a word on kindness and non-judgement

I so appreciate this talk from the lovely Kathryn Budig, I wanted to share it here as well. If even a power house like her can be effected by negative comments, I can only imagine what it can do those who are vulnerable. Such a great reminder that we are all fragile flames and that the last thing we need to feel more judgement, but we can all certainly benefit from a little more kindness, to ourselves and to those in our lives.

Like most women I know, I have struggled with body image and self acceptance. Since having babies, I have gradually been forming a new bond with my body. It was difficult during my first pregnancy to not feel out of control and overwhelmed by how much my body changed. But after my son was born, I found a new respect for the incredible strength of the female body and its capacity to nurture and create life. I was amazed by its utility! With my second pregnancy, I gained even more weight than my first. My midwife repeatedly expressed concern about this and my history of having a “macrsomal infant”. And again I had an uncomplicated birth experience with a big healthy baby.

Now I look it the mirror and try my darnedest to shush the disparaging comments I hear in my head. I see the wrinkly skin on my belly, the softness of my overstretched belly muscles, the dimples of cellulite on my thighs, the thickness of my upper arms and shoulders and all these things bother me sometimes, but mostly they make be proud and amazed. I wear that softness bravely, because it is an external reminder of the opening and the new depth of love I have experienced as a mom.

I’m done giving myself a hard time about this. And I’m done participating in those conversations with other women, like Kathryn talks about. It’s time to come together as women and lift each other up. We’re all in this together and let’s celebrate this life.  It is our vulnerabilities that make us powerful. I’m grateful for my body and you should be too!

The wound is the place where Light enters you. ~Rumi

My belly...after 41 weeks of pregnancy and now holding my 41 week old baby in arms.

My belly…after 41 weeks of pregnancy and now holding my 41 week old baby in arms.

Posted in ahimsa, aparigraha, Body image, mindfulness, parenting, Postpartum, pregnancy, Women, yoga, yoga therapy | 2 Comments

how yoga makes motherhood manageable

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Reading this article today got me thinking and more importantly feeling. It is truly incredible and beyond any words I could write the depth and bigness of emotions I have experienced in motherhood. Like tearing down the thickest fortress walls to find the softest underbelly you could imagine, motherhood has made me feel more raw, vulnerable and exposed then I ever could imagine. I have carried inside me two humans. I have birthed these babies into the world. I have been a mama to them on the outside world for almost 3 years now. Nothing I heard, read or watched could have ever prepared me for how huge the emotions of motherhood would feel.

As I took a walk today at work to grab an iced tea on this sunny day, not unlike I had done so many times this past summer while pregnant with my second baby, I was overcome by a sense of sadness and nostalgia for the warm summer days of pregnancy that so quickly flew by. I feel like I hardly even had the chance to catch my breath during that pregnancy to fully comprehend its gravity and what it would mean for my life. Time marches forward, one way or another, whether we are prepared for it or not. And I can see my life, like a movie sometimes, stuck in fast forward. I am guilty of wishing stages of my children’s life away, because it feels uncomfortable or too hard. Wishing and longing for their maturity to come more quickly. And then when I have a moment to pause, I grieve about all the moments that have already passed that I maybe treated frivolously.

This is where my yoga practice comes into play. As I feel humbled, exhausted, grateful and full of love by this journey of motherhood, I am thankful that the practice of yoga allows me the room to hold the paradoxes of motherhood, as difficult as it may be, all at once. I’m not even sure why I try to describe the experience of motherhood, though I’m not alone in this effort, when it is such a lived and intangible process. Life will continue to be full of mystery, especially in my experience of being my mama. And yet if stop trying to grasp so hard or contain it, I realize I am able to feel and experience the beauty, suffering, daily disasters and unconditional love all at once. I am reminded of a mantra I learned during my teacher training called So Hum, translated it means, “I am that I am”. That’s it. It’s so simple. And as I accept that this is where I am at, full of the biggest feelings I have ever known, yet connected and open to what exists at this moment, I don’t feel so overwhelmed. Yes, I know will probably feel overwhelmed again in about five minutes when my 3 year old pushes the grocery bag with 36 eggs in it off the counter or life just happens, but this practice of yoga has not disappeared and is still here, no matter where I go.

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The Power of Play

Here is a little something I wrote for the Living Yoga blog about my experience volunteer teaching with them.

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Enjoy!

Posted in integrated movement therapy, karma yoga, mental health, play therapy, volunteer, yoga, yoga therapy | Leave a comment

The slippery slope of samskara

I first learned about the idea of samskara during my yoga teacher training. It is a concept that has stuck with me in all my especially as I have continued on the path of studying psychology and mental health. One of my professors in grad school used say when were studying neuro-psychology that “what fires together, wires together”. She was referencing the firing of synapses and the neurological path they create. But meant that the more habitual a act or a thought is, more deeply embedded it is in our mind and behavior. This is essential the idea of samskara, which has often be explained as the ruts in the road. The more frequent and heavier the traffic on a certain path, the more deeply it cuts into the road. The same is true in our lives.

So what are the ruts in my life? I’ll confess, I am chronic and habitual over-extender. I will commit myself to all sorts of obligations, usually out of genuine excitement for the opportunity, only to find myself stretched completely and totally beyond my limits. I have a hard time saying “no”. In the past this may have served me well, as I ached to soak up new experiences. Whether I was in college juggling school, jobs, being an RA and dance productions. Or it was my graduate school experience where I worked full time, attended classes part time, taught yoga, trained for a marathon and planned a wedding all in one year.

