A Big Fat Update and the joy & grief of the season

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Wow, I am so happy to be finally sitting down to WRITE. It's not that I haven't wanted to, not that I haven't been inspired to. As happens to so many of us, I've simply had only so many hours in a day, so many hours to do, and so many hours to be quality company with my family and with those that are dear to me. Writing to you all is dear to me too, so here I sit.

A note about this time of year... 

We are in a time called Yama Damstra in the Vedic calendar. In Ayurveda, the junctions between seasons are very important to take care of our health and clear accumulating doshas and āma (toxins). This particular junction between fall and winter is especially important. It’s a time to really take care and to turn inward, to see the inner light. Yama is the lord of death, and it is said that in this junction, the souls of all those who will not be strong enough to make it through the winter are collected. So it’s a time of re-affirming self-care and strengthening of resolve and practices - toward those which affirm life and health, and away from unconscious tendencies, ill health and ultimately death.  This is a great time to strengthen our own inward practices of breathwork and meditation, of various sorts. As this is also a time of celebrating winter holidays, usually with rich food and drink, it will be a time to ask oneself "is this wise action right now?" If you ask me, moderation would be wise. Do enjoy though, being light of heart is good medicine.
I see this also as a time of tending to our loved ones and those in need. Maybe they need us to help them get strong as this is not their time to go, and maybe some need our support to help them make that ultimate transition. Pull your community close, lend your support and ask for help for yourself if it's you that needs it.
Last year at this time, a dear co-madre left this world during this very time. She was pregnant, her death a complication of her pregnancy. I think of her so often, as she was also an Ayurvedist, midwife and a force of compassion and light in our community. She continues to inspire me, whispering in my ear "isn't life just beautiful? Don't take it for granted for one single moment!"

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A couple weeks ago, on the dark moon, I went to my daughter's school in the evening to watch the children carry paper maché lanterns they'd made themselves (these are pre-schoolers, so sweet) and sing songs about their lanterns reflecting the light of the stars above. It was so beautiful and such a perfect meditation for this time of year.

So can I share with you what's happened since I last wrote? Well, at least what seems most pertinent here, because I mean, lots has happened that probably won't interest you.

Co-founder Kerry Meath had a new baby and moved on to new work. I'm flying solo over here, other than my excellent collaborators that jump in from time to time, such as Karina Mirsky who contributed some beautiful content for the Ayurveda for Women course. I love being on my own in many ways, but will continue to bring in dynamic people who have beauty to share with us.

I'm pregnant! when Mama Ayurveda co-founder Kerry Meath was pregnant, we blogged weekly about what she was experiencing. I had hoped to share about my experiences more, but time gets away and now I'm 28 weeks pregnant, entering the 3rd trimester. This is my second pregnancy and I experienced a lot more discomfort in the first trimester than I did with my first. I have a whole new level of compassion for women who are very sick in pregnancy. I had several weeks there, where I could do almost nothing, and where I had to be on top of calories, protein, remedies constantly in order to ride the wave of illness and not let it overtake me. I totally get it. And that experience is really informing my support of pregnant women.
Finally, at about 16 weeks, I really started to feel like myself again. Phew! I'm once again planning a home birth and really looking forward to being more empowered than ever to enjoy the process of this birth. Because, I mean, what an amazing opportunity to birth a baby?! As a student midwife, I have seen more than 20 babies come into this world since I had my own last birth experience. And I've studied much about all things birth. I can't imagine not being able to take my new perspective and try it out on another birth. Mainly, I plan to welcome what comes, breathe a lot, try the birth tub this time, stay vertical as much as possible, and enjoy the experience of bringing forth life - because again, what an amazing opportunity it is!

As far as taking care, there's a lot to remember to do in terms of self care - but it's so worth it. Now that I'm into the 3rd trimester, staying off my feet more, getting gentle exercise, taking time at home to rest and rejuvenate often, staying on top of hydration & protein needs, and regular oil massage are just a few of the things I'm working on. For postpartum, I'm looking forward to trying a simpler menu and care plan, having learned from making things a bit too complicated the last time.

The Ayurveda for Women course was launched. This is the pilot year of this 8 module 16-week course. I was gifted with an exceptional group of women and am forever grateful to them for taking this journey with me. We are into our last month of the course and I've learned so much, as I always do from teaching. I teach, in large part, to learn more and this course has been no exception. This was a tall order: solid overview of Ayurvedic Foundation, plus women's health, pre-conception, pregnancy, and post partum. And creating the curriculum for it has been much like growing and birthing a child - and it's been a marathon birth. But I have enjoyed every bit of it, and continue to.

What's next? 

  1. Ayurveda for Women graduates are being offered a mentorship option to take their studies to the next level while prioritizing the areas of study most interesting to them. 
  2. In the next few months, I'll be releasing a series of mini courses on pre-conception, pregnancy and post-partum. These will be directed at moms-to-be and will be very affordable. If you know someone that would love to have a guide for the childbearing year, based on Ayurvedic principles, please let them know about this. 
  3. Ayurveda for Women 2016! Early registration will open in May and will include a discount, with the main registration opening in June at the regular tuition rate. I will be limiting the number of participants, so it's a good time to begin pondering whether this is the course for you. This course will take place over 4.5 months, with two 1-week breaks for digestion and holiday time. This course is designed for beginning to intermediate students of Ayurveda and women's health. In terms of Ayurveda, we start at the very beginning and go deep into Ayurvedic theory, the art & the science of this ancient system of medicine. And in terms of women's health, we work every week on practices to enrich our own health, and learn, what for most, is an entirely new way of looking at our health. Seasoned Ayurvedic students may be offered the option of taking the women's health portion of the course on its own. 
  4. Down the road, I'll be offering online birthing classes and a baby's first year class for parents, with Rebeka Rose, LM, CPM (midwife). Though we share a last name we aren't sisters by blood (though we are sisters to be sure!)

