Feminine Self-Care for A Grieving Nation: Herbs, Embodied Writing, Movement

“But I say unto you, [joy and sorrow] are inseparable. Together they come, and when one sits alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.

Verily you are suspended like scales between your sorrow and your joy.

Only when you are empty are you at standstill and balanced.” ―Kahlil Gibran

The events of the last few months have been horrific- hurricanes, earthquakes, flooding, nazis with tiki torches, and yet another mass shooting- this one in Las Vegas, killing almost 60 and wounding almost 500 human beings.  These events really feel like part of the general atmosphere of fear, anger, deceit and hate that’s arrived like a national cancer diagnosis this year. Certainly during the presidential campaign of 2015-2016. It appears, that this ugliness has been metastasizing for awhile now (we could say since Obama’s election, since Reagan, since slavery or the devastation of the indigenous American peoples.) But it’s reaching a crisis point.  

And we’re weary.  I watched some of my favorite comedians in tears last week begging for legislative change to end the obscene amount of unnecessary deaths in the United States from gun violence.  There’s barely a place to take a deep breath when comedians have lost, even momentarily, the ability to find humor…anywhere really.  How can we laugh at a time like this?  And yet we know we will, we must, continue to be human.

What We’re Grieving

I think we’ve reached an acceptance point – this is what is happening– and we have begun to grieve.  We are grieving for the America many of us thought we were living in, we are grieving for the stillbirth of  a new American dream that was inclusive , we are grieving the loss of so much human life, we are grieving the lack of compassionate leadership.

So what can we do? As women? As mothers, sisters, lovers, partners, wives, daughters, grandmothers, friends?  

A Call to Connection, to Presence

But we cannot shrink into angry corners and we cannot continue the hard work of fighting for justice, of raising conscious kids, of supporting equality and peace without first caring for our own needs.  Now is the time for radical self care. Now is the time to gather. Now is the time for circles and coalescing and support. We must stay present.  Our hearts are needed, our passion is needed, our humility and love. If we are going to do the work of healing, we must continue, even bravely move forward, into deeper waters of self-healing.  To create a compassionate world we must have compassion and generosity for ourselves.

Plant Medicine

In times of grief I feel drawn to certain botanical medicines.  Some herbs have a long history of heart-break help. Even the act of sharing a cup of tea can soothe frayed nerves and give the opportunity for pause, for selah, in the chaos. Here is my favorite tincture recipe:

Broken Heart Tonic

2 parts Hawthorne

1 part Valerian

1/2 part Ginger

1 part Rose

(Taken as a tincture, 2ml 3x day.  Taken as tea in the evening.)

Hawthorne :  Known for its heart friendly properties, it is a cardiac tonic.  Interestingly the heart and uterus tend to respond to similar herbs.  Hawthorne is one of them.  Soothing the heart muscle, soothing the uterine muscle.  I like to think of the uterus as having its own sort of heartbeat.   Hawthorn appears to improve the mechanics of the heart and its metabolic processes, dilate coronary arteries, and inhibit enzymes that cause vasoconstriction.  Rosemary Gladstar (famous herbalist) loves to use it for emotional pain and it combines well with Rose. May be contraindicated in pregnancy, but wonderful for pregnancy loss and fertility challenges.

Valerian: Known for its sedative effects, valerian root is commonly used in sleep aids.  I like to use valerian for its antispasmodic effects as well.  Because it is a nervine and also a cardiac tonic (and uterine tonic!) it is helpful in healing broken heartedness.  Helping to sleep if taken in large enough doses when sleep is disturbed by heartache. About 5% of people who try Valerian find it causes the opposite to happen in their bodies – stimulation.  So if you have this response, dicontinue use!

Ginger: A classic in most homes, ginger is a generally warming and stimulating herb. Helpful to digest when nerves are disrupted or nausea is present.  Increases circulation and generall enhances effects of other herbs.

Rose: Sweet sweet rose.  So easy to incorporate into healing it’s almost a cliche! Rose petals in tea, rose petals in a bath, in tincture, in an essential oil. This herb is included to sweeten the extract and to sweeten the disposition.

*Mimosa*: An herb I’m learning more about recently for its mood boosting qualities.  Often used in times of trauma and depression, taken in tincture or tea form this plant can help us get through dark times.  

