Always running! Even on Mother's Day!

Ready to go!

Ready to go!

Happy belated Mother's Day!  Being a mom in modern times means always being on the go, right?  So this Mother's Day, I started my day much like any other: running!  Though quite literally: the Jenny's Light annual 5/ 10k & Kids 1k Run through Vasona Park, along with my two Littles and mama-friends Michelle and Belinda (and their Littles, too).  Jenny's Light is an organization with a mission near and dear to my heart: "to improve and save lives by increasing awareness of all perinatal mood disorders including postpartum depression." This is the third time I have participated in their run.  (The first time I walked the course with baby Maceo in an Ergo- that may have been tougher than running!)

"The Flash" waiting for the race to start

"The Flash" waiting for the race to start

Running is not exactly my favorite thing, but I keep at it for my health (ok, I run so I can eat a little extra ice cream without it showing...too much).  And I do love the feeling of crossing the finish line.  But for those 20 to 30 minutes I'm actually running, I have to dig deep and use all of those mental endurance tricks I recommend for labor.  You can do anything for one minute...over and over and over.... Just get to that corner, just get one more block, just past that tree (much like taking labor one contraction at a time). Focus on the breath, feel the sensations in the body without judgment, resistance, or attachment to it being different.  Let go and accept all that is in this moment.  

Often times while I run, I reflect on how challenging labor is- and how easy I have it, comparatively speaking, running just a few miles.  Today I gave it my all for the moms who have endured the extreme challenges of postpartum depression, anxiety, and psychosis.  My pace was about half a minute per mile better than it has been lately and a 5k is a little further than I run on an average maintenance day.  (You real runners out there, don't laugh! Mad props to those of you who do 10ks, half and full marathons like it's no thing!) No matter how hard I worked to cross that finish line, it's nothing compared to the struggle that many face when they become mothers. I can't think of a more appropriate way to spend Mother's Day than to participate in a racing event that raises money and awareness to support new moms struggling with postpartum mood disorders.  Thank you to everyone at Jenny's Light for this wonderful event and all of the life-saving work you do!

The home stretch!

The home stretch!

So...it wouldn't be a complete blog post without the race results: Maceo left me in his dust, coming in third in his age division with a chip time of 23:57.  (Not a typo! That's a 7:43 minute per mile pace and he's only 8! I'm still in awe, myself!!!) His pace improved by a full minute per mile since the Santa Run in December (in which he still beat me by a long shot!) Arya ran her first race, running the entire Kids' 1K without stopping- a huge improvement from her usual half-a-block-without-stopping when we run our neighborhood together. Belinda's 3-year-old completed her first 1K, with only a little help from her mama.  Belinda and I came in together- she claims I set the pace, but the truth is that I was struggling to keep up with her the first half...and she gave birth just a few months ago. (What's my excuse!?) And Michelle crossed the finish line strong pushing her toddler in the jogging stroller, which adds a giant layer of challenge, if you didn't know.  All in all, it was a great turnout for all of us today.  The only "fail"?  We forgot a finish line group selfie.  Gives us something to aspire to next year!    

Please take a moment to check out Jenny's Light, and all of the resources they have to support new families. If you are struggling with motherhood, you are not alone and there is help!  Please reach out!  

No room for mommy judgment!

Bitmoji.jpg

In this age of social media, we have so much access to information...it certainly has it's advantages (it's good to know stuff), but there are plenty of disadvantages as well.  While I'm a huge fan of evidence based information (the good kind, not the stuff that is based on a small sample size or is poorly designed or what-have-you), why does it always seem to come to us in the form of "study says this, so if you can't manage it, you are FAILING."  

I recently had an innocent conversation with a respected colleague and friend who recommended a workshop for parents about infant sleep.  Apparently research was presented that showed that babies who were left to "cry it out" fared less well in the long term, neurologically speaking.  Whether or not this is true was irrelevant to me...all I felt was judgment!  And I didn't even try the cry it out method! While these studies may be true, as humans, we don't exist in a bubble.  There are thousands of factors that go into how we "turn out."  Don't get caught up in these narrow "rules."

