Yoga while babywearing! Some top tips!

Any Mum with a young child will know it is a challenge to find time for yourself. Practicing yoga with your little one is a great way to enhance your wellbeing as well as having fun with them. Another way is to do some yoga with your baby in a sling/ wrap/ carrier! (Also known as babywearing).

Here are some top tips for Yoga while babywearing:

1. Follow the TICKS rules for safe babywearing. (Google it)

2. Use a quality sling that is adjusted perfectly for you. Get advice , eg from The Sling School Manchester (www.theslingschool.com). My personal preference is stretchy wraps and woven wraps; basically a long bit of (specialist) material which you wrap around your body and the baby. Fits perfectly, spreads baby’s weight evenly over your back and torso, and no sticky out bits to get in the way!  Pictured above is the ‘Je porte mon bebe’ , borrowed from the Sling library via the sling school!

3. Forward bends are obviously out of the question! Any move which puts strain on your body in the same way that your pregnancy did- ie pulling forward the lower/ mid back while weighing down the abdomen, is bad news. Bending over while babywearing needs to be done with wide legs, deeply bent knees, and bum stuck out ( sounds less graceful than it looks!!).

4. Standing poses – particularly Warrior poses, tree pose, side angle pose, arm stretches and yogic full breaths, are perfect.

5.  Focus on breathing extra deeply into your chest , consciously expanding your ribs; good practice for babywearing in general and very strengthening for the chest and intercostal muscles as they have the extra pull of baby’s weight to work against.

6. Stick pose (sitting with legs straight in front of you) is good, ensure that you engage the abdominal muscles and flatten the lower back, don’t let it pull forward.

7. If you need the stretch for your inner thighs and hips, and if you use caution, loosely cross legged and butterfly (soles of the feet together, knees relax outwards)positions are good.  Engage the core  muscles to hold you steady and don’t overstretch. Be aware that your ligaments are probably still soft, if you are still breastfeeding and / or in the first few months after birth. Do not overstretch- ie dont go as far into the stretch as you would outside of the pregnancy/ postnatal period. Listen to and respect your body.

8. Relaxed walks / walking meditation, or seated meditation, are wonderful for calming yourself and your baby. They will hear and feel your slow and steady heart beat, your slow and deep breathing, and they will feel your good vibes! Babies relax deeply when parents do the same.

9. Outdoor yoga is perfect! Embrace and take inspiration from the elements.

May you find shanti (peace)xx

8 Days of living yoga: Days 7, 8 and beyond!

So, my home- based yoga retreat has ended! I didnt get to blog on the last 2 days, due to being , well exhausted, busy and pretty tied up with the baby and Tot! BUT! I was reflecting on the last 3 limbs of the 8 limbs of yoga: Dharana (concentration), Dhyana (meditation) and Samadhi (contemplation). These all refer to the practices surrounding what i would call meditation/ relaxation. And frankly, i have enough of a challenge trying to find time for asana practice, let alone meditation. BUT! I did manage a pretty deep meditation on Sunday, and it has been really helpful in making the end of my retreat feel like it has actually moved me forward in terms of my practice of yoga as a whole.

For one, i did this meditation while breastfeeding, and then with the baby asleep in my lap in the front seat of the car. So, it is possible! And i will be looking for opportunities to do this again in future, as it was a really great feeling. Tot was off for a walk with her Dad and we were out at the coast, so i didnt have any distractions of must do this and be there. And,,, ta da, writing that has led me to my first conclusion! Yoga retreats where you go and stay somewhere away from home and away from all your usual distractions are a good idea!

Secondly, i noticed that my intuition was heightened during and after this practice. So, Meditation is a great thing for Mums- intuition being i feel our most valuable tool, especially in an age where we can access SO much information on the internet, and there are so many products and so called experts to tell us what to do with our children to make them feed/ sleep/ cry etc more appropriately!

Also interesting was that after him being deeply relaxed, when i started to come out of the deeper meditation baby started to shift about. Just as i have observed many times in my classes, babies are attuned to our emotional and spiritual state; we are interconnected with them beyond our concious awareness, and this is so easy to forget. I really believe that when our baby seems unsettled/ unhappy/ bored/ restless, etc, this very often reflects our own energies. Its not a simple thing- we have to self- reflect to see how we may be subconcsiously transferring our own mood/ worries/ feelings onto our babies , and to consciously relax by slowing our breathing, extending our exhales, loosening our bodies and easing our posture, being more grounded and in the moment… and by now our babies feel more relaxed, or we realise they were just hungry, or had wind, or were tired, etc..

My other relfections on the final 3 limbs seem less relevant at this late hour than a bit of a conclusion.

I have noticed that the reflections i did on the Asana day, have been the least helpful in terms of my positivity and sense that being a yogi / follower of yoga in its true sense, is possible at this time in my life.

A lone morning practice is just not a realistic goal for me at this time. I need the sleep! The baby wakes up if im not next to him! I just about manage to do the basic household jobs! Bloggin thsi week has meant staying up far too late and not doing other things i needed to do! I wrote on Asana day that i had been finding myself saying to people that i needed a fuller practice for myself; i feel that i was actually just repeating something that other yogis had said to me about the postnatal period. In fact, pregnancy and the postnatal period have been for me a time of discovery and growth in yoga! Yes, i do miss having a full uninterrupted practice and i can feel tension building up in my body, especially in my shoulders, chest and hips, that would previously have been addressed by doing some lovely yoga stretches… but the joys of discovering yoga with my little ones has more than outweighed this!

For me, yoga is about all 8 limbs. And it’s something undefineable also. Something magic which lifts my days, which is there for me in the most challenging moments of parenting my 2 little ones with my partner working away. Something which made me want to return to teaching when my little boy was 7 weeks, and which makes me want to share the magic with more and more parents! I am on a path, and i am only just getting going. Reading about the last 3 limbs, and experiencing how hard it is to meditate deeply; remembering how much practice it takes before you can even find a little space within, where thoughts start to recede; has left me in no doubt that i have a long way to go! But i find that to feel positive and enthusiastic about it all i have to focus on what i AM doing, not what im not! So, if i manage to use my breathing to help me out of a panicky feeling, to stop me shouting at my toddler, to tune in to my heart to stop me resenting my baby for waking up; if i manage some yogic complete breaths while the kettle boils, and some baby/ toddler yoga in the afternoons to make the little ones smile; and when i realise that every time i lift or hold them i am using yoga techniques and theory to help me do so with less strain and more grace……i tell myself , THIS IS YOGA! And i love it!

Finally, i have a vision of an away from home yoga retreat for families, which i would like to carry out in the not too distant future. It’s going to be be brilliant, somewhere beautiful and peaceful, a godsend for parents looking for a bit of peace who cant or dont want to leave their little ones. And loads of fun! Watch this space! (: x

8 Days of Living yoga: Day 6: Pratyahara to Dharana

Pratyahara: ‘withdrawal of the senses’-  I really wasnt sure how i was going to tackle this one today, Easter Sunday, chocolate all around; right now my senses are involved in sucking a Thorntons chocolate with honeycomb pieces, and i am not really ready to withdraw from it!!

Luckily, with my OH being home, we went out to Formby beach today and while i stayed in the car to feed baby i managed almost an hour’s meditation time ( with interruptions to feed, burp baby, change position, and when Dad and Tot came back and showed me what theyd been doing!) It was blissful. I remembered a meditation technique from Uma Dinsmore- Tuli’s book ( i think called feeding meditation) where you gradually draw inwards. The way i used it was to focus first on sounds far away, like aeroplanes and people shouting to each other in the distance; then sounds close by, then the sounds and sensations of baby feeding, then the breath rushing in and out under my nose, then the breath inside the throat where i narrowed to produce ‘Ujayi breath’, then going inwards still. At this point i cant describe the experience without taking away from it , but i tried to imagine the sense input (sounds and feelings that i could still register), drifting away from me into the distance, and my own awareness first expanding in the heart, and then expanding into something infinite within. It was pretty hard to detach, and to quieten the mind, and i realised how out of practice i am with this kind of lone , uninterrupted (ish!) meditation! To come out of it i made sure i did this gradually and used and 1,2,3 count where i used 3,2,1 to go into it; especially useful when i needed to return my attention to baby for a minute and then come back to where i was before. I felt amazing afterwards; so calm, grounded and centred. I managed a brief and meaningful walk along the shore, looking at the brisk waves and appreciating the power of the sea ( and felt a strong connection between my recent experience of labour and birth, and the power of the sea), while Daddy held the fort in the car!

Also when i came out of the medi i briefly saw how many sensory distractions there are around me and how tied up in them i am. And how flitting/ distracted my mind and experience is much of the time. I can safely say i am well back in sensory land now! It says in the Yoga Sutras that it takes years to become practiced at this method, and even then it only takes a moment to be drawn back in. So i think i can feel pleased that i managed to connect with the concept for a short time!

Dharana: Concentration

Having read the description of this as ‘ the practice of concentration, which precedes meditation, slowing down the thinking process by concentrating on a single mental object, energy centre or sound’ , i am wondering if i have ever actually meditated?! Or Just done Dharana? I think the meditations/ relaxations that i teach in my classes are working towards dharana; its good to be reminded that this is just a stage in working towards a deeper meditation. And of course its all a path, to be walked many many times in practice.