Body Medicine

As a trauma informed yoga teacher, I cannot help but think about how we manifest trauma in the body and how national trauma can have a deeply personal affect and yet often be ignored. Of course it is impossible to offer specifics that would be helpful to your unique body, background and situation, but here are a few go-to basics of Trauma Informed Yoga to support your healing process:

Down dog with a block: (Ahdo mukha svanasana) Possibly the most iconic symbol of yoga poses, this simple shape of the body is available to most of us.  Hands on the ground, feet on the ground, separated as far apart as would be comfortable if you were to lower into a plank or push up and then come back into downward facing dog.  This inversion helps to send blood flow and prana (life force) down to the heart, thyroid and head.  Consider using a block (or something about the size of a yoga block) underneath of your forehead.  This support helps to diffuse depression by stimulating the pituitary gland and also decreasing the muscular effort necessary to hold the posture.  Take 5 breaths or stay as long as you’re comfortable.

Supported Child’s pose: (Balasana) This one requires bolsters, blankets, or pillows at home.  From hands and knees, separate your knees wide and bring big toes to touch, sit back towards your heels.  If your hips don’t touchdown on your heels slide a blanket or two in between for support.  Take the bolster parallel to your spine, under your torso and rest torso and head forward on the bolster, arms on either side, one cheek down.  Breath.  Stay 5 breaths- 5 minutes.

Supported Reclined Bound Angle: (Supta Bada Konasana) Turn around so that your bolster is along your back, in line with your spine.  Bring the soles of your feet together and knees wide. Recline back onto the bolster.  Depending on the size of your bolster and tension in the lower back this might bringing tightness or pain to lower back – consider tilting the bolster to an angle with a second bolster perpendicular underneath, or a block or blanket.  If your knees don’t touch down slide bocks or blankets underneath them. You can also slide blankets under your forearms and/or head. If you need more grounding take a blanket across your low belly/pelvis.

The breath is perhaps the most important piece of your yoga practice. The simplest of anchoring breaths, often used to help in the midst of acute trauma, are a belly breath, a counted breath or a breath retention patterned breath (named all kinds of things in various books).

Belly breath:   Close your eyes or rest them on a single point. Become still. Place your hands on your belly. Begin to breathe in and out of your nose.  When you inhale, feel the belly fill and press the hands upward.  When you exhale, feel the hands lower down.

Breath Retention Patterned Breath: Using the belly breath, inhale and count silently to 5, hold breath in for 5, exhale for a count of 5, hold breath out for a count of 5.  Repeat 5-10 times. Notice what you notice.  This breath is helpful for feeling panicky as it takes a great deal of concentration and also pauses the breath which forces it to be slower paced.

Soul Medicine

Through trauma we become disembodied.  We disconnect from the painful sensations felt in the body either from physical harm or emotional harm stored in the body.  I have a friend who recently told me through a therapeutic breakthrough she was able to feel her hands more – she wasn’t even aware she wasn’t feeling them fully!  

It is important to use all tools we have to become embodied.  To connect the feelings we have physically and emotionally in order to become more whole beings, operating in the freedom of control over our sensory experiences.

The practice of trauma informed yoga is my personal favorite tool for this, combined with a good therapist to help translate worldview and to give language to all the things we encounter within ourselves.  I believe that writing is another way to do that, and to help connect with the body.

You might try this exercise:

Grab some writing paper and utensil ( a journal is an ideal way to keep all the inner work you do together, but any paper will do!)  Choose a few yoga poses to practice- perhaps the ones listed above.  Determine a length of time to stay in the pose. Depending on the pose 5-10 breaths, or even 1-5 minutes can be appropriate.  Give yourself permission to come out of the pose earlier if discomfort arises that doesn’t feel like you can move with the breath.

Lie or sit completely still.  Take an inventory for 1 minute (if it helps, set a timer for yourself- there are lots of meditation timer apps!) of your breath and your body.  Notice what you notice.  Jot it down – the texture and pace of your breath, the tension points you feel, the place you feel the breath most deeply for example, and anything else that draws your attention.

Practice one of the yoga poses.  Pause, take an inventory, and jot down a few words or a few sentences about the experience for you.  Repeat after each pose.

An interesting experiment would be to try this more than once.  Repeat the same practice the next day, or later in the week, and see what you discover!

References:

The Herbal Academy Herbarium. “Hawthorn.” Retrieved October 2017 from https://herbarium.theherbalacademy.com/monographs/#/monograph/3034

Gladstar, Rosemary. (1993). Herbal Healing for Women. New York, NY: Fireside.

Clennell, Bobby. (2010). The Woman’s Yoga Book. New York, NY:

Author, F.M. (Year, Month, Date of post). Title of blog post [Blog post]. Retrieved from URL

Ullian,Naomi (2017, March). A Materia Medica for Grief. Retrieved from https://herbarium.theherbalacademy.com/2017/03/a-materia-medica-for-grief/

What We Must Do

break

Hey beauties.

