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!

“Normal” vs “Common”

Imagine this frequent occurrence during check-in of prenatal yoga classes. “I have a little bit of a backache (or heartburn or leg cramps or sciatica or pain at the front of the pelvis or….), but my doctor says this is just a normal part of pregnancy.” *Sigh* What moms are hearing is that there is nothing they can do about their discomforts.  Imagine how many suffering moms could enjoy their pregnancies if their doctors instead said, “These are common discomforts of pregnancy, but they do not indicate any sort of health issue. I’m here to solve issues that may threaten your or your baby’s health, but alleviating common discomforts is not my area of expertise. Let me refer you to a chiropractor (or an acupuncturist or a physical therapist...or most simply a PRENATAL YOGA CLASS.)” Sheesh!  

"I don't mind a backache in pregnancy," said no mom ever.

"I don't mind a backache in pregnancy," said no mom ever.

Let’s be clear about the difference between “normal” and “common.”  Dictionary.com defines "normal" as “conforming to the standard or the common type; usual; not abnormal; regular; natural.” When doctors say something is normal, the implication is that because it is “regular and natural” nothing can be done. Moms are resigned to accepting these discomforts- especially if their doctor is the only prenatal professional with whom they have contact.  “Common” by comparison, means “widespread, general, ordinary, of frequent occurrence.” And indeed, backache, heartburn, sciatica, pubis pain, leg cramps, etc. are common occurrences when moms are expecting.  Hearing that they are common, rather than normal, allows moms the space to seek relief and to know they are not alone. A doctor admitting that comfort measures for pregnancy is generally not a part of their medical training and referring to a practitioner that does focus on alleviating common discomforts takes it one step further.

As a prenatal yoga instructor, it’s out of my scope to diagnose the source of discomforts, and certainly anything that could be medically related, so I always encourage my students to mention their discomforts to their doctor or midwife in case it could indicate a real health problem.  Most of the time though, it’s just a common pregnancy discomfort and a typical prenatal yoga sequence will address and alleviate the issue.  When there is a real medical issue in pregnancy, obstetricians are ah-mazing and I am so grateful for their expertise!  But when the issue is a common pregnancy discomfort, they are not much help.  A good prenatal yoga instructor will address these common problems and refer when their practice does not do the trick.

Did you have a discomfort (or two or more!) in pregnancy?  What was the most effective form of relief?  Please share in the comments.  

The "Right Question"

Keep stretching, Kev! You'll touch your toes in no time!

Keep stretching, Kev! You'll touch your toes in no time!

This morning, my husband, Kev asked me a question that made me so happy!  It wasn't "Hey, want to get away with me to Tahiti?" or even just, "Would you like your shoulders massaged?" I definitely love questions like that, but today he asked me something of a much different nature: "Can you give me three or four exercises to improve my body? Something specific so I have a goal to work towards?"  This question absolutely thrilled me!  I've joked that Kev is the poster child for how sitting all day will wreck your body. (In all fairness, I should note his sedentary job pays most of our bills, so there’s that.) His hamstrings are super-tight, it's hard for him to lengthen his spine, and as a result, he suffers from back pain.  When we finally are able to retire, we have lots of travel to catch up on, and I don't want his body to limit us!  (Or mine, for that matter!) But I also know that nagging him about moving his body won't do any good, so I try to tread lightly.  

So of course, I was super excited that he is thinking about battling his sedentarism and working towards eliminating his back problems. His question however, was not exactly the "right" question.  And he is not alone in not quite asking the right question. Recently, I had a mom who had concerns about her pelvic floor.  I went into my usual explanation (somewhat oversimplified for brevity) of pelvic floor health, how doing a million kegels may actually cause more problems than it solves, and how improving alignment and squats are a better bet. She seemed satisfied with my answer and went on to ask, "So how many squats per day should I do?"  

The problem with this question and Kev's is that they are looking for a prescriptive answer.  Like, "do these three exercises daily," or "ten squats a day should do it."  I give them both credit for even asking these questions and thinking about how to improve the way their bodies function.  However, bigger strides will be accomplished by getting out of the paradigm of exercise. That's hard to do in our culture, in which technology that allows us to sit more and does things for us, is highly celebrated. Movement research is centered around exercise, comparing completely inactive groups to those who do a certain activity for a certain amount of time at regular intervals, like this one from the British Heart Foundation that recommends that middle aged women should exercise 2- 3 times a week to reduce risk of heart disease and stroke. I'm not going to argue with the results, but I'd love to see a study comparing people who sit around most of the day and exercise a little bit with an industrialized population that moves all day long, without officially "exercising." Maybe there aren't enough of the latter to even do a study! It's pretty common in this day and age to sit all day and "make up for it" by going for a bike ride or hitting the gym after work. (Blows my mind that there's actually a market for gyms to be open all night long!) But Mother Nature designed humans to move, move, move. There’s a big trend towards paleo eating, yet nobody is talking about paleo moving!

