Ways to prepare for your own well being during the postnatal/postpartum period from Yoga Therapist and Doula Emily Gold.Read More
March is usually a time of change. The days get longer. Spring seems to be in the foreseeable future. As we near the end of winter (at least I hope here in Brussels) I know I am not alone in feeling a bit stir crazy, eager to move, yet at the same time, frustrated by the horrible weather, lacking motivation to get off my couch and onto my yoga mat. This is, in my opinion, a great time to try something new in your yoga practice. This can me different things for different people, here are few of my Moody March suggestions.
Try a different style of yoga. This is one of the most straightforward ways to inject change into your yoga practices, it is something I've been doing myself. My typical practice tends to be Hatha based but I've recently started trying out some Kundalini practices. The chanting, rapid movements and focus on energy movement has kept me eager to return my mat. Adding Kundalini practice highlighted how tentative I had been to step away from my postnatal practice, since I’ve begun I’ve become more confident in safely expanding my physical practice. You may discover something similar, or perhaps the reverse, that you’ve been pushing yourself too hard physically, and what you actually need is space to breath and relax.
Expand your Yoga Practice- Asana the physical yoga poses, is only one of what is known as the 8-limbs of Yoga. There are many amazing non-physical ways to expand your yoga practice, as they gain popularity they have become more popular here in Brussels. Some things you can try include:
- Seated meditation. Many yoga studios offer a weekly seated meditation practice. These offerings are often low-cost or donation based. You can also look into a local meditation center, in Brussels we are lucky to have a Shambala Center which offers weekly “learn to meditate” sessions. As they are part of an international Shambalha Community such centers exist throughout the world.
- Gong Meditation/Bath This is a recent discovery for me, and a really great one. Gong Meditation, or sound bath, is a process of using gong sound waves as a therapeutic way to massage and heal the body and mind. Those that know me know I tend to view such Whoo-whoo offerings with a grain of salt, but after my first 2 hours of truly profound experience I am convinced of the power of the gong. Sessions can be done individually or in a group. In Brussels you can find an amazing experience with The Jewel Within Yoga.
- Commit to your practice It is often easier to get out of the house and onto your mat if you’ve made a commitment to do so. There are many ways to do this. You can purchase an “unlimited” class pass to your local studio, giving you access to as many classes as you like for a certain amount of time. Or make plans to attend with a friend, even if your motivation declines you can’t let them down. You can also look into committing to a series of classes that help deepen your practice. My 8-Week Yoga Therapy Course for Stress, Anxiety and Depression provides a way to commit to your practice while learning ways to find balance in body and mind.
I hope you find some inspiration to evolve your practice today. If you are interested in the 8-week course or any of the other practices mentioned here please get in touch today.
February means Valentines Day and Valentine’s Day is all about LOVE. And Mom’s have lots of love to give out, but do you have time to share some love with yourself too? I know for myself it can be difficult to manage much time for myself in the midst of caring for my child, helping to run my household and my business and stay connected with my husband. That said, I know self-care is important, it can reduce stress and provide you with an opportunity to check in with your own well being, great for managing stress, anxiety and depression. Here are a few of my favorite ways to ensure I am practicing self-care as a busy mom 1) Schedule it in. Seriously. My personal schedule now says “yoga” on it almost every day. This is Emily time. I don’t book clients or take on any other responsibilities during the time. I started doing this after I saw how I was teaching yoga all the time but never really practicing it. Now I know that I have a time each day that will be all about me. Where I can shut my door, tune in to my body and do whatever I feel I need to do to feel a bit better. It isn’t often much time, which leads me to point number 2.
2) Choose quality over quantity. When it comes to yoga, and many other aspects of self-care, if you are busy it can often feel like there is no time. If you don’t have an hour to go to a yoga class (plus the travel) time, or 30 minutes to do that meditation you like, well why bother at all? My philosophy, especially since becoming a mom, is that a little bit is worth a lot more than nothing at all. I don’t always have time to practice an hour plus yoga practice. But I may have 15 minutes, so I do that. And practicing for those 15 minutes usually makes me feel better and consequently makes me more productive all day. If you have 5 minutes you can do a short mindfulness meditation or a few sun salutations. You will likely enjoy it and feel less rushed the rest of the day.
3) Let go of the guilt. This is a tough one for me! As women we are made to feel like we not only CAN “have it all” but we must. Must be the perfect mom, the hardest worker etc. etc. This can often make us feel like failures if we ever need a break. Coupled with the sentiment of “blink and you’ll miss it” of parenthood, I often feel like if I step away from my work or my family I am failing everyone and missing many important things. But the truth is, when I am tuned in present and feeling physically and mentally comfortable and balanced I am a better mother, wife teacher and therapist.
4) Involve others. Personally I don’t think self-care always has to be by your “self” and this is coming from a natural introvert. Sometimes when I need a break but I am on mom duty this may mean a walk in the park. Little one is happily strapped into his stroller enjoying a view of the world while I have a relaxing (i.e. not political) podcast playing in my ears. I’ve given up trying to make my husband a yogi but yoga, dancing and exercise are all great ways to bond with your partner while practicing self-care.