I have so much to say to you.  I don’t even know where to begin. And I’m not even entirely sure what’s important to share to be honest.

I’m sorry I’ve been missing a bit lately.  The truth is about 4 months after the twins were born an awful case of Postpartum Depression set in.  It took me another 2 months to identify it.  I would have called it fatigue.  I kept using the phrase “drowning in babies.”  Doing things I normally enjoy (going to the lake, reading, playing with my kids etc.) just felt empty to me.  I had to drag my body into motion everyday and I had to force myself to do basic care on everyone (myself included).  We are low on funds (my husband is a student) and have no family nearby.  So there isn’t a lot of wiggle room for date nights, spa days or even an hour at the coffee shop alone.  I was teaching 6-8 yoga classes a week and on the first week I didn’t practice I felt a DRAMATIC drop in mood.  It was then that I realized something was up.  Thankfully, I was able to see  a great therapist right away.

We agreed a low dose of an antidepressant was in order.  Combined with higher amounts of omega 3s, b vitamins, and vitamin D.  I started to crawl out of the dark hole that is postpartum depression.  And what I realized is that I am not as qualified as I want to be to meet the needs of mothers.  I want to provide the mental health care to women they deserve.  And so I started my application to grad school for clinical mental health counseling.

I found my stride as a new mom of 3 people under 3.  And then this election happened.

Some women I have talked to don’t understand the feelings of fear many other women are experiencing.  But they have been the minority of my encounters.  Many women (myself included) feel a sense of betrayal and fear.  Feel that strangers we might see on the street, our own family, and even churches have chosen to passively condone sexual assault (among other things) by electing a man to the highest office that brags about it.  I have talked to women that feel triggered from very real trauma they have experienced in their lives and feel fearful of what others might now feel they have license to do.  The worst part is, many women who voted to support him now tell us, this diverse group of hurting women, that our feelings aren’t real, they’re just whining.  Our experience is unrelated, created by media, and we should just “get over it.”

And I crawled back into that postpartum depression hole for a few days.  Feeling isolated, gaslighted, and unsure of our future, of my daughters’ future.

This post is not political.  It’s personal. As women, we need to hear each other.  We need to honor each others’ experiences, feelings and points of view. We need to come together, now more than ever, not under the new president elect, or under anyone for that matter, but as sisters.  With empathy.  With compassion.  With open ears and hearts. It’s what we must do.

As mothers, as women, we can so often call our trauma or struggle something else.  I’ ve known mamas who found it too difficult to call their birth “traumatic” though they clearly felt traumatized. I’ve known many women who didn’t realize their experience was rape until they were much older.  I’ve known women to committed suicide from postpartum depression and others who continue to blame themselves for feelings and behaviors that they don’t even know are caused by postpartum depression. I know many who don’t know that perinatal depression (depression before birth even) exists.  We can do better.  We must. We must be here for each other no matter what’s trying to divide us.

I am taking a break from coaching work to focus on my herbalism training, my family, my private yoga clients, and my graduate school goals.  I am here for you though.  In the facebook group, in my yoga classes, for coffee. When I return to working with women in a bigger way, it will be as a holistic therapist to meet the physical/emotional needs we all have.  To help with healing as a whole human being.  We are going to need it now more than ever.

 

I love you all.

Sandra

 

Elderberry To The Rescue- How We Fight Off Fall and Winter Germs

mwt-elderberry

What is Elderberry and why it’s a mandatory staple in our house for the fall and winter months?

Elderberry is one of the most common herbs used for seasonal wellness.

Used for colds and flu primarily, they contain: organic pigments, tannin, amino acids, carotenoids, flavonoids, sugar, rutin, viburnic acid,vitaman A and B and a large amount of vitamin C.

They are also mildly laxative, a diuretic, and diaphoretic.

Flavonoids, including quercetin, are believed to account for the therapeutic actions of the elderberry flowers and berries.

According to test tube studies these flavonoids include anthocyanins that are powerful antioxidants and protect cells against damage.

Elderberries also have a really pleasant taste, are safe for kiddos and for pregnant or nursing mamas as well.

Every fall/winter we make a simple elderberry syrup to take daily

1-2TBS/day for prevention, every few hours to treat illness -roughly 1-3 tsp. for kids 2 and up.

((Though with my daughter she received it as young as 1 year.))

elderberry-syrup-recipe

Syrup Ingredients:

 * ⅔- 1 c. of dried elderberries
*3-4 c. water ( some recipes use apple cider instead!)
*2 tbs ginger
*½ tsp black pepper
*1 tsp cinnamon
*1 tbs licorice
*½ tsp. Cloves
*½ tsp nutmeg(optional)

 Place all herbs in a pot.