Scrolling down my Facebook feed, I have seen all kinds of studies: breast is best, don't let your kids watch too much TV, don't let them eat processed food, make sure they read hours everyday, do this, do this, do this, don't do that....Sweet Jesus!  Can I breathe for a second here!?  Most recently, this spot-on quote from Bunmi Laditan made its way into my feed:

"How To Be A Mom in 2017: Make sure your children's academic, emotional, psychological, mental, spiritual, physical, nutritional, and social needs are met while being careful not to overstimulate, understimulate, improperly medicate, helicopter, or neglect them in a screen-free, processed foods-free, GMO-free, negative energy-free, plastic-free, body positive, socially conscious, egalitarian but also authoritative, nurturing but fostering of independence, gentle but not overly permissive, pesticide-free two-story, multilingual home preferably in a cul-de-sac with a backyard and 1.5 siblings spaced at least two year apart for proper development also don't forget the coconut oil.

"How To Be A Mom In Literally Every Generation Before Ours: Feed them sometimes.

"(This is why we're crazy.)"

Crazy, indeed!  

If there is one thing I've learned from 16 years of parenting, it's that all of this mommy-judgment is utter Bull. Shit.  It's worth the strong words! Being a mom is hard, in so, so many ways!  We all want to do what's best for our kids and with all of the "shoulds" and "should nots" out there, it's enough to drive a lady crazy!  And it often pits mom against mom when all we really need is each other's support! Here's a few more strong words: Fuck that!

I often tell my students, "Just do the best you can, get through the day, and all that really matters is that you love your kids."  I stand by those words, and today I add a few more: Love YOURSELF!  That means be kind to yourself. Don't waste your precious time feeling like you are not doing a good enough job or regretting the decisions you made (especially if they were "choices" between two equally rotten scenarios).  If it helps for me to spin it to your children's advantage, loving yourself teaches your children that they should love themselves.  Being kind to yourself when you intentionally choose something "lesser" for your own sanity teaches them it's worth taking care of yourself.  Making mistakes and letting go teaches them they don't need to be perfect to be loved. They deserve it, and mostly YOU deserve it!

On this Mother's Day weekend, may you wear a giant, invisible judgment deflector.  I hope you will give yourself a huge pat on the back for all you do and demand whatever makes you feel good.  And if putting your feet up and reading a book is your cup of tea, check out Laditan's new novel Confessions of a Domestic Failure: A Humorous Book About a not so Perfect Mom.  I haven't read it yet, but it's sure to be a good one.  I'm going to add it to my summer reading list and enjoy even if it means I lock my kids outside for the day. I'm certain they'll be fine.   

Why I love teaching yoga!

Twenty-six of the many reasons I love teaching yoga in no particular order:

1.  Meeting lots of cool people from all walks of life.

2.  Making a difference, if only a wee bit, in the lives of new moms.

Hillary Easom and me...When we're not looking goofy at Giants games, we're looking goofy teaching yoga. (Check out her classes at Blossom and Samyama.)

Hillary Easom and me...When we're not looking goofy at Giants games, we're looking goofy teaching yoga. (Check out her classes at Blossom and Samyama.)

3.  Hanging out with that gal on the left.  Best teacher training partner evah!

4.  Supporting women as they become mothers.

5.  Moving my body.

6.  Making stupid jokes and getting laughs most of the time.

7.  Constantly learning new things about the human body. Constantly learning new things about MY human body.

8.  Sharing tools to empower mothers in their birth experiences.

9.  Watching babies turn into toddlers turn into preschoolers and all of their brain expansion that happens along the way.

10.  Holding space for joy, frustration, sadness, pride, anger, excitement, anxiety, confusion, love, fear, silliness, amazement, exhaustion, strength, confidence, insecurity, concern, regret, hope, to name just a few of the thousands of emotions mothers feel.

11. Making new friends.

12.  Smelling babies. (They smell so good- it's not creepy at all!)

13.  Going to work stressed out and leaving blissed out!

14.  Saying Sanskrit words and pretending I speak a language besides English.

15.  The most comfortable work wardrobe evah!

16.  Answering questions and helping moms understand all of their maternity care options.

17.  Conjuring the magical healing powers of yoga! Even though I know how it works and it's not actually magic- it sure feels like magic the way it works so well most of the time.

18.  Staying flexible- literally and figuratively.

19.  Belonging to two great communities: Blossom and Yoga @ Cindy’s!

Love me some power tools!

Love me some power tools!

20.  Supporting yoga instructors to become pre and postnatal yoga instructors and getting to know some really cool gals along the way. (Next training starts August 4 in Palo Alto!)