5) Don’t stress if it doesn’t happen. I am aware that “self care” is very much a buzzword these days. I know this is one of countless blogs on the topic. Many of them can make it seem like life without self-care is downright deadly. I know for me, and I suspect for others, this can be a dangerous message. If you are already feeling stressed or anxious about caring for others and you feel like you are failing yourself you may just feel worse. So if you miss your self-care practice today, this week, this month, don’t fret. It may be helpful to take some of these tips to find more accessible ways to bring some important care into your life. And you have tomorrow to give it another try.
Hope you are able to find some time to share some love for yourself! Happy Valentines Day!
Continue your yoga practice off the mat this year.
A regular yoga practice has have amazing physical and mental benefits, including improving our response to stress and reducing anxiety. Most of us feel really great after a yoga practice or meditation practice, that is why we keep doing it. Yoga is more than a physical practice and includes theory and philosophy on all aspects of life. Incorporating some of these into your day to day life can help improve mindfulness and keep that good feeling going all day.The more you practice the more regular and long-term it will become, but there are other ways you can live more yogicaly, and mindfully, in your day to day life. Here are 4-ways I like to like to continue my yoga practice off the mat.
1) Detach from your phone
As a yoga teacher who is supposed to expound healthy living I have a dirty little secret. No, I don’t smoke cigarettes or hunt endangered animals. But I am addicted to my phone. I don’t use the term “addiction” lightly, I do think it is a real problem. A problem I am tacking. The easiest and best thing I’ve done so far is to take my phone out of my room! I got into the nasty habit during sleepless pregnancy and new baby nights of checking my phone every time I woke up, which was a great many times. And before bed. And when I woke up for the day. And before I took a nap. You get the point. The worst was waking up, when I realized I would be physically craving my phone as I breastfed my son. I realized I needed a change. About a month ago my husband and I stopped charging our phones in our room, leaving them downstairs in the evening. The change has been amazing! Within a few days I was journaling again, instead of one final Facebook pose I “post” to myself in the evening. The mornings are filled with baby giggles instead of reading whatever grim news happened overnight. I've even noticed my overall anxiety level lower throughout the day. There is still room for improvement (read on) but this had certainly created more mindful mornings and bedtimes, which has meant for better sleep and less early morning anxiety.
2) Check in with the breath.
Breathing, we all do it. Most of us don’t do it well. Without getting too much into the physiology, many of us are breathing using the wrong muscles, essentially using our shoulder/torso instead of our diaphragm. This can be detrimental for a number of reasons, including making it more difficult to take in adequate amounts of oxygen, which can ignite the body’s stress response and affecting the posture, leading to pain in the shoulders and low back (which can also ignite the stress response). This can be a chronic problem but for many people it is easy to make some improvements. As a yoga therapist what I most commonly see people doing is breathing into their chests instead of their belly and breathing very fast. While there are a number of exercise I do with clients to improve there breathing for a “quick fix” I suggest working on belly breathing. If you notice you are feeling stressed or overwhelmed this is a great time to check in with your breath. Put your hands on your belly and see if they move away from you on your inhale, and back towards you on your exhale. Take a few breaths this way, slowing down the breath as you do.
Truly changing the way you breathe takes time and practice but noticing when and how you breathe and improving it when you can is a great first step to a more yogic year.
3) Pick a mindful moment.
My favorite thing from the Mindful Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) class I took in 2015 was the “mindful activities”. We were told to choose an activity we do each day and devote our time to being mindful during it. I chose the shower, because I LOVE showering and it seemed like a good idea to start with a task I enjoy doing. All this means is really paying attention to everything, the smell of the soap, the feel of the water, etc. I’ve continued trying to do this regularly years after the class ended. It served me particularly well in my postnatal period when my thrice-weekly shower was often the only “me time” I would get, Being mindful of it really allowed me to take it all in, ensuring I could really enjoy the break. It is also a great time to check in on where the mind is going. Sometimes it is “easier” to be mindful while other times my mind has drifted away before I’ve even turned the water on. This is a great opportunity for me to really notice how I am feeling, whether it is calm, anxious, sad etc. I do this without judgment. I enjoy this practice in the shower because it includes a mind body component (a yoga bonus) but other ideas include brushing your teeth or doing the dishes.
4) Check in with your day (journaling).
I’ve gotten back the journaling. I’ve always wanted to be a journaler, I have about 10 journals with a page or 2 written in, soon abandoned. But this time it seems to be sticking. Aside from the lack of screen time (noted about) I think the other secret to my current journal success is that I’ve become very curious about how I am doing. I view my journaling as another opportunity to check in with myself. What am I still holding on to from the day? What have I let go of? Why? It only takes a few minutes but I find it is now one of my favorite parts of the day.
I hope you have an opportunity to use some of these tips. If you do, or if you have other great ideas for how we can all live a bit more yoga please pop over to my facebook page and share them there.
