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Un poil' enceinte et des poussiereuh

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October 2014

What pregnancy taught me about yoga

At Beit el Nessim.  8 months pregnant.
At Beit el Nessim.
8 months pregnant.

I was a yoga teacher before I understood the meaning of my practice. Nabil says that we have the students we deserve. Whenever I used to complain about a student for any kind of reason, Nabil would say : you have the students you deserve.

When I started my yoga practice, I though mainly about the difficulty of the postures and how my body reacted in pain. I hated the pain. My hamstrings were like wooden sticks, my strength was lacking and I could not hold any kind of posture, I was short of breath, not to mention my concentration, I could be disturbed by an ephemeral fly.

Around me, people were focused and seemed to be in perfect harmony with the teachings. I felt like an outsider but kept on practicing.

The relaxation part was impossible for me. I couldn’t keep my arms open, neither my legs open, something had to move, something had to be done. And whenever the teacher would suggest to relax a part of the body, I would realize that I was not even listening, too much concerned with my daily problems or my existential questions.

I was everywhere but I was not present on my yoga mat.

I had the advantage (or maybe the inconvenient) of being naturally very flexible and improved quickly. Only a year after I began my practice, I could already do advanced postures and I felt pride. The day I could do the full spilt I felt an immense sense of satisfaction. I never though myself able to do such advanced postures with my body, it took me by surprise whenever I practiced. People would congratulate me, and admired my determination. It all led to self satisfaction and a regular practice.

But yet, I had no idea of what yoga really was.

Sometimes, I hear students or even teachers complaining about the students who are interested in form, who are only challenged by the physical aspect. But I need to tell them here : don’t judge. Each one of us has to start somewhere. And if the ego or the physical part of the practice is leading us to practice yoga, then let it be. A path towards yoga is a path, it is a personal one. And we are also physical bodies, physical bodies with competitive minds. Let’s not deny who we are. Competitiveness is not something bad. It’s part of our nature.

One month before I got pregnant, I was practicing a lot, and doing more and more challenging postures. I was in this state of mind where I felt invincible. But when I got a positive on my pregnancy test, my first thought was: will yoga practice hurt me? Will a yoga practice provoque a miscarriage? Shall I continue or shall I stop?

And needless to say that everyone had his point of view on the subject. Some would say I should practice less, other would say I should practice some postures and some others not, and some would be very radical, you should not practice at all ! I never heard anyone say: “listen to your body”.

But was it their fault? And did I only knew how to listen to my body? How do listen?

No, listening is not a small thing. Listening is one of the hardest thing.

We are being taught to talk but we are not being taught to listen.

So I started my pregnancy, completely messed up : nausea were killing me, I had headaches, and was vomiting numerous times a day. I lost weight, appetite, and even any desire to do anything. I was depressed, sad and fragile. Suddenly, some of my childhood was back in my dreams. Suddenly, I was back to my demons, and felt my body was betraying me. I was not angry. I was sad. Most of the times, I would fall asleep before being able to sit on a mat and practice.

I remembered the advice given to me, and I though perhaps they are right.

How could yoga help me? I was a shadow of myself. I could barely stay awake for an hour.  My body was in procreation mode and I had to stop the practice.

Then one day, I was about three months pregnant, I woke up with the urge to practice.

It was one of those rare times, when I did not feel nauseous or sick.

So I started practicing and noticed that everything was normal. Very normal. I could do the postures, not even the prenatal ones, no the “adapted” postures and the smile was back on my face.

The ego smile….

Did I know by then anything about yoga?

Not yet.

I was still in the darkness, still blinded by my ego.

I’m not at war with my ego. Ego is not good or bad. Ego is what it is. It’s where we are. It’s a place, a state, a confortable one sometimes.

As blind as I was, I was practicing without listening to my body. I was even bragging about it : look at me, I can do this and that….I had not changed !

My true satisfaction was that I could still practice.

So my fear turned out to be this : I didn’t want my pregnancy to hold me back. I wanted to remain in control.

Then one day, I woke up, very tired and very sad. I was alone, it was about ten, and my blue yoga mat was waiting for me in the yoga hall.

I started practicing.

That particular day, was particularly sunny. A lot of light was pouring in.

I practiced one round, then two rounds of sun salutation, and noticed the sun on my face, and its warming effect on my skin. It was pleasurable so I stopped the practice a few minutes. Then, back to the sun salutations, in the downward facing dog, I can’t explain how it exactly occurred, but I started feeling a huge relief, bringing me back to my mat. I bent my knees, and instead of doing the next posture, I cried.

An immense feeling of happiness had overtaken me. Yet I was in pain, the relief yoga made me feel was so great, so perfect, I couldn’t help being grateful.

The practice was healing, the practice was a healer, a magician healer. The practice was talking to my body, talking to me. I was not at all with an endless conversation with myself, I was in the moment, in this very real moment of pure joy and gratefulness.

And I wondered : how beautiful these tears are ! How relieving ! How could I have stayed all this time without crying those tears? I needed to cry them so badly!

Only my body movements, the awareness that I was felt pain, made my day, made me so happy, so contented.

