How Becoming A Mom Made Me A Better Yogi

How Becoming A Mom Made Me A Better Yogi

Like most pregnant women, I knew my life would change when I became a mother. That was a given.

What wasn’t a given was how much having a baby would change my yoga practice.

Here are the 5 ways, becoming a mom made me a better yogi.

I Learned Self-Acceptance

Before I became a mom, I was used to being “good” at things, including yoga.

Sure, I encouraged my students to “accept themselves” and “enjoy the journey.” But, if I’m being honest, I didn’t often put myself in a position where my own skills were challenged. I rarely stepped out of my comfort zone.

Becoming a mom changed that.

Between the endless diaper changes and nursing sessions, I realized that it’s impossible to be “good” at being a new mom.

There was so much to learn, so much to do, and so little sleep, I couldn’t keep up. I quickly realized that pushing myself to meet an unattainable ideal, would drive me into the ground.

I had to start walking the walk.

Slowly, I learned to accept myself in all my messiness. I gave up the idea of perfection and embraced being present to the beautiful chaos of motherhood. 

That translated into my postpartum yoga practice. My postpartum body was tired. The poses I was once so “good” at were often hard. I learned to let go of being “good” and enjoyed the experience, accepting myself where I was.

I Learned the Value of Time

Non-parents say they are busy. I said it often before having kids.

But there’s a certain urgency that only parents seem to grasp. Before becoming a mom, my yoga practices were at least 60 minutes and often 90 (I can’t even fathom that now). For the most part, the day had enough hours.

After becoming a mom, I learned how to do everything in less time. From cleaning the kitchen, to building my business, to my beloved yoga, I trimmed everything down.

I learned the fine art of squeezing in what I needed to do between naps and snuggles. I condensed my luxurious yoga practice into an efficient 20-to-30 minutes. It took some time to figure out what to include and what to let go of, but I stuck with it.

Because a 20-minute practice is better than a 60-minute practice that NEVER happens.

I Learned What Attention Was

In yoga, there’s a term – Drishti, which translates to focused gaze. I had been practicing it for years. Like most yogis, I thought I had it down. I was wrong.

I was wrong.

Only after I had my daughter did I feel the true power of Drishti. Infants are programmed to find their mother’s eyes. As any parent can tell you, locking eyes with your new baby is one of the most powerful, emotional feelings.

When I gazed into my daughter’s eyes, and she stared back into mine, I finally understood the true power of Drishti. The rest of the world melted away. All I experienced was that moment with her.

That moment created a new sense of focus in my yoga practice. If I’m not focusing, I’m aware of it now, and I can reach for Drishti.

I Learned That Change Was Constant

Babies are wonderful, but they aren’t exactly compatible with a routine. As soon as I figured out my daughter’s patterns, they changed.

She forced me to go with the flow. To observe and assess, before acting. 

I found my practice changing on an almost daily basis too. As my body recovered from pregnancy and childbirth, it needed different poses. As my babies grew bigger and my arms grew stronger (but more tired), as I spent hours nursing little ones, I showed up to my mat each day with a different body.

Instead of forcing my body into a practice, I arrived on my mat and observed what I needed that day. That listening allowed my practice to evolve with the needs of my body.

I Learned the Value of Rest

Before kids, I spent most of my yoga time in strong, powerful flows. After the trials of pregnancy and childbirth, those practices weren’t cutting it.

My body craved nurturing…more restful, restorative practices became my go-to. And the more time I spent up at night with my newborn, the more I saw the value of resting.

A few minutes to stretch and rest on a mat? Yes, please. The best news was that there was no sweat necessary. I didn’t have to worry about squeezing in a shower on top of it all.

Lessons From Motherhood

I’ve learned more about myself in the past 5 years of motherhood than I had in the 30 years before. Each new stage of parenting brings new realizations and joys. And in the same way, my yoga practice continues to evolve with it.

I can’t wait to see what other lessons I learn about myself, and yoga, as I continue this wild ride of motherhood.

 

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How To Modify Yoga For A Diastasis

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To Plank Or Not To Plank? That Is The Question

To Plank Or Not To Plank? That Is The Question

“When can I do plank again?”

If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard this question…

I tell my clients to stop practicing certain yoga poses while strengthening their core and closing their diastasis-big backbends, deep twists, and traditional core strengtheners like crunches, to name a few. Usually, those recommendations are met with a nod… an easy acceptance.