Do let me know if there's anything in this list you're just itching to see happen right away. While I can't just snap my fingers and have it be done, I'd love to hear what you're looking forward to.

In health and LOVE, Sunny

My Pregnancy Week 14-15: Surrender

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I'm sitting down to write another post for Mamayurveda, and today I am having a harder time than normal. Usually there is something obvious that is easy to write about in one simple post. However, today I truly feel all over the place, and pretty emotional. Maybe that's why writing seems a little bit harder - because I haven't felt as balanced as normal. But I'm figuring that is also helpful to share. Hope so??! The last few weeks have been filled with more stress than normal, and left me feeling more confused and cloudy around my pregnancy. I received borderline high TSH level results, which upon further testing were almost normal, but certainly left me with a few days of worry over the best way to address the imbalance. I have always had functionally high thyroid levels, and even my teacher Dr. Lad mentioned hypothyroid problems in my future, but addressing that issue during pregnancy felt pretty overwhelming. Like I said, it turns out I can make some diet adjustments, and keep an eye on it without further measures at this point...whew.

Also, my husband and I, after weeks of frustration, felt that we needed to move care providers. Which isn't a huge deal, but still annoying and stressful when you feel fear and discomfort around where you are going to have your baby. Luckily, we just found a birth center that feels much better! I am blessed that these were all pretty minor blips in the pregnancy journey, but in the moment they felt very real and very stressful to me...especially with all the emotional swings that can happen normally during pregnancy.

While I can't give any profound advice about how to keep life and your mind relaxed during pregnancy, I have noticed that during these times it always helps me to honor and acknowledge the emotions or changes, instead of trying to suppress them.  AND this is pretty much true in my life as a mother, or human being on the planet. I noticed (once again) that during the moments of stress or a racing mind, some of the best actions I could take was actually to honor the process. The more I tried to rationalize or push away what I knew were irrational thoughts, the harder they came back at me. The more I honor my emotions, the more I am able to give them freedom to move out of my mind/body, instead of lying dormant or suppressed in my system. I say this because I think often as pregnant women we try to stay calm and healthy for the baby, worried that any negative emotion might cause them irrevocable damage, but I think that babies are more resilient than that and I think they need us to experience the reality of our life. So what does it mean to surrender to our emotions? I love the following quote from our teacher Dr. Lad, and hope you find the words helpful anytime your emotions feel they are getting the best of you.

"Half an inch behind your suffering there is bliss. Give complete attention to your grief, your sadness, to your anger. Let it flower. Don't counsel it, suppress it, or analyze it. Your grief is your reaction. Your grief is your projection. Suffering is within. It does not come from without. The moment you realize the real relationship between yourself and suffering, it ends. Suffering comes to you to awaken you. Use your suffering as a springboard and dive deep within. Be with your emotions. You can't avoid pain by pursuing pleasure. I do not know the name of the pleasure which does not end in pain, Look at your sadness, your anger, your jealousy. They are but a mirror. Look at the emotion and look also at the looker of the emotion...As you feel the emotion, observe the movement of your consciusness and let it pass. Then you are born again, anew. Out of the womb of that anger, out of the womb of that grief. Before the emotion can pass, it must be thoroughly digested. Emotions which are unripe cloud the thinking and block awareness. How to ripen uncooked emotions? Bring total awareness to the sensation. Give yourself totally to the sadness, to the grief, to the fear. Ripen the emotion with the flame of awareness. The moment you become aware your reaction flowers and melts into nothingness. Swallow the hurt, digest it completely and let it yield pure awareness. Emotion is reaction. Love is total action." ~Dr. Vasant Lad

With Love, Kerry

An Ayurvedic Overview: The Second Trimester

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We wanted to provide a brief overview how Ayurveda views the second trimester of pregnancy and provide some simple and safe recommendations during this second phase of the pregnancy journey. For an overview of the basics of pregnancy and general guidelines, visit our last post on the “beginnings of pregnancy.” What's Happening with Your Baby During the fourth month, the vital organs are formed and start functioning. By the 4th month the fetus starts to express its desires through the cravings of the mother. Therefore, Ayurveda recommends to honor these cravings as much as possible, within reason. In the fifth and six months focus is placed on nourishing the uterine muscles and nourishing the embryo.

By the end of the 6th month the baby is about 15" long and weights about 2 ½ lbs. The hairs have developed, facial expressions begin, and the fetus begins to gain strength and resemble a miniature human.

What is Happening in Your Body You may begin to notice some of the discomforts of the first trimester disappearing such as nausea and fatigue. Additionally, since the uterus is rising into the abdomen with the growth of the baby, there can be some temporary improvement in that feeling of having to pee all the time (it does tend to return later in pregnancy however!) Around 18-20 weeks of pregnancy you may begin to feel your baby moving for the first time!  Be gentle with yourself in the realms of exercise - the hormone Relaxin is causing your ligaments and joints to be looser, so it's easier to overstretch or injure yourself, especially with the change in your center of gravity.

Around 24-28 weeks a typical growth spurt occurs in the baby and you may gain 5-10 pounds during this time, as your blood volume expands considerably. You may notice an increase in your appetite and possibly your fatigue level due to the increased needs of the baby and your body's need to expand your blood volume. Be sure to eat lots of iron rich foods during this time such as dark leafy greens, stewed dried fruits, and if you eat meat it's a good time for meat soups and iron-rich meats. Check with your care provider to be sure, but if you have been needing iron supplementation, this is the time to step it up. We recommend Floradix or Blood Builder. Also be sure to eat enough calories, with ample protein (70-100 grams/day), healthy fats and plenty of veggies.

