How My Yoga Practice Evolved Pre-Pregnancy to Postpartum

by Lauren Matthies


My yoga practice has evolved immensely through the years.  I first found yoga after being diagnosed with fibromyalgia in high school.  A yoga teacher taught a weekly class at my dance studio and after I couldn't dance anymore, yoga allowed me to continue connecting to and moving my body in a way I enjoyed.

I practiced yoga and other fitness classes throughout college and graduate school and then after moving to California my mom suggested doing a teacher training program while I was looking for a job.  On the first day of class I knew I had found my calling.  I began to tear up and remember thinking "this is what I am meant to do with my life."

After I graduated, I taught at yoga studios until I realized I wanted more.  I wanted a place that represented my beliefs about yoga, health, fitness, and wellness.  So I made the leap and opened my own studio.  It was hard, but oh so fulfilling, especially in hindsight.

I taught multiple classes a day--both group classes and private lessons--and I taught six days a week.  My practice was teaching.  I was known for my challenging classes, but also for making people feel good both on and off the mat.  I created a community that I am still proud of.

At my studio, I taught throughout my pregnancy.  During the last month when I could barely walk, I sat on a stability ball while I taught.  My students knew my language and I could guide them through a class with just my words.  In fact, I taught until the day I went into labor.  As I sat in my hospital bed, after coming in because my water had broken, I was texting my private clients to cancel their sessions, and reaching out to teachers to cover my classes.

I taught a handful of times at my studio after giving birth.  At this point, my studio was no longer "mine" as I had sold it to one of my students in preparation for us moving.  The sale date was set for a few days after Henry's arrival since he came earlier than expected.

After moving I began teaching again with Henry when he was about half a year old.  Even though we've moved again since then, we still teach together.  Though, rather than teaching up to seven classes a day like I once did, I only teach one class a week.  There are times I really miss it.  I miss teaching and doing what I am really good at.  I miss pushing people and challenging people, helping people grow, devoting myself to them, nurturing them, helping them build confidence, seeing their health and lives change for the better, and I miss my old students and my studio.

At the same time, I realize how much bigger my yoga practice is these days.  I rarely practice the yoga I used to.  Mostly I stretch and meditate in the evening before going to bed.  Other than that, my yoga is practicing presence with my son.  It's breathing, it's slowing down, it's practicing gratitude.  My yoga is not the strength training caloric burn it used to be, and that's okay.  I like to think that one day this yoga will help me be a better teacher.  When I am able to return to what I love and what I believe I do really well, I will be better because my yoga is more rounded thanks to its evolution.

The greatest thing about yoga is it can meet us where we are.  It doesn't have to be practiced on a mat and it doesn't even have to entail moving.  I used to tell my students that "as long as you are breathing you are doing yoga."  That stands so much today.  As long as I am breathing I am doing yoga.  It may not look like much from the outside, but I am grateful for my practice--both as it was in the past and as it is today.


Teaching Mommy And Me Yoga

by Lauren Matthies


I've taught mommy and me yoga with my son for exactly a year.  That means that for more of his life than not he has taught yoga with me.  It's amazing how much he's grown as a co-teacher in that time.  I remember when we first started teaching together he was jealous of the attention I paid to the other students.  I would cry and beg for all my attention.  He didn't want to share his mama.  Now, he comes to class, does down dog on his mat, plays with other children, climbs on me, ALWAYS returns to my lap when it's time to sing our closing song, brings his hands together to say namaste, and then immediately jumps off my lap eager to grab blocks, knowing it is time to clean up.

I also realize that I have grown as a teacher in that time.  The hardest part of teaching mommy and me classes is being a mommy and an instructor.  I always tell my students that (almost) anything goes in class.  They can nurse, feed their babies, change diapers, take potty breaks, and their children can do yoga, play, or cry.  I want the mothers to feel comfortable.  I want them to know that it is okay for their children to meltdown because we've all been there.  But, my child needs to those things too.  He is no different.  Yet, my role is.  I am not just a mother.  In those classes I am also the teacher, I am the leader, I am the guide.  I can't drop everything to attend to my baby because then the class stops without me.

Learning to manage my baby and my class was a growth experience.  One I'm grateful for.  I think it made me a better teacher as a result.  I've never claimed to be a good multitasker, yet it's forced me to.  I can nurse and do yoga, I can nurse and teach.  Sometimes I have to use my words to demonstrate when I can't use my body (I also got this experience at the end of my pregnancy, I guess a version of mommy and me yoga in its own right).  It's helped Henry as well.  It's taught him that he can't always get my full attention.  It's shown him that yoga is part of our lives.  It's something he will grow up with.  It's given him the opportunity to watch me work.  And, it's given him the chance to interact with other children.

Even with it's challenges, I am so grateful for this opportunity.  It's crazy that my son who was once one of the youngest in every class I taught is now one of the oldest in some of my classes.  He will always be my favorite assistant.


