My yoga journey began after my fourth child. I joined a gym and thought I’d give yoga a shot. I loved it. I had finally found my exercise niche. And I didn’t just love the physical aspect of yoga but the mental/spiritual/emotional aspect as well. When I got pregnant with my fifth, I continued yoga all the way up until days before she was born (with modifications, of course). Yoga has so many benefits for you during pregnancy, such as flexibility, endurance, energy, and positivity. It also can greatly benefit you in labor. Here are five ways yoga can help prepare you for labor:
1. Strength. Holding yoga positions helps build muscle tone and strength. And let me tell you, you’re going to want it. Labor is hard work physically. Walking for miles, swaying on a birth ball, doing lunges, getting in and out of a hospital bed or birth tub, and squatting are all some of the various things you will do in labor that will require strength.
2. Flexibility. Yoga helps keep your body and joints flexible. Some labor positions, such as
kneeling on one knee while having your other knee up and off to the side (see picture below) require flexibility. Keeping your pelvis nice and flexible can also help baby properly descend and rotate.
3. Positioning. Baby’s position in utero is a contributing factor to how your labor goes. You know those cat and cow’s you do in yoga? Guess what? They help rock your baby into an optimal position. Other examples include butterfly pose which help keep your pelvis nice and open to allow the baby to find space to descend and rotate, and inversions which can help a baby flip head down.
4. Physical relaxation. One of my favorite things in yoga is a guided meditation including tensing and releasing. The yoga instructor tells us to tense and release one part of our body at a time until we are fully relaxed. How does this help you in labor? Tense muscles hurt more. If you are tensing up your muscles in labor, it will literally feel more painful. Learning to read your body and know where you’re holding tension AND knowing how to then release that tension will go a long way towards helping you with your pain coping skills. How else does physical relaxation help? Have you ever heard your yoga instructor say that your teeth shouldn’t be touching or your jaw shouldn’t be clinched? That’s because there’s a direct correlation between a clenched jaw and tense muscles elsewhere in your body, and this is especially important in labor. Tense jaw means tight pelvis. Tight pelvis means baby can’t descend, rotate, and exit so easily. Relax your jaw, release your baby.
5. Mental relaxation. Labor can be a big mind game. Slow labor, fast labor, no signs of labor all take a mental toll. The ongoing series of contractions can be exhausting to your psyche. Thinking too much in labor can impede your body’s natural birth process. Being able to turn off your thinking brain (neocortex) and dig deep into your primitive brain (amygdala) can allow your body to take over and do what it’s meant to do: birth your baby. Yoga can help you learn and practice this skill. Often instructors will give you visual imagery to help learn mental relaxation, such as, having you picture a river and if thoughts pop up, let them glide down the river and away like floating leaves. Some people find mental relaxation the most challenging part of yoga but if you can practice it often in pregnancy, it will help you in labor.
Yoga is amazing for every realm of your life: the physical, emotional, and spiritual. Yoga benefited me before my pregnancy and will continue to benefit me long after. So, why not give yoga a try during your pregnancy and enjoy all these amazing benefits? Namaste, my fellow yoginis.
I don’t know about you but I tend to get a little ahead of myself. I get caught up in the excitement of whatever is happening in my life that I go a little overboard. And then I overwhelm myself and none of it becomes exciting. And that’s just sad.
Let’s take, for example, my life right now. I homeschool four children (from the ages of 8 to 13) and have a 2 year old toddler as well. I am a certified birth doula and am currently in more doula training to add to my knowledge. I am an ever-aspiring yogini who is hoping to begin yoga certification this Spring. I also serve in my church in the women’s organization. I love learning about and using essential oils and creating my own beauty products. I also am an avid reader and have found that I really love this whole blogging thing. But what all these interests add up to is TIME. They all take time. Good, precious, wonderful time. They are all worthy endeavors of my time, but that doesn’t mean I can create time out of nowhere. I still have to budget and balance and schedule and prioritize my dreams and goals.
So recently when the opportunity to pursue blogging through another website came up, I jumped at it. I asked for more info. I got excited. I thought of all the things I could do with this opportunity. And then the dread started settling in. How can I possibly find time to write more often than I do now? Can I make such a commitment?