Tomorrow i have a busy busy day teaching baby and toddler yoga at a family fayre with both my little ones, and then will be on my own again from the afternoon. I wonder if i will create some time to reflect on and/ or practice dharana! Gdnite (:

8 Days of living yoga: Day 5: Pranayama to Pratyahara

I have learned so much about Pranayama from Uma Dinsmore- Tuli’s brilliant book ‘Mother’s Breath’; in here she talks about her own journey as a parent and how she came to realise that parenting was actually part of her yoga practice. She also talks about the lack of attention given in previous yoga texts, to womens’ , and particularly Mothers’ experiences. As always, the fellas dominate and forget that its all a bit different when your anatomy and brain are wired differently and you produce children!

Of particular relevance, Uma stresses that postnatally , vigourous type breaths, and counting repetitions / holding the breath are not suitable or helpful. She breaks down yogic breathing (pranayama) so simply, i think it’s brilliant. I have gained a lot from practicing the exercises myself and also teaching them in my classes. As you can tell i think she is pretty excellent and having been taught by her once i also know she’s a lovely lady! I cant say anything about Pranyama in relation to parenting / post natal recovery , that she doesnt already say better in this book.

Today i have been upping the number of times that i simply take a full breath, expanding my belly and chest on the inhale and slowing the exhale. I do use this alot oin daily life and have been exploring recently the benefits of the exhale- i read recently that the exhale is the ‘antidote to panic’ ( i think this was the rather brilliant Barefoot Doctor). Panic/ stress is no stranger in the daily life of a parent with small children, I’m sure others will agree! That moment of ‘aaah how will i ever leave the house!’/ ‘aah dont wake the baby its taken me x long to get him to sleep!’/ ‘aah just stop demanding i only have one of me!’ ,,, thats not just me is it?! Well, the feelings can rise up but with the use of the exhale and some calming positive thoughts it doesnt need to gain any power, and therefore melts away as quickly as it came. Breeeathe! Its magic!

So now i am coming into the final 4 limbs; these are more unfamiliar to me and seem more abstract. They are sometimes said to be the ‘next stage’ after the first 4 limbs. However it is also said that to truly follow the yogic path you must pay attention to all 8 limbs, so i feel that it is important to be aware of them and reflect on them.

Today is Pratyahara: Withdrawal of the senses. Erm, see you later then!..

8 days of living yoga: Day 4: Asana to pranayama

Well hello from my home-based yoga retreat! I decided to reflect on each of the 8 limbs of yoga over 8 days of the Easter week, and see if it was possible to have a yoga retreat type experience while going about my normal life with my 3 month old and just turned 2 yr old.
I didn’t blog last night on Asana day… Because I was busy doing asana practice! Yes, it finally happened at 9.20pm, when I got in a lovely hour including a very sleepy relaxation. So how did the day go?..
I woke up late 8.30am!) as I must have been tired from staying up to blog the night before! Waking up at the same time as the 2 littluns, The planned morming asana practice didnt happen, despite the ready-unrolled yoga mat! I will post a pic of what my mat looked like by mid morning .. Covered in toys, breakfast remains, nappies clothes etc! The irony of this is far from lost on me.. I mean to demote blogging and idling away on Facebook/ twitter to beneath sleep, and yoga , on the priority list from now on!
Mornings are said to be the best time to practice, preferably at or just before dawn. I always used to think, well that’s alright if you live in india and you have nice bright mornings but not for me..not being a natural at mornings, it took being a parent of a toddler plus baby, to turn me into a “morning person”! So, that means its only happened in the last 3 months! So, now would be a natural time to work towards a morning asana practice.
I still maintain that even if morning practice is limited to some deep breaths and stretches while the kettle boils, this is yoga, and can have a really positive effect on your mood that day. And practicing yoga with your little ones counts too! For me, I have realised that I need the purifying benefits of a more full Asana practice now; my postnatal body is crying out for it!
I have decided that , especially as a parent of 2 young children, but I suspect for anyone, a regular, preferably daily asana practice has to be part of the daily routine, just as brushing you teeth is. Erm, hang on a minute, I don’t always do that either!! Well , on the same basis I think the way to look at it is, it’s a part of the daily routine, but if gets skipped because you wake up late / one of the kids is sick/ the dog ate your homework etcetc.. It’s not the end of the world! I try to go easy on myself these days and so if I did manage it on the majority of days in the week I would feel pretty pleased.

I loved the bit in the yoga Sutras on asana that says, any posture that is comfortable and steady is an asana. So, the morning feed can be turned into an asana by paying attention to posture and breathing; playing with your children can be done from an asana; we practice swinging , rolling and nursery rhymes in baby and toddler yoga classes, with an awareness of the body, exhaling as we stretch away , inhaling fully and expanding our chest as we begin. Even sitting blogging, can be an asana, she types, readjusting her neck , position of grumbly baby on lap, tilt of pelvis in seat of car…

Today is Pranayama day!
Pranayama translates as, controlling the movements of inhalation and exhalation. I have been practicing taking deep, full breaths at points throughout the day and will let you know how it goes tonight.

8 Days of Living Yoga: Day 3 : Niyama to Asana.

Today has been a pretty peaceful day! So, the aspect of Niyama that has resonated most with my experiences today has been:

Isvara Pranidhanam: a life of dedication, of offering everything to God/ to humanity. Dedicating my life to humanity is not something i can really say ive mastered in one day! But in my copy of the Yoga Sutras (i have the Sri SwamiSatchidananda translation) it says ‘whatever we do can be easily transformed into worship by our attitude’, and talks about dedicating tasks like moving a chair, to god/ humanity! If we drag a chair it is not gentle- if we move it gently, with respect, this becomes yoga!! We can even wash dishes in a worshipful way! I love this- it brings things bang into my daily life and i do have a habit of being a bit clumsy ; i am aware of wanting to be more careful and mindful when doing daily tasks, even when handling my children, and this shows me how and why!

Feeding my baby at the park today in the sunshine, i also felt a connection to something greater, ‘God’ if you like to call it that; maybe to nature, maybe to the essence of life. And i thought that i can see feeding time as a form of worship, meditate on the greater connection of what i am doing; nourishing another human, keeping him alive and , well, nurturing the next generation! That’s pretty big eh?! So, another opportunity to bring spirituality into my daily activity as a Mum. Its about more than just enhancing my own pleasure, its about feeling a connection to the world outside of myself and my baby; and it is very easy to get quite ‘walled in’ when parenting young children; you are so attentive to them and observant of them, it can feel like you have no energy for the ‘outside world’. This has got to help that!

I remember my yoga teacher Jackie talking about saying to yourself at the start of a class that you are dedicating your yoga practice to humanity/ to the greater good, i think she called in ‘offering up your practice’, i liked this and have used it many times although i don’t always remember. So great, another benefit of my home- based yoga retreat- i will go back to doing this again! In fact, im going to do this every morning, whether or not im doing an Asana practice that morning. I’m increasingly drawn to the idea that ‘practicing yoga is so much more than Asana practice’ , and that one can definitely be practicing while parenting!

So, next stage: Asana! Asanas are yoga poses or postures. This is what we tend to think of as yoga itself; it is just one aspect but obviously the most visible, and tangible. Today i actually kept my yoga mat unrolled all day, hoping to get some time for a fuller practice; i will see how this goes tomorrow but it would be great to be able to reflect on this aspect of the 8 limbs from a nice shoulder stand!

Goodnight.

8 Days of Living Yoga: Day 2: Yama to Niyama

Well, i have to say that even saying i was going to do this seems to have elevated my day a bit! Last night the Tot woke up a couple of hours after i went to bed and didnt go back to sleep for ages; but then with 2 sleep-dodging little ones in my bed i did have the chance to put my postitive thoughts into practice! Instead of getting frustrated when she tossed and turned and demanded milk, i tuned in to my heart and felt love and compassion. It did make giving in and coming downstairs to get her some milk an easier decision, feeling less like defeat than it might have done if my tired mind had been in control.Getting in some solo practice this morning before they woke up was laughably impossible with a wriggling Tot in my bed! However i did do a short heart-centred meditation after coming downstairs, while they were there. Easy and very do-able, i do think this has helped my day start well, and i mean to do something similar every morning, along with a bit of deep breathing/ yogic complete breath, which i have slipped from doing every morning recently, distracted by getting on with the day.

I have been reflecting throughout the day on the bits of the Yoga Sutras'(The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali)- section on the 5 Yamas, and i do feel drawn to the words on truthfulness. This says that we should only speak truth, so not telling lies or white lies, and speaking the truth, but only if that truth is pleasant and wont be hurtful. If it will have a negative effect that we are aware of, we should for example say ‘ i know, but i dont want to say’.

There is so much within the Yamas that can be used in every day situations, like asteya- non- stealing, which is not just about material things but also can be not stealing someone’s time.

I conclude that the Yamas are to be referred back to when a situation arises that i’m not sure about or need guidance on, and also now and again just to reflect on how my conduct measures up with these principles.

So, next is the Niyamas: NIYAMA: ‘Internal conduct’.

Whereas Yama is about external conduct, Niyama is about individual discipline; ow we treat ourselves. This includes: Saucha (Purity) (of thought, word and deed); Santosa (contentment); Tapas (austerity, purification); svadhyayad (Study of self and spiritual texts); Isvara Pranidhanam (Dedication of life to the divine/ humanity).