During 2nd trimester you will probably also begin to experience toning contractions. This is the normal healthy way that your uterus begins to prepare itself for labor.

It's very common to go for an ultrasound around 20 weeks to determine the sex of the baby. From a midwifery perspective, I encourage women to wait until at least 23 weeks, and longer if possible, as prior to that time it's much more common for "problems" to be found. The reason for this is that the baby is developing quickly and not fully developed. Sometimes couples are unnecessarily frightened by unclear pictures that show up in earlier ultrasounds and further testing is done, often with the end result that in fact, all is well. Some needless worry can be saved by waiting a few more weeks to catch a glimpse of your babe.

Second Trimester Suggestions for Almost Everyone By the second trimester the fetus gains stability, and the vital organs are developed and start functioning! It is believed this is also when the mother’s cravings should be satisfied as a way to nourish and welcome the divine soul in, which is expressing itself through cravings. As the fetus becomes stabilized, we naturally have more energy, and want to get back to being more active. In addition to what is mentioned in our first trimester post, this is a great time to start a prenatal yoga practice, begin daily walking if you haven’t, and engage in more pranayama.

Food:

  • Remember fresh, local & organic
  • Continued emphasis is placed on liquid nourishment, lots of warm herbal infusions, warm milks, and water
  • The Ayurvedic texts also recommend eating ample amounts of rice, milk, butter, ghee and curd, fruits that are orange and yellow, and leafy greens
  • Generally speaking it's important to eat a pitta pacifying diet
  • Remember that if you are suffering from imbalances it is also helpful to remember to eat foods balancing for your dosha (See below for a reminder)

Ayurvedic Lifestyle Tips:

  • Continue to avoid hard, uncomfortable seats; suppressing your natural urges; too much or too intense exercise; lengthy trips (long periods in the car on an airplane without movement); very loud sounds; and sex until the 5th month.
  • General massage with a trained practitioner or gentle abhyanga is now a beneficial practice. See our previous post on abhyanga for more information.
  • Prenatal Yoga. Visit a local class, check out Shiva Rea's prenatal yoga DVD, or Yoga Mama Yoga Baby by Margo Bachman. We'll have a later post with some nice routines.
  • Deep breathing and/or pranayama including gentle alternate nostril breathing. If pranayama is new to you, start by observing your breath, and practicing some deep breathing.
  • Deep Breathing Instructions from Yoga Therapist Genevieve Yellin
    • Place your right hand on your chest, your left hand on your abdomen. Break the inhalation and the exhalation into two parts.
    • Inhalation: The first half of the inhalation is drawn into the abdomen (expand the abdomen), the second half into the chest (expand the chest). Make the count for the first and second part equal (e.g. a count of 3 into the abdomen, and a count of 3 into the chest).
    • Exhalation: Reverse the process of inhalation, first expelling air from chest, then abdomen; at the end of the exhalation, draw the navel in toward the spine to complete the exhalation. Keep the same cadence as was counted for the inhalation.
    • Walk Walk Walk!

General Ayurvedic Changes During Pregnancy & How this Impacts Diet

From a doshic or elemental perspective a woman’s body undergoes many changes during pregnancy. The more we understand our constitution, the more we can use diet and lifestyle to bring balance. We are providing a brief overview of the doshic changes below, but if the word dosha is new to you, we strongly recommend getting our booklet to learn more about where you fit.

VATA Vata dosha is responsible for the expansion and intense transformation happening inside. This can also mean excess Vata dosha (too much of the dry, light, mobile, cool, or clear qualities), which may lead to constipation, dry skin, nervousness/anxiety, absent mindedness, or difficulty sleeping.

PITTA The changes in metabolism and increased bodily heat are due to Pitta dosha (hot, sharp, light, penetrating, or oily qualities), which may also lead to irritability, anemia, morning sickness, nausea, heartburn, indigestion, bleeding tendencies, or trouble falling asleep.

KAPHA Finally, the increase in bulk (especially later in pregnancy) is due to, and can lead to excess Kapha (slow, heavy, dull, sluggish, cloudy, cool, and oily qualities), this may contribute to excess weight gain, fluid retention, excess congestion, yeast infections, or excess sleep.

This information helps us to understand, at least briefly, what we may be experiencing at a given time, and how to begin finding balance. Yes, food can help us alleviate some of the annoying pregnancy ailments. For those who want more detail about doshic diets during pregnancy, we strongly recommend checking out the pregnancy booklet, which we will make available within a few weeks.

My Pregnancy Week 13: Dry Itchy Skin

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As fall hits, my skin is getting dry. No Matter how much water and oil I drink and eat, I am finding I still need more lubrication on my skin. Specifically, my ankles, knees and elbows are getting dry and even itchy. Per first trimester Ayurvedic recommendations I have avoided abhyanga for the last three months, but this dryness is a huge reminder that I am ready to bring it back. While dry skin isn't a huge deal, it's kind of a pain in the butt. So what is going on? From an Ayurvedic perspective, dry skin has several causes, too many to go into in detail here. However, we do know that when the liver has to process an increased hormonal load it can get overworked and cause the skin to be itchy. We also know that extra sweating and decreased bowel function can cause the skin to have to work harder to eliminate toxins. I could go on forever, but instead I will just list some of the suggestions from Dr. Lad and Dr. Aviva Romm.  I have already been incorporating the diet and hydration and movement piece, but I am certainly going to make up a nice mixture of cocoa butter and coconut oil and make abhyanga part of my life again. Let me know what works for you! With Love, Kerry

Tips for Dry Itchy Skin

1) Exfoliate: Try cleaning your skin with no soap, just a cloth to exfoliate. You can use a loofah or fine salt or sugar scrub to gently to stimulate circulation and clean away dead cells (don't scrub vigorously in pregnancy, just gently)

2) Get moving: Daily exercise improves circulation, which among other things can improve bowel function and lesson the burden of accumulated wastes on your body.

