Tag Archives: mothering

Yoga in the first trimester

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Yoga in Pregnancy and Beyond – The First Trimester

 

In this article, we will focus on the first trimester. Later articles will look at the second, third and fourth trimesters, and tackle other common ailments and issues encountered in pregnancy.

This is a remarkable and potentially transformative time in a woman’s life. Alongside the visible signs of the changes in a woman’s body, she experiences a heady cocktail of oestrogen, progesterone, relaxin, oxytocin, endorphins and prolactin.

Essential for maintaining pregnancy and stimulating the healthy development of the baby, progesterone and oestrogen play numerous other roles in pregnancy. However, these essential hormones are often responsible for mood swings and morning sickness; which often ease as mothers enter the second trimester. Sufficient rest in the first trimester can help alleviate these usually harmless complaints.

Relaxin softens the muscles, ligaments and joints in preparation for birth. This softening creates increased flexibility in the hips and pelvis: over-stretching can result in joint instability, leading to discomfort and pain. The softening also affects other areas of the body. Caution is advised against over-extending in all poses; encourage gentle stretching with an emphasis on creating stability in stillness, freedom and ease in movement.

Some of the simplest practices can be the most powerful at a time when many women are beginning to examine their emotional and spiritual health in more depth, even as they encounter new physical challenges.

  • Simple breath awareness: you no doubt have your own version of this practice and as long as there is no breath retention, you can do this. Simply watching our breath can encourage deeper, slower, more rhythmic breathing resulting in better oxygenation, more efficient digestion as a result of the massaging effect of the movement of the diaphragm, and steadying of the heart rate. Breath awareness may also help women to navigate bouts of nausea and allow them to feel refreshed after any vomiting
  • Nadi Sodhana Pranayama (no breath retention): this calming, balancing breath may enable women to manage mood swings with grace and can be safely practised throughout pregnancy;
  • Tiryaka Tadasana (swaying palm tree pose, no breath retention): women can remain on the soles of their feet or lift onto the toes if they feel adequately balanced – see pictures. Inhale to the centre line, exhale to lengthen and open one side of the body. The gentle stretch to the abdomen helps to lift the ribcage, creating length in the rectus abdominal muscles (so may also help prevent diastasis recti), and helping to alleviate heartburn and indigestion by reducing compression of the stomach;Tiryaki Tadasana PG
  • The Golden Triangle: assuming no other ailments, this enable a woman to maintain a stable, aligned pelvis throughout pregnancy. Even long standing practitioners are well-advised to ensure that in wide-leg poses, the space between their knees is no wider than the space from hip to knee, or elbow to fingertips – see pictures.
  • Deep relaxation: during the first trimester, most mothers will still be comfortable resting supine, and may safely do so. Use your own tried and tested relaxations, explore the Yoga Nidra Network for free downloads or visit your own trusted source;
  • Many women will begin to explore their emotional and spiritual landscapes during pregnancy, I encourage you to create a list of pregnancy specific resources you can explore. I have included below a few websites and a poem to get you started. And I urge you to read Spiritual Midwifery by Ina May Gaskin – more on her later in the series.

If you have a particular question about yoga for pregnancy, please don’t hesitate to post it in the comments section or get in touch directly.

Resources

positivebirthmovement.org

twincitiesmidwifery.wordpress.com

inamay.com

natalhypnotherapy.co.uk

Chant of the Pregnant Goddess
by Jana McCarthy (found at twincitiesmidwifery)
I am the mother of the moon
sister of the stars
child of the light in your eyes.
I am powerful.
The geometry of my shape shifts
from gently curved lines
to expanding circles:
earth, moon, sun.
I am powerful.
I am strong.
The tempo of my vibration quickens,
increasing from
butterfly wings, to floundering fish,
to beating drum,
erupting volcano,
the rhythm as old and constant as
the cycles of the sun
and the turn of the tides.

I am powerful.
I am strong.
I am beautiful.

I hold the hope of my ancestors
the knowledge of my time
the fate of my future.

I am powerful.
I am strong.
I am beautiful.
I am mother.

OMx

Golden Triangle PG

 

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Whole Self Awareness

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This is a short guided meditation or relaxation, it can be a respite from your busy day or the quiet beginning to your asana practice when you arrive on your mat…Let it be what you need it to be!