Lets see how the next 24 hrs of reflecting on, and trying to live the Niyamas goes! Goodnight.

 

8 Days of Living Yoga: My Challenge!

I haven’t been blogging, tweeting or FBing recently, you may have noticed! Life as a Mum of 2 littluns has its challenges, particularly as I’m mostly on my own at the moment, my OH is working away for 6 months and only comes home now and again. Evenings have mostly been about putting them to bed and then crashing myself, after clearing up the dinner things, if it’s a good day! I have found myself saying to people recently that I am starting to feel i need my own yoga practice in the mornings before the baby and Tot are awake, but this still feels difficult to achieve. I do practice yoga every day, and i am a firm believer that it is about more than just doing asanas. And also that it can be adapted to life as a parent of young children, without losing integrity. I have felt the benefits of yoga in my every day life without being a perfect yogi; it’s all part of being on the path. But, Something inside is telling me i need to deepen my practice. There is imbalance in my body, i drink too much caffiene and eat too much sugar, my breathing feels uncomfortable when i practice pranayama, i find tension deep in my chest. And even when things go well, I often come away from teaching my classes feeling that i want to make it even better, go deeper, be inspired and inspiring!

So, it came to me today that it’s Easter week , and all around April is bursting forth with new life. Im not a Christian , but i do celebrate Easter in a way as it’s always been a time when my family have tried to get together. Oh, and the chocolate part of course! But this year i cant get to see my family, who are in various parts of the world that i cant get to with the 2 littluns, and my OH cant get home. Friends and OH’s family nearby are busy, so…with our usual activities, my classes, and nursery, on hold, I’m faced with a rather empty feeling week ahead!

An email this morning inviting me to book a weekend yoga retreat in Scotland made me realise this is not something i will be able to do in the near future, at least while I’m still breastfeeding my baby.

I know! I thought! I will do my own yoga retreat… but at home, with my children!

SO, it’s 8 days until Easter’s over and my classes restart, and there are 8 ‘Limbs’ of yoga. I will reflect on one of the limbs at the end of each day and see how i get on with practicing yoga over this time, while balancing this with life with my 3 month old and my just- turned 2 yr old! And keeping my house in order, and doing the admin for my classes, and the odd bit of teaching in between..! I promise to be truthful about how realistic this is, whether i’m really getting up early to practice in the mornings, and when i am feeling about as yoga- ey as a wet leaf. If youre still reading by now, thank you! And i will also be as to the point as i can, as i dont have lots of time to blog with all this yoga to do!

So- reality check- baby is asleep in the sling, my back is hurting (quick birth- induced strain to L back), and i need my bed.

But, i must reflect… The first of the 8 limbs! YAMA. Yama relates to the way we conduct ourselves towards others, our ethics and behaviour. This includes Ahimsa (nonviolence), satya (truthfulness), asteya (non stealing), brahmacharya (continence /celibacy), and Aparigraha (non greed).

Ok, which one jumps out at me..so the celibacy isnt much of a problem being on my own for the week! Nonviolence sounds easy but is it about more than just not smacking my toddler?! Yes, it is a way of being. Think of the term ‘passive aggressive’; we can still show violence towards someone even by being silent, or by ignoring them. A difficult person may come my way over the next week, and i am going to try to practice nonviolence in this situation. My tendency would be to withdraw; i would only confront if pushed to the absolute limit. But can i practice non violence instead? Patanjali suggests to counter negative thoughts by inviting in opposite thoughts. So when encountered with a difficult person or situation i could just think of fluffy easter bunnies, sunshine and spring flowers! I swear i am going to try it! Could i try it with my children as well? Yes, next time i feel impatience or frustration building up (eg at bedtime when trying to chase my Tot to put her PJs on whilst baby crying, and she is trying to play around?!), i will deliberately counter this with positive thoughts, by tuning into my heart and feeling my love for them instead.

So now for some meditation before bed. I have been having not totally peaceful dreams recently so lets see if this can help turn that around.

Goodnight!

 

10 Beautiful Moments with your Baby: 7: Wearing your baby!

Having a long cuddle with your baby, letting them fall asleep on your chest, giving them skin to skin time…all things which can seem like an indulgence after the first few weeks of your baby’s life when you have things to get on with! But this is all possible whilst still getting on with your life, while wearing your baby in a sling/wrap! Whats not to love about that?!

Babywearing, or carrying baby in a sling/wrap, is said to have many benefits for both parents and babies, : see the following article for a list!

http://www.thebabywearer.com/index.php?page=bwgreatthings

I do love my Moby wrap- i have used it with both my little ones and my 9 week old is asleep in it as i type! The Moby is a stretchy wrap- basically a long piece of stretchy material although you cant make one yourself very easily or safely. I find it really useful for settling baby to sleep around the house, especially in the evenings or when they are ‘sleep resisting’, as well as to transport them when out and about when a buggy isnt convenient ( eg on the London underground, on an aeroplane, in a taxi, etc), second time round i would say that i couldnt manage my life without a wrap, as it allows me to see to my toddler whilst giving my baby the warmth, security and comfort that he needs from me.

I only found out recently , on meeting the very friendly and knowledgable women of the Manchester Sling School (www.theslingschool.com )that the stretchy wraps are not recommended after about 3-4 months as once the baby gets heavier the stretch cant hold their weight as easily and it loses its benefits for both your posture and the baby’s security. I did use it until my little girl was walking and i was pregnant again, and never had a real problem, but i can see the point.

The Sling class i went to at GloFamily in Cheadle was great- they showed me some tweaks for making baby more comfortable in his Moby for now, and talked me through some other options for the future, including an advanced ‘back carry’ using a woven wrap which i LOVED, but havent mastered yet! I borrowed a wrap from their ‘sling library’ which is a fab idea and only costs £5 for 2 weeks! ( http://www.slingingintherain.co.uk)

Happy wearing/ slinging/ carrying!

Spaces available at Sale and Hale Baby Yoga! For postnatal Mums and babies

Due to a couple of cancellations i now have spaces in the March- April block at both Hale (Tuesdays 11-12.30) and Sale (Fridays 10.30-12). These classes are for babies from 2 months up to fully mobile.You can try your first class before deciding whether to sign up for the rest of the block. Please contact me for more info!

I also run classes for mobile babies and toddlers- after a break to have my 2nd baby my plans are for a late Spring/ early Summer start , if you’re interested please contact me to join my mailing list so i can let you know when i have more info.

10 Beautiful Moments with your baby: 6. Ahhh they’re asleep! (a 10 min yoga routine!)

Sometimes having a baby feels like really hard work; let’s be honest! They need you to fulfill their every need- they cant understand if they have to wait for you to get fed/ cuddled and if they do they cry! Alot!

Sometimes i feel a flash of guilt when i am enjoying my baby being asleep, especially after a crying session ( and there does seem to be more crying to get needs met going on with 2 children!) BUT i have been reminding myself that only a happy, needs- met baby will sleep, and so its a time for me to recharge and feel happy that i’ve done my job for now!

Yoga relaxation is fantastic for recharging your batteries and is often even more effective than a sleep; a wise baby yoga teacher told me that 10 minutes relaxation is as good as a couple of hours sleep for making a Mum feel refreshed. So, why not use their sleep time for a little bit of yoga- yes, i know there is housework to be done but it can wait until after your yoga at least!! Try cat pose with arching to ease backache, rest in childs pose and extend the arms for a nice stretch. Back into cat and extend one leg at a time to stretch the calves in swan pose; lift the leg and opposite arm if you are 5 months + postnatal ( 6 months after a section). Sit back on your heels and clasp the hands behind your back and lift- fab for achy shoulders. Sit cross legged or with legs straight out (stick pose) and lift through the crown before doing a gentle twist. Now lie flat , lift your knees to your chest and breathe into you full abdomen , chest expanding sideways. Stretch your legs upwards and pull in the pelvic floor as you exhale. Now rest, focusing on your exhale; imagine that it is a long thread extending from your lips, or make a ‘hh’ sound with the exhale; both help to extend your exhale and relax and calm you. A few minutes, even one minute of this relaxation and theres still time to do your chores..well actually they dont seem as urgent any more! Happy relaxing (I’m off to do the same!) (:

10 Beautiful Moments with your baby: 5. Your joy at their bodily functions!!

Isnt it lovely when they release a giant trump, burp or pooh?! You feel so pleased for them and so relieved! Its a big noise to come out of a small body isnt it?! It always amuses me how well Mums (and dads) take it when babies are sick on them too- it does happen during a baby yoga class and has happened in quite comic ways- eg in the face during aeroplane pose/ a high lift / striaght down the back and legs during a firemans hold! I say a streak of milky sick (or muke as i like to call it) is a sign of happiness!(:

10 Beautiful Moments with your baby:4: Their eyes following your face!

Even newborn babies are attracted to faces- they will even be attracted to look at a basic image of a face -two holes and a line! The wonder and innocence in my 5 week old’s face as i moved my face from side to side over him as he lay on the floor during a short baby yoga session today was a joyful moment for me!(;

Ten beautiful moments with your baby: 1. Little noises in your ear!