3) Eat Well: Lots of fruits, vegetables and wholegrains with minimal processed, fried or foods high in saturated fat.

4) Drink Well: At least half a gallon a day!

5) Essential fatty acids: A combo of 1500 milligrams of omega-3 acids daily (Directly from Dr. Romm in The Natural Pregnancy Book)

6) Cocoa/Shea/Coconut: Rub cocoa butter, coconut oil or shea on your dry skin. Try mixing either cocoa and coconut or shea and coconut together. Oh and by the way, when I asked Sunny about her favorite belly butter for pregnancy, she highly endorsed How Now Brown Cacao and Butter Me Up Body Butter by Simply Divine Botanicals. She uses these to prevent stretch marks and bring skin comfort in her clients and used them herself in pregnancy.

7) Calendula oil: Can be helpful to reduce itching and irritation.

8) Reduce Stress

9) Light Abhyanga: See Instructions below

Abhyanga:

For those familiar with the practice, the major difference from normal abhyanga application, is that we only want to spread a light coat over the body, aka DO NOT massage the oil in.

For those who don't remember, we have included some instructions below.

Abhyanga in 2nd and 3rd trimesters of Pregnancy

  • Follow the directions below, only DO NOT massage the oil in, simply spread it over your skin.
  • Allow the oil to soak in, and follow with a warm shower.
  • Do not do if there is any sign that the pregnancy is threatened in any way
  • Not recommended for the first trimester

Abhyanga Routine

  • Put about ½ cup oil in an 8 oz. glass bottle. Make sure the oil smells fresh and isn’t rancid.
  • Place the bottle of oil in a pan of hot water until the oil is warm.
  • Sit or stand in a warm room, on an older towel (one you don’t mind ruining with oil accumulation). Make sure you’re protected from drafts (turn on a space heater if needed).
  • Apply the oil to your entire body, and use a generous amount – 1/4-1/2 cup.
  • Gently spread oil over the body.
  • Give a little extra time and attention to applying the oil into your scalp, ears and feet, at least once a week.
  • Apply oil to the crown of your head and work slowly out from there in circular strokes. Put a couple drops of warm oil on the tip of your little finger and apply to the opening of the ear canal. (If there is any current or chronic discomfort in the ears don’t do this without the recommendation of your health care practitioner).
  • Enjoy a very warm bath or shower. You can use a mild soap on the “strategic” areas, but it’s best not to soap the oil off your skin. Enough will soak in and then rinse off that you shouldn’t need to use soap.
  • When you get out of the bath, towel dry. Keep a special towel for drying off after your Abhyanga because it can eventually get ruined, due to the accumulation of oil.
  • Put on a pair of cotton socks to protect your floors/carpets from the residual oil on your feet.

Clean-up and Maintenance Oil can accumulate in your tub and drain over time. A couple of times each month, pour approx. ¼ cup dish soap into the drain, then pour 2-3 cups of boiling water into the drain. Let sit for 15 min. Run hot water down the drain for a couple of minutes to flush out the residue. Baking soda can be helpful as well. For laundering oily towels, add ¼ cup grease-cutting dish soap along with your regular laundry detergent. Let sit in very hot water for at least 30 minutes, then wash. You may need to repeat this. Experiment as needed. Caution: do not dry oily towels in a hot dryer as they are easily combustible and may catch fire. Oil towels stored together can build up internal heat in warm environments to the point of catching fire. Be sure to store them in well-ventilated, cool areas. Never store them in your vehicle trunk.

Contraindications for Abhyanga:

  • After eating and if there’s indigestion
  • Acute conditions such as fever, chills, common cold, diarrhea, flu
  • Chronic high systemic ama. This can show as a heavily coated tongue.
  • Immediately after taking emetics or purgatives
  • Under a doctor’s care for medical condition
  • During pregnancy without consulting health care practitioner or in threatened miscarriage
  • During menstrual cycle
  • Infected or open lesions
  • Edema (swelling)
  • Blood clots or bleeding disorders
  • Hangover
  • Extreme emotions
  • Acute hypoglycemia
  • Insulin-dependent diabetes
  • Dehydration
  • During chemo therapy

References: Welch, Dr. Claudia. (2009). http://www.banyanbotanicals.com/ayurveda/abhyanga.html Lad, Vasant. (2005) “Abhyanga: Ayurvedic Oil Massage”

My Pregnancy Weeks 10 & 11: Broth Love

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The return home from retreat was a little tough, but I am slowly reintegrating. One of the biggest challenges in returning was once again finding food that was easy to make, and that I wanted to eat. I am still not wanting to cook, which makes meals challenging. This week to help with meals, we decided to make a huge pot of chicken broth. While it may seem like an odd choice to help with preparing meals it worked really well. I had been enjoying soup on retreat, and having the broth around allowed me to make quick meals that I could tolerate. I could easily put rice, rice noodles, some cut veggies (broccoli, green beans, kale, carrots, zucchini) and protein (chicken, beans etc.) into the soup for a quick easy and nourishing meal that was easy on my stomach. All of these foods are very bland in flavor which I am finding very soothing to my system. The bland flavor doesn't aggravate my Pitta, and the cooked vegetables and warm broth is very soothing to my Vata. In terms of nourishment this month from an Ayurvedic perspective, we want to continue having lots of liquids. In addition to medicated milks, Ayurveda suggests adding honey and ghee to cow’s milk. Since I have a mild allergy to cow’s milk, I haven’t incorporated this drink as much because it hasn’t sounded appealing, but if it sounds good to you, go for it!