Shifting out of the “prescriptive exercise” paradigm, a better question would be "What can I do to reduce pain/ discomfort in my body and increase mobility?" Or in the case of my expectant students, “What can I do to bring more comfort into my pregnant body, increase my chances of an easier birth, and speed up the recovery process in the postpartum?” And the answer to both questions, generally speaking, is to move more.  Most sedentary people will need a transition period that may require some exercises to get to that place of mobility.  But the goal of course, is having a body that feels good, not ticking exercises off a to-do list.

Me, actually writing this blog.

Me, actually writing this blog.

So how might Kev, or the mom concerned about her pelvic floor, or YOU bring more movement into a modern life? Squat to pick up something dropped on the floor or when you are working in the yard. Walk to work, or take public transportation or drive and park a mile away then walk. (Kev, I’m looking at you!) Avoid modern furniture and sit on the floor as much as possible. Instead of driving to a movie, walk there or make date-night a picnic and a hike. (It’s cheaper, too!) Go to IKEA! While many second or third-time moms complain they are more tired than during their first pregnancy, they also express feeling better overall.  My hypothesis is they get more movement in their lives by chasing after their older child. Take the opportunity to crawl around on the floor with your toddler- it does wonders for the back and positioning of the baby!

Hey Kev, I bet hiking in Tahiti is amazing!  And giving your wife a shoulder massage will work muscles in your hands and arms.  On second thought, the right questions ARE “Want to get away with me to Tahiti?" and, "Would you like your shoulders massaged?” ;-)

There are tons of ways to bring more movement and better alignment into your life if you get creative. Use the comments below to share your ideas.

My friend Christina

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I'd like to introduce you to my friend Christina.  We met six years ago at Sunnymont-Westside, the preschool I think you all should seriously consider for your children.  It changed my life in so many positive ways.  One of many is my dear group of friends, which includes Christina.  We hike together, swap kids, double-date, commiserate, encourage each other, and geek out on make-up together (more on that later). We both LOVE ice cream and we both are sensitive to caffeine. Our kids are close friends that drive us crazy with their shared Pokemon obsession.  Our husbands are drinking buddies.  It's all around good stuff.  

One thing I really love about Christina is she is the kind of person who promotes positivity and wants to raise up other women and girls.  She struggles when her daughter is mistreated by "queen bees" on the playground and does what she can to raise kids who are kind and thoughtful.  Her Facebook timeline is filled with memes that say things like "Raising my kids is the most exhausting thing I am grateful to do" and "If it doesn't challenge you, it won't change you" and "Give more attention to what is right in your life than what is wrong" and "Beauty is not in the face, Beauty is a light in the heart." She is deeply appreciative of all that she has and writes heartfelt thank you notes. Completely devoted to her family, Christina works hard to be one of the best moms I know.

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So a few years ago when she decided to start her business as a Younique make-up presenter, of course I wanted to support her. I'm generally not the kind of person that likes the home marketing stuff, but since I'm a huge fan of Christina and I think make-up is fun, I gave her a chance.  Three years later, all of my MAC make-up has been completely replaced by Younique product and I love it!  As it turns out, MAC was irritating my eyes in a way that Younique does not and they still have all the bright, fun, crazy colors that I like. And since my whole career (my life!) is devoted to supporting moms, it feels pretty good that my make-up budget is allowing a hard-working mom to do work she loves while being available to her kids. As a company, Younique has a mission of supporting and empowering women. Their Younique Foundation provides healing opportunities for survivors of sexual abuse. That's a mission I can get behind. 

