Thursday, December 11, 2014

Rejuvenating Sequence for the Mamas with littles

Earlier this week, my 16 week old fell asleep in his little bouncy seat around 7:00pm. My husband was playing with my 3 1/2 year old as they began to get ready for bath time. So I grabbed my mat and busted out a 30 minute practice in the dim lights of the room where my baby was sleeping. Noise all around, fleeting time, achy shoulders and back from all the baby wearing that day...and a moment of energy that I knew I just couldn't waste. This sequence was what I practiced. It flowed out of my body naturally and also with my mind on the fact that the moon was in Cancer (my sun sign).
So, mamas out there, if you get a moment like this, maybe test this sequence out and see how you feel. Nurturing Love to you all!
~Start in tadasana (mountain pose) at the top of your mat. Close your eyes and place your hands over your heart to check in with your current state and set your breath and intention for the moments of peace you have just now.
~When ready, slowly fold to uttanasana. Stay as long as you like, or even do some shaking out in it.
~After 1 minute or so in your fold, then step left foot back for a low lunge (back knee down). After a few breaths, then lift arms up to the sky. Stay stable in your feet-pelvis-low back (no sticking ribs and belly forward).
~Now find your way to plank pose. Hold a few breaths (knees down if you need) and practice exhaling the belly button toward the spine to continue knitting your muscles back after having given birth. If knees aren't already down, then lower to supported pushup and go ahead and take a supported, steady push-up. Then end up on your belly and take a few breaths in cobra. Then exhale to down dog. Stay as long as you like to move and feel it. Then walk feet to top of mat. Come up to tadasana.
**Repeat on other side from uttanasana. Step right foot back for low lunge…

~Once you're back in down dog for a few breaths, take a 1 minute child's pose. Scan your body and breath.
~Come back to down dog, then plank pose. Hold as long as you can. Then stay controlled to lower all the way to belly to rest with arms stacked under your forehead. Release tension by rocking head side to side over your hands.
~When ready, take your locust pose. Rest for a few moments. Then try it again. Rest. Maybe one more time if you have it in you. Rest.
~Now take a yin-like sphinx pose for about 1 min. Afterwards, shake your legs out and rest. Then find your way to down dog. From there, back to the top of your mat for tadasana.

*You may need to pause for a moment to rock the bouncer if baby is stirring. Ha! I had to do this a few times and luckily it worked.

~Fold to uttanasana. Step right foot back, keep right hand to the mat and lift your left arm high for an opening lunge twist. Keep that right leg strong and really breathe into the expansion that your breath allows to move through your torso and spine. After a few breaths, drop that right knee down, step the left foot out wider to the left and come to your lizard lunge. After a moment, maybe even twist to grab your back foot for a thigh-quadricep stretch (please listen to body as this might not be there for many of you). From here, move into your half-pigeon pose. (Move your left foot down and over to the right with your left knee out a bit wider than your left shoulder and hip. Right leg moving straight back out of hip, with hip flexors facing down toward the mat.) Take any variation of it that you like. Probably head down and supported. Stay as long as you need (probably 3-5 minutes).
Then move to down dog to shake it all out.
**Repeat on other side from uttanasana. Step left foot back…

~After you end up in pigeon on the new side for the full-length of time, then swing that back leg around to come to seated and then make your way onto your back. Hug knees to chest and take circles on back to rinse spine and back muscles and feel your hips and take it all in so far.
~When ready, plant feet to the mat hip-width and place arms by your side. Lift pelvis up for Bridge pose. Take any variation you need and hold a few breaths. If this feels good (felt SO good to me), then do it 2 more times. Maybe a short wheel pose if it's calling you (I did my first one at this moment…which was my first one since giving birth, and it felt right. May not be right yet for many. Depends on YOUR body, your birth experience, your current state).
~My baby was starting to stir at this point and I could hear bath time was almost over, so I took savasana for as long as I could (I think it was 3 min.) before both kiddos were in need of mama.

