Friday, October 25, 2013

Journaling in pregnancy, "Now I hold back the tears"

Now I hold back the tears for all that I've had to let go of just for the possibility of what could be. So much change, big change, and still yet I'm directed on another venture! Is there no place that I can just stay forever?  I want to be tucked away again in my womb of conception, nestled in on the bright blue toilet in the 3/4 bathroom of the master bedroom. The king size bed lied directly in front of me, still and quiet then, like a young boy in a pew who can't wait to unravel, all dressed ready to go again in blue and maroon executive plaid topped with a blue, tautly fit winter blanket. 

I thought I had my life all wrapped up, like the instruction pamphlet included in the home pregnancy kit, like an accordion, just pull on one end and the pages simply unfolded. I was riding high on a cul-de-sac of 4 in my merry-go-round of suburbia heaven!

I'm glued to the strip of 3 colors on the 1" round, 2" long glass test tube with a red rubber stopper that contains my urine in some kind of solution. One of the colors is clear and negative, and the other two are different shades of maroon and are positive. Is it a negative or a positive? I pleaded with myself, "oh please, please let it be dark maroon!" I needed to have a baby, like the sun needs to shine, and the ocean desires the pull of the moon, and geese that fly south need to form a V formation.

The house is gone as its the sprawling yard, and the silk, white drapes that so perfectly framed our front picture window. Yet, I have all the security I need now, that I had then, for it was in the fierceness of my gaze, that I can come to live in the stillness that I found through childbirth, that rests somewhere in me always, like a white pearl sandbar on an often fickle, turbulent sea.

Begin to journal NOW, and put it on your list to bring in your overnight bag! What will you say, how will you say it?  

Try this, write continuously for 5 minutes without your pen leaving the paper.  When your done, put the pen down and read what you have written.  Look for images or pictures that you can find in your writing. Please no editing!  Take one of the images and draw it.  Pay attention to subtlety, colors, and be ready to hold an AHA MOMENT!  They are the moments that are like high scores, the keep you coming back for more.

Together, forever, in our hearts,


Thursday, October 3, 2013

Thinking about having a baby? Prepare with Bikram Yoga

There was no blood or tears, but plenty of sweat to help me remember how difficult the process was. I pick up my heavy, wet, brown terry cloth towel off of my yoga mat that feels like I've just taken it out of the washer after it has been spun dry. That's how much sweat drips off of me in the 90 minutes. In my first class, I was forced to my knees several times with nausea and light headedness. It's the closest experience I've had of pushing my baby out of my body 25 years ago.

Through the years, I've struggled with how to prepare women for the second stage of labor. I'm sure it helps your body to remember the ancient process that coils in your DNA, panting lively with every baited breathe for a chance to unravel, when in prenatal yoga we practice creating a deep, bellowing sound while resuming a wide-thigh, open stance. And I'm sure the list of do's and don'ts that I once created on how you may feel and what you can do to help yourself provided a familiar frame to manage the unknown. But it's clearly not enough. It doesn't help either that many of us (including myself) skim over this part of the experience, like we do with cesarean sections. It's the part of the story that either is not going to happen to us or that we don't need, believing that if we've gotten that far, surely we can make it to the finish line.

It's too late once you’re pregnant, to do Bikram yoga. The combination of heat and exertion is in my opinion way too demanding at a time in a woman's life that calls for a gentler, slower more moderate form of physical movement. However, if you are not yet pregnant and are thinking about it, consider trying Bikram yoga as a practice to help you prepare for the demands of the second stage of labor.

It's no surprise to me that I find myself continually drawn back to Bikram. I certainly do not envision myself becoming a staunch supporter, for there are threads of the practice that I do not condom (for another blog!). However, there is nothing like a process that demands your entire focus to leave you feeling deeply satisfied, and hungry for more.



Thursday, September 19, 2013

UPS for a safe, speedy delivery

When you push your baby out of your body, consider taking your baby's lead for optimal, full body pushing efforts. As your baby starts to descent into the birth canal, his or her head will move from flexion into
extension, and the resistance provided by the cervix will force the whole spine to be involved. Unfortunately, as we age and grow, unless we are conscious of our movement, gravity fails to provide enough resistance to keep the head well integrated into the spine. As a result, many of us end up with heads that move independently of the spine. This condition not only fails to maximize your pushing efforts (you will only have your uterus and increased abdminal pressure from holding your breathe and pushing strongly down,  it also puts a tremendous amount of unnecessary tension on the muscles that hold up the head (imagine the condition of ropes that tether a tent in a storm versus how they are on a calm, sunny day).