21.  Walking around barefoot and having an excuse to keep my toes pretty. (Write off that pedicure as a business expense!)

22.  Maintaining balance and flexibility to get up on ladders with power tools and install clouds on a ceiling.  

23.  Making cool musical playlists for class.

24.  Practicing all the parenting tools (life skills, yo!) I learned at Sunnymont-Westside, the best preschool evah!

25.  Great excuse for taking long walks: need to geek out on podcasts about body mechanics to prep for class.

26.  Overusing exclamation points!!!!!!

Diastasis recti: A "gap" in care

When a mom comes to my class in the postpartum period, I always ask if she has a diastasis recti (DR). "A what?!" is the most common response.  What the heck is "diastasis recti"?  If you have never been pregnant, chances are you've never heard this term.  Let's be honest- even if you have been pregnant, you may not know what this means!  According to biomechanist, Katy Bowman, a DR is "an unnatural distance between the right and left halves (of the rectus abdominis), meaning that one (or both) of the halves has pulled away from the midline of the body."  We often hear an explanation of a "split between" or "separation of" the ab muscles, but given that the rectus abdominis is a set of separate muscles on the right and left sides of the body, there is always a little bit of a natural space between the sides at the linea alba (midline). A DR is when this gap has moved further from the linea alba than is natural for that particular person. Usually, no pain is felt as a direct result.  

So why do I bother checking in with new moms in my classes?  Many moms are concerned with "getting their body back" after having a baby, especially in the mid-region, which may feel flabby, weak, or just stretched out.  Looking to solve this "problem" (I put that in quotes because the real problem is not the post-baby body, but the pressure we feel to go back to something we no longer are- a blog for another time!), moms may start a regimen of crunches, planks, or other intense abdominal pressure that contributes to DR and only makes the weak paunch worse!  While there is a common understanding that we should take care while pregnant, few understand that the postpartum body is even more fragile than the pregnant one!  Self-care is critical in this time!  

Note that I wrote "check in" with new moms, not "check" new moms.  As a pre & postnatal yoga instructor, it is my job to educate and empower, but it's out of my scope of practice to diagnose anything, including DR. I rely on doctors to diagnose my students and provide them with medical treatment/ guidance.  Unfortunately, when it comes to DR, doctors aren't doing what I have erroneously perceived for many years to be one of their jobs in tending to postpartum moms. After so many of my students came back to class after having their babies and shared that nobody had talked to them about DR, much less checked for it, I connected with a friend who is a well respected obstetrician in the area.  I was shocked at what she shared!  To sum it up in a nutshell, she had never even heard of DR until she was out of medical school and numerous patients were asking her about it. (She then educated herself so she could help her patients.) 

Apparently, DR is just not something OBs are taught to diagnose or treat. The likely reason is that DR is considered cosmetic by insurance companies, and therefore something they are not willing to cover. And doctors tend to approach issues medically- in other words, treating with medication or surgery, which is uncalled for in the vast majority of cases of DR, particularly those in the postpartum period. So it makes sense that doctors would not check for something that surgery is not the answer to and insurance wouldn't cover anyway.  And herein lies the gap in care: doctors have the scope of practice to check for DR, but cannot/ will not treat it, so they don't bother diagnosing.  As a yoga instructor, I do not have the scope of practice to check for it or diagnose, but I do have the knowledge and training to help most moms repair their DR through exercise and simple lifestyle changes. And I can't help them if they don't know they need it!

That said, let's assume a new mom knows she has a DR.  If a typical postpartum gap between the abs isn't painful and is considered cosmetic, why bother with it anyway?  (Seriously, you have so much to worry about when you are a new mom!) Because from a functional health perspective, DR is NOT cosmetic- a large gap between the rectus abdominis can lead to other issues over time: digestive problems, back pain, pelvic floor problems, etc. And in immediate terms, new moms want to feel strong, healthy, and of course look good! Which is why they are at risk to worsen their DR in the first place. 

So what is a new mom to do!?  First, DO ask your OB or midwife at your postpartum visit to check for diastasis recti. The more moms ask, the more providers will realize it's something they should know about.  If the response lacks confidence (like, "oh, I'm sure you're fine, why are you worried about that?" or the provider barely touches your tummy- your abs will need to be engaged and palpated firmly for a proper check- then says you are fine), know that you may not be able to trust their diagnosis (or lack thereof).  I say this not to undermine the wonderful OBs and midwives in our community- I mention it because I have had a number of postpartum students given the pass by their health care providers to start intense abdominal exercise only to worsen a slight DR to a very problematic one.  