This can be done seated or in Savasana. You are encouraged to release any concern about falling asleep if you lie down – after all, perhaps a little more sleep is what you most need…The practice may take you a few moments or more – take what time you can spare.  The idea is to connect to your body, your breath, your thoughts and emotions…This is about being able to use your awareness of what your body needs so that you can develop your personal practice accordingly…day to day, each time you come to sitting or to your mat…connect, acknowledge, practice…

Begin by settling yourself, allow yourself time to get comfortable…If lying in Savasana, check for a feeling of symmetry and balance around the centre line of your spine… If your lower back aches, consider supporting the knees over a bolster or rolled blanket…Let your palms rest facing the sky or place your hands softly in Yoni Mudra over your lower abdomen…

Yoni Mudra

Yoni Mudra

Bring awareness to your body….How does it feel right now? Let go of expectation about a bad back, a dodgy knee…Let your mind seek out the sensations that are present right now…Release any temptation to label them as good or bad…You are simply noticing what you feel and where you feel it…You can scan up or down through the body, or you might like to allow your mind to be drawn to the stronger sensations and work your way to the more subtle…

Slowly draw your attention from a general physical awareness to awareness of your breath…For now, simply watch, there is no need to change or consciously control your breathing in any way…Feel the physical movements and sensations of your breath…Rise and fall…Expansion and contraction…The ebb and flow of your breath…Feel its depth, its rhythm…

As you watch your breath, feel its natural flow and rhythm slow and deepen…Feel the rhythm become more wavelike in your body…Even watching the breath can allow us to breathe more freely and deeply…as we do so, our heart rate and blood pressure become slower and steadier…our diaphragm moves more deeply to massage the organs and lymph tissue in the abdomen and the pelvis, encouraging smooth digestion and improving pelvic health…As the diaphragm moves more deeply, our psoas muscles in the lower back join in the movement and can begin to receive better blood flow helping to release stiffness and aching…The adrenals sit on top of our kidneys and also tune into the deeper movement as they are connected to the movement of the diaphragm by the connective fascia of the body…so the kidneys are stimulated and massaged and the adrenals are soothed by healthy movement and blood flow, less likely now to react to small challenges as they respond to the soothing rhythm of your breath…Even simple breath awareness can immediately begin to deepen your physical, mental and emotional wellbeing…

rest is the hardest thing

Let your breath continue its soothing rhythm now…

Allow your mind to begin to notice the thoughts and emotions that arise…Each time you notice a thought or emotion, let go of it, notice the next exhalation and the next thought or emotion…Imagine that your thoughts and emotions are like butterflies, you notice them, but you do not try to catch them, simply watch them fluttering away…

Even the act of noticing you have been distracted and caught up in a thought or emotion is an act of mindfulness…Do not berate yourself for feeling distracted, simply find the next exhalation and being the process of observing again….

Let yourself rest…

When you are ready, you may like to take a few consciously deeper breaths and make some small movements in hands and feet to feel that your body is awake and that you are ready to return to your day or begin your practice.

OMx

These arms of mine…

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Anxiety is not a word we often associate with children, except in the context of separation anxiety, which thankfully is more recognised than ever…it opens the conversation on anxiety in our young children, beyond their babyhood and into the preschool & school ages, preceding the classic teenage angst…

All too often, anxiety in children is passed over as a needy, clingy, negative trait and not considered as a valid emotion in our vulnerable little souls…

How often have you just wanted to wrap your arms around them…?

Our young children are now more physically capable, often running, jumping, climbing with gusto and able to pierce eardrums and shake the walls with their exuberant verbal expression…but then we move to leave them at nursery or with a caregiver or with school and they turn inward and cling to our legs and beg not to be left…

They are still too small to voice this feeling that bubbles up inside and make butterflies in their tummies…they may simply be excited, but they may too be feeling nervous, anxious…

We can name this feeling for them and validate it…we feel nervous too when we have to walk into a new workplace or find ourselves in an unfamiliar social group…we may find that we are anxious because we haven’t been somewhere for a while…if we feel it, and we understand it, it is only natural that our children will feel it and that in their innocence they may be unable to communicate their feelings and not know how to describe their experience…

As loving parents, it is important that we acknowledge the need to ground ourselves and understand our own experience of the anxiety our child is feeling…It may be useful here to consider the nature of vyana vayu – this is an aspect of prana (life energy) that governs free flow of thoughts and emotions; it is an energy that enlivens the whole body but is especially present in the limbs acting as a a grounding force in the legs and as an expansive energy in the arms that manifests in their ability to offer comfort and healing…Take a look at the link in blue for more information on this energy and how to connect with it more deeply in a yoga practice…However, you can tap into this energy by standing with your feet slightly apart & parallel and feeling the connection of your feet to the Earth beneath you; start with your arms by your sides and as you inhale, bring your arms up wide in a circle to place your palms together above your head, as you exhale slowly, move your palms face down back to the start position…You can then switch to bring the arms up overhead on the inhale and then keeping your palms together, draw the arms down in the centre line to bring the hands to rest in Anjali Mudra (prayer position) at your heart centre (the middle of your chest)…Try 3-6 breaths in each movement, set the intention to feel grounded and yet filled with comforting, healing energy that you can flow from your heart centre to your hands and back again…(You can see a fuzzy little speeded up video of myself & my friend playing with this Tree of Life breath & its variation here!)

