(Ha ha, see what I did there?)

As I am now 39 weeks along (!!), my days of prenatal yoga are coming to a close. In fact, unless I choose to attend the Thursday class this week (and, let’s face it, next week), I am all done! Next week I won’t be able to attend my usual Tuesday class because it is my little niece Sophie’s fourth birthday, and fourth birthdays are a big deal, so I’ll have some cupcakes to eat.

I started prenatal yoga early, when I was only 12 weeks along, as much for my mental and emotional needs as for my physical practice. As I’ve talked about before, I struggled during much of my second trimester to feel like the pregnancy was real and to move past the anxiety and expectation of another loss, and a weekly yoga class that forced me to focus on the actual baby I was nurturing made a huge difference to me. Slowly, week by week, I adjusted to and accepted what was really happening. It was a very strange process.

Me and my friend yogadownload.com at about 26 weeks, back when I could still paint my own toenails.

Since I haven’t been able to separate my pregnancy from the grief process, and yoga has played such a big part in my pregnancy and my healing, it makes sense that the three have become intertwined in my mind. I’ve been thinking a lot about yoga and the role it plays in healing from grief and loss in general. I’ve talked before about the effects of yoga on the body’s stress response system (based on this article from Psychology Today), but I came across another article recently that addresses the effects of yoga on grief and loss in particular. (I should say that I came across the article because I was specifically researching the relationship between yoga and grief. I knew I wasn’t the only one who had discovered one.)

This quote stuck out to me:

When you’re grieving, the simple fact of whatever loss you must endure is hard enough to face. Yet many of us do things that increase our suffering. We flee the moment, either by attempting to deny a reality that seems insufferably cruel or by imagining a worst-case scenario that might well never occur. We react to actual loss with fear of further loss. We convince ourselves we cannot survive the present crisis (emotionally or even physically), or that the loss is so unfathomable that we don’t want to. We cling desperately to the one thing we can never have in the present moment: what is not.

This is so true, and it’s really, really hard to resist both fight and flight. But that’s something that for me has been essential — to neither resist the pain but also to not run away from it. To keep breathing into it.

You know what else is true? This:

Yoga allows you to probe your grief—to go into the pain, not run from it, and emerge somehow more whole and free—by focusing on your immediate physical as well as emotional experience.

Grief can actually be a very physical experience, which is something I don’t think I realized until I delved deeper into my yoga classes. I remember that the first time I was able to feel a kind of physical release — as well as the hint of an I’m-okay feeling — was after one of my first prenatal classes. I was probably about 16 weeks along and as I opened my eyes from savasana at the end of the hour, I remember thinking that I felt strange. I felt okay — and in a different way than I would if I had gone running and gotten that familiar punch of endorphins. It was more of a calm sense of peace (one that transcended all understanding), and I know that is why my yoga practice has become so important and so beloved to me these last several months: it’s where I can access that peace.

So to have finished my final class for what’s probably going to be a very long time is sad, to say the least. I’ve really been missing my regular classes, mostly because the prenatal ones are less “yoga-ish” and more birth prep (which is fine, it’s just different), and I loved taking that hour to just retreat into myself and chip away at all of the massive changes I’ve experienced (and am about to experience). I do plan to continue my home practice, and yogadownload.com will continue to guide me, but I am really hoping that being a part of a regular studio class will be a realistic option once the baby and I are more settled and my body is recovered from birth.

Yoga at 32 weeks! I promise I will not take pictures from this angle after I have the baby.

When I first started prenatal yoga I was coming from a place of a purely physical practice, and I’m actually amazed by how much my practice has changed — and how much it’s changed me — since I went to that first class so many months ago. I had no idea what was coming.