This deeply rooted samskara, coupled with some slow days at work, the desire to make more money and the upcoming seasonal change has left me swimming in this pattern. I have anxiously been searching for jobs and throwing myself into opportunities that I don’t actually want for myself. Having recently had a baby, my values have shifted, but this pattern has remained strong. A few days ago, I gave pause to reflect on all the applications I had been filling out and ask, WHY? Do I really want to work full time again? No. Do I really want to commute long distances for work? No. Am I that unhappy with my current job? No.  Then what am I really trying to fill. Does every single moment of my day really need to be scheduled out.

That was the beauty of my maternity leave. I did give pause. I didn’t schedule every single moment of my life. I soaked up every ounce of amazing baby-ness that I possible could and it was glorious.

So, how do we work with samskara. We start with giving ourselves pause. We breath. We notice with compassion and gentleness what path we are taking ourselves down. It may be a well worn one and very familiar, but it may not be the right one.

I’m not sure exactly who to attribute this quote to, but it fits well with this topic.

“Watch your thoughts, for the become words. Watch your words, for they become actions. Watch your actions, for they become habits. Watch your habits, for they become character. Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.”

Namaste.

Posted in mindfulness, parenting, pregnancy, samskara, yoga | Leave a comment

Loosen the grip

I’m going to jump ahead to the last of the yamas, which is one of my favorites, and one of the most difficult to practice, aparigraha, non-grasping. Again the yamas put it in the negative form, so if we look at it from the positive wording it would be more like, loosen your grip. Even by saying those words, I can feel my body start to soften and my breath deepen. It has an instant physical impact and I realize just how tightly I am holding on at every moment of the day.

This was neatly demonstrated to me during my last week of maternity leave. My maternity leave was blissful beyond what I could have imagined, but even from the moment it began I felt a dread creeping in that it would all be coming to an end far to quickly. And going further back, during my pregnancy I started to contemplate the idea that being a stay at home mom would be a better option, completely ignoring the fact that it was nearly financially impossible for that to be a reality. My desire to be with my baby was deep and pervasive.

So, during my last week of maternity leave I held on tight. So tight that there were many times that I would think it was only 10am and I would look at the clock and it would be 11:30am already, as if the last hour and a half had been only 10 minutes long. The time was rapidly escaping me as I counted down the minutes and seconds that were left to spend exclusive with my little one. I was desperately sad. All I wanted to do was put my life on pause. The more I struggled against it, the more elusive time with my baby became.

Impermanence is a principle of harmony. When we don’t struggle against it, we are in harmony with reality. -Pema Chodron

My first day back to work came, whether I was ready for it or not, and it was tearful. But instead of holding on to the mourning I was feeling, softened into it. After I said my good-byes and smothered my baby is kisses, I bravely applied mascara and headed to the office. And guess what? I was fine. And so was my baby. It was all ok. The reality of it was not nearly as terrifying as my grasping to the fear of having to return to work. And the moment that I worked with the reality, not my emotions, there was an openness that began to appear. An expansiveness that felt peaceful, not necessarily easier, but more gentle and tender then before. This is the idea of aparigraha. When we open ourselves up and loosen our grip on expectations there is a cosmic sigh that occurs and we can find ourselves cradled in the pliability of the present moment.

Posted in aparigraha, parenting, pregnancy, yamas, yoga | Leave a comment

Ahimsa, the foundation for peace

I recently began teaching prenatal yoga at Sellwood Yoga. As a new mommy myself, I feel incredibly honored to be a part of the journey for new moms as they make their way through pregnancy and into motherhood. There seems to be no better way to describe the whole experience than to say it’s a “journey”. The process is ever changing and in my experience opened me up to find a love that I couldn’t imagine.

I heard this quote on my favorite yoga podcast, which seem to resonate with my experience of pregnancy:

“How did the rose ever open its hear and give to the world all of its beauty? It felt the encouragement of light against its being, otherwise, we all remain too frightened.” -Hafiz

Pregnancy is a process of on-going softening and opening in many ways. In the physical sense the body is preparing to open up through the joints, the belly, the pelvis, etc. And since the physical is never separated from the emotional and mental experience, it is also the soften of the heart and soul; making room for a great love.

Ahimsa is one of the precepts of yoga that I continually return to as a foundation for how I would like to live my life. It roughly translates to non-violence. Or as I like to think of it in the non-negative form, peace. There is no better time that in pregnancy to begin this practice. The anxiety, worry, dread and fear that creep in during this somewhat vulnerable time in a woman’s life is contagious. It is only through Ahimsa that we can soften into our natural state and let go of that invasive worry and judgement to find a since of peace that both nurtures yours and your baby’s soul.

In Pema Chodron’s book, Practicing Peace in Times of War, she reflects that peace is…”a soften of what is rigid in our hearts.” I love this description for many reasons, but mostly because it is the reminder that the tighter we hold onto ideas of how it should be the more elusive the feeling of ahimsa becomes. It is only through gentleness, tenderness and good old fashioned kindness that we begin to feel that building love and compassion that is so powerful during pregnancy. So as we open our bellies and our hearts to the growth of our baby within, while releasing the mind’s judgments, we start the practice of ahimsa.

Posted in ahimsa, pregnancy, yoga | Leave a comment