7 Weeks Pregnant: Nausea

August 3 – August 9: 7 Weeks 0 Days – 7 Weeks 6 Days.

I love teaching yoga, but I had been so relentlessly nauseated that by week eight that I was just counting down the classes until Richard and I left on Wednesday for our road trip to Vancouver, Canada to visit my family. The teaching itself wasn’t so bad—the light movement and warmth actually relieved many of my symptoms—but having to put on real clothes and leave my apartment where I could nap and snack whenever I wanted to was arduous when I was feeling so uncomfortable.

Foxy and I used to go on long adventures every day. Now, my walks around Bernal Heights Park consist mostly of me resting on park benches. It drives me nuts when people say, "Isn't it a little early in pregnancy for you to be feeling so tired?" No. Evidently it's not.

Foxy and I used to go on long adventures every day. Now, my walks around Bernal Heights Park consist mostly of me resting on park benches. It drives me nuts when people say, “Isn’t it a little early in pregnancy for you to be feeling so tired?” No. Evidently it’s not.

I think nausea is my body’s way of preparing me psychologically for a baby. Just as a baby communicates it’s diverse needs in one way—crying—my body now speaks primarily in nausea. Hunger—nausea. Overly full—nausea. Exerted too hard—nausea. Too sedentary—nausea. Thirsty—nausea. Too hot—nausea. Too cold—nausea. Sleepy—nausea. Before I was pregnant, I could get up, take my dog Foxy on a 45-minute walk on Bernal Hill, and teach a yoga class—all before breakfast. During the walk and the yoga class my body may have whispered to me that I should have eaten sooner, and maybe by the time I finally grabbed a protein pack from Starbucks my body’s tone would have risen from whispering to sternly chastising. The nausea augments my body’s whispering to yelling. If I take Foxy out on even her 5-minute pee-walk before eating my morning apple or boiled egg, my body revolts. I wish I could say that I use my refined yoga skills to listen and respond to the subtle cues from my body, but the cues are so blatant and intrusive that it really doesn’t take honed senses or self-discipline to modify my lifestyle. It’s a necessity.

Informed by the booklet my doctor gave me and my friend, Jacqueline’s, blog I found that eating frequently helped attenuate my queasiness. For the first time in my life I started getting up for midnight snacks when my body woke me up with nausea. You’re not supposed to gain too much weight in the first trimester (yet another thing for pregnant women to stress about), so I broke up my meals into smaller sub meals (like a hobbit, I’ve got second breakfast and elevensies), ate more slowly, and got an arsenal of naturally low-calorie snacks. On our road trip to Vancouver, I munched on a steady stream of popcorn, grapes, and carrots. Luckily, I don’t get motion sickness, so the car ride didn’t bother me.

In Oregon, Richard and I went on a twenty or thirty minute hike to check out the sand dunes. I’ve been a fitness fanatic since I was fifteen, and normally I’m the one with stamina and Richard is the one telling me to stop trying to have a conversation with him while we’re hiking up a hill. This time I was the one huffing and puffing along, complaining that my shoes were full of sand, and stopping for frequent water breaks. I had the fleeting (and pretentious) thought, This must be how normal people all the time. The effort of the hike was totally worth the play time we had on the dunes though.

I insisted we continue to drive up the scenic route along the coast, even though it would add a couple hours to our trip. Then with Richard behind the wheel, the pregnant-lady fatigue set in and I fell asleep for most of it.

In Defense of Moving Quickly

One of my favorite teachers to practice with, Sean Haleen, shared the zen saying, “Nothing in nature is rushed, yet everything is accomplished,” which, as a vinyasa yoga teacher, is thought provoking. I don’t teach a ton of superfast flow and in my classes and I often say, “slow yoga is advanced yoga;” however I wouldn’t go so far as to say nothing is ever gained from moving quickly. While I don’t think your whole yoga practice should be fast flow (there often isn’t enough focus on integrity), I think playing with speed can be an amazing tool. Here are some reasons why, drawing from my own experience in yoga and fitness:

1. Going fast primes us psychologically for life: Five years ago, I visited San Francisco for two months and practiced yoga nearly every single day with teachers known for fast flow. I worked as a lifeguard back home, and a few months after my stint in SF, I responded to an extremely harrowing emergency at the pool–the type where you have to move quickly. The next week, my supervisor told me she was impressed by my ability to stay calm and take leadership in that situation. I told her it was because of yoga. Although vinyasa yoga sequencing can be crazy, hectic, up-regulating, and even stressful, the idea is to stay present, to maintain equanimity, to sustain even breath. Many people’s jobs, volunteer work, or family lives involve regular emergency situations, that require the body to be in a sympathetic (fight-or-flight) state. Although stress hormones can be damaging in the long run, activating our sympathetic nervous system isn’t a bad thing; it drastically improves our ability to respond physically. Teaching people to maintain focus in a body pumped full of adrenaline is invaluable. Of course, this should be balanced with down-regulating practices.

