At last it was time to go to the hospital.  Feeling aggravated by the wait to check in and fill the pool (she was doing a waterbirth), she kept breathing.  As the pain worsened, it became more challenging.  It felt like she wasn’t getting any breaks in the contractions.  Thoughts were swirling but she couldn’t communicate.  She found herself yelling in a high pitch. Ultimately, her midwife reminded her to “get out of her head and into her body.”  A lower pitch and open throat, she told herself.  And then her daughter was born.

A backbend most can only dream of, and in her third trimester no less!

A backbend most can only dream of, and in her third trimester no less!

Post-partum, Christina went back to class 4 weeks after her daughter was born.  This class was miserable for her, but she told herself to be patient.  Her advice to new moms is to not have high expectations.  It takes awhile.  And you might cry though the whole class because you are flooded with hormones.  And above all, don’t forget to pump before class.

When you are around Christina, you feel like she has her act together.  A sharp sense of humor rounds out her self reliant manner.  When asked how Bikram yoga helped her get through pregnancy, childbirth and being a new mom, she doesn’t hesitate.  It helps you be in the moment.  You focus on what is at hand, not the future.  You quiet your mind.  You don’t have to overthink.  Your body stays strong, but you give your mind a rest.

Knowing Christina, you would do well to listen.

The happy family.

The happy family.

Thanks to Christina for providing the beautiful photos, and the inspiration.

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