Workouts at Playtime

by Lauren Matthies


It's been quite a while since I've posted a workout video to YouTube (I tend to go in spurts), but I wanted to remind you that it's possible to workout with little ones and that workouts are more fun when you incorporate play into them.

I've actually been dedicating time to working out for myself for the past month by putting Henry into his highchair near me and giving him some toys to play with (and putting on the TV--gasp).  He enjoys watching Daniel Tiger, and I enjoy my workouts.  He is still right next to me, but I can focus more attention on getting an intense session in.  That being said, playtime workouts are wonderful too.  Plus, nothing beats the smiles and laughter they bring.


How I Got My "Pre-baby Body" Back

by Lauren Matthies


One question I'm asked a lot is how I got back in shape after having Henry.  Before I answer that question, I want to emphasize that everyone is different.  We all have different paths and as hard as it is not to be discouraged by the journey of another, I encourage you not to compare your experience to mine or to anyone else's.  All that being said, I think I'm fairly lucky.  I believe that I've had an easier time than many getting my body back (I actually think it's very different, but I like it's appearance better), but below I'll share what I attribute my success to.

  1. Good genes. As much as I'd like to take all the credit, I don't think that's fair.  I have been blessed with good genes and think that has contributed to my body shape.  Don't get me wrong, my genes aren't perfect.  Both my sister and I have cellulite like my mom and all my family members value health and fitness so some of what I may attribute to good genes could be at least partially attributed to a healthy lifestyle.  This one you can't change.  If you have them, be grateful, if you don't, you're not of luck.
  2. Having a heavy baby.  All the time I think about how little I work out compared to before.  Even though I often said I wasn't working out enough pre-pregnancy because I didn't count my hours of daily teaching as working out, I dedicated much more time to fitness.  I had the time to dedicate to it.  Now I am only able to "work out" if I can do it with Henry.  Yet, I think I underestimate how much exercise carrying around a 27 pound baby is.  Most people with whom I share Henry's weight tell me of a two year old they know who is the same weight or less, and two year olds can walk.  Henry is now wanting to practice walking everywhere (which also gives me some exercise), but because he has yet to develop a consistently effective way of getting from point A to point B, I am lifting and carrying him all the time.  Basically I have a 27 pound weight with me everywhere I go, which probably  results in much more "working out" than I realize.
  3. Being fit before and during pregnancy.  I think being active and in shape before and during my pregnancy made a huge difference.  Even though I was out of commission for the last month of my pregnancy, I was active and healthy for most of it.
  4. Breastfeeding.  Everyone says that breastfeeding helps you lose weight and can burn an extra 500 calories per day.  If this is the case, then I'm nervous about what will happen when I stop.  Henry breastfed more hours of the day than not during his newborn phase, and still loves to nurse (sometimes all the way through the night, much to my chagrin).
  5. Deep core engagement postpartum.  As a yoga instructor, I thought I had a good awareness of my core pre-pregnancy, however, postpartum I have gained a much deeper awareness of my core.  In order to prevent ab separation,  I have become very mindful of my abdominal muscles, making sure to draw them in rather than let them push out.  I know I often allowed them to push outward in poses like plank before, however now I am incredibly mindful of not letting my belly pooch (doesn't include skin) during core work.
  6. Walks.  Henry and I walk a lot together.  It's one of the best ways to get him to sleep or relax when he's upset and it's an easy way for me to exercise with him.  At first all my walks were done babywearing, but now I also use the stroller (I usually try to start him in the stroller and then switch to the carrier when he wants to be closer to mommy).
  7. Babywearing.  Like I mentioned earlier, Henry is a heavy baby.  Babywearing has saved me from having to support all his weight in my arms.  That being said, it's also been like wearing a weighted vest.  Again, keeping him on me is added weight and therefore an added workout.
  8. Having a "needy" baby. Henry loves his mommy.  As I've talked about before, it's a catch 22.  It can be exhausting, but I also love it.  As a result of Henry needing/wanting me all the time, I am always with him.  Therefore, I'm always holding him, carrying him, babywearing him, breastfeeding him, etc.  All the things I mentioned above happen more frequently because of Henry's temperament. 
  9. Natural change in my body shape.  As I said earlier, I think my body looks different than it did pre-pregnancy.  I always disliked my stomach.  I have a short torso and felt like my stomach often looked soft and puffy.  Now I think my stomach looks flatter as a result of two changes I have noticed--my belly button looks different and my waist is less defined (the sides of my body go straight down rather than tapering in and then back out).  While these changes may be unnoticeable to many, I notice them.  For me the physical changes were positive.  I emphasize "physical" because my body still doesn't feel or move in certain ways that I miss from before.  I still have the linea nigra, but it doesn't bother me.  I think our bodies probably all change as a result of pregnancy so the term "pre-baby body" is a misnomer.  The important thing is finding ways to love our postpartum maybe because of or maybe in spite of the differences.