Author Archives: Mariela

Ashtanga During Pregnancy – Surrendering to Grace

[Here is an article submitted by Mariela Cruz, authorized Ashtnaga Yoga teacher in Costa Rica. You can read more about Ashtanga and Pregnancy with Wendy's article here and the follow up article here - Ed.]

As I start to write, I can feel, and start to count, the contractions that are now coming every ten minutes. We are almost there, my baby and I, ready to meet and finally embrace! During the past nine and a half months, he has become my teacher, my guru and my salvation.

I am 38 weeks and almost there. This article is an attempt to capture the magnificent experience”yoga-wise” that this baby has meant for me and my practice.

The level of letting go that I have experienced, I never, ever anticipated. Just when I was enjoying a peak in my practice, very strong and committed, this baby chose me. Third Series was blowing my mind and my body seemed to answer to all the extreme demands this beautiful practice asks.

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Mariela Cruz adjusting 9 months pregnant in Costa Rica

I was gifted with a very bendy body that started practicing yoga at a rare young age. My mother was one of those “weird” beings (in a good sense, I realize now) who was always searching. Back then, to practice yoga in Costa Rica, a traditional catholic country, was considered a mortal sin. Anyways, she found a way to take me with her to class when I was about 10 years old. My only memory is watching these beautiful tall, white bright
beings moving in the shala’ s corridors -angels I guess- and since then, I could feel the blessings of yoga.

Life kept moving; I had my four children and I became a lawyer. Although very successful as a lawyer, I found to be absolutely miserable in a career that was not for me.

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Mariela 6 months pregnant in scorpion: don’t try this at home!

My first visit to Mysore was 7 years ago. Ashtanga Yoga in Mysore is hard to describe: I can only say that the energy around Guruji and Sharath made me return six more times and always crave for India while I was home. Practicing on my own (since I had no teachers in San Jose where I live) was a small price to pay, compared to the promise of returning every year to see my beloved Guru.

Life started changing very fast. We built the studio and people started coming. Life shifted and I happily gave up my law practice and started teaching full time.

When the news came last June that I was pregnant again, there was a mixture of profound joy and overwhelming worry… “and what about my practice?”

One thing is to theorize about how beautiful having a baby is, especially if you are in love and with the right partner by your side. But then there is the reality of what your body will go through! The first three months were pure hell! Besides that, I decided to go back to India and finish the process of getting authorized by Guruji and Sharath: it was not a very good idea! But my desire to be close to my teachers and finish this first stage was too strong to let go.

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I arrived in Mysore last August on my own, being 12 weeks pregnant and after 26 hours of non-stop flights and delays. Pregnancy is such a delicate time. You are as open and vulnerable as ever and flying across the world from Costa Rica through Germany to finally arrive to Bangalore and then Mysore was the biggest challenge I have faced. Constant nausea, vomiting and loneliness made this the hardest trip. Arriving by myself, longing for my husband and children was also very hard.

A dear friend rented me his place, a very cozy little apartment with all the facilities. Mr. and Mrs. Chinnappa, the landlords, were always so kind and respectful. So I felt cared for in the middle of everything. I would stay awake all night, still very jet-lagged, thinking of my loved ones and crying and directly go to the shala at 6 am for practice.

I was assigned to practice with Saraswati. A part inside of me craved for the 5 am practice with Sharath as always, for my teacher friends and the whole gang.

Practicing with all the beginners requested a big dose of humility. But Saraswati’ s gentle approach and daily concern made everything easier for me, even though during practice I had to leave and go vomit every ten minutes. My body was refusing to adapt to so many changes at the same time: baby, food, time zone and broken heart.

Being used to having my body do whatever I asked of it, this felt very confusing. I felt as if I was possessed and couldn’t get it to obey my mind. This started upsetting me deeply, to a point where I started regretting what was actually happening and many doubts started clouding my mind.

Yoga teaches us the art of acceptance. It’s easy to accept things when they happen “your way”; but how about when they completely go upside down?

From a three-hour daily practice, I had to cut short to half Primary Series with a lot of modifications. It was very interesting how Saraswati immediately removed all the twists (Marichyasana C and D). My practice used to give me lots of energy for all the challenges of motherhood and full time yoga teacher, but now I was feeling depleted and above all, profoundly depressed.

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My husband made it to India for his first time, probably intuiting I needed support. The trip ended with my authorization being granted and us returning to Costa Rica. Though things were not easier once we got home.

Normally the nausea and vomiting stop after the third month and Guruji and Saraswati advised against practice during the first three months. However, this was not the case with me. I came back and things got worse. I could barely stand up from my bed. Everything was foggy and couldn’t get the grip of the practice again. Teaching was very hard, but I kept going.

My body felt terrible and I wasn’t able to apply the only medicine I know for body and heart aches: practice. What to do?

I realize this pregnancy has taught me what my regular practice would have never taught me. Suddenly, everything I loved the most was taken away from me. When I say “I loved and love my practice above everything else”, it is because I appreciate so much the perspective it has brought to my human experience.

Giving up such love is no easy task. I had to start from scratch, doing one Surya Namaskar and then collapsing into Child pose for 20 minutes while the room kept turning and turning.

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I realize my profound love for practice was definitely a very heavy attachment. My body was used to the chemicals produced by it and I had to go through heavy “detox” with all its consequences: mood swings, sadness, intolerance almost to the verge of depression.

Then slowly, things started shifting. My only option was to surrender. And from that surrender to this tiny teacher inside of me came a second wind. My practice completely changed, even more as I started growing bigger. But as I faced my mat everyday, scared to find I was not able to perform anymore, I started getting real. I found new joy and gratitude in the blessing of knowing there was a life growing inside of me and that somehow he was helping me understand new things. My only sadhana was to become a clean channel for this soul and stop interfering and asking something for myself. Instead, to just be there for whatever he needed from me, beyond my likes and dislikes.

Yoga gives us so much power and there are many ways to use that power. We can use it for our own benefit or we can use it to give and help each other. Even though I always thought that my job as a yoga teacher and my mission as a mother was fulfilling all this, I know there was a part inside that still wanted something for myself.

As Krishna tells Arjuna: surrender the fruits of your actions. This is what I have learned during this last 38 weeks. I can now happily say that I will go back to my practice, after Gael is born, from a different space inside. A space that simply wants to serve and give in a sincere way and use practice as an instrument to prepare body and mind for that.

I feel very blessed by the presence of this little-huge being in my life. He was already in India with me and I plan to take him back next year to Mysore. Gael will always be a constant reminder that yoga is not about achieving anything, but about being grateful for what life offers us. As we all, in our family, embark in this new adventure with baby, I thank all of my children for teaching me how to let go of selfishness.

UPDATE 17th FEB 2008: Gael was born on Friday February 15th at 1:26 pm – baby and mom are doing well.