Lets not pretend that every moment with a baby is blissful; having just had a bout of mastitis combined with disturbed sleep caused by fever, wriggling toddler and grunting baby combined, I have not been feeling blissful lately.. but even when you are finding things challenging, there are always moments of perfection to be found. And isnt that what perfection is? Brief, and fleeting, so quick that your mind can’t interfere with thoughts?

1. The little noises your baby makes when dozing on your shoulder after a feed; full -milky happiness!

My birth story! 28/12/11

I’m reposting this after almost 9 months, both to celebrate my baby boy having been outside the womb for as long as he was in, and because someone asked me to repost! Enjoy (:

My baby boy was born on Wednesday 28/12/11 at 10.10am , weighing 7lb 2oz. He is my second baby , my little girl was born in March 2010.

I was 9 days over my EDD. I woke up at about 8am and said to my partner ‘Im going to be pregnant forever!’ as it felt like every night passing was another one with no labour starting!! Little did i know 2 hours later my boy would be in my arms!!
I went downstairs to make a brew and some strong Braxton Hicks then turned into some mild contractions; they were so gentle i thought they would go away again but i looked at the clock and timed 4 of them, 3 mins apart; i went back upstairs and told my partner, reassuring him that he didnt need to call the doula, or the midwives, or fill the pool, and i would just go for a shower and see how i got on. By the time i got into the shower i realised i should phone the doula, which i did myself and then handed the phone to my partner as another contraction came!
By the time i got out of the shower i was having to hold on to the door handles and sway my hips, as my partner hurried to get our little girl up and called family to take her round to his Mum’s. By the time i got to the bedroom i was having to hold on to the windowsill and bed , lower to the ground. I became really hot, felt sick, threw off my dressing gown and wished i had prepared some more floor coverings for the bedroom suddenly as i realised this was where i was going to be labouring! My partner came up from sorting out our little girl and making phonecalls to the doula and midwives, and i held on to his shoulders, and asked for my ball and some towels. from this point i had about twenty minutes of intense labour where i dont remember having any thoughts , i think i just went inside myself and breathed my way through the contractions. Shortly after this i had intense pressure in my lower back, and then very soon i could feel things were changing- a sense of calm came over me and the energy changed ; contractions seemed spaced out a little, and i knew that this was transition. My partner told me the midwives were on their way but i knew the baby was coming as i began to feel an incredible force bearing down to bring my baby out. I knew i didnt have to do anything, to breathe and allow my body to lead me, I remembered Ina May Gaskin’s ‘raspberry lips’ which i had been looking at on Youtube the night before, and just did this as the contractions came on. I told my partner to ring 999, and i heard him say ‘My wife’s in labour- St Marys- but we’re having a home birth’ i said to him ‘tell them you need instructions’; then i felt a bulging , like a soft baloon, coming out of me, and he said ‘i can see the head! But theres a sac covering it- its bulging out of her- i dont know what it is’; i heard the operator say ‘ if you can see the head tell me’ and ‘if your wife feels like pushing tell me’; i knew that it was closer than they thought. Then she said ‘tell her to lie on her back’ , which i did, worrying that this ‘sac’ might be the placenta blocking the baby’s exit and fleetingly wondering how the hell they would get me into hospital for an emergency section….!! I quickly realised i couldnt stand to be on my back and shouted that i was turning back over, held onto the bed post again on all fours, and then i felt the famous ‘ring of fire’ and with a slow, beautiful and powerful force, felt my baby’s head being born. my partner told the operator ‘his head’s out!’ and what i couldnt see was, his head was still inside his amniotic sac, my partner described it as strecthed like cling film over his face! Then the operator said ( which i could see the irony of at the time and makes me giggle) ‘tell your wife to keep pushing’!!! I knew i didnt have to do anything, and waited for a beautiful peaceful pause before the next contraction brought the baby’s body out and i shouted ‘YES!” his daddy caught him and saw that he needed to unhook the cord from around his neck; the operator told him to rub baby’s mouth and nose, and rub him quickly with a towel. I turned around to see the thick rope of the umbilical cord curling up to my beautiful boy!! Then there was a knock on the door and thinking it must be the ambulance my partner passed the baby through my legs and ran to unlock it, then ran back up to see me holding my slippery baby, still kneeling in the same spot. It turned out to be my partner’s brother and neice at the door and they came in and looked after our little girl, who had been downstairs playing all this time, fully hearing what was going on but staying calm!!! The ambulance came a couple of minutes later, and the 2 lady paramedics were gentle and lovely; they knew about mine and baby’s haemophilia status and we were debating about how the cord bloods were going to be collected by the midwives and what they were going to give me for the 3rd stage injection; however, i got both my natural 3rd stage and my precious cord bloods going to the baby as by the time they decided to clamp and cut the cord, it was a good few minutes later. When the midwife got there she had a look and told me the placenta was ready to come out, i pushed gently and there it was! 10 mins after the birth. She managed to get the cord bloods which had to be taken to St Marys urgently.
The background to all of that was that i had had a late amnio to detrmine whether the baby had haemophilia, which came back positive ( i am a carrier of mild haemophilia with low levels myself but mine normalise in pregnancy; i have a 50:50 chance of having an affected boy). Despite being advised to have a hospital birth i had insisted i felt a home birth was safer for me, (and how right i was!) , and my consultant had been very supportive of my choice once she realised i was serious about it. I had strict time limits laid out on how long my second stage could be as the concern was that any trauma to the babys head could cause a bleed. my first baby’s birth had involved a difficult second stage, she came out OP and had become distressed and had some swelling of the head; so of course my fears were of the same thing happening but with worse consequences , especially as the midwives kept telling me that this baby was either OP or ‘spine to the right’.
My doula had done some rebozo on me the week before and im sure that , as well as the daily yoga, yoga and birth prep classes with Sarah Hague, acupuncture from Balwant Kaur, chiropractic from Sally Scott, natal hypnotherapy,etc!!…. helped the baby to turn into a tip top position when it mattered!
What i find most amazing is that he was born ‘in the caul’ which i considered rare and special anyway, but for a baby with haemophilia, its like being born with a giant duvet wrapped round the head!! How perfect!!

PS our doula got there just before the midwife; her face when she saw the baby was a picture!!

Reflecting on which of the many things i had read about and practiced helped me get through labour so easily this time, its really hard to pin down. I did use the
‘ooohaaah’ exhale that we had practiced at pregnancy yoga, all through the first stage, and i used golden thread breath, as described by Uma Dinsmore- Tuli, during the strong afterpains that i got when first feeding him. Other than those and ‘raspberry lips’ , i think it was a combination of the yoga positions i had been practicing which really helped me tune in to the right muscles and think about the physiology of birth as well as chilling me out and giving me inner strength. I had also been using acupressure for late pregnancy and bringing on labour, as taught by Debra Betts ; passed on to me by Balwant my acupuncturist. i was actually doing some strong acupressure to a point on my hand shortly before contractions began, and the previous day my partner had done some really strong acupressure on various points too. (he had come along to see my acupuncturist and learn this from her).
To summarise i can honestly say I enjoyed my 1 hour and 7 minutes!!!, I would say it was an ecstatic birth, and not at all an experience of pain. I would love my story to inspire all Mums to be that birth can be beautiful, quick, gentle, powerful and amazing; second timers with how much easier it can be; and to encourage peoples’confidence in their own body ( and their partners ability to deliver the baby if neccessary!!)

I am now settling in to being a Mum of 2, and with my partner starting a new job working away from home alot it has had its tough moments already. My little boy is gorgeous, and a pretty happy chap after his gentle entry into this world! I’m looking forward to getting back to yoga again , and have had to go easy on myself and remind myself that i may be feeling well, but i have still just given birth! More than ever i feel that yoga is what can tie together and underpin my life as a Mum, and i cant wait to get back to teaching, this time with a very current connection to the Mums in the class as i will be teaching with my baby!

See you soon out in the big wide world! x

Spaces still available in Sale (Cheshire) baby yoga class , Fridays.

There are limited spaces in the Jan- Feb block still available. This class is a lovely way to start the New Year booking in some quality time with your baby, and will leave you feeling refreshed in time for the weekend! Class is suitable for younger babies from approx 2 months, as well as older babies up to fully mobile (crawling is ok).

Advance booking only- pls contact me for more info. thecalmechanic@yahoo.co.uk

New Year 2012 baby yoga classes in Sale and Hale, now booking!

Hale class will restart Tuesday 10th Jan, 11-12.30 at The Balance Studios. 5 week block finishing 7th Feb. £46. Please see ‘classes- where and when’ for more details and email me to sign up/ enquire.

Sale class will restart Fri 6th Jan, 10.30-12 at The Light of Hope Centre. 6 week block, finishing Fri 10th Feb. £48. Please see ‘classes where and when’ as above.

Foundations of Calm: relaxing with your baby / toddler

One of the most satisfying aspects of my teaching baby and toddler yoga is seeing parents let go and relax around their little ones. This is a thread that i try to have running through the whole class , not just the relaxation part at the end. For me, relaxation comes into play in many ways: having physical ease when handling your little one; having strength and poise in poses with the softening effect of the breath allowing you to be both strong and heart- centred; focusing on your own emotional state and seeing it as the basis for calming your child; and also being quiet and ‘drawing inwards’ while still being with your child.