Feel the power of your spine with this simple, brief exercise;
To give you an idea of how much more power is available to you with your head well integrated into the spine; try this simple exercise. Take a comfortable seated posture in a chair or on the floor. In either position place your feet on the earth at a 30 angle (heels in, toes out) and widen your knees slightly beyond the feet. Take a deep breathe in and a long breathe out. Place one of your hands on your upper chest, and the other one on your lower ribs, below your breast. With an exhalation, bring your mouth towards your heart. With an inhalation, look up towards the ceiling, with an exhalation, bring the mouth back to the heart. Do this for several cycles of your breathe and as you do, pay attention to any movement that you are feel in your body with your hands. Bring the head back to a neutral posture. Release the hands and take several deep, long slow breathes. Replace the hands back on the chest and lower ribs, with and exhalation, once again bring your mouth towards your heart, this time imagine that you are pressing the back of  your head into a soft but firm object (like a cervix) and begin to look up towards the ceiling. Do this several times with your breathe. I hope that you are feeling your whole body more involved with the movement.

U.P.S. for a safe, speedy delivery. 
Full body pushing includes
 your uterus,
 increased pressure from your abdominals,
 and your spine.

In yoga we practice integrating the spine more fully with the head by initiating our movement in and out of poses with the parts of our body that are meant to lead and that were most prominent in utero, like the mouth and fingers. Consider that this practice will not only maximize your pushing efforts, but as importantly will also provide for more ease and grace in your movement at a time in your life that so much seems to hang off of us!  Sometimes, I remember feeling like a coat hanger, an old dry stick left unnoticed, and collecting dust in the same old corner. With patience and practice, we can walk on this earth as it was meant to me, with our heads held high because we are well grounded, tethered correctly to what is below.

Together, forever in our hearts,


Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Broken dream or two?

 I struggle with my writing for two hours this morning before finally doing what I learned in childbirth, and have been preaching about ever since.  That is, if you get stuck, do something different!

I'm writing about how it felt for me to be curled up in a fetal position on a cold, tile cement floor behind the big, blonde institutional door labeled with big, bold, red letters, "GIRLS".  It is where I found myself after being cut from the Junior Varsity Cheering squad, the day that I fell, like an invisible angel whose last act of faith was from my reflexes that like fluttering wings had taken me to where I needed to go.

I move from my desk at home, head for the bathroom, and curl up in a fetal position on the floor. The tile is smaller and redder, and the odor is more familiar than the powerful, too clean smell of a high school lavatory.  But the cold, hard earth still feels the same, I remember, it was a bedrock of comfort for a body burning in the heat of despair. I close my eyes, breathe, listen and wait.  I return to my  desk, and within minutes, the words gush out of me like a newly broken, bulging bag of amniotic fluid. 
If you get stuck, what will you do differently?  Most of us have a history of a broken dream or two!  Consider that birth is a powerful force to help you reinvest in the strength you need to believe again.  Let this 10 minute, interactive guided imagery allow fragments of your
broken dreams to float into your awareness.  Let them be there for the threads of desire to string your life story whole again.
  Interactive guided imagery
Take 10 minutes of  time and get into a comfortable position in a safe place. Close your eyes. Take several deep, slow, complete breaths. Identify the single most important experience in your life that  had a major impact on manifesting your dream.  Where were you? What was your desire? What occupied the space?  The colors?  The fragrances?  The sights? Let yourself feel desire and how it lives in the body.  When you are ready, open your eyes, and your journal and begin to record. You may wish to write, draw or even speak out loud your experience. Is there an action related to your experience that you can take in labor that will help stimulate the power of believe?  When you feel complete, close your journal and conclude your session with  how you started by closing your eyes and taking several deep, full breaths.

Thanks for tuning in, and if you are so moved, I'd love to hear your personal experiences.

Together, forever, in our hearts,


Wednesday, August 14, 2013

A girl's gotta sparkle!

 I did not give birth the way that I had imagined, in a full, wide open squat like the 21st century contemporary hybrid creature that I was, half hippie and the other, a high-heeled, disheartened   business woman. I tried, with one of my arms wrapped around Candyce's father, and my other one around Maura, my doula. But the force moving my baby out of my body was so strong that my spine arched back like a running, overextended fishing rod! So instead I squatted by baby out with a fully extended spine behind me, like the unintentional leaning tower of Pisa! I didn't know it at the time, and wouldn't find out for at least another decade, but I had just performed one of the ultimate class of poses in yoga called, "backbends". It makes perfect sense now, of course, that my body would take the form of something so vital and beautiful and outrageously untamed with such rare, cosmic force moving through my body.

When we give birth to our babies, I believe that the release is so powerful that the spine has no choice but to move into extension followed by a springing action back into forward flexion.

It is here, if we wait and allow our attention to be expansive coiled in our origins,  that we are privy to experience all of the energy accumulated in our bodies from giving birth before it dissipates into space. 

It's why backbends are highly sought on a yoga mat, because they provide for the same energy release except in a much less exaggerated form; there is not approximately 8.5 pounds of substance moving out of the body!  However, if one chooses to remember their experience by journaling, contemplating and articulating, they'll deepen and enliven the newly opened pathway created in their nervous system. Then, more and more, opportunity will exist to strengthen and intensify the energy, clarity and happiness that backbending provides for.

It is with this in mind that I have created  "The Star Gazer", a sequence of poses that simulates the actual birth experience and the subsequent release of energy.

We will soon be celebrating my daughter's 25th birthday. It feels like yesterday, that I had her in my arms and all to myself. And although she has left my arms, she will forever remain in my heart, along with my longing to recapture and live those rare precious moments, over and over again.