But the bone broths feel great! You might be surprised to hear that Ayurveda recommends animal products during pregnancy. Garbhini charyas are the regimens for pregnant women in the ancient Ayurvedic texts. Each rshi (sage, seer) had particular advice. For example we see that Sushruta recommends eating food with jangala (wild meat) during the 4th month, and by the 8th month we see a recommendation to eat meat soups of wild animals until delivery. I am finding the broth extremely nourishing and balancing, and if you are open, we highly recommend giving them a try.  As I was talking to Sunny after I wrote this post, she said she "really" wanted to emphasize bones soups for pregnancy and postpartum because if they are one of the BEST forms of nourishment you can bring into the body. We are both using them on a daily basis. If you don't like to eat meat, just use the broth to make a veggie soup - Give it a try! We've provided a recipe below...

Bone Broth Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1 whole chicken (or frame of chicken, we often get backs from whole foods if we can't find them at a local market)
  • 2 sweet bay leaves
  • any vegetable scraps you have to throw in
  • filtered water

Instructions:

  • Place one whole chicken or frame into a slow cooker with sweet bay, black peppercorns and any vegetables you have on hand. Cover with filtered water and cook on low 24-48 hours.
  • Another recommendation, which comes to us from Jenny at Nourished Kitchen, is to have warm broth on hand all week (She calls this "perpetual soup"). So you keep your slow cooker on low and after 24 hours take from it as you like! This means that as you need it remove some broth, strain it through a mesh cloth to clarify, and replace the same amount of liquid removed with filtered water. At the end of the week, strain off remaining broth and discard or compost the bones. You will notice they are pretty soft at this point, and may crumble between your fingers.
  • Enjoy!!!

As always we would love to hear from you!

With Love, Kerry

My Pregnancy Week 9: Role of Stress

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I just had the amazing opportunity to go away on retreat to see my teacher in upstate New York. I was reluctant to go on retreat and leave my son for five days (for the first time), but my husband lovingly forced me. He knew, even if I couldn't see at the time, that seeing my teacher and having space to reflect would be really good for me. Let me tell you, I have never had so much gratitude for his urging, and the ability to take that time away for myself. There are so many aspects of this experience that have been amazing, and honestly really surprising for me in relationship to my pregnancy. Before heading on the retreat, as you know, I was exhausted and a bit overwhelmed. The two weeks leading up to the retreat were tiring for me, and certainly increased the amount of upward moving wind in my system (Ud?na Vata), leading to more anxiety and stress. This increased anxiety lead me to have thoughts I normally wouldn’t, such as, "would flying be okay?, would something terrible happen on retreat?" and other irrational ramblings of the mind.

What was amazing to me, was that within a day of arriving on the land with my teacher, my body felt different in a good way! My nausea subsided a bit, and my energy level increased. By the end of the week I felt great. I felt a sense of energy, clarity, and radiance that I hadn’t felt in a long time, and certainly hadn’t felt since being pregnant. This, of course, encouraged me to reflect upon what had changed. How could I go from being exhausted and anxious to completely happy, and energized within a few days?

First and foremost, I know it was seeing my teacher. I hadn’t been able to see him physically since before I was pregnant with my first child, and it allowed a deep surrender in me that I know transformed everything. But in addition to that, I think several other factors contributed to the experience. Factors that we all know are good, but that I sometimes forget about, or at least forget the power of, when faced with my busy life.

Changes that Made Me FEEL GREAT!

1) I did a lot of SPIRITUAL PRACTICE AND MEDITATION. This is always helpful for me, but having a container to practice in, was huge, and helped all the little stuff naturally fall away. As women, we need to make time for this every day...or at least as much as we can.

2) I had time to REST. At home I have a two year old to take care of along with my work and household obligations. While this may not seem like a lot when you are used to it, it really is. On retreat I had the opportunity to lay down and sit a lot, my body desperately needed this. Finding more time to rest is tough, but at least setting the intention can help.

3) I had NO STRESS. This goes along with rest. I would say I have a pretty stress-free life most of the time. But even the daily stressors build up, and tax the body. Stress reduction techniques, and minimizing stress is important!

4) I had MEALS COOKED FOR ME. Like many pregnant women, I am having a tough time cooking in the first trimester. The smells and whole general cooking experience make me sick, and I generally LOVE to cook. On retreat every meal I had something fresh and healthy waiting for me. I didn’t have to make a decision about what sounded good, or what to make. This was HUGE for me. A major take away from this was my need to ask others for help, and to encourage my husband to make more decisions around food. I think the decision about what to eat at home was almost the hardest part.

5) I was in COOLER WEATHER. As we know from an Ayurvedic perspective, heat increases nausea and diarrhea. During pregnancy our heat naturally rises in the body, and living in a climate that is HOT (90-100 degrees every day) builds even more heat in the system. Cool weather helps to cool the body down, which allows the heat to naturally lessen. Nothing to do about this if we live somewhere warm :(

6) I WALKED A LOT. At home it’s so hot I am having a hard time getting outside to walk. On retreat I walked a lot through the forest every day. Nothing difficult, but simple walking and stretching. It felt awesome, and I think it helped my body. Walking is good, I am going to try and do more in the morning or evening.

It’s funny because all of these changes are generally advised during pregnancy, but I don’t think I understood the magnitude of their importance, and the HUGE difference they all make together. Specifically, how much stress (even minor stress) affects us physically, and the power of being cared for, nourished and stress-free. Upon returning home, I asked my sister-in-law (an obgyn) what she sees in her clients during their pregnancies relative to stress, and she reiterated that it makes a HUGE difference in a woman's health during pregnancy.