I love to see Mums at the end of the class feeling able to close their eyes and relax even while their baby may still be awake and alert. Many babies do fall asleep at the end of the class, helped by the transition to relaxation, the music and the physically soothing activities like rhthymic walking around the room, (as well as the tiredness they feel after their yoga!). However, particularly as babies get a bit older and have longer gaps between naps, they often stay awake during relaxation. This is not a hindrance, i actually see it as integral to teaching relaxation to Mums that they can do so while their babies are still alert and awake. It can be extremely tiring and draining to be focused on a little person’s needs without a break.

My toddler yoga teacher Melanie talked about ‘realaxation’ rather than ‘relaxation’; a phrase i like to borrow ! The approach to relaxation needs to be realistic, and easily translate to everyday life, where there often isnt silence and calm around us to help us get into relaxation mode. Just as the muscles may need to be reeducated to relax and stretch into the easeful poses of yoga (after all, you only need to see the little ones’ flexibility and natural ability to do poses like downward dog, cat, bridge and childs’ pose to know that yoga is something we are born able to do!); the mind needs to practice relaxation. (Physical) Yoga is all about the inbreath and the outbreath; the contraction and extension of the muscles; and the focusing and the letting go of the mind. Dualities that work together in harmony if we allow them to. I say ‘allow’ as the main barrier to relaxing around a little person is not the little person; it’s your own mind not allowing you to let go! You have the ability to relax and draw inwards to a more peaceful place at any time! Even when surrounded by scattered toys, bits of half- eaten food, and the whinging noises of an overtired little person!!

Trust yourself to let go; you will still be aware of your little one’s safety; you will not emotionally scar them by withdrawing your active attention from them for a few precious moments; you are not being selfish. You must nurture and respect your own need for silence and calm in order to return to your little person refreshed (or perhaps you will return to find them having an overdue nap!)

I feel that it is vital for our little ones to see us relaxing; particularly as they get to toddlerhood. How will they learn to relax and ‘calm down’ without this being mirrored to them? Practicing some sort of yoga around them is a great way to do this, as they get to have fun climbing on you and copying you, and also learn to respect your quiet when you relax. I usually find my little one (now 20 months) comes and lies on my head or back while i’m relaxing in child’s pose, and it actually feels really nice! The other day i had a lovely relaxation leaning back on a beanbag in butterfly pose (soles of feet together, knees apart), and she came and sat in my lap and leaned back, and stayed there, awake but relaxed, for over 5 mins. It was really beautiful and thats what inspired me to write this post. Im not saying the first time you try it this will happen but the more your little one gets used to just ‘being’ when you relax, the more comfortable they will feel to come and join in. I know it is something that i could have done a lot more of as my daughter was changing from tiny baby to little explorer, and i could also, looking back, have treated breastfeeding times as an opportunity to relax and meditate, rather than to catch up on texting, emailing, facebook or watching tv! Im hoping to do this with my imminent baby and will need my ‘realaxation’ skills more than ever with the tot running round wanting my attention at the same time!!

It’s challenging, yes, but nothing worth achieving is achieved without patience, trust, practice and a lightness of mind that allows us to say ‘ok, that didnt go that well today but i i’ll try again’ as well as ‘that went well, i can do it.’

Happy relaxing!

Posture for parents: regaining ease of movement in handling your little one!

Its really easy to let bad postural habits creep in when you have been pregnant, then carrying and feeding a baby, falling asleep in odd positions, lifting a car seat (surely the worst piece of equipment for Mums backs!) and then that baby gets bigger and heavier and more demanding! No wonder lots of Mums have weak core muscles and shoulders, aching hips and back and neck pains! YOGA , of course, is a big help, especially if you tune in regularly to your posture and breath , doing a few shoulder loosening exercises, cat pose with arching and leg/ arm stretches, and resting in childs pose, any of those can take 5 mins and be done when you have a few moments peace!

In baby yoga classes we practice lifts and carrying positions that can help counter bad habits, such as lifting babies up with the ‘spiral lift’ or coming up onto one knee before standing. ‘Tiger in the tree‘ is a lovely way to hold your baby while leaving your shoulders and arms comfortably free, as the baby rests on your middle. Mums have reported back to me that this is great because they can free up one hand to do other things!  It isnt designed for this but this is way preferable to the ‘one hip slip’ that many of us seem to adopt, where we balance the baby facing inwards on our hip and tilt our whole pelvis towards that hip! Terrible for rebuilding your core stability, terrible for hip and lower back pain, not great for shoulders as they have to hunch to keep baby in position…. need i say more! If you recognise this habit.. stop now!!

One really simple way to counter this that works well with babies who have gained head support, and for younger babies too if you are careful to keep their head tilted forwards so their chin rests downwards, is to turn the baby facing OUTwards on your hip instead of inwards. It may seem counterintuitive as we want to hug our babies towards us but the more relaxed your hold on them, the better it is for your posture, allowing you to breathe better, not allowing tension to build up, and all this communicated to the baby means a more settled baby.

In many other cultures where they do not have the ‘equipment’ that we have for our babies and women often go about their daily work with their babies in close contact; the way they hold their babies appears much looser and more relaxed. This also encourages babies to ‘hold on‘ to their Mums as soon as they are able, which helps when the odd stumble happens as it inevitably does. (Interesting though how Mums will naturally protect their baby and very rarely drop them- instinct kicks in much quicker than learned habits.)

Check out the following link to a gorgeous video of a Dad dancing with his 2 year old daughter, it shows perfectly the kind of relaxed holding i’m talking about, and you can see that she has been taught to ‘hold on’ rather than ‘be held’ and that Dad and Daughter have perfect trust in each other’s bodies. Beautiful:

Sophie & Itay Yatuv (Contact Improvisation Festival: Ibiza)

For older babies , and toddlers ,the ‘bundle hold’ works really well to allow shoulders to open and relax, using the natural curve of the waist to rest the baby face down ‘under your arm’. It may look odd at first but it is fab for when you are in a hurry and need to have a little run somewhere, for the bus, out of the rain or you just fancy running with your baby!!

Slings that let the baby ‘hang’ and have straps across your mid back are not very good for your posture, as they put too much pressure in one concentrated area. Fabric slings spread the baby’s weight across your front and back and allow for adjustment as baby grows- you can still use them with a toddler. Getting expert advice from someone who has used one before / a professional is a good idea if youre new to them, especially with a new baby as it can be confusing to learn to tie them and ensure baby is well supported- its one of those things that once you ‘get it’ theres no going back!

If your aches and pains are harder to shift i would recommend getting some treatment as well as these practices. Specialist massage therapists, chiropractors, etc should be able to give you an insight into what is going on with your posture and give you some pointers to correct it as well as treating the symptoms. If you’re in Manchester/ Cheshire i highly recommend Sally, Scott, Glo Chiropractor, who specialises in pre and postnatal issues. (www.glochiropractor.co.uk)

Finally, please dont despair! I have seen lots of Mums who have got so used to their aches and pains that they see them as inevitable. With a bit of positive thinking and investing some time and effort to correct bad habits and establish good new ones, you can free yourself from feeling trapped in this cycle! Remember to breathe fully and deeply whenever possible- your breathing can form a bridge to stretching and strengthening poses allowing you to access inner strength and release deeply held tension…..ahhhhhhhhh! Feels good just thinking about it! Im off to do some now after hunching over my laptop!

Yogic perspective on parenting and surrendering to instinct.

I hope the original author will forgive me paraphrasing her work. Uma Dinsmore- Tuli is a yoga teacher and author of ‘Mother’s Breath’, a beautiful book about yoga and Pranayama in relation to pregnancy, birth and the postnatal period. I re-read a chunk of this book last night and this part resonated into todays thoughts.

Uma is discussing each of the 10 aspects of Yama (self control) and Niyama ,(personal discipline) which are two of the eight limbs of yoga. One of these is Ishwara- Pranidhana (‘Awareness of a power beyond us’). Uma relates this to mothering as “learning to trust our instincts as Mothers.” What i love is that she then says “This starts with learning to trust our children, (…) recognising that their ceaseless change and growth is part of the flow of vital energy , which is governed by a force beyond us.“(…) “the child’s wellbeing is a precious responsibility to have, for the child is a force of nature, a manifestation of the divine life with whose care we have been entrusted. Once we recognise this we are on our way to a deeper type of trust. ‘A mother who trusts her baby is trusting herself to trust him. It is a more harmonious way in which one person relates respectfully to another. Once a Mother discovers she can trust her child, she learns a new kind of calm.’ (Stadlen:192)” (Uma is quoting Naomi Stadlen – author of ‘What Mothers Do,, especially when it looks like nothing’ here).

For me this resonates with moments when i have personally found peace in mothering through respecting the natural ability of my child to know how much milk she needs and when (i went with breastfeeding on demand pretty much from birth to 15 months when she stopped gradually and naturally) ; later on, how much she needs to eat, (although i do still stress about her varying appetite i know deep down that if she is hungry she will eat!) and also how to respond physically to her environment (for example learning to climb stairs, and taking her part in being lifted, swung and held upside down doing baby yoga!- these are not passive movements but rely on interaction!)

We hear people talk about Mothers instincts fairly often ( although it would be nice to see this respected a bit more widely eg in the medical profession!), but to look at the interplay of a mother trusting herself to trust her baby’s inner wisdom, for me that is pretty profound! I love it.

What do you think?

The floor is your friend!