This practice helped change my mood, soften my nervous system from a current cold I've been battling, and help me move into a gentle place of self-love. It's a constant process. Cheers to all you mamas for being you and loving so much. for upcoming Prenatal, Mom & Baby, and Yoga just for Mamas sessions

Sunday, November 9, 2014

4th Trimester:Post Partum Body Image and Yoga

Now that I'm 3 months postpartum, I am so happy to exist beyond the pregnancy and feel at ease with how amazing it all is again to get to nourish a little being into this life.  It is nice, however, to begin feeling at least a little tiny bit like my old self again. That said, I told myself after looking back at my first postpartum experience that I wouldn't care about my pregnancy weight gain this time around. That I'm sure a year after birth, I'll look back at this time with gratitude for the experience and wonder why I ever cared. Well, that's true and all but the fact that I still have a good sized squishy belly and am still 2-3 sizes from my usual size is something that I'd say the majority of women face in the early months postpartum. 
It isn't a problem, it's simply a transition. I have the cutest, healthiest little dude a mama could ask for. I am so loving up this special time and in no rush to speed it up, but it's also nice and helpful to other mamas out there if I open up about this stuff. So in my quest to keep things relatable, and I suppose that's all relative...I am happy to share the final photoshoot (see previous post) with the brilliant Cara Brostrom from our almost year-long adventure through my pregnancy experience.

I like putting this topic out there again, as I did after I had Isak, because I hear it from my mama friends, my sisters, and my mama students. I feel it's important to talk openly, as women, about every aspect of motherhood and this whole experience. The difference now is that Instagram is around and social media in general makes it easier for all sorts of body images to be shared. I love that platform just as much as the next yoga teacher 
(ha!) so I'm not hatin' on it, just trying to keep it real. We live in a society that puts a lot of pressure on moms in general, but the pressure to slim down post-baby in our culture can be extremely offensive and annoying. Even if you don't pay attention to media, many well wishers (I'm so guilty of this as well) will comment, "You look great!" after baby comes out. It's the first thing people say maybe because it's what they think we want to hear? And hey, maybe we do look great but there's much more at work behind the newly postnatal mama. I know people mean no harm and are probably genuine in sentiment, but per usual to our trained brains in this culture, we often comment first to women on how they look. It can be enough to send a new mama into spiraling thoughts about her appearance. It's something to try and notice and try to catch yourself on. 
How about,"Congrats on bringing life into the world, you amazing creature! What can I do for you?" or "You seem so natural as a mother!"
Instead we get glances at our bellies like they should be miraculously flat again. I even had an acquaintance ask when I was only a few weeks postnatal, "are you expecting again?" Doh! To which I replied, "No, I just had the baby." The person then looked at my middle and said, "Oh, you look great!" Case in point...

Luckily, I have fantastic friends, a loving and supportive husband, and a sister going through it all at the same time that I can vent to weekly. I don't mean to perpetuate the topic, but when I see the majority of postnatal yoga images or yoga teachers showing off their advanced asanas and already toned bodies after baby on Instagram, or in books or on's evident that that standard gets out much more than the flip side. 
Well, the reality is that most new mamas take time in losing the weight and take time to build their practice again. There are only a small percentage who can continue right back into arm balances and bikini wearing after the first few months. To them, more power to ya! It might be truly who they are and I have nothing against either of those things. I've been there...just not until a good year and a half to two years postpartum. And something tells me that's more of the timeline that most yoginis (teachers or not) can relate to. For many, and perhaps myself now after a 2nd birthing, baring skin in a bikini again isn't as much on my priority list. I simply want to look as strong and radiant as I feel. That could end up taking shape in a variety of directions and I know when I eventually get to that place again, I'll be okay with wherever I end up. 

You see, I didn't overeat all the time while pregnant (of course I indulged sometimes as those cravings you hear of can be no joke). I practiced yoga throughout my pregnancy (as you've witnessed in my photo journey here on this blog). I ate nourishing, mostly vegetarian meals full of variety, nutrition and flavors. I still gained 50 pounds just as I did with my first pregnancy. This was hard because I told myself that this wouldn't happen again, plus I felt like I was even more active this time around since it was Spring and Summer, but alas the pounds piled on. (Just so you gain perspective: I am usually 120-125 lbs. on a lean 5'5" frame. I've always set exercise and nutrition as a priority, being a yoga teacher and former athlete.)
I realize now that this weight gain just might be what my body needs to grow another life. My midwives continued not to care because I start out small and super fit and remained a different version of fit and healthy with no risks throughout my experience. My belly grew out to a huge status this second time that brought on lots of comments from passers by. I struggled throughout the pregnancy (again) with this new body but constantly tried to remind myself of the power and beauty I had because I WAS strong and I WAS beautiful, even as the body shifted again with another new human growing from it. Each passing day I vowed to love being big and probably the highest expression of what it means to be in one's feminine power! Heck, I even led a retreat in late 3rd trimester and modeled for a Prenatal yoga book! And I had a most beautiful birth. 