Add water.

Bring to a boil.

Cover and simmer for 20 minutes.

Turn off heat.

Strain herbs using a mesh strainer and/or cheese cloth.

Combine the liquid with raw honey

(depending on how sweet you like your syrup use 1:1 ratio or ½:1 ratio.

So 1 cup of honey to 1 cup of syrup or 1 c. of honey to 2 c. syrup) or anywhere in between.

Other recipes use closer to 1 c. honey to 3 c. liquid decoction (the boiled liquid from roots/berries).

Stir.

Pour into glass jar or amber bottle.

Store in fridge for a month or so.

Make sure to label with dates for optimal freshness!

We have also loved turning our Elderberry Syrup into Gummy Snacks.

(great as a daily treat, or to munch on when your feeling under the weather)

elderberry-gummies-recipe

Gummy Ingredients:

 * Silicone Molds Or A Glass Pan
( you can cut them into squares once gelled)
*Beef Gelatin Powder
*2 Cups of Liquid

Mix 1 c. of cold syrup with 3 TBS gelatin.

Heat the other cup of syrup and then add to the mixture.

Whisk.

Pour into molds and put in the fridge for an hour or two. Voila!

Mama Wellness Tip- Finding your Happy Womb Breath

 

Use this quick and easy breathing meditation whenever you need to feel connected and restful.

Especially great to ease cramps or feelings of anxiety !

Click below to view the Happy Womb Breath Video and create your happy womb.

http://bit.ly/HappyWombVideo


Are you a mama struggling to find her way through the sea of information that is out there?

I would love to work one on one with you so you feel totally empowered and ready to make all the best choices for you and your little one.

Click here to book your breakthrough session

 

Should you practice yoga during your period?

A lot of women have this question: Should I practice yoga while I have my period?  Or maybe this thought has never occurred to you!  After all, we live in modern American.  We have tampon commercials that promise us we can ride horses, wear bikinis, and never even notice we have a period.  So why not practice yoga? Why we should stop ignoring and start loving our periods is a blog post for another day (in fact, it’s written right here.)

But let’s assume that you, the wise and enlightened woman you are, want to work with your body and not against it.  Should you practice yoga during your period? And if so, are there certain kinds of practices that are better or worse to do?

“SHE SAID IT DIDN’T MATTER”

One of my clients once told me that her yoga teacher said there were no changes that needed to be made to her practice during her period, and there were no poses that benefitted a healthy cycle or fertility.

Well, Geeta S. Iyengar (daughter of B.K.S. Iyengar – an entire style of yoga) says that’s simply not true. She’s dedicated her career to helping women overcome painful periods, illness connected to cycles and womb health.   She says in her book The Women’s Yoga Book,

“Yoga is meditation in action.  If you organize your practice in response to all phases of your menstrual cycle, it will provide you with the power and comfort of ritual and will add stability to your life by reestablishing your link with nature’s cycles.”

I agree.  So, if we know that there are certain poses to practice during certain times of your cycle, we know that during your period you want to select poses that enhance the energy that’s already happening.

APANA VATA

Apana is the downward flow of elimination that is associated with eliminating anything unwanted from the body, including shedding the uterine lining.  If we want to work with this energy and not aggravate it (and cause symptoms to worsen or appear) we want to choose poses that are:

  • Gentle.
  • Don’t compress the belly, uterus or ovaries.
  • Don’t reverse the blood flow (i.e. inversions).
  • Help reduce swelling, cramping and fatigue.

Some teachers recommend you don’t practice at all during your cycle, and you may find that this rule works well for you.  But if you choose to practice during your cycle choose a home practice so you can tailor your postures to your needs.  Follow these general guidelines:

  • Avoid standing poses – they generate too much heat that’s already being created from menstruation.
  • Avoid twists – they over tax your organs and can cause flooding or clotting of menstrual blood.
  • Try gentle seated bends – they can help reduce swelling.
  • Use seated forward folds (leaving room for belly or gently compressing on belly can bring relief from cramps depending on what feels right in your body.) They quiet the brain and reduce fatigue.
  • Avoid inversions – they reduce that apana vata flow of mala or bodily waste like menstrual blood. Can contribute to problems like heavy bleeding and endometriosis.
  • Reclining poses are wonderful – they help with feelings of pelvic pain and fatigue or headaches.
  • Avoid backbends – they overtax the system.  Gentle supported backbends like an elevated supta bada konasana are exceptions.
  • No seated pranayama- too challenging on nervous system.  Choose gentle breaths in reclining positions.