When I Tell Them To Give Up Plank? Not so much.

What is it about plank? Is it that yoga teachers use it as THE core strengthener? Directing you to hold it for minutes at a time with the assumed promise of 6 pack abs. Or is it that many yoga practices cue this pose so often you feel like you’re giving up your entire practice?

Regardless of the reason, everybody wants to know: When can I start doing plank again???

 For once and all, let’s answer this question:

Key Consideration For A Healthy Plank Pose

The key to a healthy plank pose is engaging your transverse abdominis. Without those deep core muscles you risk creating more strain on your already weak abdominal wall.

Plain and simple: You should not do plank pose until you can FIND, and MAINTAIN, engagement of your transverse.

The 4 videos below will allow you to test your ability to find this engagement:

We’ll begin with a quick test to see how strong your transverse abdominis is:

Now let’s take it up a notch. Transverse engagement on your hands and knees (a plank preparation position) is more challenging.

You are working AGAINST gravity. You have to find the strength of your transverse, and pull the weight of your internal organs up with it. Test it out with this video. MAKE SURE YOU AREN’T TUCKING YOUR TAILBONE. That’s cheating!!

 

If you can’t find engagement in this position, go no further. WITHOUT transverse engagement, this position strains the core (the weight of the organs can be too much.) Build strength by practicing transverse engagement in seated or standing positions. FYI: practicing good alignment in yoga poses is a great way to do this.

If that felt easy, let’s move on.

Can you hold TA engagement in a modified plank with knees down?

 

If the answer is no, stay away from plank and work on getting stronger.

If the answer is yes, here we go.

Final test: transverse engagement in full plank position.

 

You already know what I’m going to say right?

If you can’t do this, focus on building strength.

If you can, you might be ready for plank again!**

**I wish it were as simple as this test alone but the body is never that simple! In addition to transverse engagement, you also want engagement of your pelvic floor in this pose. Here’s why: Plank pose increases pressure inside the abdomen. If you’ve got strong abdominal muscles but a weak pelvic floor, you will strain your pelvic floor. Over time, this could lead to things like incontinence and organ prolapse. You don’t want that. We’ll cover pelvic floor engagement in another post.

A final note: I love a good plank pose as much as the next yogi. But this pose is NOT A REQUIREMENT for a strong core. You could never do a plank pose again, and still have a strong, functional, healthy core that supports you in all the things you love doing. It’s time yogis start thinking outside the plank.

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3 Little Known Tips To Heal Your Core With Yoga

3 Little Known Tips To Heal Your Core With Yoga

“Dia-what?”
One of the top yoga instructors in my city said this after I told her about the Heal Your Core With Yoga program.

She trains hundreds of new yoga teachers each year. And she’s never heard of diastasis recti.

I’m not surprised. Diastasis Recti, a separation of the abdominal muscles caused by a stretching and thinning of the connective tissue during pregnancy, isn’t covered in most yoga teacher trainings. But it should be. While many yoga poses are extremely beneficial for a diastasis, certain poses and breath techniques prevent a separation from healing. And possibly make it worse.

I’ve spent the past four years researching how to diastasis-proof a yoga practice. In that time I’ve learned there’s very little information available about practicing yoga with a diastasis. Let’s change that right now!

3 Little Known Tips For Healing Your Core With Yoga:

1. Rib Breathe Instead Of Belly Breathe.

When you breathe deep into your belly, you increase the pressure inside your abdomen. In individuals with a diastasis, increased pressure strains your already-compromised core.

The long-term result of continued deep belly breaths? Your diastasis can’t heal.

Luckily, there’s a safer alternative. Rib breathing.

In rib breathing, you expand the ribcage left to right. This increases the pressure in the thoracic (chest) cavity rather than the abdomen. The result? A deep breath without straining the core.

Bonus: Rib breathing also helps coordinate the actions of the diaphragm and pelvic floor. If you struggle with incontinence or organ prolapse, rib breathing is the way to go.

2. Proper Alignment Is EVERYTHING.

Yes, the immediate cause of your diastasis was most likely a pregnancy. But your ongoing alignment patterns are the reason it hasn’t healed.

Misalignment in the body increases pressure in the abdomen, and strains your weakened core.

