Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Things change, yoga remains

Things have changed around my house. My eighteen month old son, Josias, has started to sleep through the night. With a bit of gentle encouragement on my part, he now sleeps from about 8pm until four or five in the morning. This represents a HUGE change for us. Previously, he had been waking up four to six times per night to breastfeed. Obviously, that meant Mama was up four to six times per night and not getting a heck of a lot of sleep.

Eight o'clock is also a later bedtime for Josias. He used to go down at 7pm. By the time I got him breastfed and asleep it was usually about 7:45 and I had time to get in a short yoga practice before collapsing into bed. Now, though, he's not done breastfeeding until about 8:30, and since I have to get up at 4am, when he gets up, I just can't stay awake any longer to practice yoga.

I've been experimenting. Sometimes I get in 20 minutes before Josias goes to bed, while Papa spends time with him, or if Josias goes back to sleep after his 4am breastfeed, I'll try to get up and practice for a little while. BUT, I'm only able to practice about three times per week, whereas I used to fit it in five or six times a week.

I am so thankful that Josias is sleeping longer, for our whole family's sake. It is just a temporary downside that I can't practice yoga as much as I'd like. I know how important yoga is to my well-being and to my life. So, I am grateful if I get to practice three times per week. This also gives me the opportunity to reflect more on the other seven limbs of yoga (asanas or poses being only one limb), and to know that I have the opportunity to practice yoga every day of every week of every precious moment of my life.

It has also been an opportunity for me to examine my samskaras or negative patterns. I am a person who likes a schedule and a fixed way of doing things. Some might even call me a tad rigid.  Josias' change in sleeping schedule has allowed me to reflect upon my commitment to a home yoga practice.  Can I be flexible enough to change when I practice and for how long? So far the answer has been, yes, sometimes!

Has anything in your life required you to change your schedule or examine your commitment to yoga or anything else that is important to you?  How did it go?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

A pain in the neck

Over the past few months, I've started having neck, shoulder and back pain. It's not constant, it's more of an on and off kinda deal, but it sure gets in the way. I don't need to see the doctor to know the cause: a 25+ pound human that likes to be picked up, carried, worn on my back and breastfed. Josias actually isn't very clingy, unless he's sick, but he is a toddler and does need to be picked up and held frequently. Sometimes it's not for his comfort, but to prevent mayhem from ensuing.

My husband suffers from chronic shoulder pain, so once I started feeling poorly, I was terrified that it was the same thing. Is shoulder pain contagious? I was so sure that my posterior parts were doomed that initially I didn't even attempt yoga as a way to deal with it. After a few days, though, I decided to give it a try. 

My first ailment was my upper back and shoulders. I tried several poses, including cat-cow, cobra pose and my favorite standing poses. That felt pretty good, but I wasn't out of the woods yet. Then it came to me. Dolphin pose!  It worked like a charm. After about three days of incorporating the above-mentioned poses into my practice, I was good as new. Or, as a good as an almost-forty, mother of a toddler, can reasonably expect to be.

This week a new ache arrived. Neck pain. In addition to the mama duties that brought on the shoulder and back problems, I think sitting at a computer for endless hours a day contributed to the latest discomfort. Fortunately I have a private office as well as yoga-friendly (or at least tolerant) office mates, so I could practice a few poses. But, neither my body nor my intuition was giving me clues as to how to deal with this one, so I consulted the Yoga Journal website, where you are able to find poses that will help with specific problems - both physical and emotional. In addition to the usual suspects, it suggested puppy pose for neck pain. I would have tried this pose for its cute name alone, but the fact that it promised relief from neck pain had me sold. After practicing the poses recommended by Yoga Journal, I was still feeling a bit stiff, but went back to work.

It wasn't until I arrived home a few hours later that I realized the pain was totally gone! Yoga to the rescue once again! Now, if I could only get my husband into puppy pose, maybe he would feel better.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Yoga: A miracle cure for toddler tantrums

When I first starting practicing yoga, I hadn't planned on becoming a mother.  So, back then, it never would have dawned on me to use yoga as a way to calm a toddler in the midst of a "I can't have what I want and you're gonna suffer," moment.  If Josias wants the knife I'm holding, if Josias wants to eat the dirty tissue he just happened upon, if Josias wants to splash water out of the dog's dish, he usually finds mama there to stop him. He has just realized that he can demonstrate his dissatisfaction by vociferous wailing  accompanied by violently throwing himself backward onto the hardwood floor.  Geez.