From here, you can move to be with your child in their anxious state knowing that you are ready to engage them without compromising your own emotional state…this is about guiding your child through their emotional ocean, not throwing yourself in without a life ring…

These ideas are ones that have worked for me, with my children and other children & babies that I know…I invite you to experiment with them, be creative and adapt them to your need and that of the child in front of you…

Cuddle Cat

Cuddle Cat - Yoga for Anxiety in Children

Cuddle Cat

More Cuddle Cat

More Cuddle Cat

Help your child settle into Balasana (Child Pose) and then kneel behind them with your feet close together & your knees either side of your child’s feet – fold carefully forward to rest your head against your child’s back and to enfold them in the space beneath you and inside your arms…and just breathe together and rest, and listen if they begin to chatter…be here with your child as long as they need you to be…(or as long as you have if the school run beckons!)

 

Humming Breath

You can do this yourself, or encourage your child to play a game with you…Inhaling & exhaling through the mouth, you breathe in normally and then “mmmmmmm” for as long as you comfortably & smoothly can on the exhalation (keeping lips together) and feeling the resonance of the sound in your head & body…If you hold your child close and hum it will calm & soothe you both, if you can also persuade your child into a gentle game of humming as long as you can together, you will also help them understand a way to slow down their breathing…and a long exhalation means a deeper inhalation next time, naturally creating a deeper, slower more rhythmic flow to your breath & theirs…this slows the heart rate, steadies blood pressure and has a soothing effect on the nervous system helping to reduce anxiety and also means that you feel refreshed by mindful breathing…

Chanting

Singing a favourite song, a lullaby or chanting a mantra or bhajan can all help to shift emotions and create a calmer environment…find a song or mantra that you both feel is happy and relaxing and make sure you know it well enough to use it anywhere, anytime…also great as a sleep cue at bedtime!

Validation and wish making

If your child can articulate feeling scared, frightened, nervous, anxious etc in any way, then validate that emotion…tell them it is ok and natural to feel that way sometimes…try to avoid saying “Oh, don’t be silly…” or “There’s nothing to be scared about…” or similar – they do feel what they feel, and they need to know it is ok to feel it and that they are not the only person who ever felt like that…Let them know it is good to be able to say how they feel…ask them if they feel it in their brains or in their bodies or both if they are old enough to grasp the idea of thinking vs physical feeling…Find a way to express your desire to help them feel less anxious…”I wish I could show you how strong and brave you are so that you wouldn’t feel nervous because I know that this will be great fun and I know you will be ok because this is somewhere safe and the people here love you/care about you/want you to have a great time…”…Or if your child doesn’t want you to leave try “I wish I could stay too, and I will be back as fast as I can after school/from work/etc so that we can have a really big hug and lots of fun together”…this lets them know that you will miss them too and reinforces the message that you are not leaving forever…

Planning

Sometimes, children are anxious simply because they do not know what to expect…it can be easy for us to assume that they know the routine for each day of the week or that they understand that a birthday party in a big, bright play area will be fun…but sometimes in our hurry or habit, we forget to talk to our children and let them know the plans we have so lovingly & painstakingly made for their benefit…our children get swept along in our busy lives, thrown in to unexpected excitement and new situations and the fast pace of modern life leaves little time or space for them to take in their environment and the unfolding events before they are whisked off on the next adventure or cajoled into the next activity…Develop the habit of letting your child know what is happening, when, where and with who… (or is that whom, grammar pedant though I can be, this one I never know!)