And the rational answer hit me: no, I can’t do that now. I need to stop trying to run before I can walk. I need to stop wanting to do it all now and, instead, enjoy the things in my life I do have now. So here are six ways we can all do this:
We all have the same amount of time every day to get things done; it’s what we do with it that counts. I may not be able to reasonably spread myself as thin as I wish I could but if I stay positive and enjoy the opportunities I am currently involved in, then my life will feel substantially more meaningful and full. I'll be able to enjoy the season of life I'm in now.
I talk to my children all the time about adolescence and the perception of being different from their peers as being bad. It didn’t dawn on me until I started reading Brene Brown’s book, Daring Greatly, that the same happens to parents as well.
Just the other day, my daughter who is almost 14, told me about girls in her class who were talking about what they got for Christmas. Most of them said clothes. She said she wanted to say that she got Shopkins but was afraid they would think she was immature. This fear of standing out, of being different, affects us all.
During adolescence, we all struggle to find out who we are as individuals but in our pursuit, a dichotomy forms of the good and the bad. What I like is good, what I don’t like is bad; what is familiar is good, what is different is bad. However, the problem with this way of thinking is that just because something is different, doesn’t make it bad. Just because my daughter likes Shopkins, shouldn’t make that a bad thing in the eyes of others who do not like Shopkins. However, because the other girls in my daughter’s class were happy about different gifts than my daughter had received, she internalized that as a direct criticism of her gifts. She felt she was different and, therefore, bad.
But different isn’t bad, it’s just different.
Now let’s equate this to parenting. Look on any library or bookstore shelf in the parenting section and I guarantee you will find a whole slew of books claiming to have the right approach to parenting. For years, I couldn’t even look at those books because if they suggested different parenting techniques than I used or was comfortable using, I thought that meant I was a bad parent (different = bad). Brene Brown says:
“Our need for certainty in an endeavor as uncertain as raising children makes explicit ‘how-to-parent’ strategies both seductive and dangerous. I say ‘dangerous’ because certainty often breeds absolutes, intolerance, and judgment. That’s why parents are so critical of one another--we latch on to a method or approach and very quickly our way becomes the way. When we obsess over our parenting choices to the extent that most of us do, and then see someone else making different choices, we often perceive that difference as direct criticism of how we are parenting.”
Seriously, my mind was blown when I read this. This is exactly what I had faced and confronted for years as an insecure mother, and sometimes I still face it. When others are confident in their parenting and proclaim (overtly or not) their way to be THE way, what does that say about me and my parenting if it’s different? That I must be doing something wrong? Absolutely not.
Different isn’t bad, it’s just different.
It took me years to realize this though. Every one of us was blessed with different upbringings, experiences, and personalities. And each of our children will have their own set as well. Each situation and relationship is different and we need to respect and praise those differences instead of fearing, rebuking, or self-criticizing.
What we need is a spirit of love, compassion, understanding, and non-judgment when sharing with others our parenting experiences. Is it good to give tips that have been helpful to you to new moms? Probably. Is it good to chastise the mom who lets her kids sleep in her bed because that’s something you would never do? Definitely not. Her choices may be different than yours but that doesn’t make them bad, just different.
Just as I want my daughter to embrace every beautiful unique quality she has and recognize how good she is, I want all kids and adults to recognize this as well. Brene Brown said, “the question isn’t so much ‘Are you parenting the right way?’ as it is: ‘Are you the adult that you want your child to grow up to be?’” When we as adults can set the example of loving and accepting our differences, our kids will learn and grow from that as well.
Last week, after having the honor of attending the celebration and funeral for a beloved wife, mom, grandma, and friend, my thoughts turned to what made her such an amazing mother and if those same words could be said about me. I thought about the stories that were shared about her and the traditions she loved. I thought about all the many moments that composed her life that were full of grace and compassion and love, fierce love.