Luckily, I read enough parenting websites and blogs that somewhere along the line, someone suggested practicing yoga with a kids as a way to calm them.  I decided to try it.  When Josias starts freaking out over some perceived injustice, I say, "let's do our yoga."  He sits between my legs and we do a little routine of bound angle pose, staff pose, and  wide angle seated pose.  I add a few exaggerated inhales and exhales just to set the mood.

I know it seems too simple, but it works!  It doesn't really serve to calm him.  He finds mama breathing like a maniac and twisting herself into different positions hilarious.  It is kinda funny.  We both end up giggling and the tantrum effectively ends, or is at least postponed. Whatever works.  I wonder how long this parenting strategy will last?  Hopefully until he's in high school.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Om, how I love you

It has been many months now that I have been comfortably ensconced in my "hurray! I found time for yoga while baby sleeps" practice.  I was feeling pretty good about it and merrily practicing on my way, when all of the sudden one night, I realized my old yoga nemesis, Sir Wandering Mind, had come back to visit in a big way. 

One of the reasons I practice yoga is to work toward union of the body and mind, which in turn helps me feel fully present, both on the mat and beyond.  Before I get to that union, however, I really need to focus my mind on the poses, and then just let go and still my mind.  Sir Wandering Mind isn't so in to that scenario.  He creeps up on me and starts playing back the events from the day at lightning speed.  Then, he starts asking, "why didn't you do this differently, how could you even think that, did you know you forgot to do what you absolutely needed to do?"  Generally speaking, he is not a helpful guy. Specifically speaking, he is a real damper on my yoga practice.

I wasn't going to take his visits lying down (except, of course, when I am in savasana).  Thankfully, yoga teaches that there are things that can be done to lessen Sir Wandering Mind's effects on me.  I thought back to my yoga classes and how I was able to feel pretty darn present during asanas in class, and how great that left me feeling afterwards. 

What was I doing in class that was missing at home?  Om!  The answer is chanting om!  In most classes I have taken, particularly with teachers I really loved, we always began class by chanting om.  When I first started going to yoga classes, I felt spectacularly silly chanting om.  But it didn't take long to realize that I loved it and it really affected me.  I loved chanting om even more, when I found out what it meant: Om is the true sound of the universe.  If there were no other sounds, om is what we would hear and feel.  Now, that's deep, and I bought it, lock stock and barrel.  I totally felt it.  In addition to yoga class, I began chanting om whenever I felt I needed a little calm: at work, in traffic, before I went to bed.  Om, how could I forget you?

So, I tried chanting om three times at the beginning of my practice.  While not a miracle cure to banish Sir Wandering Mind, it is an antidote.  And, I love how the universe sounds and feels!

Go ahead, try it.  Sit comfortably (on the floor, cross-legged, if possible, if not, a chair will do).  Take a long breath in through your nose.  Open your mouth and as you are exhaling, say ooooommmm.  Stay on the "o" as long as feels good and then finish with the "m," again, staying with it as long as feels good.  Repeat at least two more times.

Even if you feel silly at first, just give it a try.  You might just end up in love with yourself and the universe!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

I missed twists (say it three times fast!)

The benefits one reaps from the category of asanas known as twists are numerous. Twists squeeze and detoxify the organs, they can ease upper and lower back pain, they improve circulation and they nourish tissue for a suppler spine. And that's just to name a few.

Yet, before I was pregnant I didn't like twists. Not because they were difficult. I found them rather easy. I didn't enjoy twists because they were boring. I really didn't see the point and I didn't feel anything when I practiced them. They weren't so much uncomfortable as they were unfamiliar. I am a veteran of many exercise regimes and none had ever really required me to twist. (Note to self, whenever I feel uncomfortable, there is probably a lesson to be learned.)

So, since I didn't like them, mostly I just didn't do them.

