Thanksgiving turkeys and...elephants!?

Thanksgiving is just around the corner.  You can tell because social media is filled with daily gratitude posts and Starbucks is serving both pumpkin spiced lattes and peppermint mochas. I’m on board with all of those things, especially the gratitude.  We live in a culture where the focus is often on what we don’t have than what we do have and most of us “struggling” financially in costly Silicon Valley still have more wealth than most of the world. It’s really nice to see the focus shift to appreciation even for just a short time each year.  

That said, as we approach the holidays, let’s not ignore the elephant in the room. Staying in a place of gratitude can be really challenging when the responsibility of cooking a huge meal for twelve is solely on your shoulders. Or when you feel obligated to spend thousands of dollars and a ton of sanity flying the family across the country to see the in-laws (as delightful as they may actually be).  Or when Aunt Em is demonstrably offended by your vegetarianism as she passes the turkey. (It’s not personal, Aunt Em! Really!) Or your brother who just can’t get enough of telling racist jokes...Or simply just navigating the aftermath of breaking your baby’s routine. Even if you are filled with gratitude, even if you are blessed to be in a family with very little drama, the holidays can bring up all kinds of difficult, crazy emotions.  

That’s normal and that’s perfectly ok.  

In my own case, it’s my yoga practice that has supported me to get to a better place with these sorts of issues that the holidays bring up.  A strong mindfulness practice, knowing how to ground myself- first physically, then emotionally, and recognizing what is known as “maya,” the illusion that distorts our perception of reality, have all helped me to open my heart and enjoy the holidays more than ever. It’s what leads me back to a joyful, abundant state of gratitude.

Thanksgiving 2016: We had a lot of piggies at our table, but no elephants!

Thanksgiving 2016: We had a lot of piggies at our table, but no elephants!

Like most yoga teachers, I felt called to teach because of the huge impact the practice has had on my own well-being. It has allowed for deeper connections with my partner, my children, my extended family and friends and most profoundly within myself. It’s deeply fulfilling to watch my students actualize these connections in their own lives.

And so I offer up a special Thanksgiving practice on Wednesday, November 22 at 9:00am at Blossom. This class is open to all members of the community- it is NOT specifically pre or postnatal, so it’s a great chance for those of you who have aged out of my other classes to practice with me once again. (Limited childcare is available onsite for a small fee.) We will focus on grounding, heart-opening practices so that we have the tools to tend that elephant in the room on Thanksgiving Day. Find nothing but joy in connecting with family and friends this holiday season! Let your yoga practice be your guide!

Investing in Your Birth Experience

Giving birth is not just a means to becoming a parent.  It is, by its very nature, a transformative experience that not only turns a woman into a mother, but her partner into a parent, their parents into grandparents, their sisters and brothers into aunts and uncles….While there are few sizable studies exploring the lasting impact of a birth experience on a mother, a small research project by Penny Simkin illustrates how mothers remembered details of their births 15 to 20 years later. I certainly remember my first birth experience in vivid detail and today my mom can tell me the story of my birth just as easily as the first time she shared it with me in my childhood.  So why is it that the average person does not bat an eye at spending tens of thousands of dollars on their wedding, but calls a birth class, which costs a fraction of the average wedding dress, “expensive”?

My wedding was great and all, but I don’t have much to show for it besides a fun time and an awesome husband.  (And I didn’t need the fancy wedding to keep the guy.) My births, on the other hand, have left long-lasting impressions, both good and not so good- emotionally, physically and mentally. Every penny I spent on my birth education and maternity care was worth it!

Krystal teaches an awesome VBAC class at Blossom

Krystal teaches an awesome VBAC class at Blossom

Birth classes and doula services (and anything else, for that matter, that will contribute to a positive experience) are not expenses- they are investments!  Bonding with baby, connection between partners, confidence in parenting, a healthy body and mind- these are all things that are impacted immensely by the birth experience. Living in Silicon Valley, I am no stranger to a budget, but there’s nothing more valuable than starting a lifetime with your new family off on the right foot. It’s absolutely worth giving up Starbuck’s for a year or skipping that monthly date at the movies. (You'll have plenty of time to catch up on Netflix those first few weeks glued to the couch with a nursing baby.)

As you consider your options for a birth class or a healthcare provider, remember that you get what you pay for. It may be worth it to pay a little extra out-of-pocket to have a doctor or midwife who spends the time to get to know you and truly supports your wishes when it comes time to meet your little one.  Resigning yourself to a particular provider or birthing facility just because it’s the easiest given your insurance, may result in compromising the things that are most important to you regarding your birth.