Together, forever, in our hearts,


Sunday, July 28, 2013

Pushed to the brink of tears

 How do you handle intense frustration? Do you give up at the first sign of difficulty, or lean more towards the opposite end of remaining steadfast to the very end?  Or maybe you tow the middle ground in fall somewhere in between?

 I recall in my formative years, this feeling was so uncomfortable for me that I would give up at the first sign of difficulty. Often it was with math problems or writing, endeavors that require so much fortitude and tenacity to remain in times of not knowing, and to push past giving up. It wasn't until childbirth that I was able to change this very disheartening, debilitating pattern.

I dilated like a model for an OB or midwifery textbook to 9 centimeters. Then, gradually my contractions slowed to waves that served children on the seashore and not the tidal wave ones that I needed to open up my body!

 I remained  there, walking, showering, talking, breathing for 6 hours to no avail.  Finally, my doula encouraged me to get back into a position that I found extremely painful hours prior. It worked, and I gave birth to my daughter 20 minutes later.

Over time, I found myself returning to the physics problems and more recently creative writing, actually enjoying the tug-of-war it takes to get to resolution. It's been such a huge shift for me, it makes me feel sometimes like a puppet on new, golden threads that moves me down camouflaged pathways that I wouldn't have dreamed of going down before giving birth. Often they hold the most pleasant surprises - one in particular, as big as my birth!

When I'm pushed to tears for the words to flow, I  remember the words of one of my teachers, Bonnie Bridge Cohen of BodyMindCentering.  She says that when there's a block and you remove the block, that there is this huge release of energy. I love this teaching, and like to imagine my frustration a dam that holds back water, and that when I release the dam, there is a flood of movement. In my mind, I can hear the roar and feel the spray of joy and satisfaction that comes with the release. 

Consider the following;

*When you give birth to your baby, you very well may experience frustration since "failure to progess", often a benign category is, according to the World Heath Organization, the number one reason for a 30% ceserean section rate in this country.
*Birth, like any art demands a commitment to the process.  You may practice the discipline required of continously coming back to something by establishing a daily, regular meditation practice.

*Childbirth is a highly charged experience that touches the very heart
 of a woman. It's a golden opportunity to revisit those patterns
 established at a time when belief and hope reigned high and rekindle their power.

 If you want natural childbirth, and you get stuck, try the following;

1.  Make sure you have the privacy and quiet required for the intense focus required of  any serious artist. In other words, keep your door closed and noise and family and staff to a minimum. 

2.  Whatever you are doing, if you have been doing it for a time, do something different. Remember, your perception of time is very different then those around you. Take your cues from those you trust. 

3.  Keep your flame of intention high, your very deepest desire.

4. Let go of outcomes and stay present in the moment with your breath. It's such a dichotomy, but birth requires the perfect balance of yielding while moving towards a definitive goal.

5. Change happens in a moment. Never give up, until the very "sweet" end. 

Together, forever and our hearts,


Monday, July 15, 2013

Free yourself to grab for a moment

When my daughter was born, I reached down and literally pulled her from the physician's hands, and then took her warm, wet slippery body and merged her with my own heap of weeping flesh. The only reasonable explanation I have for acting with such unabashed abandonment to urban, hospital convention (waiting for my physician to hand her to me) is that I was so lost in the heat of passion that my body simply expressed a movement pattern that organically happens when we lose ourselves in desire, like how we did as infants when our survival depended on us to reach and touch and hold and pull it back. So in that moment of giving birth, I too was unconscious, somewhere deep in an ancient part of me that lives so far beyond my lessons of protocols and manners and policies and procedures.

Many of us were taught not to grab at a very young age. Yet taking hold of our desires and pulling them towards us is an in intricate part of a developmental, sequential patterned movement that not only insures our survival, but supports our confidence and capabilities of reaching for what we need and want in this world.   The pattern is one of

Yield---------------Push-----------Reach----------Take Hold-----------Pull

Free yourself to grab for a moment, a meditation exploration.

Take a comfortable seated posture on the earth and place a shiny, attractive object about 2 feet in front of you (or, wait until you are really hungry and make the object a small piece of your favorite dessert!).

Take a moment and really look at the object and notice how you feel.  Notice your breathing and how it helps to keep your mind still. Begin to reach for the object with both hands and then grab a hold of it. Observe yourself in the position of holding for a moment. Can you notice how your breath is deeper and fuller and at the same time, it pushes your hips back into the earth, and that you feel more grounded?  We call this, yielding. Now pull the object back to yourself and take your time to explore it.  Continue to notice your breathing and how you may feel a softening to be more present in the moment. 

Certainly, cultivating the part of ourselves that is able to discern when to refrain from acting impulsively is a good thing, especially given the swarm of temptation that we all must learn to move mindfully through if we are to avoid getting stung with the often too brief excitement of gluttony. However, there are those rare, exquisitely divine moments in our lives like giving birth that call for us to act boldly and follow the body's wisdom. When we do, such action awakens us to our power to reach far beyond our comfort zone that more than anything else leaves us joyful, content and feeling deeply satisfied.