Then came pregnancy. One really shouldn't do twists when pregnant. At least not deep twists. The reasons are probably obvious. The twisting occurs right where that little baby is. Not only would it be extremely uncomfortable, it could also be unsafe.  Additionally, it's probably not a good idea to detoxify organs while pregnant.

So, there I was pregnant and not practicing twists, when, lo and behold, I missed twists! Who knew?  At first I thought it might just be because I wasn't allowed to do them. Generally I don't appreciate being told not to do something. But no, it was more than that. Like some women crave ice cream or chocolate when pregnant, I craved twists.

Now that I'm no longer pregnant, I have happily incorporated twists into my regular practice. The funny thing is that they aren't so easy anymore. As it goes with most poses, I wasn't really practicing twists correctly. That's why they felt so easy and boring. Now that I've learned about the benefits of twists as well as correct alignment, I love the challenge. I also just love how they feel. I’m learning to love all twists, but my favorites are Bharadvajasana I (simple twist), Ardha Matsyendrasana (half lord of the fishes pose), and Parivrtta Trikonasana (revolved triangle pose).

Twists, it's nice to have you back!

Friday, April 29, 2011

Check out the DC Breastfeeding Examiner

I have exciting news!  I have been invited to be the Breastfeeding Examiner for the DC Edition of  I will be writing articles about anything and everything related to breastfeeding.  Check out my page and share it will all your friends!

I would love suggestions for article topics, so please drop me a line in the comment section below.  Thanks!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Josias practices yoga

Josias has been practicing yoga since he was in the womb.  First as a passenger when Mama practiced.  While in the womb, Josias was in constant motion.  Not so much kicking as full on swimming.  Often, in my larger months, with Josias acting as a crowd of one, my belly would appear to do the wave.  Yoga practice was one of the only times he would be still.

As a new born, Josias mastered Sukasana, or easy pose.   More recently he has started practicing Virasana or hero's pose (he is my hero!), without props, I might add.  A feat Mama has yet to accomplish.

The other day, Josias practiced his first downward facing dog and I captured it on video.  Take a look!

Namaste.  Thank you.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The bread and butter of yoga

Now that I've talked a little bit about happiness, and how yoga can help us feel happy, I thought I'd have a little fun and share some of my experiences with yoga that might be described as more, "out there," perhaps even call my sanity into question by non yogis, or just garner a few snickers.

The three experiences occurred during a period in which I had just started practicing meditation, one of the eight limbs of yoga.  My daily meditation practice consisted of sitting silently, cross-legged on the floor for ten minutes after my half hour yoga practice.  I had begun my meditation journey with five minutes per practice and added a minute every week or two.  It took me months to get to ten minutes! I would count with each inhalation and exhalation until I got to ten and then start over again.  I found that this helped me focus on my breath.  

I never really became what I considered "good" at it, because I wasn't able to still my mind.  Thoughts continued to race.  What I came to realize though, is that I was sorta good at it simply by virtue of doing it.  Also, although my mind often raced, I was paying attention to those thoughts and beginning to realize that they really weren't who I was.  They were simply thoughts and did not define me.  I tried to watch them float by my mind's eye, like clouds, instead of becoming attached or bogged down by my thoughts.  This gave me the sensation of being free.  It also did some wacky things, which are the three experiences I alluded to. 

Here they are:
  1. I was laying in bed taking a nap, which is rare for me, and when I awoke the words, "don't think, just keep going," clearly came to me.  I did not feel as if I had uttered these words.  I felt as if they had come from some where else.  I didn't hear them, really, they just came to me.  Now, that might not sound all that profound as these things go, but it was so clear, and actually quite relevant to what was going on in my life at the time, and it was very contrary to the way I usually do things.
  2. I went to bed one night feeling really down.  Things weren't going well at work, things weren't going well at home.  I was stressed out and worried.  When I awoke in the morning I felt this warm glow emanating from deep inside me and out through my pores, almost as if a light was shining from within.  I felt so happy I thought I was going to cry.  There was no reason for this happiness.  It was who I am deep inside.  It only lasted for about a minute, but I reveled in it.  It truly felt miraculous.  In my previous post about where happiness comes from, this is a perfect example of what I was talking about.
  3. This is my favorite.  One morning while I was meditating, I was distracted by a lovely smell, but it was just outside my grasp in terms of being able to identify it.  The smell evoked a feeling of home and of childhood.  The next day, I smelled it again.  This time I knew what it was.  Melted butter on toast!  I thought to myself, "how odd that I can smell the neighbor's breakfast."  I smelled the exact same smell several more times.  After giving it some thought, I realized that I have NEVER smelled food from a neighbor's house, never mind the fact that it was 5am and nobody else in their right mind was awake.  What was going on here?  Who knows?  In my meditative state I was accessing some olfactory memory that made me feel at peace and happy. 
Pretty darn cool.