So back to that geeking out on make-up thing.  I love make-up because it suits my theatrical side.  It's a way to be a grown-up and get to play dress up anytime I want.  I do it differently almost everyday.  Christina gets so excited about what she does! I love when I get a moment and catch her Facebook Live tutorials. Her inner beauty shines when she is working on the outer beauty. She appreciates the selfies I send her on the days I love my look, treats me to her new tips and tricks, and gives me first dibs at the new releases. When I drop by her house, she often greets me with something like, "I've got to show you this new lipstick..." or "You're going to love the new mascara..."  (And she's right! Love me some Epic Mascara!) She did Jeannessa's make-up for prom and sometimes she practices on my face, which I think is so much fun.  It makes me feel like a teenager again! 

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If you want to check out Christina's fun tutorials, or try out the Younique line, find her at validatingbeauty.com.  Or send me a note and I'll add you to her fun Facebook group, where you can get all kinds of fun and practical make-up tips from a real person, rather than a beauty "expert" who has no idea of the demands of motherhood. (Five-minute face: yes, please.)

Being a mom is a challenge.  Being a mom in Silicon Valley adds an extra layer of challenge.  It brings me great joy to support the moms in my community, whether it's through our yoga practice, exchanging reassuring words with a mom on the street, or supporting a local mom-preneur. Please share your favorite mom-businesses in the comments below or just some positivity!  Let's be like Christina and spread the encouragement and good vibes around!

Looking for more movement in your modern Silicon Valley lifestyle? Find it at IKEA!

My students know that my philosophy of a comfortable, healthy pregnancy can be summed up in one word: movement.  And I strive to embody this simple concept myself.  My Fitbit confirms I walk a minimum of five miles daily and adds up my "active minutes." (Despite my aversion to the medical community over-quantifying things, I've become a little obsessed with counting each and every step. Thanks Fitbit!) However, movement is not the same as exercise and being "fit" does not necessarily mean our bodies are in optimal shape or pain-free.  In our sedentary culture, we think we can make up for sitting all day long by going out for a quick run or a bike ride or an evening walk.  Unfortunately, it just doesn't work that way. In the case of pregnancy, comfort is directly related to how much movement (not necessarily exercise) moms get.  I've witnessed this on the regular with my lovely students!

During the summer, it's pretty easy for me to get more movement in my life.  With kids out of school, we go outdoors together.  A lot. Walking to the park, the grocery store, urban and nature adventures, sports...I encourage climbing, playing, exploring and lead by example- it's easy because it's fun!  (Why should the kids be the only ones climbing trees!?)  As they go back to school, and I know cooler weather is on it's way (although it may not seem like it with the recent heat wave), I'm thinking about how to keep up the level of movement.  I figured it out yesterday at IKEA!

Kev and I have been on the hunt for a new couch and a few other things to spruce up the house, and with the kids first day of school, it seemed like a perfect time for him to take the day off and go with me to IKEA.  We have a tradition of getting up super early on the first day of school to get bagels at Izzy's on Cal Ave, and then there was the back-to-school parent reception, so we didn't take our usual morning walk. Nevertheless, by the time we picked them up from school, we had racked up more steps, more burnt calories, logged more mileage than an average day.  The movement itself was quite a bit more varied than our usual activity, too: operating those crazy carts with the wheels that turn all directions, lifting large heavy boxes, and a half hour plus of hoisting a boxed-up couch onto our roof rack and the task of two clueless people tying it down and praying it stayed for the ride home. (Somehow we are still married! And it did make it home...although IKEA may be out of rope now, lol.) At home, there was the unloading and starting the projects of rearranging the house. By the end of the day, I burnt about 500 more calories, had a total of 114 "active minutes" (Fitbit doesn't count active minutes until you have been stepping for at least 10 minutes, so I'm sure there were a ton more that were in shorter-increment spurts), and had over 14,000 steps compared to an average day- all with no "exercise"!

So of course, I'm not going to need a new couch for quite some time (although I'm going to need at least one or two more trips to IKEA before our project is done), and if you are expecting or have a new baby, I don't recommend hoisting a couch onto the roof of your car...but all of us can certainly hit IKEA on those days when the weather is bad.  Or better yet, perhaps I can offer to accompany my pregnant mamas when they need a new couch!  I'm only slightly joking. Try me. Then not only will I get the movement in, I'll rack up some karma points, too. You may have to get me a cinnamon bun in the checkout line, though. 

Izzy's everything bagels with jalapeno cream cheese and tomatoes. Yum!

Izzy's everything bagels with jalapeno cream cheese and tomatoes. Yum!

It's a miracle the couch made it home!

It's a miracle the couch made it home!

Out of stock, another trip is in my near future

Out of stock, another trip is in my near future