Join us in our circle.  Explore and Practice to Integrate and Enjoy.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Let it go!

 It's so big to give birth, our ability to surrender. Yet, somehow I couldn't neatly package  the recent "aha" moment that I had with a friend about it, that surrender is not being submissive, forced action rooted in fear but rather expansion, that we become so enraptured in something that we are rekindled to the kind of enthusiasm that we all once had when we were children, that we loved so much that it was indeed a pleasure to give. Where and how could I fit such a powerful, lofty characteristic about surrender into an experience that is so heavily draped in contraction?  It had to fit somewhere into the equation though, since love is what got us here in the beginning, and if we chose, it is love that will carry us through to the end!

My teacher says that our ability to surrender requires our attention and effort and is a conscious choice on our part.  Help yourself surrender to birth with the following ritual.

At some point in the last trimester of pregnancy, after you feel complete that you have done everything in your power to give birth the way you intend to,  let it go and give it over to the god of your understanding. To help strengthen your surrender, consider integrating ritual.  For example, if your tendency was to explore every appropriate childbirth preparation book under the sun, take three flowers, each one representing the corresponding zodiac flowers for you, your partner, and your baby and place them in a page of your most inspiring, frequently visited pages. Or, if you are the scrap booking type, place them in your baby photo book. Or if you're like me and enjoy creative writing, place them in your journal.

As you close your chosen book with the flowers that are destined to become a very special triad book mark in its pages, verbally state your intention of letting go of your birth experience.

Say it out loud with feeling so that it becomes your mantra, words that protect, enliven, and guide.

"I surrender all my thoughts and concerns and energies about giving birth over to the almighty power that conceived my baby.

With your days and nights leading up to birth, continue to steady your mind on surrender by repeating your mantra over and over again. I think that what you will find with approaching your labor in this way is that  you will be more likely to surrender to an experience like Nicole's who described herself as "euphoric"  just seconds after giving birth.

Together, forever, in our hearts,


Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Pushing by far is the hardest thing I've ever done!

Truly, we are so fortunate to have an experience in life that gives us still another opportunity to test the very one in us that believed that we can do or be anything, and if in that moment we have someone courageous enough, committed enough, clear enough to let nothing, absolutely nothing prevent us from the challenge, then such a moment is a blessed event that is a gift to both the giver and the receiver, because in order for the teacher to provide such alchemy, she herself  in that moment will need to remember her own strength seen by her own teacher, when all else failed her. 

Chandra articulated beautifully how powerful such a connection can be. She gave up several times in the midst of pushing, exhausted, the words barely audible beyond her eyes sunken in the tears of despair, and the beads of sweat formed on her brow, "I can't do this anymore", and even asked her physician to take her baby boy out of her body as he descended closer to her vaginal opening.

I was able to reconnect with Chandra the next day and inquired about her experience. She said, "I was so unprepared for the pushing stage. I felt confident for the first stage, working like it was an extension of my daily yoga practice, holding steady to the breath with each contraction. But I had no idea how hard pushing was going to be. By far, it's the hardest thing I've ever done".

I asked her to identify what factors helped her to ultimately give birth to her baby the way she intended, all on her own, from start to finish. She said, "my physician's calm, steady presence" and "when I was at my wits end, I would look at you, and then push one more time, for you."

It's what a good teacher does, she sees our strength sometimes before we can see it for ourselves. When we have lost all faith, she is there, like a loving, strict mother that is committed to taking our next step, just another staircase in our ascending, evolutionary need for growth.

The teacher is an energetic connection, and can be anyone that you feel is vested in you, a nurse,childbirth educator, midwife, physician, husband or even your own mother. All that need happen is that an authentic, full connection be made. For me, it was my daughter's father that provided this invaluable, crucial role. Truly, it made the difference in my ability to conquer what I had given up on so long ago. It took another decade for me to cultivate enough of the strength that I had gained through childbirth to allow for a bigger, more powerful connection, one that helps me now to see pregnant/birthing women more and more in their true, energetic form.

To give you an idea of how difficult second stage is and  how valuable a teacher can be, consider the following:

1.  Identify 3 of the most difficult experiences that you've had in your life.

2.  Identify what factors helped you to endure and meet their challenges.

Now multiply the level of difficulty of each experience by 10, maybe even 100 or 1000.  If one of  the factors that helped you to endure was support by family and/or friends, multiply it by the same factor.

If you welcome childbirth with an open heart and a positive mind, it's an experience that can reward you with the gift of what was one of Chandra's original intentions, to feel triumphant.
Then comes the real challenge, will you put forth enough effort to keep your towering inferno of awe for yourself  from cooling to a dancing, struggling tear shaped flame too deep in to grow? Or will you tend to yourself enough to provide for a gentle, soft breeze that will help sustain the flame to a steady, still white glow? All too often we are so absorbed in mothering that we fail to receive the fruits of our labor and they go unpicked and rot on the vein; and it's the very substance that can help us to remain confident and inspired to grow deeper in our understanding of how brightly lit up we all are.