If you are like most humans, you spend the vast majority of your days sitting at your desk, driving your car, and watching Netflix. This results in a body alignment that looks like this…

Tight hips and weak gluteal muscles tuck your tailbone under and push your hips forward of your heels. This lower body alignment pushes your whole body forward. To stay upright, you have to thrust your ribs up and out and throw your shoulders back.

This reduces the space in the abdomen and increases pressure in your core.

More pressure means more strain on your already weakened core.

3 quick alignment fixes correct your alignment, limit the strain on your core, and encourage the core to heal:

  • Move your hips over your heels
  • Untuck your pelvis, and
  • Drop your ribs to keep them from thrusting forward.

With these adjustments, your body returns to neutral alignment. Your shoulders, hip bones, and ankles line up. And, most importantly, your abdomen has lots and lots of space.

Lots of space = Low pressure = No strain on your diastasis.

(P.S. This is what our alignment would look like if we spent our time walking, squatting, and foraging).

This alignment takes practice and yoga is one of THE BEST ways to practice. Begin by creating these alignment patterns on your yoga mat. Then incorporate the principles into activities like brushing your teeth, and picking up toys. The more time you spend in good alignment, the more opportunity your body has to heal.

3. Stay Away From Certain Yoga Poses (For A Little While At Least)

A diastasis is characterized by a weak linea alba (the connective tissue between the two sides of the abdominals). Poses that create extreme stretching of the abdomen, and poses that create large amounts of pressure in the abdomen, prevent this connective tissue from healing.

3 POSE TYPES TO AVOID WHILE HEALING:

Big Backbends (Main Issue: Excess Stretching)

Poses like bow, upward facing dog, and wheel. These poses ask the front of the body to stretch in a big way. This pulls on the linea alba, keeps it weak and thin and prevents it from healing.

Traditional Core Strengtheners: (Main Issue: Excess Pressure)

Poses like plank, boat, and crunches. These force the core muscles to engage in a way that increases the pressure in the abdomen. This increased pressure pushes on the weak connective tissue and keeps it from healing. In some cases it can cause even more damage.

Leveraged Twists: (Main Issues: Excess Stretching, Excess Pressure)

Poses that use your arms to twist deeper like utkatasana twist and crescent lunge twist. These give the core a double whammy. The asymmetry of the pose stretches the connective tissue. The twisting of the abdomen increases pressure. You strain the core while stretching it. That’s a surefire way to keep that diastasis around for the long haul.

If you’re feeling like I’ve just eliminated your entire yoga practice, I promise, I haven’t!! There are tons of yoga poses available to you that provide similar benefits while promoting healing of your core. And once you strengthen your deep core muscles, you can do these poses again. I promise!

With the right poses and good alignment, yoga is a powerful tool to heal abdominal separation. 

 

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3 Things I Wish I’d Known About Postpartum Yoga And Diastasis Recti

3 Things I Wish I’d Known About Postpartum Yoga And Diastasis Recti

I knew it in my heart before I knew it in my mind. Yoga is hurting me.

I was so excited to begin practicing again at 8 weeks postpartum. I’d spent 10 months modifying for pregnancy, and 8 weeks healing from my daughter’s beautiful, painful birth. The idea of moving again thrilled me.

And move I did. Nothing crazy. My body was still mending. A simple, straightforward flow of basic yoga postures. Sun salutations to get the blood moving. Twists to move energy through my spine. Gentle backbends to open up my heart which, despite being so full of love for my daughter, was completely closed off from the endless hours of nursing.

Little did I know, these “simple” poses were hurting more than healing.

After the first session, it was easy to dismiss the physical signs that something was wrong. The twinge in my low back. The feeling that things were even more discombobulated “down there” than when I started.

I’d just had a baby, after all. I didn’t expect it to feel perfect.  

But I continued to dismiss those signs for months. I couldn’t believe that my beloved yoga practice could hurt me. For someone who’s spent much of her life listening to her body on a yoga mat, I was surprisingly good at ignoring my body’s whispers.  

But just like a toddler you ignore, those whispers eventually became a yell.

It hit me at 6 months postpartum. Half a year after I’d delivered my baby, I was suffering more than I had in the weeks after delivery.  

  • My pelvic floor was still injured and, often, very uncomfortable.
  • My back hurt around the clock, not just after a yoga practice.
  • I felt like a limp noodle and found myself slumping nonstop. I had no support when sitting or standing.  

 

I started consuming everything I could about the postpartum body.