Since I had Josias I have not had the time nor space to meditate, and I have not experienced any of these wonders. Were they really the result of meditation?  I don't know, but I'm looking forward to the time I start a regular mediation practice again to find out.  Has anyone else experienced what they consider a bit outside of "normal" experience as a result of yoga?

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Nurturing touch (It's not just for humans!)

Our dog, Liam, was our first baby.  Although he had some initial difficulty adjusting to "another" baby in the house, he and Josias are now completely in love and great friends.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Where happiness comes from

No sooner had I written the previous post, dated March 22nd, than the latest issue of Yoga Journal magazine arrived in the mail.  Yay!  I love Yoga Journal for the photos, and features about poses, but what I love most is the articles about the more philosophical aspects of yoga. 

This one was a doosie.  There is an article about Pantajali's Yoga Sutra and the explanation of avidya, or ignorance.  This is not the garden variety, Joe Smoe on the street kind of ignorance.  Pantajali is referring to each of us not knowing our true selves.  The author, Sally Kempton, begins by explaining that happiness does not arise from circumstances, relationships, etc.   True happiness only comes from deep within; it is our natural state of being. 

Not feeling so naturally happy?  The Yoga Sutra tells us why.  Avidya is our belief (or misbelief) in what constitutes reality.  For example, many people associate happiness with things, experiences, or relationships.  The Yoga Sutra explains that these are impermanent and only passing fancies in the mystery we call life; they do not and cannot add nor detract from who we really are: our true selves.  Most of us mere mortals, however, confuse these things as reasons for happiness or unhappiness.  Hence, our ignorance.

So, how does one access this kind of happiness? The answer is practicing the eight limbs of yoga.  I have personally experienced this spontaneous joy bubbling up from my true self through practicing asanas and meditation (two of the eight limbs of yoga).  It was only a momentary feeling, but it was there.  I have had a glimpse of what Pantajali is talking about and I am intrigued.

This might sound like a lot of mumbo jumbo, but I'm asking you to suspend judgment for a moment and humor me. I'm asking you to give it some real thought, even read up on avidya in this month's Yoga Journal. Then, let's hear what you think.

Are you still with me? Am I making any sense here?

These concepts are challenging enough to me as a person, but now that I'm a mother, what I'm starting to wonder is how this applies to parenting?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

How yoga helped me NOT lose weight

Have I mentioned that I was HUGE when I was pregnant?  By the time I made it to my second trimester I had gained the recommended amount of weight for an entire pregnancy.  All told, I gained almost sixty pounds.

After giving birth to my son, I lost 25 pounds within a week.  That felt pretty good, and I figured it would just keep coming off.  Nope.  It didn't happen.  My three month maternity leave came and went and no more weight came off.  I had been walking everyday for at least half an hour.  And, as I've posted before I was practicing yoga nearly every day. Not exactly Olympiad training, but not sedentary either.   

So, there I was ready to go back to work and still carrying around 35 extra pounds.  I was not pleased with this fact in and of itself, but add the issue of lack of work-appropriate clothing that fits and it was downright depressing. 

Or was it?

I took some time to think about it and came to this conclusion:  I have a beautiful, healthy and joyful baby; I am healthy and able to provide him what he needs to thrive with love and breastfeeding; and (here's where the yoga comes in) I may have some extra weight on me and not look like I did pre-pregnancy, but I feel pretty darn good in my body. 