Consider that the experience of feeling triumphant is about as rare as how often it's sought after and in terms of priority belongs in the front row seat cozy up with mothering.

Together, forever, in our hearts,


In my next blog we'll look to the universal, developmental movement patterns to help give more power to our push.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Tuning into the moment

Tanya, my dental hygienist says of her recent birth experience to her 3-month-old baby boy, "I was fully present for the moments I wanted to be fully present for."  Of course I reflected on her statement and pondered, "What are the moments that we want to be fully present for?  For me, I wanted to be as fully present for the entire experience as I could because in my mind, it would bring me closer to my baby.  This may sound irrational, but I've long felt that love is not about what is rational but rather what one is willing to risk for the sake of truth, connection, and happiness.

Consider that in labor, unlike most of life's moments when our vision rules most of our perceptions, it will be what you hear that will help to heighten your awareness to the experience. 

Begin now, in your pregnancy.  Take a safe, comfortable seated or lying posture.  Bring your attention to your breathing and as you exhale, feel how the eyes so naturally want to close. Keep your attention focused lightly on your breathe, and let yourself be drawn to the gentle sound of the breathe moving out of your body.  Gradually, let the sound of your exhalations become louder, so that you begin to make a soft humming sound. With every exhalation, like a gentle flowing water fall, let your awareness be drawn to the sound inside.  What do you notice?  Can you feel how the sound of your breathing helps to quiet and sooth your mind?

How does your baby respond to your more audible breathe? Do you feel that your baby is more active or quieted by the sound? Consider that your baby is cushioned in approximately 2 quarts of fluid and that sound waves travel much quicker through fluid than that of air.
 I am reminded of a very endearing story about how qucickly sound travels through water.  The story teller was in our circle,  pregnant with her first child.  She said "when I was younger I'd go and visit my grandmother who lived on the lake. My grandmother warned me, don't share your secrets on the beach unless you want our neighbors across the lake to hear you."   So the gentle humming on your exhalations will certainly be subtely felt by your baby.  We can use our mindful, more audible sounds to help make a stronger connection in pregnancy.   For example, as you sound, direct the energy to the space that your baby holds in your body, or imagine him/her in your mind.

In labor, we can apply the same principles. The gentling humming, infused with thoughts of holding your baby in your arms, or usurps from your diary that bid farewell to a most cherish confinement  help to deepen our connections. 

The sound of birth.  When your baby slips out of your body, most likely it will not be what you will see that will tether your moment, but rather what you will hear.  Consider that the actual moment of birth is so intense for most women that they are unable to clearly see their babies.
Too, the release of rectal pressure often forces the spine into extension causing the head to be gently thrusted back so that your eyes initially will be directed up, towards the ceiling.  So for several seconds, it will be what you hear that keeps you more connected to the moment. The now empty, hollow space that once held the reassuring sounds of your baby's thumbing, beating heart beat will quickly acquise to the sounds of your baby's first gasps for new life, and your careproviders gleeful shares of joyful celebration.

Of course, your eyes will certainly devour the first sight of your newborn. But until then, practice stilling the mind with the sounds of your breathe to help yourself be fully present for these precious, short lived moments.

Let yourself make a strong connection between the sound of your breathe, your mind, and connection with your baby.  Who knows, you just may find yourself so mesmerized by what you hear in labor that you'll want to live more of your life tuned into every moment.

Together, forever, in our hearts,


Thursday, May 9, 2013

Candy sweet for mother's day

I direct Meghan's attention inside herself and give instructions to make the connection between her and her unborn baby.  Meghan is due with her first baby at the end of October.  She doesn't know if she is having a boy or girl, so she calls her baby "Candy Corn", coined by her older sister.

 I love the name because it is another blending of the power inherent in 3 for me. The stripes of yellow, orange and white stack neatly together like that of family, season, and the festive time of Holiday.  Of course, too I think of my own beloved daughter, Candyce.  Although we never called her Candy, she was the sweet that first drew me inside.

To better connect with her baby, I suggest  to Meghan that she recall the "special hearing pathway" that we revisit often that was created to help affirm the special connection that mothers have with their unborn babies. We then chant the sound "o-u-m" for 90 seconds, the time of one contraction during transition, considered to be for many women the most intense part of labor. I asked Meghan of her experience. She said, "I could easily imagine my baby, but not myself."  The following week we engaged with the same exercise and Meghan described having a very different experience.

 She said she imagined herself to be pure, white light, like how on an overcast day the light burst through a cluster of gray, thick clouds.  It's important to mention that there was no discussion or mention of "light" prior to her experience.  In other words, I did not cue her to imagine herself to be such a form.  Meghan imagined this on her own, guided by threads of her breath, sound, and deep connection with unborn child.

For many pregnant women, communicating with their unborn baby is ongoing, and is as natural and normal as the often contented, peaceful, endless days of the second trimester.  At Birth Blessings Yoga we take this connection to another level by providing a framework that affirms and honors the power of our love to make this amazing, magical connection. The three pillars of our frame our intention, imagination, and attention. Together, they enliven 3 specific, highly concentrated, energetic areas of our subtle body known in yoga as Chakras.

