Born At Karma: A Mother and a Son

October 3, 2013
Katherine Austin Wooley



Yogas Citta Vrtti Nirodha-The Restraint of the modifications of the mind-stuff is Yoga.

Sticky with negativity

Two years ago exactly, my life revolved around yoga. I practiced Ashtanga (mysore-style) yoga every morning at the crack of dawn; I worked for Yoga Alliance, and taught yoga as a novice RYT-200 in the evenings.

Prior to moving to Michigan, I was a steadfast yogi. I had devoted a lot of life to yoga: daily asana practice, mission trips, yoga fundraisers, studied the philosophy of yoga and worked at national yoga conferences. I even had plans to visit India. Life was easy and peaceful.  By the end of the fall 2011 two years ago, I fell in love with an old friend who lived in Michigan, became engaged to him and had plans to relocate to Michigan. A Perfect life.

In less than one year's time, I moved to a different state (from where I had grown up all my life and had built a large network of friends), got married, and became pregnant. Of course, I wanted to continue to pursue this path of yoga, while all at the same time make all these life changes.

This didn't work out as seamlessly as anticipated. These new variables became roadblocks and I just stopped - stopped practicing what I thought yoga was, that is.

I lost my passion to teach what I knew in my heart, to connect to others and to live the life of a "so-called yogi."  As I grew into my pregnancy, I entered a deep depression, going through a downward spiral: gained weight rapidly, discontinued working, and was so paralyzed that I could not even remember what I once had a passion for, what I was here for. I had no energy to offer the world, no local support system, and no zest for life.

You know the saying, "practice and all is coming"? Well, I couldn't even reach that reminder in my memory bank. I had the tools at one time but the suffering was beyond that. I was paralyzed emotionally for the first four months of my pregnancy. Was I still pursuing the path of yoga?

Looking back in hindsight I was indeed, but I was temporarily confronting the darkness of life. Depression, a new territory, and not having the security of local friends were the obstacles and the discomfort that would eventually create a new more profound yoga experience in my life.

Pre Birth- A Karmic Nudge

The winter was longer and colder in Michigan than where I was from, Northern Virginia. My depression grew deeper and overcame me until around February when I began to think of spring and going back home. I guess thinking about the grass being greener somewhere else is one way to escape depression temporarily? I was in denial of being depressed and thought external circumstances would make me feel better. I was homesick and had plans to fly home from late April to early May. I grew tired of waiting for the sun to come out.

Before returning home, on one rainy day in early April during my second trimester, I was curious about trying Anusara Yoga so I did a quick Google search online and found Karma Yoga offered a class that same day (A Karmic Nudge perhaps?). Maybe spirit moved me, I'm not sure.

When I arrived at the studio, the staff welcomed me and informed me about the prenatal program. I discovered material regarding conscious beginnings, and partner prenatal as well. Hmm, is this was where I was meant to be? With all these resources, I had a hard time believing I wasn't supposed to be here.

A couple more practices later and a glimmer of light within me had been reignited.  But I needed more than a couple practices. According to the teachings in the prenatal classes, I had 33 years of internal work to clean up to prepare baby for the purest environment inside the womb and on this earth!  I needed to clean out the old negative thought patterns within me in order to create a pure happy being inside me.

This took practice, not just asana, but mantra, meditation, pranayama, conscious effort. Shoot! Now it was time to hop on the plane to go home for two weeks, but I didn't want to so much. I wanted to continue practicing at Karma Yoga.

So I went home and it was unseasonably cold and rainy, just like Michigan. The grass wasn't greener on the other side and I didn't live in Virginia anymore. The universe made that clear to me. The universe did a crystal clear job of revealing this truth to me. My new life was in Michigan and this time I didn't dread going back.

A Whole New Practice-Taking out the Garbage for Good, Reprogramming

Ra Ma Da Sa Sa Say So Hung-Deep Healing Mantra

2 Days Before Labor at Karma

And then the Michigan Spring finally arrived.

The sun came out and Snatam Kaur's chants in class uplifted my day. How apropos was listening to the song Long Time Sun as I began to feel love in my heart again and at home ? !

Listening to all of Snatam Kaur and Todd Boston while practicing was new to me, but I liked them already and I felt a part of this new style of yoga. A new pure energy was blowing my way, and it was time to begin the deep internal Spring Cleaning, time to get rid of that mind stuff, old impressions, and just sticky negativity that was holding me back.

