When Vata is grounded, the channels holding postpartum anxiety can clear out, and we become more open-minded, and openhearted.
Recently on NPR, I heard an interview with a guy who’d written a book on anxiety (Monkey Mind: A Memoir of Anxiety, Daniel Smith), who offered a definition of anxiety that sounded very familiar to me as a mom: worrying about things that have happened in the past, or that might happen in the future.
Almost instantly, when I got pregnant, and after having my baby, my mind went swinging, jumping, and playing from worry to worry: “I shouldn’t have gotten my toes done; the fumes are toxic!” and “did I skip folic acid on the one important day?” and of course the tests, and the visits, and all the possibilities… the prenatal and postpartum anxiety is endless!
Once we become moms (sorry to lay this on you, moms-to-be), if you haven’t learned tools to deal with postpartum anxiety, the journey will be a bit more challenging. “Have I been feeding her too much? Too little? What’s that spot?” and of course, later, it’s worst-case scenario the moment you walk into a room: is that bookcase screwed in? can she pull up a chair to that window and fall hard enough against it to break the glass?” “will she be OK without me?”
You get the point. I’m getting anxious just writing this.
For me, I had the tools from yoga; but I had to re-learn them now in the new context of postpartum anxiety. Practices I used to do when I had plenty of quiet, serene space and time spread out before me, but now I squeezed them in right before my baby woke up because my milk was coming in.
I do the practices anyway because I know how much effect even a little bit will have and that it is the best I can do right now. I do it because I will feel calmer and clearer, and I will be able to be present for my loved ones, my own needs, and the beauty of the universe in a whole new way.
As quantum physics tells us, everything is energy. Think of this energy as electricity. When you are anxious (stressed is the same thing; even a lot of excitement has a similar result in the body), energy rises from the middle of your body to the head – picture an outline of your body and light shining in the brain, representing the energy manifesting activity that is stuck up there.
We want the activity to move from the middle down, not rising up (once we’ve grounded our energy, we will naturally get a reaction of lightness in the heart, but first, we must settle). This energy is called Vata, meaning wind or movement. When Vata is grounded (just like electricity) – the channels above can clear out, and we become more open-minded and open-hearted.
Here 9 ways to ground your energy to reduce postpartum anxiety:
1.) Do strenuous physical activity with the legs. Walking, particularly up hills, is great. I have a little mini stair stepper that I got for $40 on Craigslist. When I can’t get out for a walk, I do 30 minutes of pushing energy downward, and my head feels clear afterward.
2.) If you’re trying to sleep – do child’s pose. Yes, in bed: knees wide, feet together. This gentle hip opener will get our energy to move down through the pelvis, and we’ll start to feel sleepy again.
3.) Meditate. Find a time that works for you, and do it every day. For 2 minutes. EVERYONE has 2 minutes sitting up in bed before sleep. Ask your partner to do it with you. Keep it simple – become as spacious in your mind as you can.
Bring your attention to the spaces between the thoughts. We bring energy to whatever we focus on. So instead of the thoughts getting stronger and stronger as we focus on them, they recede, and pure awareness expands.
Work toward 5 minutes, and you will experience moments of deep calm. 10 minutes – you’ll let go of some thought patterns that may have been there for a while. 20 minutes – you will have moments of blissfully floating in the ocean of consciousness, like scuba diving on gorgeous, clear waters – your baby, whether in or out, will get to feel this deep connection through you.
4.) Call someone – if you can’t seem to let go of the worry, or things just seem dark and pointless, you might have postpartum anxiety or depression. Call someone and put into words what you are experiencing. Sometimes, just by vocalizing it, you are creating an exit strategy for the energy that is stuck to those thoughts.
If talking to a friend doesn’t do it, try a professional in a one-on-one session or one of many mom support groups. Most leaders of Breastfeeding Support Groups can help you as well.
5.) Get more rest. When we start burning the candle at both ends and in the middle, our energy goes nutty instead of settling. Go to bed before 10 as often as possible. For the entire existence of the human race except for the last 200 years when we had electricity, this is what we did (if you’ve ever tried to do anything productive by candlelight, you’d go to bed too).
Accept the fact that you will not as productive in this time of life as you once were, due to postpartum anxiety. Remember, just a little bit goes a long way right now. This includes meditating, but also your sense of achievement. Let the dishes pile up, the email go unanswered, but maybe pick one room to clean so you can feel good when you see it.
If you are waking several times a night to feed, you need extra rest during the day. Even if you don’t sleep, by lying down and closing your eyes, you’re giving your body a chance to empty out and rejuvenate.
6.) Oil massage your feet right before bed with coconut oil or olive oil. This will bring the energy down lower. Just put a towel under your feet to protect your sheets. Better yet, have your partner do it.
7.) Be extra good to yourself. You are giving so much to this new little being – energetically, you need to receive. Ayurveda recommends a coconut oil massage before every shower. Just rub yourself down with as much oil as you can, wait a minute and then get in the shower. The oil (organic, extra virgin from Whole Foods) will go into your system and help lubricate everything. This is recommended during this challenging time as you deal with postpartum anxiety. It’s also great during other times of life.
8.) Unplug by 6pm. No work, no computer – only activities that are calming to the nervous system.
9) And, of course, do yoga. Just a cat/cow, a down dog, or a half-sun salute can help ground your energy and help calm the monkey in your mind. Yoga helps us settle into the moment: not the past, or the future, but the amazing time with your baby that is happening now and never again will in this way. In a Ma Yoga class, you will get most of the above all in one visit – strong activity with the legs, child’s pose, meditation, opportunity to share what’s going on with you, and a deep rest at the end. So, come join us!