I obviously can’t take the next 9 months off and go on retreat in the mountains, but I can remember that nourishing myself, resting, breathing, and doing spiritual practice really helps me stay balanced AND helps me feel better. I can remind myself that, Yes, these changes help with all the physical imbalances! They really do...

As always we would love to hear from you!

With Love, Kerry

My Pregnancy Weeks 7 & 8: REST REST REST

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Whew, these last two weeks have been really tough! I have been continually feeling more tired. My husband has been out of town on retreat for the last week, and my son hasn’t started school yet. This equals one tired pregnant momma. I don’t mean to focus on the negative side, but I think it’s okay to admit that sometimes it can be hard and overwhelming to be pregnant. I also remember from the last pregnancy that even without a 2 ½ year old, these few weeks may have been my hardest during the pregnancy. The fatigue is tough. I know it's normal, but it's hard to be so tired. So what does Ayurveda say about rest during these first few months? I find it re-assuring that Ayurveda recommends allowing the body to rest during this precious time and allow the body to do what it KNOWS how to do, unimpeded. Charaka recommends allowing changes to unfold without putting any barriers or road blocks in the way. To me this means nourishing ourselves, and resting without any guilt.

In Ayurveda, the texts further suggest avoiding massage, sex, long road trips, hot baths, exposure to toxic substances, radiation, and even too much yoga or exercise. During this time, if you are like me, you might naturally notice that you don't want to do much, and even yoga seems too intense. According to Ayurveda, and my personal opinion, we need to honor this!! If you really want to be active try some gentle meditation or walking.

Yoga Nidra really is currently my best friend! I love Rod Stryker, introduced to me by Sunny’s husband Daneal during Ayurvedic school. If you are looking for a free version I recorded a 20 minute version, I am happy to send along.  Just drop us a note and we will forward it.

As always we would love to hear from you!

With Love, Kerry

My Pregnancy Week 6 1/2: Morning Sickness Begins

The morning sickness is starting:( Major bummer, I was hoping I would be able to avoid it this time around, but NOT the case. My nausea isn't too intense, but it is still really annoying and certainly affecting what I want to eat and when. What is Morning Sickness and How Do We View It In Ayurveda? Morning sickness is the general term used to describe nausea and vomiting that occurs during the early stages of pregnancy. While it can occur in the morning, it can also occur at any time in the day. It was actually the worst at night for me. In Ayurveda, we believe that it is caused by aggravated Pitta, or too much heat in the system. This means it is often more common in people who have a Pitta constitution. According to Dr. Lad, it gets worse during the early stages because, "the higher estrogen levels in the blood triggers pitta in the stomach and increases acid secretions, so that the stomach becomes more acidic." You might also notice that certain odors can trigger nausea and vomiting. It is very normal for our sense of smell to increase during pregnancy, and I certainly know that mine is. This is making it almost impossible to cook, which is a sucks, because I love cooking. Luckily, for me making dietary changes really helped curb my nausea.

What Can We Do to Help?

1) Eat every 2 hours (esp before bed and upon waking), specifically protein For those Ayurvedic buffs out there, even Dr. Lad recommends six small meals a day to help with morning sickness. This is contrary to what is normally recommended in Ayurveda, which is to eat 3 meals a day with minimal snacking. Since I'm having trouble cooking, I am trying to find healthy quick foods to eat. Snacks like an ojas date shake (see my video for instructions on that one—actually filmed during week 5 of my pregnancy), organic crackers with good quality hard cheese or cottage cheese, sprouted spelt toast with cream cheese, and peanut butter and crackers are proving helpful. While not ideal, they are what I can manage to eat and digest. I am also starting to incorporate LOTS of fruit infused water because regular water has been hard to drink, more homemade nut milk or non-homogenized cow’s.

2) A Morning sickness remedy from Dr. Lad  1 tsp raw sugar (sucanat, rapadura, coconut sugar) w/ 2 drops sandalwood oil

3) Chew a piece of fresh ginger root or lemon peel If the nausea is severe, up to 250 mg of ginger can be taken in capsule form up to 3 times per day. *Larger amounts of ginger can be emmenagogue (stimulate blood flow to the uterus and bring on miscarriage). I tried a little ginger, it was okay, not amazing for me.

4) Shatavari Kalpa A sautéed blend of shatavari, sugar and spices, can be really helpful, or just plain shatavari. I tried plain Shatavari, since I was honestly too tired to make the kalpa, and it did help me. 

5) Homeopathy Excellent homeopathic remedies such as ipecacuanha and nux vomica are available for nausea and vomiting during pregnancy. We usually recommend a 30C potency. See your local homeopath or midwife to find the right one for you. Homeopathy is something we highly recommend to treat pregnancy ailments as it's safe, effective, and there are no side effects or drug interactions.

I personally finding that eating protein every 2 hours with occasional shatavari powder in milk or ginger tea to be the most effective.

As always would love to hear what is working for you!

With Love, Kerry

 

 

My Pregnancy Week 6: Food in My World

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As an ayurvedic practitioner and public health consultant, I know that eating well during pregnancy is important. However, I think very few of us, including myself before my last pregnancy, understand what that actually means. I remember searching for hours to understand what actually made sense to eat during pregnancy. Please keep in mind, that is also my personality. I like to understand and research everything that is out there. Luckily, during my public health studies, and after I gave birth to my son, I was able to spend some serious time researching what western nutrition and Ayurveda have to offer during pregnancy. What I found helped me to both relax, because I was already doing a great job, and to understand the components that are most important, even when feeling crummy. I personally found a lot of balance and reassurance by comparing Western research with Ayurvedic science. I learned that both sciences recommend eating frequently, eating lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, eating lots of high quality fat, lots of good quality carbohydrates and lots of dairy. What Ayurveda offered me that went beyond basic western nutrition, was a better sense of how to tailor my diet based on the trimester, and my specific imbalances.

