Sunday, June 30, 2013

adventures in prenatal yoga or, what is a vaginal sphincter? 15 weeks, 2 days


I’m going to be honest. It’s been a long time since I’ve been to yoga. Which is surprising. Because in every other way, I’m a progressive stereotype; a liberal wet dream. I’m a vegetarian, NPR is always on in at least one room of our home, I drive a Subaru, I’m a human rights lawyer, YAWN. By all indications, I should be a full time practicing yogi; I should be on a silent retreat in India and combination juice fast at least monthly. And believe me, there’s part of me that wants to be. Part of me that really wishes I really liked yoga because, you know, all the cool kids are doing it.

So it was with great trepidation that I ventured[1] into my very first prenatal yoga class on Wednesday evening. A long, narrow room, lined on either side by proverbially glowing pregnant women, in various compilations of stretchy spandex tanks and leggings and a healthy dose of lululemon. All sitting serenely, with their hands on their massively-pregnant-bellies, mats before them, and what are those giant couch cushions doing behind them? And me, by far the smallest and least pregnant among them, at barely 15 weeks, scrambling nervously to pay cash and quietly explaining to “Bec” that it was hi, my first time, <incomprehensible>, I’ll just go to the back, <incomprehensible> mmmkay? I felt like a fraud. I felt inexplicably naked without proof of my pregnant-ness on full display.

Soon, after everyone had used the bathroom 18 times because ohmygoodness uterus! bladder! madness! pregnant stereotype! we began. If only I had known then what I know now – kegels-vaginal-sphincter-pelvic-floor-oh my!

First, we went around the room and everyone said how far along they were, how they were feeling and what they hoped to get out of their practice.

In sum:

More than half of the women casually mentioned they were between 35-39 weeks.[2]
Literally every single woman, when describing how she was feeling, offered – in a kind of devastating, terrifying, such-a-dark-place-harbinger-of-what’s-to-come! kind of way that belied her glowing face and beautifully rounded belly – I am so, so, tired. SOVERYTIRED.
Other such positivity included, “I feel fine, I’m just annoyed with the world” and “I’m just happy to be away from my other kids.”
VERY WELL THEN, SAFE SPACE, etc.

As I wondered distractedly whether this was what AA was like, it suddenly became my turn. Again regressing to some version of an insecure 7 year old on her first day in a new school, I mumbled my name, cheekily joked that I was just happy to be done with the first trimester, HAR HAR HAR – upon which time I realized that for many women in the room, the first trimester was, you know, approximately 45 weeks ago. If that wasn’t enough, I then proceeded to lie[3], closely followed by an attempt to brown nose? win points with women I hardly knew and might never see again? be totally deep and sincere because 10 minutes in and I was already feeling SERIOUSLY ZEN? offer some kind of olive branch by stating how impressed I was to see all of these full term women doing yoga and how I *cringe* hoped I would be like them one day! Everyone smiled, polite laughter, <buries face in hands.> (Or something like that. I’ve blacked it all out at this point.)

With that over with, we proceeded to the yoga. Let the estrogen roll!

If it wasn’t already apparent, this yoga class was different. The words “vaginal sphincter” were dropped at least half a dozen times – and yet I remain uncertain about what exactly I was supposed to be doing with my lady parts during those unexpectedly frequent moments? A lot of women took pee breaks[4]. And there was much discussion of Kegels[5] and “the pelvic floor”.  

There was also some deep ommm-ing and, admittedly, some legitimately difficult yoga poses. During one especially terrifying encounter, we were asked to partner up. Luckily!, I was paired with a woman who is clearly 39 weeks and carrying triplets. She was supposed to hold my wrists and lean back. And I was supposed to support her. Because, you know, I’m 5’7 5’3, 115 and we just met. The look of terror in her eyes as she slowly leaned back was, honestly, kind of priceless[6]. Also, TERROR!

90 minutes later it was all over and I was at peace with the world and all of humankind. I still don’t know where my vaginal sphincter is but I do plan to return to find out.