JoeM.jpg

Second, check yourself: lie on your back with your knees bent, feet hips distance apart, take a deep breath in and raise your head on the exhalation.  This will be enough to engage your ab muscles, so that you can feel for the gap that runs vertically down the center of your torso.  You will need to press firmly while your head is lifted.  I find it easier to feel right above my belly button, then follow the little "valley" of the linea alba down my torso.  See the pic on the right for a little inspiration. (Yes, underneath our mom paunches, we do have those same set of muscles.) If the gap is the same width all the way down- about a finger or so wide, you're likely without a DR.  If there is a place where it feels wider, then you may need to do some rehabilitative exercises to bring it back and make some changes in your everyday habits in order to fix the underlying causes.  Which brings me to the next point...

Third, making simple lifestyle changes to improve posture, alignment, and overall structural health is good advice for everyone and will have positive effects on the body, including core stability and preventing DR. In addition, if you're baby is less than six months old, err on the side of caution!  Focus on the simple lifestyle changes in how you sit, stand, and move. Avoid high impact abdominal exercises and start slowly and mindfully when the time does come. Yoga, with the guidance of a qualified postpartum yoga instructor, is fantastic way to move your postpartum body!

And lastly, if you are not sure, or you think you have found a gap, find a physical therapist who specializes in postpartum issues- definitely in their scope of practice to both diagnose and treat diastasis recti.  If you are in Silicon Valley, ask me for referrals!

DR is not uncommon in the immediate postpartum period, and for most people it is easy to address.  Just be aware of the support you need and who is best suited to provide it.  Avoid the "gap" in care!  

To learn more about Diastasis Recti, check out Diastasis Recti: The Whole Body Solution to Abdominal Weakness and Separation by Katy Bowman. She also has a wonderful podcast called Katy Says.

  

The Driving Lesson

IMG_0616.JPG

This past Sunday, I took my daughter to a parking lot for her first driving lesson.  It was supposed to be scary.  It was supposed to be stressful.  That's what the world tells you.  "Oh my!  Lookout!  Another teenager is on the road!"  Yes, I've made the jokes myself.  But instead of white-knuckling the dashboard, instead of yelling, "the brake, the brake!!!" I actually enjoyed myself! 

It was quite the lovely and rare bonding experience- a cherished moment between mom and daughter.  I enjoyed her colorful commentary on the feel of operating the car. We had a good laugh when we discovered a "pygmy basketball hoop" and I couldn't help but get out of the car to mime a slam dunk.  Pulling into a parking slot, putting the car in park, and jumping out to see how evenly she was between the lines, then trying it over and over again turned into a game.  We made jokes, we laughed, we had a great time! The fear of her crashing my car was nowhere near that parking lot.  

Recently during the conversation portion of my Prenatal Yoga class, it occurred to me that the anticipation of teaching my daughter to drive was kind of like the anticipation of labor.  Lots of people tell you it's awful.  They say, "Just get the epidural!" Every TV drama rushes mom to the OR and every comedy has mom yelling at her partner, "YOU did this to me!!!!"  Of course expectant mamas are terrified!  

But sometimes labor is awesome!  Sometimes it's really hard work, and the feeling of conquering every contraction outweighs the pain tenfold. Sometimes there is laughter, jokes, or even overwhelming ecstasy! (See Orgasmic Birth.) Sometimes things take an unexpected turn, it wasn't the experience mom had hoped for, and nevertheless, she realizes the thing she most dreaded was not so bad after all.  Yet, the prevailing message mothers hear is that labor is scary, difficult, and only worth it for the baby in the end.  How do we shift our thinking so that however it unfolds we can find the joy, the strength, the triumph in the process?

Surrendering to the present moment, letting go of expectations, being with what is and detaching from what isn't...this is the key to finding joy- whether it's powering through labor or teaching your teen to drive or anything else for that matter!  Mindfulness is a simple concept, that can be very challenging to implement.  Fortunately, every moment is an opportunity to practice and it gets easier and easier the more one practices. The breath is always there as an anchor. Take a deep one and hand those keys over with a smile!