My Pregnancy Week 12: Our Breath

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The more I practice the more convinced I am about the power of meditation and pranayama (breathwork) during any stage of life, but especially pregnancy. As my energy levels increase, I feel a renewed energy and desire to get back on my cushion. I allowed my body rest as much as possible for most of the first trimester, and that's pretty much all my body let me do. However, with my renewed energy I am once again experiencing the benefits of practice. Not only does it help calm the mind, but it clears the channels in my body and moves the stuck energies out. This is HUGE during pregnancy. With the hormonal changes that come with pregnancy I have noticed that my temper is a bit quicker and sharper than normal. I am also noticing many of the irrational and annoying ramblings of the mind such as "is the baby okay" things that are fine to think about, but when I let them get the best of me or cause anxiety, I know it's not productive. While I can’t always catch myself in the moment before lashing out at my husband (as much as I want to), I find that taking time to get on my cushion makes my overall demeanor and experience less volatile, and my mind less agitated. Whatever tradition you practice, I think this is a great time to begin deepening your connection.

I have also recently noticed that I am finding myself breathing more often, but maybe not as deeply as I would normally (pre-pregnancy). There are several scientific reasons for this including a shift in hormones, and increasingly cramped organs (including LUNGS) to make room for an enlarging uterus. My husband the other day actually commented about my less "full and deep" breathing, and my increased irritability. It may be coincidence, but as I am consciously engaging in deeper breathing and prana practices, I am feeling more embodied and less anxious about inconsequential annoyances. I know deeper breathing moves me more into my parasympathetic nervous system, but it has been really interesting to experience this more viscerally during my pregnancy.

I personally feel that taking this time for internal connection is one of the best ways we can prepare for the birthing experience. My personal spiritual practice (Tibetan Buddhism), was by far the best childbirth prep I could have had before my last birth. I tried taking a childbirth class before the birth, and found that it paled in comparison to what I was already practicing with pranayama and meditation.

If you are interested in learning, developing and incorporating some breathing practices in your life I love the following resources:

1) Dr. Claudia Welch and her Prana CD (found here)

2) Genevieve Yellin and her Guided meditations (found here). Gen leads more guided sessions, especially designed for those who need the guidance when addressing anxiety imbalances.

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