The lightbulb went off when I learned about diastasis recti.

Diastasis recti is a separation of the abdominal muscles, caused by a stretching and thinning of the connective tissue during pregnancy.

It’s associated with pelvic floor dysfunction, back pain, incontinence, and even hip issues.

Almost all pregnant women get a diastasis. For a lucky few, the separation closes soon after birth. For many others, the separation remains, and they have an ongoing diastasis.

A quick self-check (thanks, YouTube!) confirmed it-I had one. The more I learned, the more I realized my “simple” yoga postures were preventing my separation from healing. And possibly making it worse.

So I began the most important yoga education of my life. I could fill a book with what I’ve learned about this topic, but I’ll start with the 3 things I wish I’d known when I started my postpartum yoga practice.

The 3 Things I Wish I’d Known When I Started A Postpartum Yoga Practice

 

1. When you are cleared for exercise at 6 weeks, you should be very intentional about the exercises you choose.

Odds are, you still have an abdominal separation. Jumping into crunches, planks, and trying to “get your body back” is a surefire way to make a diastasis worse. It takes 10 months for your abdominals to separate, it takes way more than 6 weeks for them to heal.

 

2.You should avoid certain yoga poses and every day movements if you have a diastasis.

They strain your weak core and prevent healing. Can you still have a full, well-rounded, practice? ABSOLUTELY. Can you eventually return to those yoga poses? YES. Once your core heals.

 

3. All yogic breathing is not created equally.

Taking breath deep into your belly contributes to diastasis. Other breathing methods can help close a separation.

 

When my second child was born, my healing was completely different. I had zero back pain, almost no pelvic floor issues, and never ever felt like a limp noodle. Why? Because when I started my yoga practice at 6 weeks postpartum, I knew how to create stability, heal my pelvic floor, and aid my diastasis in closing.  

This time, when I stepped onto my mat, I knew it in my heart and mind. Yoga is healing me.

If you’re looking for more information on how to use yoga to help heal your diastasis, the Heal Your Core With Yoga program might be just what you’re looking for. Click here to learn more about it.

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5 Tips For Doing Yoga With Kids

5 Tips For Doing Yoga With Kids

Tips For Doing Yoga With Kids

“Mama, can we go do some yoga?”

This little phrase is now a regular utterance at my house. But that wasn’t always the case. There was a time when I couldn’t get my love of yoga to rub off on my kids – no matter how much I requested or pushed.

It made no sense to me. How could they not love this practice that I found so fun? How could they see me practicing yoga ALL THE TIME, and not want to join in?

And then one day, I watched my children playing outside. As they moved from one shape to the next, all without premeditation or consideration, it hit me:

Kids don’t need to practice yoga. Their entire day is yoga.

Movement and mindfulness are a child’s normal way of being. For adults, not so much. At some point along the way, we lose our connection to self and the present moment. We have to “practice” finding it on our yoga mats.

Now, instead of inviting my children into my yoga practice, I step into theirs.

I don’t set yoga apart as a special, separate part of the day. I roll out a mat while we are playing and start moving. I let go of expectations and let them join as they like and leave as they like.

The result? They love yoga. They get excited when I roll out my mat because I’m going to be on the floor, connecting with them. Don’t believe me?

 

For those of you that would like to invite yoga into your days, here are 5 tips for doing yoga with kids.

 

1. Connection over Perfection.

Don’t waste a single moment correcting your child’s form or trying to teach them the right way to do a pose. This is your chance to have fun and foster a love of movement and yoga in your child. Don’t let the notion of “right” and “wrong” stand in the way of connection.

2. Keep it short!

Things go downhill after 10 minutes or so. If you hope to get your own full yoga practice in, think again.

3. Play With Advanced Poses.

Children’s bodies are incredibly strong and flexible. My daughter can pop up into a headstand and throw herself into a wheel pose without thinking. And she thinks they are FUN, not SCARY. Play with these poses with your child. She’ll be more engaged in the experience. You’ll learn to approach them with more levity.

4. Be Flexible.

There will be days when your kid is SO NOT INTO yoga. That’s ok. Cut it short if it isn’t working. End on a positive note (like a cuddly savasana together).

5. Practice Breath.

Take a few deep breaths together at some point in the practice. You’ll give your child a tool they can come back to again and again when they need to relax and manage stress.
What are you waiting for? Go roll out that mat!

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