Today, Vicky B can talk openly about yoga and postnatal depression, because she has experience of both. Vicky is a yoga teacher. Known as Canny Yoga Newcastle, Vicky delivers a Free Flow yoga sessions, a Beginners’ yoga class, yoga workshops and a Pregnancy Yoga & Birth Preparation class. The Pregnancy Yoga class is designed to make expectant mothers feel nurtured and cared for in this period of profound changes.
The physical and mental demands of pregnancy and motherhood may loom large at this point but there is no better way to address a changing body and preoccupied mind than an intelligent and soothing yoga practice that includes positive visualisation, deep relaxation and plenty of opportunities to bond with your unborn baby. A great way to start your journey into motherhood! Canny Yoga
Whilst she herself had a trouble-free pregnancy and a textbook birth, what happened next was far from how she imagined it. We’ll find out more about Vicky’s personal experience of postnatal depression in this article. She doesn’t generally share this experience of postnatal depression with her yoga students, as she doesn’t want to put any negative energy on them. However, her own experience does inform the advice that she gives to these expectant mums. She wants to make sure they’re well prepared, relaxed and calm, able to deal with the unexpected and unpredictable. It’s about accepting there are many different ways and yet holding onto the agency in every situation.
Having grown up in Greece, Vicky B moved to the UK to find work after university in 2011, because she had no prospects in Greece due to the financial crisis. She already had friends in Newcastle. She’d taken her first yoga class in Greece in 2008, having explored yoga herself before that. There’s a strong spiritual tradition of the mystics in Greece and different styles of yoga and meditation are widespread in popularity. Of course, she misses the beautiful weather. That’s what everyone asks her about but she’s quick to reply ‘you can’t live on weather alone’.
It makes me appreciate the sunshine when we have it. It motivates me to get out there when there is good weather to enjoy, precisely because we cannot rely on good weather everyday here.
Having completed her Yoga Teacher Training with the British Wheel of Yoga in 2015, Vicky continues to explore and experiment. She loves to fuse different things together and respond to the needs of the students in the class. She embraces the ongoing research into movement, the challenge of traditional ways and learning from great teachers from diverse styles of yoga. Doing something because it’s always been done that way is simply not good enough.
Vicky continued to teach yoga until a few weeks before her son Leo was born in June 2016. On the day of his birth, she was up a ladder clearing her back yard walls from weeds! She gave birth to her son at home on the sofa, just as she planned to do. However, after the birth, she soon felt that the situation was spiralling out of her control. None of what she had decided upon was adhered to or respected by the midwives. They ignored her request for delayed clamping of the cord. They wiped the baby over with wipes, which was not at all what Vicky wanted. They wouldn’t let her wait to deliver the placenta in her own time and when one of them pulled on the cord and snapped it, the situation turned into a medical emergency. Suddenly an ambulance was called and paramedics were there and Vicky was frantically worrying about whether she would survive this life-threatening situation. This time that was supposed to be such a precious, magical moment became terrifying and dehumanising.
Afterwards, Vicky received trauma therapy and counselling, but nothing could change what had happened. Whilst she and her partner had given lots of thought to the birth, they’d been naïve about what came next. On the evening of the second day, Vicky experienced a terrifying vision when she was holding her precious, soft and fragile son and imagined herself hurting him unintentionally. This thought freaked her out. She had no idea that this is a common concern for new mums. It’s to do with the plummeting of hormones and actually protects your baby by making your more careful. All she could think was ‘This is not how it’s supposed to feel’.
For the first six weeks, Vicky’s partner Jez was at home too, and then the family went back to Greece until the baby was three months old. Her dad and her sister then came back with her to the UK for three weeks. And then after that, she was alone. She hadn’t had to cope alone with the baby before. She’d built up no support network, not got to know any other mums with young babies, because she hadn’t needed to. Now her partner was back at work and she was alone in the house from 6am to 4pm. She felt she had no time to herself: no time to shower, no time to get dressed.
It all came to a head one day when Vicky had arranged to meet up with some friends at 3 in the afternoon, but simply could not make it. The baby wouldn’t settle and she just freaked out. She called Jez.
Come home. I’m not coping. I need you to come home.
She’d lost any sense of trust in herself as a mother. She’d thought it would all come naturally, but there was this powerful seed of doubt in herself that she could not shake off. Physical checks revealed hypothyroidism. She was struggling to stay well both on a physical and mental level. About a year ago, she was back teaching yoga, but this overwhelming sense of helplessness and hopelessness was growing ever more profound. She resisted taking medication for postnatal depression and went along to a talking group and counselling instead. She enrolled her young son in a nursery to get some time back for herself in the week. She knew she hadn’t been using the tools at her disposal – her yoga practice included – to effectively manage her feelings and health.
She’d been naïve. She knows that now. She can also recognise that she was not flawed in some way, but that postnatal depression can come about from external factors, from a major trauma such as she experienced after the birth of her child. Vicky’s yoga practice was in there all the time, influencing her soul and psyche, giving her the hope and determination to fight back.
Everyone should do yoga.
Vicky is really proud of where she is at now. She’s come through this experience of postnatal depression. There’s a healed wound, that she knows has been there, but it’s not there any more. She’s learning every day what it means to be in the present, to enjoy every moment with her son Leo. She’s got big dreams. She wants to travel. Having a child doesn’t stop life. She’s taking more time for her own yoga practice, continuing to be influenced and inspired by other teachers. She’s super excited to be attending a Donna Fahri workshop in Edinburgh shortly on befriending the self.
That’s where Vicky B is at right now.
She’s been through a traumatic time but now she’s developing the confidence to befriend herself.
She’s beginning to realise again that she may be more grounded than she thinks.
She has good reason to be proud of herself.
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