Clearing out 33 years of old stuff and crap was going to take some dedication. I was no longer concerned with mastering asana or completing the primary series like I had been when I was younger. Although I was grieving and nostalgic for the lifestyle I used to have, I was healing from a depression and stepping into this new beginning all at the same time.  I had a baby coming on the way sooner than later and that was my focus every morning. I will admit I knew nothing about babies or pregnancy at the time, just some of the contraindications for a yoga practice but learned quickly that the practice with baby goes deeper than movement on a mat to a much more subtle visceral level.

The impact of mantras while baby is the womb creates positive vibrations within them, as do the meditations that Mom and Baby can do together while in the womb, and of course the most familiar to me which was being fully present with baby while in the asana.

I began to breathe new energy (prana) into the dark corners of pain and tension that resided within me that had manifested in body during my melancholy filled days. I was breathing into a new life.

Somehow in those days when I was down, I had managed to circumvent the pain in my mind and body, ignore it all and just get through day by day in the months before. Denial.  I was stretching and breathing not only physically in a new practice and a new way but stretching and bending and modifying the former definition of yoga in my life. Well what I learned is the word YOGA stretches really long and bends in all different directions. The world of Yoga is vast and there is always more to learn from it's teachings in this lifetime.

This new practice shifted immensely from my old practice. I was not on a routine anymore but was just as devoted to the teachings of yoga and now to my baby.

In fact, every day was a different experience of shedding layers of ego and pain in the body and mind. The practice of bonding before birth has the greatest impact on baby. Katherine reminded us that during gestation, the mother has more influence over the baby than at any other time. I had to clean out old personal and ancestral patterns of thinking, of reacting. I had to change "me" for the best to benefit this new being.

Yoga manifested itself in a new way and this new practice was about letting go of old patterns that didn't serve the future. That was the intention every day. When I was practicing asana I could feel this affecting my little Aquarian baby (as Katherine would say) on an energetic level. There really was no methodology or prescription to this new practice. I was just open to the techniques that were all new to me.

As I spent the glory days of my pregnancy at Karma, I actually lost the extra weight that I had gained early on during pregnancy, became elevated, learned about childbirth and pregnancy and was "me" again... Sometimes I used mantra, sometimes asana, sometimes meditation and pranayama, often a combination of all. Picking up positive vibrations and filtering out the residual negativity in by body and mind and being open to the new approach of yoga teachings healed me.

Karma embraced the fact that I was pregnant and welcomed my and baby into each class. And as for my yoga background, well that prepared for me this journey. It was time for me to be the pupil now and everything I had ever learned was showing up in my practice. The yogic seeds that I had planted years ago were growing here during this beautiful spring. I had fallen in love with yoga all over again.

And as for that saying, "Practice and all is coming that was once drilled in my head, it had become alive again. The Yoga was alive! My Baby and I were alive and doing our work together. I did all classes from Bhakti Vinyasa to Iyengar, each teacher more than happy to teach me and baby!

A fellow student at Karma Yoga often asked, "Are you going to have your baby at Karma Yoga?" It certainly looked that way since sometimes I took back to back classes and was there everyday. The techniques and technologies learned at Karma enabled me to face this debilitating depression in the eye, get to the root of it and shed any mental negativity that manifested itself physically. Needless to say, I shed the extra pregnancy weight effortlessly and was right where I should on the scales by June.

The Birth

Sa ta na ma-describes the eternal cycle of life

Ong Namo Guru Dev Namo

Deep in the womb, baby experienced a journey with me, of sadness, change, of transformation, of acceptance, and finally of peace. By eight months pregnant, we were complete, we were one.

I was not stuck in the negative past anymore. I had attained a state of yoga with my baby, a perfect union. Now I was just anticipating his physical arrival.

I had also found that missing link inside myself. I had connected with the energy of yoga within and without, the atman and Brahman once again adjoined.  And these kundalini mantras that Katherine and Nicole introduced me to were a way to practice if my body wasn't up for a full physical practice.

I even told Nicole one day that I would use the mantra "Ong Namo Guru Dev Namo" during birth. Ong Namo Guru Dev Namo means "I bow to the divine which brings light." Sure enough, that mantra was heard throughout me and baby the day of birth.

The spark of yoga, of light that was once dormant in me was now all around me.

In the early hours of July 24, I began labor in its earliest stages.  At this time I was only experiencing minor pain.

By 6 am, on the same day we drove to the hospital and by the time we arrived, I was in early labor. I was not afraid, I was not depressed, but felt intensely alive. In fact, I was joyful and at ease.

The doctors recommended that I take a walk in the Arboretum to open up dilation more. This day had to be the most gorgeous day of the year and the trees and gardens were just as glorious.  Perhaps that was just my perception since this positive source of life energy was about to grace us with his presence. My internal world was matching the external world. I was now ready to be admitted to the hospital for labor.