Yoga connects me to my body through physical exertion, mental concentration and spiritual awareness.  That feels great.  Perhaps, more importantly, yoga teaches me non attachment: everything is temporary, including my body, the vessel that houses my soul.  So why get all worked up about something that, in the grand scheme of things, may be here today and gone tomorrow?  Yoga also teaches me to be grateful and focus on what's important in life and in the world, and I have a lot to be grateful for.  In light of all that, what's a few extra pounds?

I lost a bit more weight in the months that followed, but still don't look the way I did before I carried Josias for 10 months.  And, even though yoga helped me be okay with that, I still have to talk myself through it sometimes on a daily basis.  That's the great thing about my yoga practice, it helps me feel great, no matter my weight, and be grateful every day.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Mama's home yoga practice II

After returning to work from maternity leave, my yoga practice was irregular.  On a good week, I was able to practice once or twice for half hour.  I was becoming frustrated at my inability to practice regularly and my sleep and my body were starting to suffer.  There were also the issues that are harder to quantify: my stress level, how I looked at the world, my happiness.  Yes, all those things were affected when I wasn't practicing yoga on a regular basis!  And if mama is stressed, baby doesn't get what he needs.

I attributed not practicing to lack of time.  What's a mama to do?  Ten hour work days, time with baby jammed into the two hours that he is awake and I am home, household chores to be done, food to be made, etc., etc.  Not to mention lack of sleep with baby breastfeeding throughout the night.

Looking back on it though, there were two deeper reasons that I was not practicing.  One is that I practice yoga in the morning.  Period.  I'm just that kind of yogi.  After having a baby, though, my schedule made it impossible to practice in the morning.  And, even if I can't do it first thing in the morning, I would never do it at night for fear it would keep me from sleeping.  Yes, this is the true reason I wasn't practicing: fear of practicing yoga at night.  And yet, I had free time at night.  I am a creature of habit who feels safe and comforted with routines. 

The other reason I wasn't practicing, is that although I called it a "home" yoga practice, I was really following a dvd.  The dvd required a half hour's time and as a mama, I just couldn't manage a half hour.  And, I thought, if I can't do the dvd, I can't do anything.  So, my real fear was developing an authentic home practice, where I turned off the TV, listened to my body and did as my intuition guided me, not what a dvd instructed.

I was growing more and more frustrated with not practicing, when a few months ago, I received an email from Yoga Journal inviting me to join the 21 day challenge.  Essentially, they would provide instruction for 21 days of yoga and ask me to commit to practicing everyday.  Many of the practices were 20 minutes or less, so it seemed doable.  I got myself excited and decided to do it.  I didn't even make it through the first day.  I began watching the video and it didn't do anything for me.  But, I was able to step back and appreciate the gift that had arrived in my inbox: the idea that I could make a commitment to practice yoga everyday and that it need not be a prescribed amount of time.  If I could find 15 minutes for yoga, I knew I would feel good, body and soul.

So, I did it!  I told myself that I would take those 21 days to see what I could do with a home practice.  I finally realized that I didn't have to lay out a perfect routine of poses, in which one beautifully built upon the other.  I could just do what felt good.  I also convinced myself that morning wasn't the only time I could practice.  After 21 days, I could take stock and see if if was working. 

Boy, did it.  I've been practicing regularly, before bed for about three months now.  At first I told myself that I would practice for a minimum of 15 minutes since it's pretty hard to come up with an excuse not to practice for 15 minutes.  On the other hand, if I REALLY can't find 15 minutes, I don't beat myself up for it.  On average, I practice for about 20-30 minutes most nights.  I am a better mama and a better person for my practice.  I truly think it has moved me beyond the idea of just making it through everyday to being present in my life and with my son and enjoying both as much as I can.

My practice is not perfect.  I still struggle with knowing what poses to do in the "right" order.  I get stuck in patterns of thinking I "have" to do certain poses every night in a logical order.  At the beginning of my practice, I often find myself mapping out the poses for the night, instead of focusing on the present pose.

The important thing is that I am practicing and enjoying the fruits of my commitment, imperfections and all.  Now, if I could just find time to meditate.....

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Mama's home yoga practice (is awesome!)