[1] I chose this word carefully. Because the way I – the least pregnant among us – entered this yoga class was distinct: the other women –and I say this fully knowing that I am one of them ohmygodsoverysoonwaddled.
[2] You just take a moment to let that sink in. 37 weeks is full term, like ready to have a baby right this very minute.
[3] Truth: I said I was 15 weeks so I would sound cool. I was really 14 weeks, 5 days. <guilty look.>
[4] And I was one of them.
[5] Seriously though, please raise your hand if you’ve done Kegels. Did I just totally miss the boat on this?
[6] Update: mother and baby (babies?) are fine.

12 comments:

  1. LMAO. So far I have avoided the prenatal yoga classes - as much as I enjoy hot yoga, I cannot get into the "oohming" style of yoga, and prenatal yoga kinda scares me. That being said, DO YOUR DAMN KEGELS WOMAN. I slacked - majorly slacked - on this during my first pregnancy thinking it couldn't be THAT important, and this time around I have pissed myself more times than I can count while puking with morning sickness. This is entirely because of a weak pelvic floor. I still suck at remembering to do them, but I'm trying - really trying - to be better about it this time around, if not for myself, then for my bath mat's sake. :)

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    1. I know, I seriously need to get on the kegels - I wonder if anyone noticed I was doing them on the subway the other day?

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  2. Bahaha. I'm very glad my prenatal yoga class doesn't involve us all sharing how far along we are and how we're feeling. The first time I went I felt like an imposter because I was 14 weeks and everyone else looked huge! There was lots of instruction around your baby (use your pelvic floor and abs to hug your baby etc) which I found tricky as I didn't really "feel" my baby at that point. We had to pair up too, a very fast way to get friendly with strangers! Since then all the super-pregnant people have had their babies and there are more people about the same stage as me which is much nicer. I'm totally slack on the Kegels despite good intentions. Hope your next yoga adventure is more fun!

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    1. Ha, thanks, glad I wasn't the only one feeling like an imposter! One day I'll figure out what my pelvic floor is...

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  3. I have been going to prenatal yoga for the past couple of weeks and I have been enjoying it! So far no talk about the vaginal sphincter, but every class talk of Kegels. I showed up to my class when I was 14 weeks pregnant and everyone was 27 weeks or further along. It was quite intimidating as I totally felt like I didn't belong. But everyone was really nice and I went back....

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    1. it's funny, as much as I poked fun at the class, I kind of loved it and definitely plan to go back, too.

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  4. Oh lord, I really don't know that I can do the prenatal yoga if this is what it'll be like... I've also lapsed big time, going from practising yoga at least a couple times a week to basically nothing. All it takes is a series of lousy teachers to turn you off forever, and after one who told us to "relax our teeth", I was kinda done.

    Crap, we gotta get on this kegel business though. The bigger I get, the more panicked I become at the fact that it ALL has to come out one very small hole...

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    1. Seriously, kegels. I tried doing them but truth be told, I have no idea what I'm doing. I'm sure the interwebs can educate me but I'm kind of intimidated?

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  5. Ha, the class sounds a bit awkward but if the yoga helps you to relax, or even laugh, then it's all worth it!!

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    1. Awkward, for sure, but also kind of great - in the way it only could be for a pregnant lady. Ha.

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  6. This is hilarious. First of all, we may be soul sistahs. Second, I HATE it when they make you introduce yourself before a yoga class. This place is not for socializing, for god's sake. If I want to do that, I'll go to happy hour. Or (in fitting more closely with your pregnancy status) sign up for one of those yoga studio run vegetarian potlucks. No thanks. Third, I have done kegels. And, by "done them," I mean that I have attempted them a few times in my life. The only way I can think to describe it is to tell you to squeeze your vagina as hard as you can without touching it. Imagine yourself sucking the outside up inside of you. ;) Like that? Thought so. If you prefer more concrete instruction, you could also practice peeing and then cutting if off mid-stream. That your vaginal sphincter at work, sisterfriend.

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    1. I will be your soul sister any day, Lentil! Also, sisterfriend makes me feel like we're in some kind of fundamentalist cult. But in a good way. Ha.
      And thanks for the kegels instruction - really trying but still not confident I have any clue what I'm doing. Nonetheless, I will proceed, undeterred by reason, in the naive hopes that my basically-butt-squeezing exercises on the subway will help avert post-partum disaster.

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