I thought about the moments that compose my life. The sweet ones, the happy ones, and even the not-so-good ones. The times that I kept my cool, the times that I didn’t. I thought about the moments to come and what I wish for them. How I wish I could be more creative and consistent with family traditions. How I wish I hugged my children more; put my phone down more to take the moment to look in their eyes so they could see the fierce love I have for them. How I hope and pray they know that I love them through my words and actions.
And then I felt overwhelmed. How can I change and do those good things more? I have bad habits. I have selfish tendencies. I have inner struggles between wanting to give my children all my attention versus teaching them to be independent. I feel conflicted with my schedule and finding balance between my physical and emotional needs versus my children’s. I struggle to know how to discipline my children to correct negative behavior while still letting them know I love them.
And in a flash, I felt incapable of change. I dismissed all the good I’ve done in the past and feared the mistakes I will surely make in the future. I felt defeated.
As I experienced these emotions, I remembered the vulnerability of laboring women. I remembered how I breathe through the contractions with them; how I remind them that all the contractions that have come and gone are over; how I encourage them not to worry about the contractions to come. And it dawned on me, the same could be said to all the little moments in life we experience every day. All the moments that have already gone by, for good or bad, are over. All the moments that are to come will come, whether we worry about them or not. All we can do is breathe through each moment. Live it, experience it, and do our best. As my son whined today about having a headache and not having the right spoon he wanted, I had a choice in that moment of how to be his mom. I chose to calmly tell him I was sorry he didn’t feel well and that he could choose a different spoon. I thought, “This was a good moment.” Breathe in, soak it in, and move on. That moment has already come and gone and I don’t know what future moments are in store but I’m choosing now to not stress or worry about how to “be” then. I choose now to take each moment one at a time.
When I was pregnant with my first child, I was apprehensive about breastfeeding. I wondered what it would be like to nurse my baby. I was surprised to find that nursing felt as natural to me as loving my baby. But there were other surprises as well, like that a good latch didn’t come as naturally. I spent the first month nursing my baby in pain because she was sucking on the tip of my nipple, and not the whole areola. I had been told so many times nursing hurt that I thought that was normal. It was not. My poor nipples and my baby’s lips ended up with blisters on them! Once we got that figured out, it got easier.
We all have had our own surprise experiences with breastfeeding and I believe sharing our stories with each other will help us all grow stronger as moms. So what surprises have you had? Here are some quotes of surprises, for good and bad, from moms just like you:
"Good: the connection between breastfeeding. I love that we have something that's just ours.
Bad: the pain. Even after 2 breastfed babies. The beginning pain isn't fun." - Stormy
"Good...when you get the hang of it, it's awesome. Bad...it's not as easy as sticking your boob in their mouths. It's a lot more complicated than I ever thought it could be. I had little support and breastfed and supplemented until I finally switched to just formula with my first at six weeks. We never had much of a breastfeeding relationship. It was painful, he would cry and scream, he was constipated from supplementing and eventually was put on soy formula at nine weeks. Breastfeeding is amazing, the bond, knowing you are what baby needs, you alone can comfort them, there's something about knowing your baby only wants you, that special time when you don't have to share so much because you are so much to them. They grow so fast and that stage doesn't last long, but I enjoy every moment of it." - Sabrina
"I am surprised at how much I love breastfeeding and how supportive everyone is of me still breastfeeding my almost two year old." - Amelia
"I am surprised that every kid is different with BFing. Each kid I have I learn something new and the BFing relationship goes on longer and longer. I LOVE it!" - Jen
"Bad: the first few weeks because of the pain and insecurity. I have a low supply and have to supplement, the feeling of inadequacy was hard with the first. I was surprised it took until after I was done nursing to learn that my kids tongue tie was the reason we had so much difficulty despite seeing LCs and pediatricians about it. Good: once BF is established the ease and comfort, breathing in the baby's breath and the eye contact, their warmth. The love. The good was totally worth the bad." - Amanda
"Good: How easy my sweet boy made it. He knew immediately what he was doing. Very thankful for that since he is my first. Bad: My supply on one side is significantly lower. They look like lop sided water balloons. Not cool." - Kayla