The following exercises which utilise the pressure and straightness of the floor to your advantage!, can be done to relieve some common aches and pains of both the pregnancy and postnatal period. You should only practice yoga guided by a qualified teacher , please use as a guide only. Please be very gentle if you are newly postnatal or pregnant or in late pregnancy!

1: Try rolling one buttock to the other from stick pose ( legs strt in front, sit on floor)for tight hips/ glutes.

2: Lie flat, hands holding knees hugged to tum, roll from one side to the other, to massage tight shoulders.

3: Rest in child’s pose, let forehead sink into floor, relax shoulders, feel tension melt into the mat with exhale

4. Aeroplane (shown in pic !) with or without a little person on board to massage sacroiliac joint/ L back.

5. Lie: flat (knees bent up 4 Lback / if preg <3rd trim) / on side (if preg 3rd trim), let floor support u, relax!

Holding and lifting your baby/ toddler without strain

I spend a fair amount of time teaching Mums to relax their bodies, improve their posture and breathe deeply, as well as showing them ways to lift, hold, swing, roll and soothe their babies without strain.

So you would think that i would be the first to notice if i was putting strain on my pregnant physique by lifting my toddler badly,,, wouldnt you?! Well, i have realised that more than ever i need to be aware of lifting her with my knees deeply bent, my bum stuck out in a semi- squat, and approaching the lift as more of a swing than a jerky up and down lift. It is SOOO easy to slip into bad habits because it feels ‘easy’ to lift , carry or feed in a particular way. Focusing on the breath , lifting on an exhale, is a really good way to tie the postural points together and make the lift feel flowing, and to make this way of lifting ‘easeful’, which is much better than ‘easy’!

When tension takes over the way we move and carry ourselves, it gets a grip and does not want to let go! It can be a build up of stress, emotional tension, not enough opportunity to relax and let go or simply being exhausted from parenting, which causes tension to take over in our bodies. Yoga is fantastic for tuning into and then releasing tension and re-tutoring our bodies to keep it out.

If you cant get to a class i hope the pointers above will help.

Think of someone lifting a child making it look like that child weighs next to nothing, and that the adult is holding their own body beautifully , and the lift seems to flow from this inner core of strength and steadiness.

Dr Francoise Barbira Freedman, founder of Birthlight, discovered that the Amazonian Forest people who she observed, encouraged their babies to hold onto them from a very young age, rather than the other way around. Think of the rough terrain and the need to be nimble footed, and this makes perfect sense. I have tried to do this with my little one and although i have nothing to compare it to as she’s my first, i do think it has worked quite well. Of course i hold on to her too, it;s about getting a balance between you holding them safely and confidently, and them holding you but not clinging on fearfully! For me , baby yoga has been the key to developing this balance.

Watching a vintage film of BK Iyengar recently, doing yoga in his younger days with two children; im guessing they are his;( on youtube) i was in awe of the ease with which he lifted them into challenging poses and supported their movements in what looked like a perfect balance of trust and freedom. Inspiring stuff; i hope to bring even a little of this magic into my own parenting and into my classes, for the benefit of as many other parents as possible.

Ohm Shanti x

Be kind to yourself!

This morning, running late for my class after waking up later than planned, then finding time for yoga practice but not leaving time for getting myself and little one ready..  i found myself snapping at my little girl as she pulled the biscuit packets out of my class supplies and wandered off with them! To my surprise she responded by putting the packets carefully back in the bag! I felt an immediate rush of love and regretted snapping at her.

I know very well that anything i leave at floor level will be investigated by her; she often scatters my things while i’m getting ready so why did i snap today? Was she being more annoying than usual??! No! Of course- because i was annoyed with myself for running so late!

I think it’s too often true that we are our own worst critics, harshest judges and worst enemies! And often, when we feel judged by other people, or worry about what ‘people might think’, we are actually projecting our own harsh judgement of ourselves, onto them. Yes we may pick up signs that someone may not agree with or approve of, the way we are parenting our children; or our decisions about work or childcare; or the amount of time we devote to our family versus our ‘me time’, etc etc. But most likely, that person does not give very much time or energy to disapproving of us or our choices! It’s ourselves that focus on this disapproval, and make it grow into something much bigger , feeling how it resonates with our own sense of disappointment with ourselves or having not met our own high standards and interpreting this as annoyance at other people judging us or not giving us enough credit.

My partner commented on something i had forgotten to do for my daughter the other day on yet another rushed morning; i took it on board but felt aggreived that he had noticed this, but not all the things i had managed to do! The thought rumbled around in my head angrily: ‘When was the last time he told me i am a good Mum?’, until a voice from a better place said ‘when is the last time i told myself that i am a good Mum?’. Feeling kinder towards myself immediately took the weight away from my thoughts about him, and brought my focus back to a more peaceful place.

This practice is yoga- i cant explain how in a technical sense without deliving into my ‘Yoga Sutras’, but i know that it is. Raja yoga is yoga of the mind, it is all about gaining mastery of the mind, in order to become free of it. Realising thoughts for what they are is a big part of trying to master them. Replacing thoughts generated by your mind , with feelings generated by your heart, cultivates what Buddhists call ‘Loving kindness’ , which starts with the self. Wouldn’t the world be a more peaceful place if everyone took some steps in this direction? I think so! ( Ok, thats from my mind, from my heart i say, i dont know but it feels right in here!)

Sunshine! Its not too late to top up!

I am lucky enough to be writing this from my holiday in France, where the September sun has already worked its magic on me and my family. Doing yoga in the sunshine has been a real tonic for me and my little one! Experiencing the effects of the sun, as well as the peaceful countryside and good food of course, has made me reflect on and research the effects of sunlight on vitamin D levels and the link with mood and health.

Everyone knows that after a walk in the country on a bright day, or on holiday when you spend more time outdoors, you feel calmer, happier and sleep better. Most of us also know that we need a certain amount of sunlight to make Vitamin D; lack of which has been linked to low mood and tiredness, as well as the more well known ricketts (surprisingly prevalent today).  The publicity about SAD (seasonal affective disorder) a few years back made people more aware of the importance of daylight and its link to mood. On the other hand, increasing awareness of the ageing effects of too much sun and the increasing incidence of skin cancer has caused those of us who grew up in the era of Hawaiian Tropic, to rethink our attitude to sunbathing and commonly to wear facial products with sunscreen on a daily basis to protect against premature aging. Our kids are slathered in sunscreen at nursery and school the minute the sun peeps out (my daughter’s nursery wont let them play out without it in the sunny months). So where do we find the right balance between getting enough sun to boost Vit-D but not so much it is dangerous for our skin? Should pregnant and breastfeeding women take Vit-D supplements? And what about babies and children?

There is conflicting information out there on sunlight exposure and Vitamin D; obviously the climate you live in as well as dietary and lifestyle factors are crucial. In the UK,  the prevailing advice shifted in late 2010 when a consortium of 7 British health organisations (including the British Association of Dermatologists and Cancer Research UK), issued a joint statement taking into account the latest research in this area. This made it clear that exposing your skin to sun for a short amount of time, in the middle of the day, without suncreen, on a regular basis, is important for maintaining sufficient Vitamin D levels in the body. The exact amount of time needed, and how this varies according to weather factors, skin tone and other individual factors, is not specified, as this has not yet been sufficiently  researched. However, the interpretation in many of the newspapers seems to be around 5-15 mins per day, several days per week, in the mid- day daylight ( i hesitate to say sunshine as we don’t tend to associate the British weather with sunshine! And it does not need to be blue skies and blazing sun to get our Vit-D top up). I have previously read that people with dark brown/ black skin need more than twice as much, and those with ‘olive’ or lighter brown skin somewhere imbetween. I could not find any reliable guideance on this however.

Some summary points which i thought to be of particular interest for my client group are:

  • People with darker skin, pregnant women, and babies born to vit- D deficient mothers, are included in the list of people at higher risk of Vit- D deficiency. There are two ways to reduce this risk;- supplements, and increasing sunlight exposure.
  • Regular exposure to sunlight should be sufficient for most people to maintain adequate Vit-D levels. Vit-D made in the body in Summer can be stored for several months, meaning the fewer opportunities for sun exposure in Winter should not mean you automatically need a Vit-D supplement.
  • The best dietary sources of Vit-D which are also pregnancy / breastfeeding friendly, are oily fish, meat, and eggs. Fortified breakfast cereals and marg also contain Vit-D. These foods are not however sufficient to get our full requirements of Vit-D; we need sunshine above all!
  • Some US info and older UK info, suggests that breastfed babies may need Vitamin D supplements; in my opinion, not only is this wrong in suggesting that breastmilk is somehow inherantly ‘deficient’; the 2010 UK advice does not reflect this view. Advice on the Cancer Research UK website suggests that breastfed babies whose mothers are Vit-D deficient are at high risk of Vit-D deficiency. This sounds much more sensible!
  • Babies and children need some sun exposure too, to ensure they are making enough Vit-D. Just as for adults, this should be for short periods only, and never enough to cause reddening of the skin. Extra caution should be exercised with babies and young children as their skin is more sensitive, and prone to sun damage. However, advice to avoid direct sunlight altogether for babies, in my opinion, is misleading. We are not talking sunbathing on a hot day here- playing outside on a bright day , with face and arms exposed, seems likely to be acceptable and achievable for most little ones.
  • Of course, skin type is an important factor for all ages, babies and children in particular. Type 1s ( v pale skinned)  should limit exposure to less harsh sunshine, short periods later in the day on a hot day, or mid dayish on a cloudier day. The best guideline seems to me to be, never anywhere near enough to cause reddening of the skin.
  • My own view is that even though i am a ‘higher risk’ person as i am pregnant and having to share my Vit-D supplied with my growing baby, as long as i spend plenty of time outside , i do not need a supplement. I try to uncover some skin while walking for work visits, working on my allotment, or just sit out in the back yard after work for 10 minutes. I do have a pretty healthy diet but as i dont eat meat, or fortified marg or breakfast cereals, and I replace cows’ with soya milk, this research has reminded me to ensure i eat plenty of eggs and dairy products to keep up my dietary Vit-D. ( i see this as a top-up to the sun-induced Vit-D.)
  • The effects of Vit-D supplementation are still not sufficiently well researched for widespread supplementation to be recommended by health organisations.
  • Cautions apply to any general multivit or combined vit supplement such as fish oils, for babies, children, pregnant or breastfeeding Mums; check it out with a pharmacist.

