My name is Dena Kingsberg. I am a dedicated practitioner of Ashtanga Yoga and a senior student of the late Sri K P Jois. I have had a daily practice for 27 years.
My ashtanga journey began at the age of 21 I was spending from three to six months of each year in Mysore. During this time my moon cycle for the most part was absent. I was unconcerned, underweight, overextended and contented. My cycle returned though always lightly when I was not travelling. I am observant of moon days and ladies holidays.
Transformation through the practice was my primary focus. From primary to intermediate, then all of advanced A with Guruji adding asanas one by one of advanced B until it was completed. By this time I was the age of 33. My practice took about 4 ½ hours.
It was after 15 years practice that I was blessed with the birth of my first child, Zoli. Three years later she was followed by her brother Izac. This is how the landscape unfolded, both internally and externally, along the path to mother hood.
Jack joined me in Mysore for the first time in 1995. It was Guruji ( Patabhi )and Ama ( his wife ) who played match - maker and encouraged our romance. Then in 1997 They facilitated our wedding ceremony. During which, Ama said “Australia is a very big country, you should have 10 children”. I anxiously responded, “what about yoga?” And, in unison, Ama and Guruji replied “this is yoga”.
Jack and I had been in relationship for about 8 years, without birth control. We used what we called the gods will method. If it’s gods will then we would conceive. After our marriage we decided to become proactive and used the Dena’s will method. I changed my diet, consciously eating more dairy, more nuts, more oil. I replaced my lean, mean, yoga- machine body with something rounder. I softened my practice, less hours, less heat, less asana, less strength. We booked an island holiday with a keen eye on the timing. (Jack still laughs that I expected to fall pregnant in the first month of trying.) It took 4 months to conceive, without the island and holiday. I was 35.
OMG what have we done. I told him on Christmas day and we were both in shock. ( nothing like ‘in the movies’ )
THE FIRST TRIMESTER
We weren’t planning to be in Mysore for my first trimester but Sharath and Struthi were getting married. I told Guriji I was
pregnant, he simply said “you do” so I did. Not yet at 12 weeks, with minor spotting, major worrying, we headed home. The scan showed all was fine.
From this point on I made my own way. I practiced according to what felt comfortable. Ignoring books or uninvited advise. I
figured that if my body had the intelligence to create this life growing inside me then surely I held the intuition to know what was working for us. Part of me felt it would be important to
document, another part felt the process to be truly individual. So many factors needed to be considered before offering advice or guidance to others.
Have you ever seen a whale? Remarkable how I swelled up to 75 kilos! I think I was concerned about judgment. Others’ opinions that my vegetarian diet would not feed us both. So I just kept on eating ….. My belly was so tight I could hardly back bend: things that I had read in books and watched other expectant mothers do with grace felt uncomfortable. So I practiced every day but I let go of any agenda or expectation. I started to swim; pranayana in the water. It made me peaceful, internal. It felt important to stay strong as my spine changed in shape to accommodate the weight. Each day signified feeling into the intelligence of my own body as it took part in this miracle of creating life.
I taught Mysore style classes up to 8 and a half months of each pregnancy.
I bow to you young spark of the Divine
A twinkle in my partner’s eye From deep within I feel you stir
Empowering my appetite
Drawing from my energy
Swelling of my limbs, my face, my belly
Taking over my body by day, by night.
As we await your arrival
If you who know us, you would also know that we live in the forest, in the hinterland, beyond Byron Bay. Ours is a stone and recycled timber home, we have built with our own hands, over a few decades. At the time of my first pregnancy we had yet to complete the bathroom and conditions at home were, organic, earthy, rustic. So the white tiled sterile bathroom of the birthing suite in Lismore Hospital was a welcome delight. I had placenta previa in the first two trimesters (Placenta previa is a problem of pregnancy in which the placenta grows in the lowest part of the womb (uterus) and covers all or part of the opening to the cervix.) and mild Pre eclampsia (Pre –eclampsia is a medical condition in which hypertension arises in pregnancy) towards the end. I was relieved to be surrounded by people who knew what they were doing and what I should be doing. However I was little overwhelmed by the number of them, mostly unknown to me, making themselves quite a home in the entry of what once was my private parts, reserved only for invited guests.
The power of labour contractions is unbelievable. Connected to the full force of mother nature at her best. Potent, terrifying, beautiful. The first one ( contraction ) took my feet from beneath me and I am no stranger to pain and intensity. This experience is a woman’s honour. A yogic privilege. My midwife’s name was Mearl. She’s all you could hope for: a solid farm girl with an earnest face. Labour took 4 hours. By about the third hour I realised there was no turning back, nowhere to run. The physical expanse in front of me ( the baby ) somehow had to pass through my delicate passage. Fear, exhilaration, concentration, grand company. These are the words that come to mind. I never doubted I would have a drug free natural birth. If other women had managed it then surely I would too. Primal, honest raw. Pain is only a part of it. Empowerment and surrender are the greater parts.