Since the birth of my son, I have struggled to find time to practice yoga at home. 

And, although I would love to attend a yoga class at least once a week, I made the decision shortly after he was born, that while he is an infant and needs me so intensely, I would not spend what precious free time I have away from him at a yoga class.  I know this won't be forever, so I look forward to the day when I will return to class, but for now I am happy to spend that time with my sweet baby.

About four weeks after his birth, I stepped back onto the mat.  I was eager to find out how my body would feel after nearly ten months of pregnancy and the birth of my son.  I also wanted to stretch out some of the aches that breastfeeding was causing.

I took it slowly at first and did a few poses for only a few minutes at a time.  It felt wonderful!  I was amazed, though, at my lack of strength and the changes in my body.  Although it did seem that my hips were much more flexible than before pregnancy.

After a few weeks, I felt ready to dive back in to my old yoga routine, which was a DVD with five days worth of practices.  I loved this DVD and the teacher.  During my three month maternity leave, I was able to do a thirty minute practice with this DVD about four times a week.  It was always rushed, though.  As soon as my husband would get home from work, I would run to the basement and pop in the DVD.  Rarely could I completely focus on my practice.  I was always listening for Josias' cry or alert for indications that he needed to eat.  BUT, I was practicing and it felt good.

After I went back to work, this daily routine went out the window.  My day goes like this:  wake up at five to pump, get Josias ready for daycare, get me ready for work, eat breakfast, breastfeed Josias and head out the door.  After dropping Josias off at daycare, I have an hour commute.  At the end of the eight hour workday, I have an hour commute back home.  My husband picks Josias up from daycare, so when I arrive home at 5:45, I breastfeed him.  If the stars align that night, as a family we take the dog for a half hour walk.  That usually leaves less than a half hour to make dinner, eat dinner, bathe Josias, and get time ready for bed by 7ish.

By 7:45, Josias is asleep and I have about an hour (I try to get in bed before nine, since I have to be up at five and will need to feed Josias about four times throughout the night) to prepare everything for the next day and practice yoga.  Now, we probably all know, having the time and actually doing it are two different things, especially when exhaustion has set in.  For about two months now, I have established a 20-30 minutes practice almost every night, without the DVD.

In the next post, I will share how I established my regular, home practice.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

How I became a bed sharing mama

When I was newly pregnant, I began making lists.  List making is a favorite personal past time.  The first list was Needed Baby Items.  To begin with, it was a short list: crib and stroller.  I knew very little about what babies needed, but I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that a crib and a stroller were essential.

So, I went about getting a crib.  I researched safety ratings and recalls; I considered colors and styles.  Then, I haunted the cribs section on Craigslist and found the perfect crib at the perfect price.  Great!  I might not be too bad at this parenting thing!

I tell this story to underscore my complete lack of knowledge regarding co-sleeping in general, and bed sharing, specifically.  To my way of thinking, a baby slept in a crib in another room.  End of story. 

My view began to change as I did some cursory information gathering on breastfeeding.  I learned that a sidecar bassinet would assist the breastfeeding relationship, in the beginning, and it seemed like a pretty sensible idea.  So, again, my search began and I found a very nice Arm's Reach Co-sleeper at the consignment shop.

(Unfortunately, the bassinet didn't help the first couple months, as much as I thought it would.  Even though the baby was sleeping within arm's reach, I still got up every two hours to change his diaper and breastfeed him in a chair!)

As my son got bigger and neared the age where he would outgrow the bassinet, I started experiencing anxiety about moving him to the crib in the other room.  I didn't think there was anything I could do about, I just thought it was one of those things where I would have to push through the fear.  I mentioned it to a few people and they confirmed my thoughts: it might not feel so good at first, but ya gotta do it.  It's just the way things are done.

Luckily, in pregnancy yoga class, I had been introduced to a place called The Breastfeeding Center, and I had attended a few of its support groups for new breastfeeding moms. As the day I would need to move my baby to the crib loomed and it weighed heavily upon my mind, I heard at the support group about co-sleeping.  I began to wonder, was this something I could do?

Finally, I had to do something.  I started to consider bed sharing.  I read books, I looked at websites, I asked other people.  When I knew what I wanted to do, I asked my husband.