Now, I will admit that eating well during these first few weeks/months is tough. AND I know that eating something is better than eating nothing at all, so that means I'm trying to make the healthiest choices I can from what sounds ‘eatable’ in my pregnant, morning sick world.

In my case, from an Ayurvedic perspective, I know that my Pitta, or the heat in my system is slightly elevated. I am experiencing morning sickness, irritability, and mild indigestion.  It also happens to be 100 degrees right now in Texas, which is making me even hotter! This means I need to be particularly good about avoiding spicy or fried foods, because they are extremely aggravating to my Pitta dosha. Instead I need to favor those cooling foods to honor my Pitta dosha, and juicy, liquidy foods to nourish rasa and rakta dhatus during these first few months.

So what am I able to eat? The most nourishing foods are cooling milks, sweet grains, puddings, juicy fruits, oatmeal and soups. I am also eating lots of good quality hard cheese and crackers, cottage cheese, and sprouted spelt bread with cream cheese. While these foods may not be ideal, I also don’t think they are horrible, and they seem to take care of the nausea when I need something to eat fast. Yes, I am currently eating some high quality humane meat, because it tastes good to get some more protein.

While they might not seem like a big deal, I am learning that avoiding spicy foods is really important for me. I can usually get away with a spicy Indian meal once in a while, but not right now. The other night I ate some spicy Indian food, and not surprisingly, I had indigestion all night. So back to simple foods, and lots of liquids.

As always I would love to hear from you!

With Love, Kerry

An Ayurvedic Overview: Beginnings of Pregnancy

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So! To accompany Kerry's posts about her own pregnancy, we are offering this, the first of several "overviews" of what's happening during pregnancy from an Ayurvedic perspective, as well as nutritional and lifestyle advice. What is Happening with Your Baby We wanted to provide a brief overview how Ayurveda views pregnancy and provide some simple and safe recommendations during this precious time.

The great rishis believed that the a fetus is formed by a combination of factors: 1) the mother’s ovum, 2) the father’s sperm, 3) the state of the womb, 4) the timing of conception 5) the diet of the mother, and 6) the accompanying soul which enters into the fetus. In understanding these factors, we learn that it is important to take care of ourselves before (both partners) and during pregnancy, but that a soul brings its own factors as well. This means that it is important to nourish ourselves as much as we can during pregnancy (without driving yourself crazy about it - stress is not helpful).

According to Dr. Lad, Sage Ka?yapa & others, the vital organs begin to form about 5 weeks after conception. By 6 weeks a threadlike spinal cord and spider-like nerves begin to form. The eyes, nose, mouth and ears start forming. Arms & legs start developing and sex organs start to appear. Your baby will grow up to 1" long and weigh about 1/13th oz. This is why it’s so important to start taking care, in a relaxed way, as soon as we find out we are pregnant.

What is Happening in Your Body So much! Too much to list everything here, but many of the things you feel right now, are due to the huge increase in hormones such as Progesterone (which will increase 10-fold), Estrogen (which will increase 1000-fold, "what?!") and hCG (Human Chorionic Gonadotropin). At this point in pregnancy, hormones are increasing quickly while blood volume has not yet increased much. Therefore, the concentration of hormones is high which contributes to feelings of general malaise, nausea and fatigue. You may also already notice breast tenderness and an increased urge to urinate. As the uterus grows, it begins to rise into the abdomen and the increased urge to urinate may (temporarily) ease. Also as blood volume (rasa and rakta dhatu) increases, hormones are diluted some and that sick feeling often subsides.

Ayurvedic Basics We will provide some basic western nutrition guidelines below, but you will see that Ayurveda provides a great more depth about nutrition and lifestyle during pregnancy. We learn what types of foods to eat during each trimesters, and even what types of flavors to emphasize in keeping our body balanced. As always, Ayurveda recognizes that we are all unique. By understanding our unique selves we can flow and adapt in all stages of life, especially pregnancy.

First Trimester Suggestions for Almost Everyone During the first trimester Ayurveda places a strong emphasis on nourishing rasa and rakta dhatu, aka the blood and blood plasma. This means lots of liquid nourishment from foods such as juicy fruits, coconut water, herbal infusions (raspberry leaf, nettle, oatstraw) and sipping good quality organic cow’s milk and rice milk. Sweet, cooling foods should generally be emphasized, and ghee should be included. Ayurveda also suggests to steer clear of anything that could be too agitating (such as spicy or fried food) and too depleting to the system (too much of the bitter and astringent tastes). We would also emphasize the importance of fresh, organic, local foods as much as possible. We won’t go into detail here, but it's easy to find plenty of research to support the importance of eating chemical free foods.

General Ayurvedic Changes During Pregnancy & How this Impacts Diet

From a doshic or elemental perspective a woman’s body undergoes many changes during pregnancy. The more we understand our constitution, the more we can use diet and lifestyle to bring balance. We are providing a brief overview of the doshic changes below, but if the word dosha is new to you, we strongly recommend getting our booklet to learn more about where you fit.

VATA Vata dosha is responsible for the expansion and intense transformation happening inside. This can also mean excess Vata dosha (too much of the dry, light, mobile, cool, or clear qualities), which may lead to constipation, dry skin, nervousness/anxiety, absent mindedness, or difficulty sleeping.

PITTA The changes in metabolism and increased bodily heat are due to Pitta dosha (hot, sharp, light, penetrating, or oily qualities), which may also lead to irritability, anemia, morning sickness, nausea, heartburn, indigestion, bleeding tendencies, or trouble falling asleep.

KAPHA Finally, the increase in bulk (especially later in pregnancy) is due to, and can lead to excess Kapha (slow, heavy, dull, sluggish, cloudy, cool, and oily qualities), this may contribute to excess weight gain, fluid retention, excess congestion, yeast infections, or excess sleep.