Jot down how you feel or take note of what poses feel best during your cycle. Click here for my favorite yoga poses for fertility enhancing!

sandra yoga period

Mama Wellness Tip- Spring yoga pose for happy hormones

For this Mama Wellness Tip you will start in utkatasana by stepping the feet to touch.

Bend into your knees, slightly tuck your tailbone.

Inhale and raise your arms, exhale and bring your palms to touch at your heart

as you twist to your right, bringing your left elbow to the outside of your right knee.

Check that your left knee hasn’t moved forward (keep both knees in line).

Repeat for other side.

Especially useful for PMS, PCOS and endometriosis sufferers.

(Avoid this pose if you are pregnant, bleeding, or are past ovulation in your cycle.)

Interested in learning more about how yoga can improve your hormonal happiness,

schedule your breakthrough session with Sandra. 

mwtyogahappyhormones

 

The Green Kind

Hey Mamas,

Sandra here.  I want to get real for a minute, shall we?

It’s the New Moon, which is a time of planting new things. It’s a fresh start – the time women would typically start their new cycle, start bleeding. The time to start herbal tinctures and plant seeds. To be honest, this feels like a waste of time for me right now.  New seeds??  New seeds?? I can’t seem to get the ones I already planted to grow! Nothing seems to be taking root, nothing seems to be sprouting.  It’s a season of struggle for sure in many areas of my life.  (And if we’re honest, isn’t there always one area that is in the middle of some kind of struggle?)  The details aren’t even that important.

I know you can relate.  Is it trying to get pregnant for you? Does the idea of trying One. More. Time. just fill you with dread? Are you afraid everyday for the fragile life that you might be carrying?

Maybe it’s pregnancy.  You know that technically there’s your baby, your future, growing inside of you, but mostly it feels like inconvenience, pain, sleeplessness, discomfort, fear, exhaustion. It’s dragging.  Most of the time it feels like it’s getting worse, not growing something amazing.

Maybe your babies are here.  Maybe they’re even grown.  You’ve done all this work to help them grow and grow yourself and you feel like those seeds must have gotten washed away with the last storm.  Where’s the progress?  Why does everything feel hard?

Mama, I’m with you. More than you know. 

Let me join you there, in that place.  Not in a join-the-pity-party kind of way, but in a real, let’s be honest, this is how it is kind of way.

I watched a sermon the other day where the pastor brilliantly talked about the place between denial and despair.  It’s called destiny.  If we deny the reality of things, we’re not optimists, we’re crazy.  If I pretended that I was feeling awesome through my whole twin pregnancy for the sake of protecting my image to clients – that’s just a lie.  On the other hand is despair.  If I just spiraled downward into a hole and gave up hope that God could or would do anything beautiful through that experience, I’d kill any chance for growth – despair.

The place in the middle is destiny.  The place in the middle is where the seeds eventually bloom.  Where the winter eventually ends and something starts to look green.  Where the joy we’ve been fighting so hard to hold onto fills us with energy and we take one more step and finally see a breakthrough.

Take one more step, mama.

You can do it.  I’ll do it with you. Plant more seeds.  Wait on the planted ones.  Water them with your tears – of sadness and of joy.  Try One. More. Time.  God’s moving in the seasons when it looks like nothing is happening or ever will. How long ago did I plant that seed of hope for a baby? That seed of health for myself? Who even remembers at this point?  Don’t give up the hope.   God is a God of green hope.  There’s a future for you – your health, your family – even if it seems like it’s buried under a lot of *shit* right now.

Happy New Moon Mamas,  See you at Harvest time. 🙂

Mama Wellness Tip- Let the Moon boost your Fertility

The moon plays a crucial role in your healthy sleep habits and in return your fertility.

Follow this Mama Wellness Tip to maximize the benefit!

Need more help with finding hormonal happiness?  Click here to schedule your Mama Wellness Breakthrough Session and get the on-on-one attention you need and deserve.

Mama Wellness Tip to make your house more joyful

Add this one thing to your shopping list for joy on your mama journey no matter where you are. It’s especially useful to enhance the romance of life. Make sure to choose roses or dried rose petals that are free of pesticides. Especially if you will be adding to your tea. What makes this even better, a girls night shared with a fellow mama soaking in the joy and sharing some tea time together.

Looking for on online collection of mama’s to join on this journey with, join us on facebook Happy WOMBen: Pre-conception, Pregnancy, and Mama Wellness. 

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