Pregnancy allowed me to be weak and embrace it, to be weak and realize that my body was not a finality, neither was its shape.

The flows of hormones made me more sensitive to what was really happening in me. It’s like a place where there is the beautiful music of nature, but we can’t hear it anymore, we are too preoccupied to hear.

On my yoga mat, I was listening to my pain, I could sense it, feel it in my body, but not in a bad way, I could feel it healing me, healing my mind.

At some point, I was cuddling myself, bringing my arms around my knees with love and compassion.

It was love.

Nabil says we have the students we deserve. And here, for a short but empowering moment of peace, I was the best student I ever had.

I want to tell you about the other body

credit pic : Nabil
Tulsi and I – credit pic : Nabil

Do you ever think of yourself as a soul? Or, let me be more precise, do you ever feel yourself as a soul?

Since I’ve been in my head most of my life, I must say, I have rarely felt myself as a soul. But, pregnancy and motherhood have their own ways to lead an open heart to her soul.

You might not be following me, so I will tell my story.

The story of the eye-liner.

Every morning, I have this habit of wearing my eyeliner in a certain way. It’s part of a routine I never questioned. My eyes have to be in this shape so I can handle other people eyes on me.

Why? I have no idea. I don’t know how it became such an unquestioned matter, how gradually I have become enslaved with this habit.

Or maybe I know. Maybe I remember how, at the age of fourteen I discovered the powerful effect of make up on my face, this power of erasing a part of an identity I didn’t love.

Suddenly I could ressemble myself, and not my parents daughter. Suddenly I could become my own mother, my own father, my own god, and create a new face that was mine.

And that was bearable to my eyes.

But don’t get me wrong. My eyes were not mine. They were stolen.

Each one of us has been taken his eyes in a way. His own personal perception of reality, because each one of us has been pushed to leave childhood and grow in other people point of view.

I had a face I could see with the eyes wanted for me on my face.

A face that erased some complexes I have always been dragging like most of us in this society.

A few days after my delivery, I woke up one morning and dared looking at myself, at these eyes in their original form. I mean these naked eyes. My face was glowing and this is probably why I could look at myself naked. I told myself that it was fine, I could stop wearing make up for a while.

But words are not enough to kill a habit. Think about chocolate craving. Or cigarette craving.

Words are just not enough.

The following morning, I was back to the line. This not too thick, not too narrow dark line on the eyelid. I almost had forgotten about my resolution.

This was before I became so busy with Tulsi. The first weeks with my baby were blessed by the fact that Tulsi, too young, was sleeping a lot during the day. But time passing by, she woke up more and more. And the less she slept, the less I could look at myself in the mirror.

Nothing troubling. I just had no time to ask myself whether I was beautiful or not.

I had no time to check the dark line.

I thought that it was a bit of a problem in the beginning because I really like to be coquette. But, at some point, you end up choosing your priorities. And my priority was Tulsi.

The dark line could wait.

So I have spent many days without wearing this eye liner of mine, that has been more than a habit, quite a ritual in fact. I would wake up, barely look at myself in the mirror, and then there was my daughter so I would forget about the eye-liner for a couple of hours first and then for the rest of the day.

The day it stroke me was the one I realized I was out of the house with nothing on the face. No clothes on the eyes. No dark clothes to attend the funeral of my natural beauty. Let’s even say of my natural eye’s shape.

Don’t take me wrong. Im not questioning the make up traditions. I’m just questioning its enslavery. I’m just questioning the transformation one goes through and never dares looking at with naked eyes.

I was out and suddenly realizing my naked face, I asked my husband : don’t you notice something. He said no. I told him about the eyes but he was not really concerned though happy about me being natural and not caring too much.

I realized that I was starting to experience my body, not like a painting I add beauty to, not like a statue I needed to ressemble for people’s eyes or pleasure. I experienced my body as an experimental painting I was living in.

A body I can love in any shape. A living body.

A soul?

Not yet. But a body wanting to be a soul.

You may ask : what do you mean by ” soul” ?

And you are right. What is a soul? I never knew until a few days ago.

A soul is this state where you are not attached to your body anymore. You are floating, allowing your “you”, your “self” to wonder in the possibilities of love. You are not afraid because you realize that you are not the body, but the soul, and the soul has not limits. It can expand and expand and expand. The soul’s arms are here to receive and are afraid of nothing.

You might be smiling at the reading of the post. Maybe you are wondering why this eye-liner story is so important to me.

And I will tell you. I have overcome a part of my very internalized habits by embracing the world with no fear. No will of pleasing, of being loved because I’m love, I’m not wanting it.

I want to tell you about the other body. The body you encounter in yourself when you break the chains and you become free of your fears.

This chains that make you think that you are the body when you are not.

Tulsi tiny hand  my little girl who teach me so much about the unlimited possibilities of love.
Tulsi tiny hand
my little girl who teach me so much about the unlimited possibilities of love.

Breastfeeding in public : It’s not me, it’s you

IMG_6551

I was invited to a nice gathering in my friend’s house in the beautiful north countryside of Lebanon, Tannourine. I had barely put a foot towards the house when a man, in his late sixties, comes along me, eyes wide open, ready for a big hug. It’s you, it’s you, come in here! I nodded, not really sure what he was talking about. You are the one at the yoga festival feeding her baby on her breast in front of everyone. I remember it very well ! Come along !