So, while on holiday or in the sunnier months at home, good advice seems to me for the whole family to be to spend the first 5-15 mins or so with as much skin exposed as possible, without any sunscreen, and then to put on high-factor sunscreen (the days of Factor 8 are long gone….!!) or to get out of the sun. The rest of the year, extra walks or trips to the park, or daring to bare the odd arm or leg, will probably be sufficient for most. Mums afraid of facial sun damage must judge for themselves whether to continue to wear their sunscreen- boosted lotions and potions, and weigh this up against their chances of needing that sun exposure to top up their Vit-D levels.

Humming, and ‘Ohm’! Great for you and your little one…so what does it mean?

In baby and toddler yoga classes i like to work with humming sounds. My pregnancy yoga teacher, Sarah, first introduced me to the idea of humming as being ‘sound healing’ that works for both mum and baby, and it’s an idea i have integrated into my practice and my daily life ever since.

At the most basic, we often sing a nursery rhyme and then hum it, to settle the babies/ little ones down. We also hum while stroking down the babies’ bodies, and practice ‘sonic massage’ (*) which involves humming different sounds( Ram, Yam, Vam, Ohm) into the babies’ bodies. Once Mums are comfortable with making the ‘ohm’ sound i like to use it during relaxed walks, our wind down to relaxation time.

Personally i use the ‘ohm’ sound a lot with my toddler, i find it really useful when she is on her way to a daytime nap, and last thing at night to settle her to sleep. It seems to work well for that ‘fighting sleep’ stage that many Mums will recognise in their babies!

I am almost 6 months pregnant and i feel that my unborn baby also benefits from me using the ‘ohm’ sound. Just as they say babies like to hear, and respond to our voices while in the womb, they also love for us to sing, and to hum or chant! The familiar sound of our voices as well as the healing vibrations of the humming, must be very soothing for them. It also sets up an association where, if you are relaxed while humming/ chanting, your baby feels this, and after birth and beyond when they hear the same sounds they will know it’s time to relax.

So, what exactly does ‘Ohm’ mean? And what is going on when we use this sound, or humming?

I have recently come across an explanation of ‘Ohm’ in ‘The Yoga Sutras of Pantanjali’- Sri Swami Satchidananda’s translation of the ancient writings of Pantanjali- said to be the Father of Yoga. I am going to paraphrase it but it can be found in Book One, it is Sutra 27:

“It is difficult to understand anything without a name. Even if He doesnt have a particular form , He should have a name. ‘God’ is limited because the very vibrations of the letters are limited. So (Pantanjali wants) a name that can give an unlimited idea and vibration and which can include all vibrations, all sounds and syllables, because god is like that- infinite. So (Pantanjali says) His Name is ‘Mmmm’.We cant easily say “Mmmm’ so it is written as OM. Om is called pranava, which simply means humming.

But you need not hum to feel God’s presence. If you hum it is as if you were trying to create god or bring Him into you. There’s no need to create Him, but just to feel him in you. If you close your eyes and ears, and sit quietly, allow the mind to be completely silent and then listen within, you will hear Him humming. He talks to us always , but we talk so loud, we fail to hear His speech. (…….)

The name OM can be split into three letters: A, U and M. That is why it is often written as AUM.(….) So A-U-M includes the entire process of sound, and all other sounds are contained within it. Thus OM is the origin, or seed, from which all other sounds and words come. After the verbal sound ends there is still a vibration. There is always a sound vibration in you that can never be destroyed. You can always listen to that sound if you remain quiet.Even thinking creates a sound, because thought itself is a form of speaking. By thinking you distort the original sound which transcends the beginning, continuation and the end of the OM sound. To listen to that sound you have to keep your mind quiet, stop the thinking process, and dive within. Then you will be able to listen to that hum.(……..)

We should understand that OM was not invented by anybody. Some people didn’t come together, hold nominations, take a vote ,and the majority decided, “all right, let god have the name OM.” No, He himself manifested as OM. Any seeker who really wants to see god face to face will ultimately see him as OM. That is why it transcends all geographical, political or theological limitations. It doesnt belong to one country or one religion; it belongs to the entire universe.

It is a variation of this OM that we see as the ‘Amen’ or ‘Ameen’ which Christians, Jews and Muslims say. Thats doesnt mean someone changed it. Truth is always the same. Wherever you sit for meditation, you will ultimately end in experiencing Om, or the hum.But when you want to express what you experienced, you may use different words according to your capacity or the language you know.”

Relaxation time in my classes is a way to soothe , relax and refresh Mums and babies/ little ones. It can also be a step toward Mums’ own practice of meditation. Meditation can be simply a focusing of the mind, a quiet time where everyday thoughts are allowed to fade, and we focus on our own inner selves. The quote above talks about quieting the mind in order to hear the inner hum of ‘OM’ , or god. This is something that takes a lot of practice and discipline , and most peoples’ initial experiences of meditation will not lead straight to this. However, even a short practice can have huge benefits and i am a firm believer that , especially as a busy Mum, you need ways of achieving relaxation which are easy to fit into your day. So, sitting for an hour’s meditation before dawn may not be practical, but ‘Om’s or humming to your baby while relaxing yourself, probably is not only practical but really useful! I hope that this piece is illuminating for you if only to know what it is that you can aim for. Yoga practice is called practice for a reason!

Om shanti

(*) For more info and instructions for sonic massage see Uma Dinsmore- Tuli’s excellent book on pranayama during pregnancy, birth and mothering: “A Mother’s Breath”.

Family yoga!

Was hoping for an early start before the baba woke up this morning to do some yoga and have some time to connect with the bump! Of course, she was in my bed by morning and awake with me so instead, we had a lovely session together. Our morning yoga sessions go something like this: she (17 months) potters around drinking her milk and scattering toys; i start my practice, by the time i get to downward dogs and cat she decides to join in and we have a game of boo! somewhere under my legs/ head/ arms , and she either climbs on a bit of me or squeezes herself under me! She goes back to playing and looks up every now and again when i do some clicking or clapping into a pose; every so often i ask her if she wants to ‘climb on mummy’s back’ etc, and at some point she might do; then today i hit on the idea of using her teddy (tiger) which she was cuddling; ‘lets do some yoga with tiger!’ tiger seemed to enjoy this and she grabbed him and started doing yoga with him! Although the way she dangled him upside down was a bit more rough n ready than the way i do it with her! She also interjects my practice by ‘having a rest’; throwing herself down into child’s pose , usually underneath where i’m hovering! ‘Have a rest’ is a key part of yoga that ive always tried to instill! At this age it last approx 3 seconds BUT at least she gets the idea!! A few swings and twists later and we all ‘had a rest’ together, even tiger! Little sibling was kicking away in my belly by now and didnt really get the idea but we will let him off!

We have so much to learn in our yoga practice and in life, from children! Her unbridled joy and physical ‘no boundaries’ approach to life inspires me every day. I particularly love the way she squats to play; showing a beautiful flexibility in the hips and leg strength which would take a lot of yoga to regain for most of us adults! ( i noticed when travelling in rural India alot of women , right up to oldies, would squat , both to work, and to have a little rest and watch the world go by!)

Before having a baby i wondered how on earth i would manage to carry on doing any yoga; the key for me has been a new approach, seeing yoga as something to slot in to every day life that is fundamental to my physical and mental wellbeing, not just something i do once or twice a week for a solid hour. Birthlight’s approach has also inspired me greatly, especially in the early days using baby yoga with my tiny one amidst my upside down new life!

I hope you can take inspiration and even if you fit in one breathing practice while the kettle boils and your child potters, do some hip sequence with your little one during a nappy change, or hold them lightly while you focus ‘mindfully’ on a yoga pose or an every day task; you are doing family yoga! Congratulations! x

We love Rolling!!

Rolling and spiralling are key movements in Birthlight baby and toddler yoga. This is not just because they are fun, which they are, but because rolling is very beneficial for our babies and toddlers, and spiralling can help to protect parents’ backs from strain when lifting little ones.

 

These movements stimulate the Vestibular system- responsible for how we orient ourselves in space and learn to balance. They also echo both the rolling which babies do inside the womb, and the journey made through the birth canal and into the world. (These movements are said to be especially important for babies born by C-Section.)