Now that the baby is out, however, I look into my eyes in the mirror and genuinely smile in love toward myself, yet try not to cringe at the rest of me while I continue day by day in the prickly transition of this very strange current body. This is very different than simply gaining weight. I mean, I grew a human! Gaining weight is part of the process. So I should be easy on myself. And trust me, I am many days. It's more that once the baby comes out, it's so different than having the baby attached as a part of your body. You've just gone through this incredibly profound experience and yet now all of a sudden physically you feel so far from yourself. People no longer comment on how you "glow" anymore. You look in the mirror and you see a tired woman who is still healing on every realm from the experience of birth. You put pressure on yourself about the added weight, even though you know you shouldn't. You don't feel even remotely sexy (that comes back, yes, but not right away), and you have absolutely nothing to wear. So for me, doing something for myself (like getting a haircut, or buying some new clothes and accessories) goes a long way. It varies for each new mama and definitely helps...but if the self-love doesn't come from within, then what good are those temporary things? This is where your mama tribe of friends (either online or in person) comes in. You know, the ones who are reading this and it resonates with them. It helps to have outlets of other goddess mamas to relate to. 

This second time postpartum I feel has been even harder for me body image-wise even though I knew what to expect. I lose the first 20 pounds within the first month. It's the next 25-30 that hang on for another few months to a year and slowly start to come off as I continue to breastfeed and get back into a regular routine of yoga, walking and exercise. 
My belly got even more stretched, so the loose skin is more prevalent in my middle than after the first time giving birth, and though I can hold a strong plank, my core has a long way to go before it's toned. My hips and thighs are probably the biggest they've ever been from this experience. It's so strange to see myself in this new way in photos and in the mirror. I feel strong and able and I feel beautiful but can only hope that some resemblance of "me" will arrive in the months to come. I'm happy to have all that I I said earlier, which is all that matters.  I'm just so grateful to have another healthy baby. And so, isn't this part of our lifelong practice as yoginis, or just as humans? Letting go of the potential outcomes. Being ourselves. Finding beauty in every moment. Embracing imperfection, transitions, and all of the lessons put in front of us. This is all part of the work and I've been in the thick of it this autumn. The feelings are the same cycle I went through after having Isak, so I remember and breathe them out. Who cares if it will probably take longer this time around to shed the weight (not just physical) of the pregnancy? 
Plus, I exclusively breastfeed, and though it's different for every woman, apparently it's actually better to lose the weight slower because then your toxic load (which we all have from environmental exposure...even if you pay attention to what you put in/on your body) isn't dumped as fast into your milk, and the baby will hopefully steer clear of that junk a little longer.
*Please do read, Breasts: a natural and unnatural history by Florence Williams!

It takes at least the whole first month to 2 months to heal from the birth, and even more than that to find a rhythm with the breastfeeding (if you choose to do so). When you're a completely new mama, you might be overwhelmed with it all and exhausted. And when you already have another child, there's not a whole lot of other time to spend on oneself as the mama. You have to be really good at managing the time for self care (instead of cleaning or accepting every playdate) or good at delegating duties to your partner or family. This takes time to figure out, but once you do, it will be a game changer. I've been trying hard to carve out some yoga time for myself every week. Some weeks I've been getting in 3 or more (short) practices, and others just 1-2. But every day I do at least a down dog or other basic poses that will stretch out my overtired upper back and shoulders and find length from all the holding and feedings of the day. The pose I miss the most is perhaps I have to get better at starting with that?
Really, all new mamas would probably benefit most from just doing savasana or a meditation every day instead of worrying about exercise or other practice. This is what I find I truly need, but of course there's the urge to want to move your body again! And start losing weight to feel great in your own skin again. At times I find myself overdoing it in that need to want to feel that resemblance of me, but then surrender I do. Luckily I know myself well enough now to just sit with my breath in some yin or restorative postures those times I really need it instead of busting out another vinyasa. More importantly, when I step on my yoga mat, I feel the same me as always. In my heart space, in the poses, in the breath, I am me and always will be, no matter the size or shape. I'm looking forward to continuing the task of simply treating my body with love and respect and embracing what that holds.