As for your birth class, taking one through your hospital may be less expensive than through an independent educator, but may not offer you all of the information to arrive at your labor with confidence. Is the focus of the class on your options as a maternity-care consumer or on you following their rules and being a “good patient”? In this area, the average hospital birth class is only six or eight hours long in total, may have ten or twelve (or more!) couples, and may not have the time or resources to adequately cover labor coping techniques, pros and cons of standard medical procedures (and how to know if they are in your best interest), or time for your questions.  By contrast, the average out-of-hospital class, has six to eight couples, runs for twelve to twenty hours, and focuses on giving you the tools to navigate all aspects of the birth experience, from coping physically with contractions to understanding all of your options and communicating them to your maternity care team. Check out Blossom Birth in Palo Alto for a variety of birth class options and let me know if you have questions. When I’m not teaching prenatal yoga or herding my three kiddos, I’m wearing the hat of Blossom Program Manager.  For classes further south, I recommend Harmony Birth and Family. There are also numerous independent educators in our area.  

There is no one right way to give birth, and you have every right to make it the best possible experience for you.  Having the information and support to navigate the experience can make all the difference. Birth classes, doula services, a doctor or midwife who sees you as an individual, and prenatal yoga classes are just some of the ways to prepare mindfully for birth and all that follows.  I can think of no worthier investment!

The best holiday for mummies like me!

The whole Fam, my folks included, fit in Spina Farm's giant chair!

The whole Fam, my folks included, fit in Spina Farm's giant chair!

Halloween is nearly here and I am bursting with excitement!  As far as I’m concerned, it’s the best holiday of the year.  It starts a few weeks ahead of time with a wonderful trip to the pumpkin patch. The orange pumpkins against the blue sky is just gorgeous and makes for a fantastic family photo op. (If you’re a Halloween purist, like me, you go to the real pumpkin patch on the farm.) Kev and the kids decorate our yard. This year we grew our own pumpkin patch right out front which has made a nice backdrop for our “graveyard.” Then the night before Halloween, we have our pumpkin-carving extravaganza.  Our family has a tradition of getting take-out from LaVilla (“Got Ravs?”) in Willow Glen and watching “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.” It’s the perfect incentive for my Little Guys to finish their carving, clean their mess, and get showered.  While all of that is happening, we’ve got pumpkin pie baking in the oven and a huge pot of veggie soup brewing on the stove for our annual Halloween shindig.  The next evening, friends come over just before sunset, we have a huge photo op out front to showcase all the costumes, then we try to get the kids to eat some soup before we head out for some wonderful trick-or-treating!  

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Honestly, I think the number one reason I became a mother was to resurrect my opportunity to go out trick-or-treating.  I’m not embarrassed to admit that I was almost old enough to drink legally the last time I went out on my own. The couple of years between, I borrowed kids from friends so I didn’t look too silly going door-to-door.  Yeah, I guess you could say I LOVE trick-or-treating. And costumes- I love the costumes, too! It’s so much fun to come up with a creative idea and be something or someone else for a night. Last year, Kev and I were Pacman and Ms.Pacman. The year prior, Adam and Eve. (Don’t worry, we wore beige body suits.) My favorite was the year we were the Wonder Twins and Jeannessa, barely two at the time, was our space monkey Gleek.

Pregnancy offers another layer to make a costume fun.  Since two of my three babies were born in July, I only got one opportunity with a bump on Halloween.  That year I dressed up like a comical old miner, with suspenders and a long beard, straight out of a Scooby-Doo cartoon. My beer-belly looking bump gave it a little oomph. I’ve seen so many creative pregnancy costumes I just love!  Check out these really creative ideas (including some Star Wars stuff, woot!).

I’ve never really understood the thinking that Halloween is a kids’ holiday.  Historically, it certainly wasn’t.  The whole tradition of dressing up and going door to door for candy evolved from times of yore when people would put on scary costumes to scare away spirits on the eve of Samhain, when it was believed the veil between living and dead was at its thinnest, and travel from farm to farm.  At each house, they were offered snacks to sustain them through the night.  Jack-o-Lanterns lit the way.  So, I’d like to think I’m just kickin’ it old school with all of my Halloween shenanigans.  

This year, I invite the mummies to celebrate with me!  Come to my Halloween-themed classes October 29- 31* showing your Halloween spirit (costume, accessories, or just a fun Halloween T-shirt) and you will get a raffle ticket to win a Starbuck's Pumpkin Spice Latte (or whatever you fancy- I’ll give you a gift card).  If both you and your little one come dressed up, that’s two raffle tickets!

*Classes include:

  • Prenatal Yoga at Cindy’s on Sunday at 9:45am
  • Mom & Toddler Yoga at Blossom on Monday at 10:30am
  • Mom & Baby/ Toddler Yoga at Cindy’s on Tuesday at 10:00am
  • Prenatal Yoga at Cindy’s on Tuesday at 11:45am

And whether you can make it or not, please post your Halloween costumes on my Facebook page!  I absolutely love seeing everyone’s costumes, especially pregnant mamas and the wee ones. Happy Halloween Witches!!!

Monkey See...

Monkey See...

Monkey Do...

Monkey Do...

Monkey get in trouble too!

Monkey get in trouble too!