My husband and I often don't see eye to eye on parenting decisions.  He is much more mainstream than me.  I expected his resistance and had my retorts at the ready.

To my surprise, he had no objections whatsoever and thought it was normal.  As it turns out, in his culture, nearly all babies sleep with their parents.  That's when I learned that most people in the WORLD share this belief and practice.  How did I not know this?

Well, I know it now.  Bed sharing is not only essential to my breastfeeding relationship with my son, but as a mama who works full time outside the home, I would be bereft  if I did not have those precious 8 hours to connect, body and soul, with my sweet baby.

That's how I became a bed sharing mama.  I never could have imagined bed sharing as part of my parenting, and yet it is essential.  I wonder how others came to their decisions about sleeping and parenting?

Friday, March 4, 2011

I plan, God laughs, Yoga helps

One of the things that scared me about having a baby was the enormity of the endeavor, on a philosophical level.  I was creating not only a life, but a lifetime.  How would I care for this person for a lifetime?  What kinds of things should I try to convey are the important things in life?  What is life all about?  What will I do if something happens to this baby?  How will I go on?

The list goes on and on.  These kinds of questions bob around my brain on a daily basis.  Being pregnant made it worse. Now it's not just my life for which I need to figure out answers to these age-old questions, but I also have to be responsible for someone elses' as well. For a really long time.  Being a mother is not time-limited.

As the litany of "why are we here questions" begins to ebb, the unending list of possible answers begin to lap up to my consciousness, like waves to the shore.

This stuff gets me feeling anxious.  It's a cycle.  The more agitated I get, the more possible answers come to me, the more I feel like a need to figure it out.  I begin to feel immobilized.  How can I go on without figuring this stuff out?  How will I ever figure it out?

Although this is one that I still need a lot of help with, yoga provides me with a avenue to begin to cope.  Yoga teaches me that not only do I not need to have any of this stuff figured out, I am not responsible, on the highest levels, for the outcome.  It's like that old adage: We plan, God laughs. Not that I can't make daily plans, or that I shouldn't have goals, but life is fluid and stuff happens all the time that is totally outside of my control. 

Another meaning I find in yoga is that everything makes sense on some level.  It's just that, sometimes, it doesn't yet make sense on MY level.  The challenge is to understand that and feel comfortable with it.

Yoga encourages me to be present in the moment, in the here and now.  It's a struggle for me.  My brain will always run back to the questions and a desire for answers.  What I know now, though, is that yoga is a place I can go to quell the anxiety, stop asking the questions, give up the responsibility of knowing all the answers, and as best I can, BE with and enjoy my son.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

My pregnancy kula

I had been attending yoga classes for about a year and a half before I became pregnant.  I attended three or four teachers' classes before I found the one for me.  I loved what I learned.  I couldn't wait to go to class each week and learn new things about yoga, myself and my body.  I incorporated those teachings in my home practice as well. 

Going to a class regularly advanced my practice by leaps and bounds.  It was the first time that I heard about the other seven limbs of yoga; those beyond asanas.  I fell in love!  I couldn't learn enough.  I started reading books and magazines about yoga.  I began to meditate.  I also began to reexamine the way I lived my life.  I realized that yoga would be a lifelong journey in which I would never arrive "there," but rather enjoy the fruits along the way.

So, when I became pregnant, one of my first priorities was to find a pregnancy yoga class.  I was crushed when I learned that "my" yoga studio did not have a class that would fit my schedule.  There was another studio a bit further from my house about which I had heard good things.  They had a class that would work.  I swallowed my disappointment and decided to give it a go.  This class and my new found kula turned out to be the single most supportive thing in my pregnancy.  There is a lesson there, but I'll save that for another post.

I've posted before about how yoga helped me physically during pregnancy, but finding my kula meant so much more than that.  My teacher, who was also pregnant at the time, was nothing short of awesome!  I warmed immediately in the presence of twenty other mamas who were there to support and learn from each other.  I learned about pregnancy and birth, about the strength of my own body to do what the mother of all mamas, Mother Nature, had designed it to do, about giving myself up to the experience and about my own power.  Watch out world!  I'm here, I'm pregnant and I'm strong!