Me and baby Gus at 8 weeks post-birth, photo by Cara Brostrom

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Postnatal Yoga Photo Journey

Here I am around 2 months after birthing my sweet Gus. I'm in my home practice space where he and I share interrupted yoga time together of on/off nursing, giggle and smiling breaks, walking around the room breaks...before I get too hungry or tired and then the practice is done for the day.
Soon enough, he won't be so teeny or nursing as much, and this stage will be gone. I'll love getting out to class more often (or at all), and the regular nap schedule (so one can hope) will mean a longer home practice. But this moment in time is one that provides such deep connection and brings a humbling aspect to humanity. I am so very lucky to get to be at home with him and experience it.
To all of you 4th trimester mamas out there (whether now, in the recent past, or still to come), be as loving as you can to yourself now. Know that time brings healing, newfound confidence again, and much more wisdom than you ever thought you'd have.

All photos copyright Cara Brostrom Photography. Thank you Cara for your unending support, friendship, and art as a fellow yogini mama. I am forever grateful.

My 3 year old provides welcome interruption for a hug and hello

Mom and Baby Yoga time

Nursing break!

Shirt by my friend An Li and pants from Be Present

Friday, September 19, 2014

Birthing for the 2nd time-- my boy August

Dear ones,

Giving birth to a human being is the most beautiful, scary, empowering, hard, intense, compassionate, and loving thing ever. I was honored to get to go through my second completely natural birth a few weeks ago. My second boy, August (Gus), was born on August 17th in Cambridge, MA.

HIs big brother, Isak, was also born with the same midwives program over 3 years ago, and after our great experience the first time around, I knew that I had to do it with them again. Isak's birth was a long labor. No complications, but long and super tough. I held through it though, and you can read about it here.
With that I must say I was a bit nervous this time around that it would take just as I spent the summer working through my feelings surrounding birth, and trying to allow this time to be its own thing.
The entire last month of this pregnancy was a warmup for the labor. I had many more weeks of symptoms preparing for birth than the first time around. It was hard to tell if this was just how 2nd pregnancy goes…the heat of the summer…or if labor was right around the corner. So, I took it day to day. That said, when my 39th week came and went, and then the 40th week came and started to go…I felt impatience all around and within me. My mom was already here from out of town to help with Isak and I was huge. My belly was able to stay stretch mark-free the whole time until that very last week. Ha!
I had a real day of false labor at the end of the 39th week (with the full moon) where there were regular surges and all…but after a night's sleep it went away. My boy decided he needed to wait until a calmer energetic period in the cycle came around. ;)
So, on Saturday, 8/16, I started seeing and feeling more definite signs that the time was upon us. My husband and I finished watching one of our favorite series (Homeland) that night, and then bam…the next morning at 41 weeks pregnant I had the "bloody show." I knew then that my baby was probably coming that day! This was exciting since my grandma gave birth on 8/17 to my uncle and her sister also gave birth that day as well. It was neat to be tied to her and her sister in that way, and through birthing energy.
I started timing the surges around mid-morning and noticed they were around 7 minutes apart. They were just intense enough that all I had to do was take some deep yogic breaths and it would pass. I was still able to eat, talk, rest. It was a beautiful summer day, so I remember just being on our porch, in my sun-filled bedroom, watching something with my mom, having snacks…until I called the midwives in the afternoon to check in and let them know what was going on. They pretty much said it sounded like I could decide to stay at home if I wanted. That said, we put Isak down to nap and I just knew to tell him that I probably won't be there when he woke up. Sure enough, the surges started getting stronger and so my husband and I left in the late afternoon for the hospital. We arrived around 5:00ish. Things were intense where I had to do more work breathing through…but I wasn't debilitated yet. They did an internal exam and said I was around 3 cm and my cervix was close to being fully effaced. So I was on the verge of active labor…but of course it was hard to tell when it would fully kick in. So, they decided to discharge me. I was honestly pretty annoyed by that because I was there and ready to be there and start the process of relaxing into it all.
My husband and I went down to Darwin's cafe just outside of Harvard Sq. to get some food. It was really lovely out and the sun was starting to get lower, so we went by the Charles river and sat on a bench. I could only take 3 bites or so of a snack as the surges kept getting more and more intense. I was so glad my husband got to eat and we could enjoy the stream of light coming through the trees, the water, the warm air, and all of the people out exercising (though I did get some looks that were like…'um, is she in labor?'). I tried to walk a little bit, but when every few steps turns into a time to hug a tree for comfort and breath, well, I knew it was time to head back to the midwives.