I reserve the right to change my mind

As Hillary and I wrap up our Lotus Blossom Prenatal Yoga Teacher Training and I begin Dharma Path Advanced Studies at Samyama, I am reminded of an important principle in my teaching (Or shall I say my learning?): I reserve the right to change my mind.  Said another way, “when you know better, you do better.” A good teacher never stops learning, and it’s a strength, not a weakness to be able to come to class and say, “You know that thing I’ve been telling you every class for the last ten years?  We’re not doing that anymore because yesterday I learned something better.”

I've learned much better alignment since I was pregnant with my son in 2008. ;-)

I've learned much better alignment since I was pregnant with my son in 2008. ;-)

My students know how passionate I am about alignment issues and pelvic floor health.  We often discuss how kegels (at least how they are taught to the masses) are outdated and should be abandoned by the average mom.  Yet, there was a time I didn’t teach prenatal yoga without leading kegels!  Recently, in putting together a Powerpoint presentation for a new class at Blossom, I came across a blog post by Katy Bowman that was in response to a video produced by “the Kegel Queen” Alyce Adams. It led me down the rabbit hole into their friendly debate.  Theses ladies presented fabulous information on both sides, and ended up at a fairly similar conclusion. For now, it won’t change what I am teaching in my classes, but I accept that as I learn more, it likely will! There are multiple sides to every issue and we need to be open to learning new things and trying them out.  There is nothing wrong with changing your mind.  

In the political discussion (especially in recent years), I’ve heard criticism of candidates who “flip-flopped”- who basically supported one stance on an issue, then changed his or her mind to a different stance.  I know not every change of political ideals is for authentic reasons, and that’s a whole other can of worms. So that point aside, don’t we want government leaders who can learn from experience and research and see that their original ideas aren’t in the best interest of our country?  Changing a stance on something is not inherently a bad thing.  Frankly, it’s just the opposite.  It’s pretty messed up if someone in office is presented with compelling evidence to change their stance on an issue, yet refuses to do so just to save face. Thanks goodness I’m not a politician!

Zen Master Shunryu Suzuki said, “In the Beginner’s Mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.”  If variety is the spice of life, then “many possibilities” feeds the soul a very tasty meal!  The longer I teach, the more I approach my practice, both as a student and as a teacher of yoga, with Beginner's Mind. I’ve always been a person who questions things and I love looking at research, picking it apart, looking at it critically.  The older I get, the more I realize how little I know.  Approaching things with Beginner’s Mind gives me the opportunity to grow from my explorations and I hope my students are reaping the benefits. Furthermore, being open to learning new things or simply looking at things from a different point of view has taught me compassion and the ability to connect with a diverse group of people. I want to thank all of my students and trainees for all that they have taught me!

North Bay Fires! Burning too close to home...

This week I set aside my usual prenatal yoga ramblings to honor the victims of the California Fires, especially in Sonoma County.  I started my college experience at Sonoma State, and lived in the area for my first few years of college. Watching your old neighborhood be evacuated and getting reports directly from friends who live there is surreal and so very personal.  (The fires in Nevada County were a bit personal, too- my parents lived there part time until recently and I did some of my prenatal yoga training in the area at the Expanding Light, part of the Ananda Community connected with my children's school). My heart is heavy.

My yoga practice embodies a couple of elements that are of particular comfort when tragedy strikes. First, be in the moment.  Be present for those in need by being present within. Notice the thoughts, feelings, physical sensations that arise and allow them to be, without judgment, without resistance. You never know what life may bring- good or bad.  All we have is now.  Live in it.

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Second, yoga practice doesn’t just happen on the mat.  Yoga exists in all that we do with the awareness in how living beings are connected. This is the yoga of right action. If there is one beautiful thing in such a devastating tragedy, it’s how people pause their lives and come together. I have been getting regular updates from friends directly affected by the fires to figure out the best way to help.  There are supplies going up to the area to meet immediate needs of evacuees- I know individuals who are making trips and learned that Sports Basement is collecting supplies to be distributed through their North Bay stores. If you would like to donate money (often more effective as items can be purchased in bulk and victims get the the exact items they need), a friend in Santa Rosa shared that Redwood Credit Union is a reliable recipient with all proceeds going to victims.  Or, if you want to get more personal, Staci Wolfe is a friend from my college days who lost her home. You can donate directly to her family through their GoFundMe page.

Okay, I just can’t say anything without bringing in a little baby analogy...many parents will have a new baby and everyone they know stops by with a meal, a gift, encouraging words.  Then after a few weeks or so, the excitement wears off and nobody is around to help as the family adjusts to real life with a baby. This may happen with the fires, too. Once the fires are out, the tragedy is not over. Families will need support for months, likely years as they rebuild their lives. If you are not sure how to help or where to donate now, you may just hold off for a bit and ask how you can help in another month or two or six. I will be donating and exploring ways to rally support in the months to come. In the meantime, my home is open for anyone seeking shelter from the fires.  

For reliable, up to date info on the fires, see Sonoma Fire Info.  Stay safe, my friends and neighbors!