How yoga therapists work: A practice for new mothers

By Julia Romano

A central tenet of yoga therapy as I share it is that awareness is healing in and of itself. 

New mothers, who make up the majority of my client work, often come to me feeling stuck in depression, anxiety, trauma, grief, rage, disappointment, guilt, or shame—or some combination of these. Our yoga therapy starts with the idea that moving through challenge is about facing and feeling. It is impossible to heal what we avoid. Noticing the sensations that inform feeling and emotion gives us the opportunity to become present with the change that is, in fact, always occurring. 

For many—postpartum women in particular—complicated or lengthy practices aren’t practical. We’ll keep the following practice simple because—and this is so wonderful—the simplest practices are actually enough.

All of my experience in the yogic and therapeutic realm—nearly two decades of training—have come down to the following practice. Here we acknowledge two side-by-side truths: The thoughts and emotions that grip us are both real and temporary. We are not served by denying our feelings, ignoring them, or attaching to them. Just as the physical body must metabolize the hormones secreted by the stress response, so, too, must the psycho-emotional realm process the emotional response.

A practice for emotions

The first step is noticing the predominant emotion, like the grief that often accompanies new motherhood. 

Notice the feeling. Name the feeling. Acknowledge the feeling: I feel this, this is real.

Acknowledge your capacity to sustain yourself through the feeling: I can sustain myself

through this feeling.

Acknowledge the temporary nature of the feeling: This feeling will shift, change, and pass.

Bring it all together: I feel this. This is real. I can sustain myself while this feeling shifts, changes, and passes.

This first practice of noticing births greater awareness: A client may notice that right next to an emotion like grief lurk judgment and shame. I’ll often then introduce the concept of the “second arrow.” 

Born from Buddhist teachings, the idea is that the first arrow is the emotional pain generated by the external circumstance. This experience is unavoidable. The second arrow is our own doing—the self-imposed judgment and shame. One arrow is enough! Once we have awareness, we can choose not to sling the second arrow.

Having noticed grief, judgment, and shame, I invite turning the mind to the lighter sides of self. 

I’ll say: Tell me about a time when you felt love for another. That is evidence that you are capable of great love. Let’s turn that feeling inward.

Make contact with yourself, hand to heart, skin to skin. Wrap the grief, judgment, and shame you feel in love.

Say to yourself: I feel this, this is real. I am capable of wrapping this feeling in love and

compassion while it shifts, changes, and passes.

The grieving parts of one’s self need to feel the safety that the loving and compassionate parts can provide.

Julia Romano (www.empoweryogatherapy.com), MA, MA, MS, C-IAYT, is the author of the upcoming guide The Whole Mother: Developing Awareness in Service of Postpartum Healing and creator of the Substack sitesMark Upon the Infinite: Parenting While Walking a Spiritual Path” and “The Yoga Therapy Lens.”