1. a break or hole in an object or between two objects
2. a difference, especially an undesirable one, between two views or situations.
3. a space or interval; a break in continuity.
gap: a break or hole in an object or between two objects
I first noticed my gap about a month before my daughter was born. While applying my nightly ritual of sesame oil and lavender one evening (lavender for the intense insomnia - but that's a whole other blog post), I realized the space just around my belly button was suddenly softer and more pliant. It didn't even feel like a progressive thing but seemed to spring into existence; a strange and tiny trampoline suspended around my navel. I pushed gently into its squishiness and immediately self-aggression kicked in. I had Diastasis Recti! I had acquired a literal break between the two rectus muscles of my abdomen, which in my mind only happened to "other people", but certainly not me! I was too self-aware! I was too careful and mindful in my practice! I had avoided all the no-nos! I was a champion of healthy and vibrant pregnant women everywhere! Except, guess what? It had happened to me and it happened in spite of everything...
From the moment I found it, I checked my gap daily - did it close again? Was it only my imagination? I asked my acupuncturist.
"Yes, it's a separation. Do you want me to tape it to keep it from opening further?" YES. YES, I DO.
So then I was walking around with a big fat "X" over my belly button made out of hot pink kinesiology tape. It shouted out in the mirror, "Here lies my gap!" and brought one's eye directly toward, as if on some sad treasure map, this hole that had taken residence in my body. When I took the tape off to change it, it painfully pulled at my navel and left dirty sticky borders from the edges of the tape, encircling the small patch of skin lying over that which seemed to signify all of my shortcomings.
gap: a difference, especially an undesirable one, between two views or situations.
After Miya was born, my midwife checked my belly and sure enough, there was still my gap. She advised me to be careful in how I sat up and laid down. She told me to wait eight weeks before returning to any exercise at all, and even then to stick with postnatal yoga. I cringed. I had horrible visions of never teaching another arm balance again. I chastised myself quietly and inwardly... but I listened.
Even though I felt like running after two weeks and doing a handstand after four, I refrained. Instead, I rested and restored, and saturated myself in my love for my baby. I practiced mindful breathing while I nursed and built my core strength while taking long walks in the parks nearby while wearing Miya next to my heart. I did eye my loose and still-protruding abdomen with dismay occasionally as I passed the mirror, but my self-aggression was muted by the ocean of love in which I was constantly wading. It felt ok to to do less. It felt kind of ok to have a belly I didn't love.
Despite the new found softness with which I seemed to handle myself, I was somehow certain that my gap should or would disappear by the time I was ready to go to my first yoga class. Well, of course it should! I am a yoga teacher who has been working with bodies for nearly 20 years! I rested enough! I restored enough! I refrained enough! But at my eight week check-up, my gap was still there,.
gap: a space or interval; a break in continuity.
And so I began to really move again, but in a whole new way because of my gap. I inched into a yoga practice and took some short runs from time to time. As I researched and reached out to teachers and friends for tips and carefully practiced and explored the realm of my belly deeply, things began to shift. Self-doubt and aggression took a back seat more often. Maybe it wasn't my shortcomings. Maybe it simply WAS.
I started massaging my abdomen in an effort to release tension there, as I felt it surface often even in small amounts of effort or exercise. My belly, as I mentioned in a previous post, was much softer since giving birth and as I pressed and massaged into places that had felt inaccessible before, I began to encounter all of the injuries I ever incurred along my midline since childhood, namely in the muscles surrounding my spine and into my hips. I explored trigger points and tender places and slowly revealed a labyrinth of tension and pain, which I then began to unravel.
I also took a deep plunge into the mind-body connection that is associated with the abdomen and solar plexus, namely around my autonomy and personal power and where I have allowed others to forge their own divides into my sense of self over the course of my life. Since giving birth, I have had countless dreams about people who I have given my power to in the past. I began to use my meditation and quiet time to contemplate what it is to reclaim myself from those people, even if I haven't seen them in years. I reasserted myself where it was necessary and felt that strengthen my connection to myself and to my baby. In a sense, I embraced the archetype of mama bear.
As I worked on and with myself, I began to encounter another gap. It is common when talking about meditation and mindfulness to use the word "gap" in reference to the space between our thoughts. It is here where the light of wisdom resides and it is also this phenomenon that expands and reveals itself when we use steady and dedicated practice over a period of time. This gap also simply is. It inhabits any moment where overthinking and chatter of the mind ceases and pure presence exits. It is ephemeral, fleeting and yet always available. It is said to be our natural state, and yet so much of a yoga and meditation practice is spent chasing after it as if it were something totally outside of ourselves.
It is now 16 weeks post-delivery. I still have a gap in my belly, although it has definitely diminished. My practice and awareness of my body has reached a new and sweet place where I spend so much more time listening and waiting, rather than pushing or trying to achieve. I feel quite strong and capable, and what's more I feel much more balanced in my body than I have in years. I check my gap after every practice and every run, but my intention is to do so with compassion rather than the dead end stories of self-aggression.
My sense of power has intensified without being ego-driven. I simply recognize my value and I assert it more often. I have made a strong intention, or sankalpa, to hold my ground lovingly but powerfully when the situation calls for it.
The other "gap", the one between my thoughts, has seemed to expand while my diastasis closes. I find myself saturated in presence with my self and my daughter quite often. I witness my mind become incredibly attuned to my experience of being a mother, of being a yoga practitioner, of being a teacher, of being a wife, of being human. I feel there are much more breaks in the continuity of my mind stuff. Yogas chtta vrtti nirodhah.
I am not sure whether my gap occurred because of a misstep on my yoga mat, a lifetime of injuries and weakness along my midline, or as a result of prior inabilities to own my power. It could be all of them or maybe none. If the "X" from the kinesiology tape were still there, it would signify the spot where I began to dig and explore. And as I have minded my gap in these four months, I have begun to uncover parts of myself that have been hidden away for years or decades, even. I have begun to reveal the treasures and bounty of a self that is fulfilled and whole. I have used this literal break in the physical tissues of my body to dive into the breaks between my thoughts and weed out old stories that may not serve me or my daughter.
I am intrigued by what is revealed when we practice with real love. I am intrigued by those things that may at first seem limiting but in fact take us on a course to revealing wholeness. I am intrigued by gaps of all kinds, for it is often in "the spaces between" where we find the true treasures. Where once there was a gap, there is now understanding. And where once there was cluttered mind, there is now more gap. And so on.