I don't live close to my family and friends, so during my pregnancy, when I really needed support and information, I got it all from my kula.  I found out about doctors, natural remedies, breastfeeding, stores that sell used children's stuff.  I heard about Attachment Parenting, co-sleeping, and babywearing, all of which are integral to my approach to being a mama.

I learned about how yoga could support the birth experience I wanted to have.  I practiced poses that would not only ease labor pains, but move the baby into a comfortable position, and use gravity to help the baby move through the birth canal.

I think without my kula I would have been frightened of birth.  I would have been frightened of the unknown.  With yoga, I did not experience an iota of fear about the birthing process (anxiety about the baby's health, yes; excitement about not being the size of a rhinoceros, definitely! But fear, nope!)

My community of mamas helped me understand that I could make choices about my birth experience, and I could take actions to support those choices; I had the power to birth a 10+ pound baby without medication; that birth does not occur on a timetable dictated by doctors and hospitals; and that giving birth is an experience to relish, not to dull, shorten nor sleep through.

The birth of my son was wondrous and beautiful.  I humbly give thanks to the mamas of my kula. 


Saturday, February 26, 2011

Yoga and my pregnancy

My son Josias is almost 10 months old, and I am still amazed at what my body did.  It wasn't without discomforts, but when all was said and done, it was not a difficult pregnancy.  I was huge, mind you, so that's saying a lot.  I ate well during my pregnancy, walked an hour almost everyday with my dog Liam, and did yoga at least three times a week.  I had three pregnancy yoga videos and I went to a pregnancy yoga class on Sundays from my sixth month on. And, I gained almost 60 pounds.  Toward the end I couldn't go out in public without strangers asking if I was having twins or if I was past my due date; I was neither.

My theory is that my baby needed the weight.  I don't know why, but he needed it.  I say that because even with all the healthy, good stuff, there was no other word for me except gargantuan.  But, as big as I was I felt pretty good, most of the time.  I attribute this largely to yoga.  And not just the physical exercise of yoga, but the heady stuff as well.

The physical aspect of yoga was invaluable.  At one point during my pregnancy, I was suffering from sciatica.  It made walking and sitting painful.  I looked it up on line and found a few poses that were supposed to help, but they didn't.  I asked my yoga teacher and she suggested a few poses that helped a bit.  In the end I closed my eyes, thought about the baby, my heroic vessel of a body, and imagined what would feel good and make the pain diminish.  After a few moments, the thought: triangle pose and extended side angle pose popped into my head.  I almost disregarded these thoughts, because I had never thought either pose really did anything for my back.  Wrong!  As soon as I did the poses, the pain was gone.  While it may seem like an exaggeration now, it was a miracle at the time akin to loaves and fishes.

The sciatica lasted about a week, but with triangle and extended side angle poses, I was able to get through it.  I was also able to continue walking for an hour a day, another factor that contributed to my physical, emotional and mental well being.  Looking back on it, though, the real miracle to me is that I listened to my intuition and my body and they saved me.

The transformation yoga brought to my life started a few years before my pregnancy, but during my pregnancy, it was a life line.

I wonder what poses got others through pregnancy?

 Namaste. Thank you.

Friday, February 25, 2011

My first Mama post: Yoga helps me be Mama

I'm new at this whole blogging thing.  It's not as though I have any unique wisdom to impart, but the journey into motherhood has propelled me into talking about the impact it has had on me.  Many people say that motherhood is the biggest change in a life that a woman can experience.  I think that practicing yoga is the biggest change I have experienced. 

Without yoga, I'm not sure I could handle motherhood, not to mention pregnancy and birthing a 10+ pound baby.  Okay, I could HANDLE it, but I would be one stressed out mama, constantly trying to put out fires.  Well, maybe I am that even with yoga, but at least I'm reflecting on it, no?  So, my blog is about how yoga has helped me (try) to be the mama that I want to be.  And to remind myself that I have the tools I need to be a good mama, wife, tree hugger and person.

I'm not known for my ability to stay on point, nor for succinctness, so we'll see how it goes.  What do you think?