"Exclusively pumping is breastfeeding too. I tried everything I could and instead of giving up I do one of the hardest things I've ever done in my life. Not everyone recognizes it as breastfeeding, which makes it even harder. I know breastmilk is the best for my baby and I'll do whatever it takes to give it to him. Bonding over breastmilk can also happen through a bottle, it just takes an open mind and a strong will!! I now have an over supply of milk and I am able to not only feed my baby but I can also donate to help another mom." - Jodi
"I had no clue about nipple shields and lip/tongue ties before I had the baby. Had to quickly learn all about milk supply and how to pump, how to do everything I could to get him just to latch with the shield. Also, that if I'm going crazy while breastfeeding at night it's okay to pump and bottle feed during that time. Better for our relationship." - Courtney
"Bad: you actually can truly have low supply as a mom and it's not always just the latch or a need for lactation cookies (I have IGT); no one talks to you about how LONG nursing takes (it's not 0 mins every 2-3 hrs, it can be 45 mins every 2-3 hrs!). Good: you never realize how much you want to breastfeed until you have your baby (especially after you learn of low supply issues)" - Anonymous
"I thought breastfeeding was going to come so naturally. After all, my mom, grandmother, aunt, and sister all nursed successfully. I didn't understand why I had so many issues and nobody could help me. Not until I found support in Le Leche League and For Babies Sake did I realize I was not alone." - Caren Nugent
"The most fun part of breastfeeding is the bonding experience! I love when baby is old enough to really smile at you, and they just pause a nursing session to look at you with that adorable smile, milk dribbling out, nipple half in... It's just the cutest thing ever!" - Aimee Garcia
"What I didn't expect with breastfeeding problems was that chiropractic care could be the answer to fix them. My son wouldn't latch for 2 weeks so I had to pump then syringe feed him. He finally started to latch then I developed thrush for 8 weeks. I finally went and saw an IBCLC after that, and she helped me discover that a misalignment in my son was causing tons of the issues I was having. I took him to get an adjustment from an ICPA chiropractor and it started the path to correcting all his issues! I also was surprised my milk took a week to come in when I didn't have a cesarean!" - Brooke Harralson
"I was surprised at hungry I was when I was breastfeeding! I felt like I could sit around and eat all day and I looked forward to every mean and snack!" - Maria Pokluda
"I was terrified of breastfeeding because so many of my friends and family had quit or never even tried, saying it was "too hard" or "too painful" or "too inconvenient." But I was determined to make it work despite the negativity around me . I took a breastfeeding class during pregnancy and had a lactation consultant on call to come within 24 hours after the birth. I was very pleasantly surprised that my baby and I both took to breastfeeding so easily and learned that it's not hard with the right resources and support; pain is not normal; and breastfeeding was so convenient for us! I always had "free" milk available and at the right temperature and I loved the built-in mommy & baby bonding time. Breastfeeding may not come as easily with the next baby, but I love knowing I'll have a knowledgeable, positive support system surrounding me." - Kacy Bunte
"I was surprised at how breastfeeding affected intimacy with my partner. I just didn't really think of him being involved in that part of our parenting. It was awesome that I could playfully shoot him with milk from across the room, and that he was there to lovingly support me as I nursed my daughter through painful thrush. The breastfeeding experience brought us closer as a couple and a parenting team." - Jennifer Swiney
"I am still surprised at the negativity I encounter. It seems like everyone around me mindlessly says "breast is best" but they have no idea on how to follow through with that slogan. So when it comes down to some breast work it's easy for people to become uncomfortable, defensive, and not so understanding." - Jennifer Johnson
"I was so surprised that I really was able to exclusively nurse twins. And we continued for a year and a half! Within that there were other surprises--like how sweet it was that they held hands while nursing and how annoying it was that when they got a little older they tried to push each other off. I was surprised at how great my breasts looked while nursing all of my kids and how disappointing it was when they "deflated" after. :-)" - Emilie Wilson, a mother of 5 breastfed children
"I was surprised that breastfeeding not only put my son to sleep, but also me. I wasn't familiar with all the hormones involved before I started breastfeeding. Now, I can't fall asleep without breastfeeding!" - Maryellen Yates
Birth Boot Camp Certified Doula (BBCD)