Earlier this year I ran my first marathon. Now I probably couldn’t even run a mile. It’s been seven months since I last ran – the longest stretch I’ve gone without running in 15 years. Running has always been an integral part of my adult life. It’s been my outlet for stress, my connection to the outdoors, my time to reflect.
Soon after I found out I was pregnant, I tried to go running. Something about it didn’t feel right, though. Maybe it was my first trimester nausea or my motherly instinct already kicking in and telling me to slow down, to stop sprinting through life.
Early on, I realized I was embarking on a new marathon of sorts, a nine-month one that would push my body and mind in ways they had never been pushed before.
I’m seven months pregnant and people still ask me, “Are you continuing to run?” I’m often surprised by the question, especially when I look down and see my growing belly — a protrusion that sometimes makes it difficult to walk, let alone run.
“No,” I tell them matter-of-factly. “I haven’t really run at all during my pregnancy. It just never felt right.” Surprisingly, I haven’t felt any shame or guilt when admitting this. I thought I would, given my tendency to cling to my identify as a runner, a marathoner.
Pregnancy has been an ongoing lesson in learning how to be more gentle and patient with myself. Instead of running, I’ve been walking, swimming, and taking prenatal yoga classes. Exercising every day helps me maintain part of my routine in the midst of so many physical and emotional changes.
Sometimes, I get frustrated during prenatal yoga. It’s a flow class, so the instructor keeps us moving throughout the entire 75 minutes, with the exception of a few minutes at the beginning and the end.
Some nights, my belly feels huge, my body heavy.
Another downward dog??? I’ll think to myself after the 10th one in class.
I don’t want to bend down and touch my toes again; my belly won’t let me.
Is it shavasana time yet?
Despite my frustrations, I’ve been thinking a lot about how yoga and pregnancy have helped me to become more accepting of my body’s limitations. I’ve learned to embrace modified poses, realizing I don’t have to fuel my ego and my competitive side by always doing the fullest expression of every pose.
So what if my dancer pose isn’t quite as graceful as it used to be? Or if my tree pose is a bit lopsided? Instead of lamenting my imperfect, sometimes wobbly poses, I’ve embraced other ones. During every class, I channel my inner goddess, warrior, and happy baby.
I’ve sunken into child’s pose, not with guilt but with gratitude for a pose that gives me a temporary reprieve. I’ve also challenged my body, doing poses that strengthen my arms, my legs, and my pelvic floor (a body part that becomes a greater part of your vocabulary when you’re pregnant!)
“Breathe into the discomfort,” my yoga teacher says, reminding me that discomfort is not the same as pain. I know that in two short months, I’ll have to breathe into a lot of discomfort during labor and push through pain.
I’m almost 30 weeks into my pregnancy and I wonder how much longer I’ll be able to go to yoga. I plan to go for as long as I can, so long as I feel safe and (mostly) comfortable. Everything I’m doing now is preparation for the big day.
This nine-month marathon is challenging, but it’s the most rewarding physical endeavor I’ve ever endured. The finish line is getting closer, and I’m walking toward it with more excitement each day.