Finally, when all else fails, there is no mythical rod for your own back, and you cannot spoil a child by loving them, by comforting them and reassuring them when they are frightened or anxious…sometimes, positive touch is all that they need, not words or techniques, just your loving arms around them and the warmth of your embrace as they feel your heartbeat next to theirs…

OMx

A handful of flowers…

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Pushpaputa Mudra by Portsmouth Yoga

Pushpaputa Mudra

September is a time of transition…our littlest are often beginning preschool…our still little ones are often beginning school…junior school begins…secondary school…college…university…the new academic year draws our children back out in the world away from our mothering & the family home…

In the garden, plants are fading…flowers becoming fewer…green slowly makes the shift to red as Autumn glories in a spectrum of yellow and orange, flaming golden as a last defiance to the onset of the darker months, a final promise that the sun will shine strong again…

This is the time of Harvest…nature offers a final bounty to see us through the harsh winter ahead… (ok, ok, I’m romanticising, most of us will just pop to the local supermarket & stock up…but put yourself in a long house with the promise of warm fires and your loved ones gathered about the flames to wait out the dark and the cold…)

It is a time to reflect, to gather that which will sustain us, to come to terms with the anxiety of the looming darkness and begin the process of transformation, which is best done in darkness after all…

Pushpaputa Mudra (a handful of flowers mudra) offers openness and acceptance…all we have to do is sit quietly and pay attention…listen a while…what does life (or God) have to offer us?  What is waiting for us?  What new opportunities are presenting?  If we listen, we hear those gentle hints from life, we do not need the jolt of fate (take your own baby steps before the push comes leaving only that gut wrenching fall into the unknown…)

Sometimes, we are frozen by apathy…darkness looms and we retreat…sometimes, we are frozen by fear…When we feel there is not enough in our lives, fear creates that need to grasp, to hold on and refuse to share and so shortage and anxiety become the focus of our days…

Fear can be overcome by openess of heart and what we offer, we attract…

Harvest is a time of fullness in fact, a reminder of the abundance in life…the bounty of nature, the fruits of our labour… (sorry, not sorry, no pun intended!)

Harvest is a time to rejoice…the Harvest full moon is drawing close (UK – Tuesday 9th September 2014)

Let this be a time to gather in the harvest from your garden or allotment…and let it be a time when you take stock of the abundance in your life…make a list of all that you DO have…find the joy in celebrating all that you have gathered so far…

When we see what we have already, we become so much more open…the heart opens, the mind opens, and we can present open heart, mind and arms to the world…when we acknowledge all that we have, we feel there is so much more we can give…

Know that you have enough, feel it in your heart, in your bones and be prepared to share even a little…watch the ripple…as you open your heart and your hands, others will reciprocate…Give a smile, get a smile…give a hug, receive a hug…by far the most beautiful and satisfying two for one bargains out there…

If this is a time of transition for you, if this time holds fears…take a few minutes to sit quietly and rest your open hands, palms open to the sky and all that life (or God) has to offer…as you breathe, accept that joy flows in with the inhalation and allow yourself to feel full of joyfulness and the wealth of life (health, friends, family, a home, gratitude is the attitude…) and when you exhale, imagine that this joy and wealth has become so abundant that you can allow some of it to radiate through your heart and back out into the world…

Transform fear and the creeping feeling of apathy into an opportunity to explore abundance and joy…

“From Joy we are born, through Joy we bcome beings & live, to that sacred Joy will we return” Taittiriya Upanishad 3-6-1

Let this time of transition be a joyful opportunity for transformation…celebrate all you have, give thanks for the abundance in your life, and see what you can offer back to life, to your family, friends or community (local or global)…

OMx

Below is a beautiful Wiccan prayer for Harvest – very slightly adapted from the article by Patti Wigington – and you can find her ideas for creating a group Harvest celebration in the Wiccan tradition here at about.com

We call upon the powers of Earth,

and welcome you to this circle.

May the fertile soil of the land bring us

prosperity, abundance, and the bounty of the land, in this time of harvest.

We call upon the powers of Air,

and welcome you to this circle.

May the winds of change bring us wisdom and knowledge

in this season of abundance and bounty.

We call upon the powers of Fire,

and welcome you to this circle.

May the shining light of this season’s moon

illuminate our way through the coming winter.

We call upon the powers of Water,

and welcome you to this circle.

May the cool autumn rains wash away the last comforts of summer,

and prepare us for the chill that is to come.

By the light of the moon,

we celebrate the season, and rejoice.

May the next turn of the Wheel bring us love

and compassion, abundance and prosperity, fertility and life.

As the moon above, so the earth below.