 It's the 6th Chakra called, Ajna that is located at the brow, in the middle of the head, in the same space that we imagine, that enables us to be a transmitter for telepathic communication. In scripture, it points to our ability to connect with our teacher or Guru for transformation which is really at the heart of our yoga practice. But it can be any extraordinary connection, and to me, there are few greater than that of a mother and her unborn child. Indeed, in my case, I believe it was in fact my absolute certainty that in pregnancy my baby heard every word of my gracious bubbling heart that a decade later helped me to connect with my Guru.

 The 5th Chakra,Vishuddha is located at the throat and it is responsible for helping us to speak truth. Our speaking isn't necessarily verbalized but rather words infused with raw feeling that holds power to manifest. One of my favorite aphorisms that reflects this knowledge is from Patanjali, a great yogic expounder, when he said that, "words, meaning a feeling are interwoven. As words are eternal, so are meaning and feeling."

The 4th Chakra, Anahata is located at the heart. It's here that we begin to know the power of intention behind our ability to touch. Touching not in a physical sense, but rather touching what is elusive, the formless. It's a first for many of us, to be so enraptured with the invisible.

When we allow ourselves the full expression of how we are feeling about carrying a baby coupled with the power of affirmation, our awareness quite naturally will be drawn to lighter, more subtle forms of ourselves.  Then we can more readily experience the full power of our connection. And who knows, it just may be the very impetus that keeps heaven's gates open to more experiences that our as sweet as Meghan's with her candy corn!

Happy Mother's Day,


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Tending to the Miracle

Mary has just 5 minutes prior given birth to a beautiful baby girl.  It is her second baby, and like her first, she wants to give birth without medication.  I began care of her when she is already deeply drawn inside herself, 8 centimeters dilated with hefty contractions, coming every 2 minutes apart.  I remember how strong they are, like the under toes in the ocean, that as a young girl I'd have to guard against being pulled in, lost in the abyss of what is big and unknown. It doesn't take Mary very long to open up her body and give birth, 40 minutes later with only 3 pushes.

I'm watching her, she is sighing, with her sight glazed, gazing off into space. She has an easy, unblemished hold on her baby that is cradled in the soft part of her that now is shiny wet from the heat of labor. I perform my nursing tasks with an eye on their inner state.  It's so heavy, childbirth but I know that there is deep satisfaction rendered from the experience, despite her body now collapsed into a heap of worn flesh. 

I let the air settle, and softly, quietly approach her to inquire about her experience. I don't want to disrupt the subtlety that so easily can disappear with just the slightest hint of our more abrupt, unconscious side. There's a pause, and then she begins, "well, you have to get out of the way and let your body take over".  I listen intently. I ask her about how she felt immediately after the birth.  There is a pause.  She interjects, "there are no words to describe it."  I say, "can we try?"  Another pause, longer this time. "elation".  I'm delighted  for her experience and then eager to share more of what I know about the nervous system and childbirth.

Specifically, our nervous system function in patterns, and in order for us to embody a particular pattern, we must have the experience first, and then the pattern can make itself available to our perceptions.  In the case of Mary, what is so remarkable is that her elation is independent of any outer circumstances. In fact, I believe that such elation is self born manifested from the rare, powerful inner experience of childbirth.  This gives Mary the opportunity to shift her awareness to an infinite supply of the same joy, just waiting to be rediscovered.  

Let me give you a more concrete example to help clarify this concept. Soon after a baby is born, a pediatrician will shine a small beam of light into their eyes with a cone shaped instrument. They are looking to see that the nerve pathway responsible for site is clear. A baby does not activate the nerve responsible for seeing until later on in infancy, and if there are any blockages in that pathway, the baby would be blind. This would occur because the experience (seeing) has to occur before the nerve activates that pattern.  In the same way, consider that the joy that is our essential nature can only be perceived once we have the experience. 

I then asked Mary how she could help herself embody her elation?   Her response of  "remember the experience" was so perfectly aligned with our teachings, to continuously be drawn back to the details of our inner experiences.

I encouraged Mary to share her experience frequently to loved ones, friends, anyone who will be truly present for her.  Too,  I suggested writing because, like my teacher says, it will further help clarify and take the measure of the subtleties and intricacies of her experience. 

I thanked Mary for being so courageous in her exploration of one of the most profound experiences in a woman's life.  She has my blessings to search deeper into its essence.

In love and light,


Sunday, April 14, 2013

Mothering: a Royal Rajas

Skye Harrington sits, beaming brightly at the center of our circle.  She eventually comes around to sharing the sequence of events that led to birth.  But it is obvious that her attention would rather be fully present for what is snuggled in her lap. 

Skye oozes the unmistakable joy and contentment that springs forth from someone who is obviously  "in their element".  So I wasn't surprised to hear that the first words out of Skye's mouth were, "I know now I was born to be a mother."