2.Going fast can refine our technique: Back when I was training half-marathons, I used to do one sprint-training session per week when I’d try to improve my time running distances shorter than a mile. Exploring my maximum power output at shorter distances taught me so much about technique and pushed me to recruit muscles I wasn’t fully taking advantage of. That training made my long-distance running much more efficient. Yoga is a different beast and more dangerous to do quickly, but in the case of a seasoned practitioner using speed with the intention of refining technique (which granted, often isn’t the case when people are blasting through practice), moving fast can spotlight detrimental habits. You can’t find the alignment for Warrior I in one breath? Why is your habit to come into the pose out of alignment and then fix it? You can’t make it from Warrior I to Chattarunga in one exhale? What’s holding you back from breathing more deeply? Moving quickly is another lens for svadyaya, self study.

3. Going fast is part of a balanced physical regimen: The body grows, develops, builds strength, and builds flexibility in response to stress (and loses all of that in the absence of stress). For example, the bones respond to high impact exercise (like jumping) by becoming more dense, which can prevent or delay the onset of osteoporosis. When I was a runner, my sprint training didn’t only improve my technique, it increased my muscle strength and power output. One of the reasons yoga is so great is that it stresses the body in many different ways and directions. I don’t usually recommend that people get their cardiovascular exercise solely from an asana practice–I think there are more functional ways to stress the aerobic energy system–but if someone insists on only doing yoga as their physical activity, I would recommend they have some fast movement in there. Life can move quickly and I want you to be able to meet it without getting physcially overwhelmed. Obviously there are innumerable factors we cannot control, but there are many we can; if my child ran out into traffic and got hit by a car, I would hate for it to be because I had to stop running after them to catch my breath.

None of this is in disagreement with the zen saying above, because moving quickly and rushing are different things. Moving quickly is a physical process whereas rushing is a psychological process. The art of moving quickly is to do so without rushing. In my sprint training, I was moving nearly as quickly as I could, but without the mental chatter associated with rushing. I was focusing to intently on minimizing wasted energy that I didn’t have the mental space to feel rushed. I’m effective in emergencies because I make fast decisions and move quickly without rushing, without panicking. If you incorporate fast movement into your yoga practice to get the physical benefits of moving quickly, it shouldn’t feel rushed. If it does, you’re moving too fast for your awareness to keep up with. That could mean that you need to move slower, it could mean you need to refine your awareness. Experience and a great yoga teacher can help you explore this.

Stop Procrastinating and Dive into Life

So many of us succumb to procrastination in our day-to-day lives, which is essentially allowing that which matters most to give way to that which matters least. Even in yoga class, we mull over what we should’ve said in an earlier argument, repeat and re-repeat mental grocery lists, and wonder self-consciously if anyone noticed that giant zit that popped up this morning. All of this is just procrastination that prevents us from being present to the real work: the svadyaya (self-study), the dharana (concentration), and the dhyana (meditation). Just as with any other work we procrastinate from, this stuff is often scary, uncomfortable, and exhausting. Anything that that spurs wild transformation usually is.

As Rusty Wells always said in class when I practiced with him years ago (and he probably still does): “If nothing ever changes, nothing ever changes.” Next time you’re in yoga class, your mantra is, “I prioritize that which matters most in this moment.” Mental chatter is definitely going to come up, but instead of indulging in it, you notice it as an observer rather than a participant. What do you cling to? What are your recurring thoughts? When is there the most mental chatter? When is there tranquility? Distraction is going to come up too. That’s an another opportunity for svadyaya. As one of my dear teachers, Les Leventhal, always used to point out: we never stop take a sip of water or fix our hair in the poses that we love. Notice.

Once you start diving into your yoga practice, you’ll find that the habits you develop start spilling over into the rest of your life too. You run for what matters most rather than lolling about in what matters least. You seize the day. You savor the richness of each moment.

Life is love - enjoy it. -Sai Baba

Life is a song – sing it. Life is a game – play it. Life is a challenge – meet it. Life is a dream – realize it. Life is a sacrifice – offer it. Life is love – enjoy it. -Sai Baba

On the internet, there is widespread disagreement who wrote the following poem, so if you know who the author is please let me know!

Life is an opportunity, benefit from it.
Life is beauty, admire it.
Life is a dream, realize it.
Life is a challenge, meet it.
Life is a duty, complete it.
Life is a game, play it.
Life is a promise, fulfill it.
Life is sorrow, overcome it.
Life is a song, sing it.
Life is a struggle, accept it.
Life is a tragedy, confront it.
Life is an adventure, dare it.
Life is luck, make it.
Life is too precious, do not destroy it.
Life is life, fight for it.
– Unknown