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Fit Follow-Up: Melissa Lee

  • Name: Melissa Lee
  • Children: Son, born June 25, 2015; daughter, born June 2013
  • Claim to Fame: For many women the thought of more than 80,000 people watching their every move during pregnancy is daunting at best. But for Melissa Lee—aka @PocketDwarf on Instagram—having a huge audience throughout her recent pregnancy couldn’t have been more enjoyable. “I got to document a pretty special time in my life,” says the devoted yoga practitioner and mom of two. “Everyone was so incredibly sweet and supportive, which was really nice. I am so grateful.” Lee, who picked up yoga for the first time in 2013 after being inspired by, appropriately enough, what she saw on social media, motivates her followers with super-athletic poses staged (sometimes quite adventurously) amid gorgeous backdrops in Alberta, Canada, where she lives. We caught up with her about living life under the social media microscope and how she motivates other moms.
Q: How did you approach fitness and your yoga practice when you were pregnant?

A: Before getting pregnant, I had been practicing yoga about five times a week for the past two years. Before starting yoga, I worked out regularly for 13 years. So fitness and being active have been a really important part of my life. Shortly after I found out I was pregnant, I pretty much stopped practicing yoga for the first trimester due to my lack of energy and being a bit nervous about a miscarriage. I didn’t put a lot of pressure on myself to work out during that time because it is such a delicate stage and there are so many changes happening in the body. I ended up walking on my treadmill a couple times a week instead of doing yoga. But after the first trimester ended, my energy and confidence returned and I went back to taking four 90-minute vinyasa-style classes a week until the very end of my pregnancy.

Q: How did your practice change as your pregnancy progressed?

A: A few weeks after I found out I was pregnant, I avoided doing twists and laying flat on my belly. After speaking with a couple of my teachers, they all said it was safe for me to continue with my regular practice—with modifications—because I had a strong practice leading up to becoming pregnant and I had a very low-risk pregnancy. As my belly got bigger, I started using blocks for a lot of poses in order to create space for the baby. Props became my best friend. It was really interesting to see what I was still capable of doing and what slowly became impossible as the weeks progressed. I definitely couldn’t move as fast at the end. I really learned how to listen to my body. My body was no longer mine. I was sharing it with a very special little person and there was no room for ego or pushing myself.

Q: Did you try any other activities or did you stick to yoga primarily?

A: Once I started doing yoga two years ago I fell in love and gave up all other workouts I had done in the past. For this pregnancy, my only form of activity was yoga.

Q: You have a three-year-old daughter, too. How different was that pregnancy from this recent one?

A: Both of my pregnancies were very, very similar. Both were low risk. I didn’t start practicing yoga until eight months after my first pregnancy, so yoga while pregnant was very new to me. During my first pregnancy I was very active and would work out at the gym four times a week. I saw how beneficial physical activity was during my first pregnancy so I wanted to make sure I stayed active during this one as well.

Q: How have you felt so far post-baby?

A: Since I didn’t practice yoga right after the birth of my first child, I can’t say how things are different this time. But I can say how slow and cautious I am being getting back onto my mat. I thought I would be able to dive right back into my practice after the magical six-week postpartum mark, but as that date approached I realized it wasn’t the case. My body has gone through so much and I need to be mindful of that so it can heal properly.

Q: Six weeks can seem like a long time to go without something you love.

A:I really missed my yoga time during those weeks off. I am being very cautious about my core and pelvic floor. Since there is a big risk of diastasis recti [ab separation] as I recover, I am staying away from any intense core workouts or poses for the time being. I have only been taking classes that focus on postnatal and how to re-tone the body after baby and will slowly start building up to a regular class as the weeks go by.

Q: How does it feel to have shared this pregnancy—and the time after—with all your followers?

A:It was really fun and interesting. I never felt pressured to get a certain shot, but I did feel nervous sometimes about posting certain poses because I know everyone has different thoughts about yoga while pregnant. That aspect was a bit stressful because you are putting yourself out there and not everyone will always agree with what you are doing. I always thought about my baby’s safety first and never did a pose that did not feel right for my body or that I thought could harm my baby. Thankfully I never had any major issues with my posts. I always felt so much love from everyone.

Q: What is your post-pregnancy fitness philosophy in three words?

A: Be kind to yourself. Sorry—I used four.

Q: How do you think your level of activity affected your birth experience?

A: Since I knew I was almost guaranteed to have a repeat C-section for this pregnancy, my focus was on how to improve my birth experience this time. I had a really tough one with my first delivery and knew I couldn’t go through that again because I would have a new baby to look after and a three-year-old at home. Thankfully, the recovery from this C-section and my last C-section was night and day and I honestly believe that it was due to being able to practice yoga right up until the end. My body felt so much stronger during this pregnancy and I think that it helped my body recover a lot quicker. I required far less pain medication and felt great ten days post surgery. With my first, it took me four weeks to get to that same point.

Q: What advice would you give pregnant women when it comes to working out and continuing to do what they really enjoy?

A: As the baby grows bigger and bigger the added weight really starts to put pressure on every aspect of the body. I found that remaining active during the course of my pregnancy helped with some of those issues. Everything from leg cramps to Braxton Hicks contractions were greatly reduced by my yoga practice. Even short walks can really help with dealing with the discomforts of pregnancy.

Q: And once the baby comes?

A: As new moms, finding time for ourselves is so hard, especially as we adjust to a new schedule with a lot less sleep. I always tell other women to be gentle with themselves and how they feel about their body post baby. It takes time for everything to go back, but it eventually does. Start out small and sneak in what you can when the baby is asleep. Sometimes I do 15-minute yoga classes a couple times throughout the day because that is all there is time for.

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