By the time we actually made it back to the hospital from all the starting and stopping of walking, it was around 8:00. The midwives were just changing shifts, but the same nurse (Jackie, you rock) was on call. She could tell I was much more into it by now. The new midwife on (Leila, you also rock) thought I was more like 4 cm now and my cervix was ready. I was the only midwife patient in labor at the moment, and I had requested the room with the birthing tub, so I got it! Yay, the palace was mine. :)

Again, it took some time just for me to walk to the room. Once there I had to use the restroom, and I was in a lot of pain (yes, birthing contractions are painful, people! But they are also somehow manageable because us women are amazing). In the bathroom, my baby gave a strong kick or punch and my water broke over the toilet! Alright! I was relieved because then I knew it was really getting going. The birthing tub was then full and they helped me get in. I had only a towel placed over me in the water, which felt so soothing. Leila kept pouring water over me through each surge, and my husband was there to massage my neck and soothe me. Jackie found an iPod dock, thank goodness, and so with the lights very low and my playlist on…I was able to tap in. Snatam Kaur, Sigur Ros, Amiina…they all helped me through for the 2nd time in this birthing game.
As most women going for a natural birth do, I had so many jekyll and hyde moments. One minute I would say, "I can do this!" and then the very next I was, "I can't do it!" and so the time would pass. My team of Leila, Jackie, and David were perfect calm, soothing, supportive, positive energy to guide me toward meeting my boy. My friend, Cara, who has been photographing this pregnancy throughout each trimester was on her way to photograph the birth. I remember asking my husband if he had texted her! We weren't sure she'd make it on time.
At the nurse's suggestion, I changed positions in the tub, and after only 3 surges or so in that new position…the incredible urge to push came over me. Wow, to feel that sensation again. It's beyond describing, really. The best way that other mama friends and I can describe it is, PRIMAL. There is no stopping the sensation. You are in that moment connected to every single thing on this planet. Nothing else will ever take me to that place in the same way.
I then moved back to the little seat in the tub and the midwife got her water birthing gloves and gear on. They guided me in my breathing as each urge to push came through. I had no recollection of time at this point. I remember Cara showing up somewhere during this time…and I was glad she made it! But I was definitely in another place. When the baby emerged from my womb (after only 25 minutes of pushing!), it's the biggest sense of relief I will ever feel. It was the same as after Isak emerged. Just this overall feeling of, thank goodness it's over…and I did it. Phew! And WOW. My little August was placed right on my chest and I don't remember much else. Just looking at his beauty and feeling so at ease, finally, that all was well and he was here. The water was still warm and soothing and my husband and I were taking it all in. Around 20 minutes or so later, my placenta came out. I stayed a bit longer in the tub and then they started draining it and we were able to get out.
Gus was 8 lbs 1 oz and 21 inches. He was perfect. I had no tears and all was in tact (again, yay for yoga!). I felt actually really good. He was born at 10:09pm, so within 2 hours of us showing back up at the hospital. That was more like it this time around!

This last month since has been very full in every sense. Full of visitors, full of emotions, full of stress (postpartum hormones combined with having a 3 year old!), full of celebrating, full of ups and downs, but mostly so full of Love. It's a transformative time of the year, so it feels most fitting to have welcomed new life into the world and to slowly allow my own transitions to happen. I'm undergoing another shift in my spirit that I welcome and that will provide for new energy and wisdom to emerge as I move forward in the many roles I hope to continue to encompass.

More to come…

Thank You to our families. Thank You to our dear friends who have provided such incredible meals, snacks, company and hugs. Thank You to my fellow new mamas all over the place who provided such inspiration and continue to. Thank You to my yoga friends and students all over the place who do the same.

Lots of love from our family to yours,


First meeting of our sweet boy--
photo by Cara Brostrom
 Do you see his mudra in the right hand?--
photo by Cara Brostrom

Gus at around 2 weeks old.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

3rd Trimester- Prenatal Yoga Photo Series

A few weeks ago I had the privilege to work with my friend, the talented Cara Brostrom again! I hired her this year to document each trimester of this second pregnancy of mine through a Prenatal Photo series that I came up with (see previous posts for the previous 2 trimesters). So we teamed up for the 3rd time at JP Centre Yoga in Boston to shoot. It was nearing the end of July and I was 36-37 weeks along! I've loved this project and look forward to creating my own teaching tool with it, plus hanging on to such beautiful memories. Thank you, Cara! And if you're pregnant, I hope you gain inspiration from these photos and your own yoga practice. 
Stay tuned for a Post Natal shoot that we'll do in the next couple of months to come...