Listen…

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Listen…

When I talk, please listen…see past the smile and see the me inside…look beyond the mischief and the provocation…find your way beyond the irritation and the annoyance…

Love me…please…

Inside I am small and scared and lost in a big world that has no guide book or if it does I haven’t learned to read it yet…

Hear me…please…

I keep trying to tell you that I need you on my side, that I am lonely, unsure, frightened, tired…

Love me…

Nothing heals my hurts like your arms around me…

When I fall, I don’t expect you to always be there to catch me, but please make sure that I get back up…sometimes I might just need you to help me up…brush me down…smile & send me on my way…

Love me…

In a crowded room, I am suddenly so small…so alone…so altogether lost…

Whisper in my ear that we can find something to do, somewhere to sit or talk or be…

Be with me, near me, share your space & offer me your time…

Don’t wait until I have grown tired of waiting…

Love me now…

OMx 

Of herons…

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I love herons.  They are majestic, and somewhat melancholy in my mind.  The first time I saw a heron up close was the morning after I first learned how to row a boat.  I was 29, and woke early with a feeling I couldn’t shake that something was different.  I was pregnant, I knew it with every fibre of my being.  We’d been trying to have a baby for over a year.

Blood tests, scans, ovary-stimulating drugs, dye injections and x-rays.  And then, no more treatment Mrs B, your ovaries need a rest.  You could have another 3 months on these awful drugs that render you an emotional timebomb who bursts into tears at the sight of every pregnant woman or the mention of a friend’s happy news about a new baby.  After that, maybe daily drug injections…but that might not work, so it would be IVF…Only it wouldn’t because we agreed that there was a limit to what would be done to me, to us, in search of our child.

...top of the world...

Pen-Y-Fan Summit…top of the world…

And so, a rest.  A trying, impatient, yet slowly accepted wait.  Limbo.  So, we planned holidays.  A week in Pixley, walks in the wild – I drank gallons of perry (why not…no baby yet…), summited my first mountain…, walked under a waterfall…

And then we took a week to meander the waterways of the Norfolk Broads, my first holiday on a boat.  Windmills, quiet waterside pubs, peaceful sunsets over tranquil broads…Heavenly calm.  And I learned to row, our first evening out.  Next morning, I awoke before 6, excited, energised and knowing without a shadow of a doubt that I had a baby dancing in my belly.

It was a whole week of delicious secret knowledge, avoiding too much local ale (OK, I had the odd half or a shandy, but dear husband and my in-laws would have noticed if I went tee-total overnight!) until we arrived home, on my birthday, and I could sneak out to buy a pregnancy test.

It told me what I knew, but I have a very analytical, practical other half who wants proof, evidence…and here it was, the long awaited pink line.

Heron on the Norfolk Broads – my messenger from God

But the heron…when I woke that beautiful, still, clear morning on the water, Lee & I quietly crept from our bed, dressed and got into our dinghy, rowing silently to the edges of the broad in which we had moored.  And we were rewarded for our early venture with the presence of a gorgeous heron.  So herons do hold majesty for me, and melancholy, but they also hold magic and secret knowledge.  The promise of a life yet to be lived.

Spiritually, may associate herons with the Sun, and with light.  As water birds, they are seen to represent going with the flow of light.  And because they eat various reptiles, including snakes they are often seen as a symbol of the constant struggle between good and evil.  In Native American traditions, all birds are seen as messengers from Great Spirit.  In other traditions, similar birds such as storks & cranes are similarly revered as messengers of God.  To Native Americans, herons also represent finding one’s way in life & following one’s path, evolving to fulfil one’s own way.

Certainly as I became a mother, finding my own way became a necessity.  I do not mother my children as I was mothered, nor as my mother-in-law or step-mother mothered.  I was lucky to find others who were also walking their own path, and so sometimes we walked our paths together, and even now they still converge sometimes.  But mothering is a journey you take largely on your own, often hand in hand with a partner and with your children, but nonetheless you must tread your own path, being true to your own heart.  You will know when you stray, because it will hurt your heart; you will feel hideous, wracked with guilt, and berate yourself for your failings.

Be aware that straying from your path is part of learning how to walk it more carefully, more mindfully.  Let any short-cuts, double-backs or forks in the road only serve to assist you in finding self-realisation and to clarify your purpose and intention.

And if yoga is your thing, then why not try out Krounchasana – Heron Pose.  It stimulates the abdominal organs, and most importantly the heart.  Experience steadiness & ease in the pose; even as you stretch, feel your heart opening to your purpose: re-affirm your commitment to follow your own path as a mother, as a woman, and set your intention to stay mindful – watchful, like the heron at the waters edge…waiting, watchful, witnessing…

Today was the first time I ever moved into this pose, guided by my lovely teacher Tina,  an Iyengar teacher of infinite fun & wisdom, and then couldn’t resist another attempt at home.  My Heron Pose is far from perfect, and I share it here to affirm my own efforts to continue seeking my own path, to mother my children with heart & soul, and to keep striving for perfection that I know I can never achieve…The important thing is to keep walking and at every step to be content simply being good enough…OMx

Nowhere near perfection…but good enough…for now at least