This information helps us to understand, at least briefly, what we may be experiencing at a given time, and how to begin finding balance. Yes, food can help us alleviate some of the annoying pregnancy ailments. For those who want more detail about doshic diets during pregnancy, we strongly recommend checking out the pregnancy booklet, which we will make available within a few weeks.

Other Ayurvedic Lifestyle Tips

  • Avoid hard, uncomfortable seats; suppressing your natural urges; too much or too intense exercise; lengthy trips (long periods in the car on an airplane without movement); loud sounds; massage, and sex until the 5th month
  • REST REST REST

Western Nutrition Basics During Pregnancy Western science emphasizes that eating well during pregnancy is important, while not as robust as what ayurveda offers, some can find it reassuring to at least understand the basics. Research shows that poor maternal nutrition contributes to poor infant metabolic health (Aaltonen et al., 2010), a diet high in fat, salt and sugar can lead to obesity in offspring (Bavol et al., 2008), and that eating frequently helps to balance the hormones (Barger, 2010)...we could go on forever. The World Health Organization put together the following good, but also very basic general pregnancy recommendations.

Three meals a day and two snacks to avoid prolonged periods of fasting
A diet rich in fruits and vegetables (five per day) and monounsaturated fats with adequate protein. WHO recommends 5 portions
Fiber-rich carbohydrates and limit carbohydrates with a high glycemic index (e.g., fruit juices and sodas). WHO recommends 6-11 portions
At least two servings of omega-3 rich fish (with low mercury level) a week or use omega-3 supplements. WHO recommends 2 portions of protein
WHO recommends 3 portions of dairy per day.
WHO recommends using sugar, salt, margarine, oils, butter sparingly
+Avoid food born illnesses that can cause maternal or fetal disease by eating:
Well-cooked meat, poultry (including eggs), and fish, only pasteurized dairy & fruit, avoid soft cheeses, processed meat, raw sprouts
*Berger, 2010 & WHO

And finally, we'd like to provide you with one of our most nourishing and balancing (and delicious!) recipes. You can use this throughout your pregnancy: A Nourishing Pregnancy Shake: Ojas Date Shake

My Pregnancy Week 5: The Importance of Acceptance

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I have had several inclinations over the past month that I might be pregnant (mostly dreams), but just got a final confirmation through a pregnancy test. After 2 ½ years my husband and I finally felt ready for round two and decided to open the doors to the possibility again last month. We were decently prepared. Per Ayurveda's suggestions, we both underwent a home panchakarma (cleanse) this spring. I was also taking several different prenatal supplements (refer to our previous blogs if you are curious) and eating well. I generally eat a chemical free, whole food diet, and try to steer clear of any preservatives or unneeded chemicals. Physically I was probably very ready.

However, the news still took me a bit by surprise emotionally. I am not sure the emotion that best describes how I have been feeling, probably a combination of excited, nervous, and even scared. Of course, I am excited about bringing another soul into the world. But right now I am also nervous about the uncertainty that it brings. Some of my thoughts from the week exemplify this. For example, this whole week I have been in that surreal state of thinking that at any moment those mucous secretions I’m feeling will actually be blood, and I will start my cycle. Rationally, I knew this probably wouldn't happen, especially given my sore boobs and constant need to pee, however the thoughts still played through in my head. Along with others such as, will everything be okay with the baby, did I prepare properly, were we ready?

A few pieces of advice from friends has again proved especially helpful. The first was from a dear friend and my acupuncturist during my first pregnancy in Austin, TX. She said that no matter how much a woman prepares or plans for pregnancy, the first three months are all about acceptance. We are welcoming a new child into the world, and I believe it takes a lot of emotional and physical shifting to really allow the changes to settle into us.

The second piece of advice was from my dear friend Sunny who reminded me, “it’s all about surrendering to the unknown.” I keep telling myself that is probably the single biggest action I can take at this point, to trust and surrender to what the unknown brings. I have a tendency to want to control, but this is something I can't control. I can take all the right supplements, and engage in the right lifestyle to the best of my ability, but after that I know that my work is to let go.

I'm really curious to hear about your experience. How did you feel when you first found out you were pregnant? More to come on diet and lifestyle piece, but I think before we make changes in our external environment we need some time to settle emotionally. (The most important immediate change to make, is to get on prenatal supplements if you haven’t done so already. If you are going with a prenatal specific supplement, we love Pure Synergy because it is the best we have found.)

With Love, Kerry

My Pregnancy and What Ayurveda Has to Say

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As women, one of the most powerful actions we can take during pregnancy is to provide ourselves and others with love and support. I believe that no matter how much one prepares to bring a child into the world, or ‘understands’ the progression of pregnancy, it’s still a unique journey every time a woman embarks on it. One that carries with it a tremendous amount of vulnerability, and exciting but also scary ‘unknowns.’ “Will I be okay, is this little cramp a big deal, does this headache mean something, is the baby okay” etc. As you may already know, one of our biggest goals through Mam?yurveda is to provide you with support, understanding, and nourishment for your journey. In that vein, I have decided to write about my personal experience during pregnancy.

Yes, I’m pregnant! My little munchkin is currently about 10 weeks old (12th week of pregnancy), but since I have been away for these last few months,  I wanted to share some of what I have already experienced and then move forward with my pregnancy. I hope to share with you some of my personal experiences, what has worked, and what Ayurveda suggests during different stages of care. I have already noticed that even though this is my second pregnancy, it requires the same amount of vulnerability and surrender to all that may unfold. I would love for you to share your comments and experiences, and hopefully we can create a fun, supportive dialogue and online community!

Thanks for reading!

With love, Kerry