It's a high calling, to be in your element because according to the the yoga scriptures of Kashmir Shaivism, being in your element means being balanced in the 5 elements that make up the universe. They are, from the most refined to the least, "ether", which may be easier understood as space, for if not for space, there would have been no room for the creation of us!  "Air" is the second element, and we can know it through our breathe.  "Fire" is the third and it is that part of us the burns or digests matter, the heat of passion to be enthralled, and the energy produced in the factory of each of our cells. The fourth is "water" and it actually makes up most of the content of our body.  And last but certainly not least, "earth" which reflects our bones and their affinity to be moved down by gravity. 

In the same scripture, relating to the elements perhaps in a different thread, there are 3 qualities that were extracted from nature (Prakriti) that help describe our ways of being in the world. We call these ever changing, evolving qualities Gunas, and they are, inertia or solidity (Tamas), dynamism or powerful movement (Rajas), and luminosity or lightness (Sattva). 

So back to Skye and  her way of being with mothering, we call this kind of happiness Rajas because it moves in relation to her connection with her newborn.  Actually I call it the Royal Rajas because for me, there has simply been no earthly experience that has come close to the intoxication felt in the first few months of giving birth.  Nevertheless as grand and extolled as the experience was, eventually like all women, the world will catch up with us and draw our attention away from these rare, precious moments, fully immersed in love.

On a brighter note, although the experience is transient, can we be so inspired to know that such a state exists, and to hold it independent of our outer circumstances? 

   We call this self born kind of happiness Sattvic, and it is at the very heart of our yoga practice because it is from this centered, still place that we have the opportunity to know what is immovable, constant, and eternal (Purusha).

In my next blog, we'll look to our asana practice to be more "in our element" so that we can be more Sattvic in our way of being in the world.

In love and light,


Thursday, March 21, 2013

6 starters for the creator in you

Time and again, I witness women's strength, and effort so fierce to give birth. I think, "If only I could help them bottle it and drink a fresh cup a day like it was their morning coffee, they'd feel so energized (without the crash when the caffeine is gone), full of themselves and deeply satisfied!"  That's how it feels, when we push hard and strong in a direction that makes room for greater forces to move through us.  Do you remember?

I've taken it on, the work of giving birth over and over again, to sit and wait for those moments of movement that our beyond my will.  I push and I push and I push to feel like I did before I lost how brave and bold I was when I believed. When I'm really fortunate, and feeling so safe that a pin drop could cloak me again and take me out of myself, it happens.  The tears flow and I allow myself to feel, trusting the release and the resulting waterfall of energy that moves me.  It's then that my pen just seems to ride the paper, like a surfer on a wave enjoying her afternoon stroll.

Please join me.  It's not as hard as it seems, and just like when you have birth, you will not be alone, you'll have me!
 Click below for my Newsletter and get your 6 starters to begin

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Over and over again, like a laboring woman

Listening to women so soon after they give birth, it sounds like their story has a life of its own, moving through their bodies like a runaway train with seemingly nowhere to go. However, if we listen well, it can direct us to places inside that require more of our attention. They're the places that we continue to return to over and over again, the knots that need to be untied so that we can integrate our experience and have it be inside us more like a well tuned conductor, guiding our direction to the magical tune within us that helps us to find just the right balance of the two wings of yoga, surrender and effort.

I could hear, clearly were our lovely Liz Sullivan's train directed her. It was when she first arrived at the hospital, very tired from putting everything she had into laboring for hours at home, she lost it, allowing herself the sobs and cries that reflected how she felt.  It was the surrender wing, the letting go, the giving ourselves over to our innocence; the unedited, strong, fighting youthful spirit that is willing to do and be anything. It's the place where for me personally, now, I try so hard to go, over and over again, like a laboring woman, I sit, I breathe, and I wait for the opening.

So often immediately following these precious, unbridled moments, space is somehow created within us and quick, effortless movement prevails. My writing just flows and it feels as strong and joyful as the moment I found the perfect balance between push and paddle to keep myself a float on top of the water, despite the hours of effort required in pursuit of my goal.  For Liz, her "Laney" came so quickly that she wished that she would have been forewarned of such drastic,sharp unexpected movement, a concern hardly heard of in labor, and one that will serve her well, especially if she is willing to continue to explore, reflect, and articulate. Her baby's sharp, drastic movement downward followed by birth - the release, it's the culminating moment of transformation, grounded down deeply by a force beyond our will, only to be lifted higher upward for lighter, more joyful movement.

Liz certainly has strengthened well the effort wing of yoga and knows it well.  She is a bright, articulate, beautiful, hard working woman that put forth great effort in preparing for labor. My blessing for her is that she continually find her way back to her mat to fine tune what she learned through her experience, the wing harder to know, that of letting go.  

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Fear Not, with three columns

It is not what we are afraid in childbirth that can hurt us, because in all probability you will not experience it. To prove that to the part of yourself that needs to be convinced, try this 2 minute exercise. Make three columns and label the first column, Experiences that you were afraid of but did anyway, in the second column, identify what you were afraid of, and the third, what actually happened. Be specific. So for example, if you identify going to graduate school as something that you did and feared failure, ask yourself what is it about failure that you were afraid of? Or, in regard to childbirth, if you fear pain, what it is about pain that you are afraid of? The more specific you can be with exploring your fears, the less power they will have over you. When I taught this at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, MA for a small group of couples committed to natural childbirth, they were softened by their reflections, and felt more confident moving forward with their intentions. I hope you too will enjoy the same.