We progress in baby yoga classes from mini- rolls ( not the chocolate kind!!) , rolling from Mum’s shoulders to lap, rolling up and down Mum’s thighs, to a roll all the way down Mum’s legs , stopping for a tickle, then all the way up to her arms for a kiss! It’s loads of fun and babies who have gained head control seem to love being able to see the world from a roll! Even tiny babies can do mini rolls up and down Mum’s upper arm!

By the time little ones are rolling over by themselves they will find this movement really funny and try to propel themselves with Mums help! Toddlers will learn to roll themselves along the floor, first with Mum or Dad’s help to guide them; then by themselves! My daighter has just mastered this and rolls all over the floor until she meets furniture! Another favourite practice in older baby and toddler classes is joint rolling, where parents and little ones take it in turns to roll down the middle of the room, with plenty of cushioning for sticky out bits! Parents’ arms naturally protect their little ones and although most are nervous about trying this in case they squash the little one, if down in a relaxed way it is perfectly safe and feels so natural! Great for confidence building as well as delighting you both!

Tumbling and Flying with your baby / toddler!

Holding babies upside down is a key element of Birthlight baby yoga! We progress gradually, ensuring both parents’ and babies’ confidence and physical readiness, from gentle rocking and short, supported inversions..by the time they are toddling we are skydiving together, encouraging them to turn themselves, and giving them a really good look around while upside down! WHY? its brilliant for their development- helps their vestibular system develop, gives them a sense of balance in 4-d, increases their physical confidence and joint confidence between parent and baby, and is great for development of the trunk muscles and head and neck strength! Whats not to love about that?!

Win a gorgeous Yoga Mat!

Your chance to win a beautiful jewel coloured mat (pictured below!) in your choice of colour, by SIMPLY!:

1. Subscribing to my blog- via my website, click on ‘Sign me up’ on RHS     OR

2. Following me on Twitter- via my website, click on ‘Follow’ on RHS, if you’re not already on Twitter this should take you through sign up- it’s dead easy and wont keep bothering you with email updates like a certain other social networking site!…..               OR

3. Becoming a Friend on Facebook AND ‘Like’ing my business page; ‘The Calmechanic Holistic Therapies and Baby and Toddler Yoga’. There should be a link to this page via a flag on LHS of my profile, or a link on the top underneath my pics

A Winner will be drawn on Thurs 11th Aug so hurry! Winner will be asked for their choice of colour.

Baby Yoga Testimonials / Feedback

Chorlton Class@ The Yoga Rooms, Jan- Mar 2011:

“It was a nice bonding activity for me and baby, an opportunity to meet other Mums , and relaxation and gentle exercise for me. A really good course, even better than i expected, especially liked rocking moves, and how to hold and lift baby safely. A really nice activity to do with your baby!” (Mum to Leon, 2 months)

“There were lots of songs that my baby likes”(Mum to 3 month old)

“An enjoyable class, which was facilitated well.” (Mum to 5 month old)

“The best bits were stretches for baby, and lifting safely.”

“The massage was the most useful, it was about relaxation and communicating with my baby. Thank you”

“The exercises are gentle and help you get fit after baby”

One to One sessions with Tanya and Robert, Spring 2011:

“It was even better than i expected! More yoga for me than i expected which i really liked. I loved the ‘Sonic massage’ and so did Robert. I would recommend these sessions and look forward to toddler yoga! Thanks”

Hale class@ Balance Studios, Jun- Aug 2011:

” Milly loved it and i was always tired and chilled at the end of the session!” (Mum to Milly, 5 months.)

“The breathing and relaxation exercises have been wonderful. Feel very refreshed walking out of class. Baby loves the songs and stretches which push knees into abdomen, we do this at home now.” (Mum to 5 month old )

“The best thing was taking time to stretch properly, especially the back stretches”. (Mum to 4 month old)

“I learned to work with Jack and accept when he doesn’t want to do something. He likes being stretched at home.” (Mum to Jack, 7 months)

“The best things were taking time to relax, drop my shoulders, concentrate on my posture and breathing. Having a moment to relax and focus. Milly loves all the moves and songs (I dont think i will ever forget ‘Mr. Sun!’)”( Mum to Milly, 5 months)

“The best thing for me was doing things like holding Lola above my head, upside down, etc as i tend to ‘wrap her up in cotton wool’! – it’s good for her to have more freedom!” (Mum to Lola, 5 months.)

 

 

Win a gorgeous Yoga Mat!

Your chance to win a beautiful jewel coloured mat (pictured below!) in your choice of colour, by SIMPLY!:

1. Subscribing to my blog- via my website, click on ‘Sign me up’ on RHS     OR

2. Following me on Twitter- via my website, click on ‘Follow’ on RHS, if you’re not already on Twitter this should take you through sign up- it’s dead easy and wont keep bothering you with email updates like a certain other social networking site!…..               OR

3. Becoming a Friend on Facebook AND ‘Like’ing my business page; ‘The Calmechanic Holistic Therapies and Baby and Toddler Yoga’. There should be a link to this page via a flag on LHS of my profile, or a link on the top underneath my pics

A Winner will be drawn on Thurs 11th Aug so hurry! Winner will be asked for their choice of colour.

Buy a Gorgeous Yoga Mat -£14!

New in- Beautiful jewel coloured Yoga mats. £14.Choose from Amethyst, Jade, Rose, Sapphire, Amber and Ruby.

These are Yogamatters sticky yoga mats , high quality and light to carry. A mat will help you practice yoga at home both with and without a little one- provides padding, stops you slipping in poses like downward dog and warrior, and gives you some dimensions to judge your poses by. Its great to have one for your baby / toddler yoga sessions (however short these are ! 10 mins is enough!), as it acts as a symbol to your little one that it’s yoga time! (mine starts to do the stretchy hello song when she sees me get mine out!)

Its also nice to have your own mat to take to classes as you know only your own feet/ palms have been on there!!

Places available in Hale and Sale Baby Yoga classes for August/ Sept- Booking now!

Now rebooking for the next block of baby yoga classes at Light of Hope, Sale , Trafford / Cheshire, and Balance Studios , Hale , Cheshire. Sale – Friday morning baby yoga class ; Hale – Tuesday morning baby yoga class.

Please see ‘classes – where and when’ for details. Email or contact via facebook/ twitter to book your place. See you there!

Please click on the tabs above to find out about holistic therapies (home visits), Birthlight baby yoga classes, SMART Toddler yoga classes in Manchester.

Thanks for visiting!

Pregnancy Massage , Manchester and Cheshire

Pregnant? Manchester / Cheshire based? Want a really good massage to get to your achey bits, release tension and totally relax you?… I’m your woman!!

I am qualified in pregnancy massage and massage techniques for labour. I currently offer pregnancy massage home visits in Manchester , Trafford and Cheshire and will bring everything i need to make you super-comfortable! Women who are regularly massaged in pregnancy report improved feelings of wellbeing, and improved perception of their experience of labour.

I will tailor the treatment to your needs and your stage of pregnancy- please contact me to discuss and ask any questions.

Friday Baby Yoga now in Sale, Manchester / Cheshire

Baby Yoga class Fridays 10.30am-12pm, The Light of Hope Centre, Sale, Cheshire ; please see ‘Classes- where and when’ for details.

Beautiful new venue, class is for babies aged approx 2 months to 10 months and their adults!

Get stretching, breathing, and having fun with your little one! Learn how to improve your posture while feeding, carrying and lifting your baby to relieve back ache and prevent strain.

Please click on the tabs above to find out about holistic therapies (home visits), Birthlight baby yoga classes, SMART Toddler yoga classes in Manchester.

Thanks for visiting!

Baby Yoga in Hale! Starts 28/6/11. For babies 3- 10 months.

This class is now full but if you are interested please contact me and you will be put on the waiting list for when a place becomes available. The class runs on a rolling basis but is payable in 6 week blocks (£55). This class has plenty for babies right through to the crawling / walking stage, at which point they will be ready to start my SMART toddler yoga class. this makes Birthlight baby yoga unique as many postanatal yoga classes are designed for younger babies only. Please see http://www.birthlightbabyyogamanchester.co.uk for more info if you are not already looking at the site!

Please click on the tabs above to find out about holistic therapies (home visits), Birthlight baby yoga classes, SMART Toddler yoga classes in Manchester.

Thanks for visiting!

New! Aromatherapy….mmmmm!

To complete the experience of one of my massages you can now choose from two aromatherapy blends.

I have carefully selected two blends that are not only gorgeous to smell , but will increase the benefits of your treatment.

The Master Aromatherapists at Base Formula UK have created ‘Detox’ (Encourages elimination of toxins- a punch of Orange, the balance of Juniperberry, and the base note of soothing Patchouli) and ‘Tranquility'(Soothing to the mind- the sweetness of Neroli, the calm of Lavender, the quiet strength of Sandalwood and notes of beautiful Palmarosa and calming Frankincense).

And, if you love these oils as much as i do, i sell them for you to take home to put in your bath , or persuade someone you love to massage you! These oils are not available in the shops and are 100% natural. £7.99 (100ml)

I also sell childrens aromatherapy products including ‘Little Hero sleep balm’, guaranteed to……no, ok not guaranteed to put your little ones to sleep when you want!…,but guaranteed to smell beautiful and to be a lovely calming part of your bedtime routine! £5.99 (15ml)