Zoli Anastasia Lakshmi Wiseman came to us on the extraordinary day of Sep 6 in the year 2000. Jack took to fatherhood like a bird to flight. He spread his wings to a new expanse and I was overwhelmed with gratitude for his natural capacity. Nothing prepares you for motherhood, the preciousness of this new life and the overwhelming responsibility of care. Guided by intuition you wade through an abundance of conflicting advice hoping it will all be all right. We continued to practice usually very early whilst she slept. Zoli would join me in class each morning, feeding during pranayama. She was then strapped to me or in her hammock during asana practice. The students rejoiced in her presence, watching her grow with love and fascination.
I was back on the mat as soon as my body allowed, though the effects of birthing and my swollen breasts left me feeling a stranger to my physical being for some time. It’s as if an explosion has gone off in the bottom half of your torso. Bhandas felt like a thing of the past. My pelvic floor felt like it was trailing some miles behind me. It took me two years to fully reclaim my body and my practice. I was in no hurry to lose it again. I bought a ticket to Mysore and was just about on my way when….
They say once the door is open the spirits sneak in. My second pregnancy took me by surprise. I was strong, lean, and practicing without restraint. The second time round was more relaxed in every way. Less extreme. I did not try so hard to hold on. Perhaps it was time to fully surrender into parenting. Izac was born at home outside in the dappled light . No hospital, no midwife. Just Jack and I, and four contractions. This birth was my brightest hour, as a yogini, as a woman. Without fear, without mind, surrounded by nature, bathed in faith and the magic of creation. Izac Viktor Ishvara Wisman was born in the morning on July 30 2003. And now we are four. Ours is a blessed existence and we live in the light of gratitude.
I am a different person. I practice for different reasons. Now, as a householder, a new chapter begins with children. I practice because it is who I am not something I do. I now know what it is to be deeply tired. What it is to have a body that is not yours to control: what it is to compromise. I have become a softer person. A better teacher I now have the possibility of empathy, compassion. I know a delightful struggle. I am rich in wonder. I have become worthy of love.
In this day and age many parents are encouraging, or even pushing their children to be first: first to walk, first to talk, first to read, ride a bike, etc. If not first, then best. Best in class, best at sport...... How can all the children be best or first? Such expectations lead to disappointment and a loss of self-confidence.
The heart of the way we live is formed by the ethical principals of yoga, and the desire for holistic and spiritual well being for all. So our children are encouraged to celebrate their youth. They are playfully guided to embrace and learn from nature's eternal wisdom.
Having the support of a Steiner education, Zoli and Izac are somewhat protected from the pressures of technology. Both children have grown up thinking that everybody does yoga. Everybody is a vegetarian. As they have grown older and discovered the world beyond the family circle of like-minded people, they begin to both appreciate and question our choices.
We have introduced them to asana practice, simple pranayama and have encouraged their capacity for stillness. We truly believe these tools will support them in which ever direction they choose and the unanticipated ones that life presents.
Do they always want to practice...? No, but they don't always want to clean their teeth or pick up their belongings either. Once the resistance dissolves, the magic of yoga finds it's way into them. On an intuitive level they understand it. They celebrate it.
As parents we strive to be strong enough and clear enough to make choices that support and reflect who we are and the values we live by: not be pushed down (or fall down) the path of connivance or mass non-awareness. We try to lead by example, honour our word and seek to find truth (Theirs as well as ours) whilst loving them and encouraging the light within them to shine.
There are many who feel that the path of parenting means the end of life, as we know it. (That could well be true.) And there are those who believe that the spirits of our children choose their parents because of who they are. If this is so.... then surely we owe it to them to continue along our chosen paths with children in company.
Just a few short decades ago, to be a yogi, to be practicing yoga was considered eccentric. Now, yoga is as normal in daily life as going to the gym. Those for whom this path is a way of life rather than a recreational exercise know it is essential that we focus to keep our practice alive and consistent. Not at the expense of the wee ones but with their best interests in mind.
Daily practice will make us fitter parents.
"Tired and parenting is a given.
Surely it's easier to parent tired and contented
Than tired and frustrated."
With reduced personal time and sleep, our discipline and patience will be ever challenged. It is perhaps helpful to see parenting as an extension of a yoga practice or YOGA unto itself. If this is achieved, we will then see every moment, every activity, and every interaction as part of the path and an opportunity for transformation and growth.
PARENTING nurtures qualities of the heart. It demands a new level of giving, acceptance and non-attachment. Only now can we appreciate what our parents gave or did not give.
Only now do we feel like true adults. We simply do the best we can, honouring our children, by harnessing the divine spirit in them. We have continued to travel and expose them to cultures beyond ours. They have been many times to India and both have spiritual names given by our late guru. Zoli is Lakshmi and Izac is Ishvara.
They are magnificent children.
Wild and strong. Inquisitive, artistic and musical.
We are in constant awe of them.
This path that embraces family is the one prescribed by our guru Shri K Pattabhi Jois. For it and for all his blessings we remain eternally grateful.
© Dena Kingsberg 2012