First day of life

My mind was calm and I knew that the practices I had been doing for the 4 months prior prepared me for this day. I remember everything that Nicole and Katherine said as for birthing tips, but I really wasn't thinking about the techniques intellectually because of the pain. I had absorbed them already. They were a part of me.

I was in a peaceful state of mind and aware and present through the entire labor. The chant Ong Namo remained with me, something easy to remember and something I promised myself to keep in my mind, my soul, my body. I had my iPod with some Kundalini and  Ashtanga chants, but Ong Namo did resonate through me.

But really, it wasn't just one mantra, one asana, or one meditation that made the birthing experience beautiful. It was just being open and receptive to the birthing process, living in the moment and staying connected to my body.

Since my mind was in a positive and fit state from months of hard work, I was able to breathe through the contractions and push the baby out using my bandhas, as I would during an asana.

At 2:02 am on July 25, a little being named Evan was born into this world. He has a calm and very curious spirit. He transitioned into this world with only a whimper and a look of wonder and love in his eyes. He was happy to be here and I  didn't feel or detect any anger, anxiety, or fear when he arrived. He just waved his arms and didn't seem agitated at all.

It was no big deal for him to be in my arms because we had been practicing and doing work together for months, ridding ourselves of negative karma. I found that beautiful light inside me again, the one we all have, the one had not seen for months and this time I saw that light times two, reflected in Evan's eyes!

So there he was, pure love staring at me. And being in that present moment when meeting Evan, everything made sense.

I had to go through these struggles to learn how to become a mother; I had to learn how to let go of the past, good and bad. This was yoga, this was what I was here for, it all came together then.

Post-Partum Practice

My pre-baby blues have not returned.

We did the work and practiced at Karma to earn our new roles as mother and baby yogi. My temporary negative ego self in depression transformed into spirit, and I learned new tools to stay elevated for me and baby.

I am content without living from a place of ego or defining myself with any role but mother and yoga enthusiast and just "being" a mother for now. My baby is my new teacher. He teaches me to be present at all times and if I am not he reminds me to focus on what is important.

I'm completely out of my comfort zone though, without routine and structure. I have to flow through my baby's agenda and not always do what I want to do, He keeps me in check at all times especially if my mind starts wandering into negative thinking.

Now this is the hardest asana of all, to be able to breathe into the unexpected now, into another being's wants and needs at all times. I swear he does little baby hand mudras with his fingers. He must have been listening in class!

Sometimes, we do listen to Snatam Kaur's chants in the morning. One healing mantra that echoes throughout me and baby today is "Ra Ma Da Sa." I can't hear him say it yet of course, but let's see if maybe this primal sound will be the first of his new vocabulary!

My favorite invocation to sing him is Angel's Prayer led by Manorama and Krishna Das. Baby Evan is alert and strong and is already able to do his own version of cobra, locus, and upward dog pose. He loves to stretch and has a strong core. Again, he must have been listening in class. I'm enrolling him in Spirit Baby Yoga since he meets all the prerequisites.

First cobra

OM Baby

My Karma Baby

In my four months at Karma, I cleared out a depression and many old patterns, bonded with my baby, and gained a new purpose, Mother.

My dharma was to become a mother and maintain my yoga practice but not in the uniform structured way it used to be two years ago.  Now I have a practice to keep me challenged for at least another 18 years!

And I have all these new tools to be able to cope with the parenting challenges. Karma Yoga led me to find the light of yoga in my heart now and the joy and connection to my baby. I had to retire my former ego in order to evolve.

In reference to the fellow student who asked about giving birth at Karma, I would have to say that yes a mother and a son were born at Karma, well you know not actually, but spiritually.

The greatest gift I thought I had ever received in this lifetime is that of yoga.

However, the greatest gift is being able to share this amazing journey of yoga with my son. I can't wait to tell my babe where he spent his early days of practice that helped shape him. What a tone to set for rest of his life.

My first yoga teacher said to me, "Yoga is always going to be a part of your life" when I thanked her for her teachings and she was exactly right.

I took a detour on my yoga journey, and realized I had been on a spiritual journey all along, but most importantly that I was with my first born child on his spiritual journey. It wasn't about "me" anymore. I had done the work I needed to do in order to conquer my ego.

It's all about him now. After all, isn't the point of yoga to relinquish one's ego in order to yoke and connect? And isn't yoga about having no expectations? Well, I had no expectations back in April when I walked in the door of Karma Yoga.

Sat Nam

With Whole Hearted Gratitude

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