After a long and warm hug, he studies my face briefly and again acclaims me. Bravo my darling! Bravo ! I’m so proud of you ! You breastfed your baby without artifacts or fear, careless and free ! Bravo my child! Bravo! In my time, women did the same, they never cared about what people though! They’d put the baby on the breast and that was it. No big deal about it. Nobody would comment or criticize. Nobody cared ! I smile, he continues. I hope you will keep on breastfeeding your baby the same way. Will you? His smile takes a while to fade as if in in his eyes, the memory of his wife breastfeeding ( in public) was still vivid.

Yes, I will.

At this very moment, Tulsi is sleeping deeply in my baby wearing, her calm contrasting with his euphoria. We start elaborating the subject and I tell him that in fact, I never really cared about what people though, which makes him even happier, then add that my baby was born at home to what he replies : my last two children were also born at home !

Really?

He points the room where his wife delivered naturally then adds : the same midwife gave birth to all the kids living around here. They were all given to their mothers by her hands.

When was that again?

35 years ago.

I smile. He smiles. Then silence.

In my mind, I remember the contrast of the situation with another one, a few days ago.

It was at the dentist clinic.

After finishing my teeth, Tulsi started crying and looking for the tit. I decided to stay a little longer in the waiting room to calm her down and put her on the breast. At the same time, a young man came along and the secretary starred at me and whispered :

  • I have to open the door to this man.
  • And so?
  • You are breastfeeding….
  • Oh yes, I noticed. And so?
  • Maybe it would be better if you covered…
  • Well, I wont, I said. He can still come in.

She starred at me astonished. How dare I?

And the man came along.

And nothing happened.

It didn’t rain on us, it didn’t snow.

Life was pursing its normal course.

The young man barely looked at me, while the secretary was shaking and Tulsi happily eating her perfect food.

Still, my eyes were talking to this woman. “It is just a boob, not a bomb. Are you as terrified as you are now, when a woman, very sexually suggestive in her clothes comes by ? Why are you afraid of a woman breastfeeding her baby? How can this be worse than provocative clothes?”

Another time, we were outside when again, I pull off my shirt to breastfeed Tulsi.  A friend of mine is looking at me breastfeeding with a little smile. Then he tells me, like a gentleman, that he can lend me his jacket if I want. I’m like. Do you feel cold?

No…

Because, I don’t.

It’s just…if you feel uncomfortable about…

Why would I feel uncomfortable about feeding my baby in the most natural way?

It’s not me. It’s you.

End of the conversation.

As I went back home, I wondered. What is people problem with breastfeeding in public? Where does it come from? Why some are offended about a fearless woman feeding her baby? And how did we go from a normal and banal breastfeeding norm to a large amount of women using formula?

I though about all the adverts in Lebanon showing woman in bras and panties in the highway and yet nobody seems to complain.

I though about all the women with high heels and tight clothes walking in a sexy way in the streets and yet nobody seems to complain.

I though about all this sexualization of the society we live in, the fact that even to sell a car, models have to pose and yet nobody seems to complain.

I though about all the women starring for hours in the mirror, going to the gym to have the perfect body and those same women being offended by my feeding boobs.

Why this hypocrisy ?

In a country where a lot of women prefer formula to breast-feeding so they dont spoil their boobs, im surprised they are offended with public breastfeeding. If you want your boobs to be beautiful, isn’t it for other people sake ? Isn’t it to look good ? Isn’t it because you CARE about your body being in a certain shape and not another. And if you didn’t want to show off your body, why would you even care?

Everything in our society tend to be sexualize and when a woman breastfeeds in public, still, people are shocked, people act as if you were not here, as if you were being invasive.

You have to hide or stay at home, when you need to be supported. You have to be pudique because you might hurt some people ”feelings”.

You have to fake your natural behavior, the one that urges you to put the boob in your babys mouth whenever he is hungry, because babies dont have schedule, you have to adapt.

And so should lebanese.

Adapt and accept the natural process of motherhood.

The natural beauty of it.

And stop nagging about it.

Because it’s not us,

It’s you.

Truth is not Pink, Truth is Naked

Tulsi and I at Beit el Nessim
Tulsi and I at Beit el Nessim. 

I will not go pink for the breast cancer awareness

the truth is not pink
the truth is naked.

“Numerous studies have found that the longer women breastfeed, the more they’re protected against breast and ovarian cancer. For breast cancer, nursing for at least a year appears to have the most protective effect”.

Being a mother

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I love everything about being a mother
Even the hard times
I love them
Nabil says
Tulsi is your teacher
It’s true
She is putting light
On so many things I though I knew
But I didn’t
She enables me
To connect with my primitive instincts
With the animal me
By being in the immediate, in the urge of the now
Runnin naked in the house and her naked against me
I wonder
How beautiful our bodies are together
How free
There’s no bigger reward
Than be born again through our child
Jay tulsi jay
Jay tulsi

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