By now we all know the results of Tuesday’s election in the US. This isn’t meant to be a political post, though it is about politics. But I know many people, including myself are grieving and/or feeling numerous intense emotions right now and at such times people often turn to their yoga and meditation practices and teachers for comfort. I have some thoughts I wanted to share that have been evolving over the past few days. Feel your Feelings: This has been an important part of healing for me ever since I discovered mindfulness in 2008. Being able to check in with what you are experiencing, positive or negative, notice where you feel it in your body and acknowledge it is a main tenant of mindfulness. Too often we feel we have to push down our emotions and “put on a happy face”. For slices of the yogic community the idea of a positive mindset is the ultimate goal. Do yoga, become happy. Don’t get me wrong, positivity is great and I don’t have a problem with being happy, but no one can be happy all the time. And on Wednesday there was no way I could be positive. I was (and am) grieving and I knew the smartest and healthiest thing I could do for myself, and for my students, was acknowledge that reality and ask for help. I knew people would be coming to yoga looking for solace from a stressful day, there was no day I could help them find that. While I was met with mostly sympathy and support I was also shamed for not just “relaxing” and “spreading the love”. Yet at the moment, trying to do that would be inauthentic, it would be pushing away my true self, working against one of the goals of yoga. It was tempting to take on that shame, and ignore my feelings. But the more I thought about it I wondered where those feelings would go, I knew they wouldn’t disappear, if I pushed them away where and when would they show back up? I was feeling real grief, it wasn’t just going to go away because I got up and showered and taught a yoga class. My practice and teaching has always been seeded in mindfulness. One of the best articles I’ve come across in the past few days is this piece from Lions Roar (http://www.lionsroar.com/buddhist-teachers-respond-to-news-of-trumps-presidential-win/) The first take away I got from it was this quote from Ethan Nichtern of the Shambhala Meditation Center of New York
“Tomorrow I will try to follow the lead of those whose vision I trust to see how I can help move our world forward with compassion. But today, it is OK to grieve the fact that we have taken a massive emotional and spiritual step backwards. Please remember, the point of meditation is not to suppress your feelings. It is to make friends with yourself. On days like this, meditation is simply a way to remember a glimmer of your own basic goodness. Please remember it is OK to feel exactly what you feel.”
Thankfully another blessed yoga teacher offered to sub my classes for me. I was able to take the steps I needed to start making friends with myself again. All of this is to say; if you are feeling positive or feel that you can put on a big smile and help yourself and others feel better that is amazing and I honor that in you. But you should never have to fake it. Many people are grieving right now, and it’s ok to be one of those people. Your grief is real, and if you are feeling it please don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. I had been saying this since early Wednesday morning but this Huffington Post piece summed it up perfectly. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/election-pain-grief_us_58234497e4b0d9ce6fc03fd8
If you are in despair ask for help. Talk to your partner or a friend. Find a helpline. You don’t need to put on a smiley face or “fake it till you make it” when dealing with grief. And when you are ready….
Practice self-care: I know “self care” has been a catch all in the wellness industry but I think at times like this it is so important to remember you can’t help others until you are ready to help yourself. And there are going to be a great deal of people who need help. So find something that you know makes you feel better and do it. Yoga works for me, when I finally found myself ready to get back on the mat I found great relief in grounding poses and some cleansing Lion’s Breath. I also know for some people when grieving or in anger the idea of yoga sounds like torture. Go for a walk in nature, go kickboxing, cuddle a dog, and bake a cake. Do something to connect with yourself. Don’t forget yoga is about compassion, not just for others but for yourself as well. And when you’ve surrounded yourself in love…
Share some Love: I’ve seen lots of posts and articles about spreading love and compassion to the “the other side”, reaching across the aisle to Trump supporters. If you are ready for that, bless you. Personally for me I am too angry at the people, all of the people, who voted for Trump. Yes I know people are hurting and that inspired many people to make the choices they did, but they put their own hurt above the safety and protection of their fellow Americans, and I am not ready to love them.
But love someone. Show a bit of extra love to your partner. Not ready for that yet? Find a dog to play with, animals are often easier to deal with than humans. Puddles is blissfully ignorant and getting on the ground and playing with her has put a smile on my face. Buy a homeless person something to eat. Call a friend you haven’t spoken to and ask them how they are and really mean it. Donate to a cause that matters to you, especially if you are worried it may be affected come January, and do it in the name of someone you know could use some encouragement.
None of these things is going to change reality or build that time machine I keep dreaming about. But if you can find some relief for yourself and others you’ll be ready for the work we have ahead of us. And it’s a lot.
Finally, a few “yogic resources”
Lion’s Roar: http://www.lionsroar.com/buddhist-teachers-respond-to-news-of-trumps-presidential-win/ Even if you aren’t a Buddhist, if you have any interest in spirituality this is a very comforting read.
http://marc.ucla.edu/body.cfm?id=22 The Meditation for Working with Difficulties has been helpful for me before but provided some of the best feeling I’ve felt all week. And it is only 7 minutes.