Although fear is mostly benign, what can reek havoc and dismantle our lives,leaving us stunned and in need of repair are those unexpected surprises. Unfortunately, there is little we can do about preventing them  (although Karmic law says that the more enlightened we become, the greater power we have to draw near positive, uplifting experiences - for  another blog!). What we can do though, if we are wise and brave is take up the work of putting ourselves back together again. Consider that when we do, the hard-wiring of our being in charge of gathering and making sense of our world gets rewired so that we become heavier in the parts of ourselves that needs to be and feel fully vested in survival, safety, unconsciously, confidently grounded, agile. Because our childbirth experiences are often full of unexpected surprises, processing the experience is a very powerful way to deeply ground yourself  in the here and now. Then, we are freer to light on other parts of ourselves that relishes reflection, contemplation and enjoys the artistic expression of our journey through writing, painting, movement, and music.

Yoga is a practice that provides for the work of putting ourselves back together, and what is so splendidly beautiful to witness is that healing just happens, like the birth of another brilliant shining start in the black velvet sky, or the sound of another baby's first cry. It just happens, seamlessly, organically, miraculously.

I would love to hear your experiences from the above exercise. Please share below to further assimilate your experience and help others do the same.

Together, forever, in our hearts,


Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Take it to heart

Elisha, her friend, Diane shared of her disappointment, that her baby at 36 weeks was small for gestational age, which means that her baby is smaller in size than normal for her baby's sex and number of weeks pregnant.   Elisha share with me that Diane really took it to heart, digging and probing inside herself for what she could have done differently to prevent her baby from being underweight, despite Diane doing everything right in her pregnancy.

It made perfect sense to me that Diane took it to heart because in fact,as far as I'm concerned, her baby is her heart.  For most pregnant women, our baby's well being is constantly on our minds, even when we are busy, like an all purpose hat on our heads that fits so well we forget that it is on until a change in season.

Providing reassurance and being a good listener can certainly help to console Diane's heartache.  However, our hearts live beyond our rationale, cortex thinking mind and would  hear better fragments of our silent speaking, words shared in the most inner recesses of our being, the place that comes more alive when we conceive and we once again can hold dear our hopes and our dreams and believe in how it is all suppose to be.

Consider the ancient yoga centering technique called a Dharana to communicate with your baby and provide the heart with an opportunity to shine brightly, offering protection, strength and deep connection.

Just click on Newsletter for the path to your Dharana.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Lamaze Breathing or Pranayama?

From very early on in my pregnancy, I had reservations about a hospital based program's ability to support my strong intention for natural childbirth.  Looking back on it now, I was right, the class was mostly an informative session about what to expect at the hospital and not a class that empowered.  I made sure that when I started teaching classes at a major medical center that the curriculum was balanced, thorough, informative and joyful. Fortunately, I had a wonderful nurse manager that supported my efforts. To this day, she is one of my gems that I will treasure always.

Despite my trepidation, with my big belly, two stuffed pillows, and my heart full of glee, I attended weekly classes for 6 consecutive weeks, along with 10 other couples.  My husband would be able to participate in several of the classes but needed to travel abroad for business and so was absent for others.  But I was able to teach him what I learned in our practice sessions that we did religiously before bedtime.  It took us real effort to stay disciplined, after a long day, we were both tired, him from the grind of corporate life and me carrying around an extra 25 pounds in the swell of August in New England.  

Finally the day arrived when I would be able to put my knowledge and practice of lamaze breathing to the test.  I made one of my last entries into my journal while being pregnant at 2:45 p.m. August 15th,  "Dear baby, this will probably be the last time I write to you while you are part of me.  I share tidbits of early labor activities and then express my sadness over how much I will miss having her a part of me.

Throughout my labor, I never once used lamaze breathing.  Instead I did what came naturally, straddling my breathe like one holds fast to the front bar of a fast moving, swirling, gliding roller coaster car.  In that way, the breathe became my god, an instrument of calm, soothing and protecting me like a deep streaming inner sanction as the turbulent forces of nature raged on.

Here in lies the difference between lamaze breathing and yoga, for both marry the breathe and have an ultimate goal in mind.  Lamaze uses the breathe as a distraction away from the pain of labor until such time a baby is born.  On the other hand, yoga worships the breathe as the goal and not a means to an end.

In yoga the breathe carries prana or life force, which is the very essence of our existence.  The intensity of childbirth demands that we give our full selves to our breathing and in doing so provides for a heightened experience.

This higly focused attention on our breathing is called Drishti and is highy praised on the yoga path.

Pranayama is the control of breathing to direct prana throughout the body.  In my next several postings, we'll practice Pranayama specifically for childbirth, helping you to work with your breathing in the context of enlivening your vital energy for the richly gratifying work of transformation.