What held me back from having a great period for years. (Even after I went to Nutrition School)

love your period

It’s common in our culture to disdain that time of the month when we bleed.  Our commercials for period accessories try to prove how great they are by showing how they help us completely ignore our periods all together.

When I got my first period in middle school my mom sort of just said Ok, here’s a tampon, good luck. There was certainly no celebration of entering womanhood or passing on of womanly wisdom.  I did get a discreet envelope during my 5th grade “sex ed” class full of intimidating pillow sized pads.  That was super helpful. I got the message: we don’t really talk about this, except maybe to complain.

That message has been reaffirmed throughout my adult life.  I didn’t actually learn about how to chart ovulation or connect with the lunar cycle until I was much much older.  And in the meantime, I assumed that dramatic PMS symptoms like cramps, drastic mood swings, clumpy or heavy bleeding were just normal.  After all, isn’t this why we were supposed to complain all the time?

Turns out, I was wrong.

I wish someone would have told me in my early twenties that not getting my period for months at a time was not a cause for medication but actually about my strict calorie counting, self-loathing and obsessive exercising.

I wish someone would have introduced me to the idea that my lunar cycle is a celebration of womanhood, the potential for motherhood, and a unique opportunity to gently cleanse every single month.

I wish someone would have helped me understand the impact nourishment, rest and reflection would have on those “unavoidable” symptoms.

I wish someone would have passed on some wise woman wisdom about herbal, nutritional and yoga therapeutic remedies to help regulate my hormone production so my body didn’t feel the need to get my attention every month.  The role my liver, thyroid and adrenal function played in having a consistent cycle.

I wish someone would have told me about the toxic chemicals in most period accessories.

I wish someone would have taught me to love my period.

What if you could have a great period?

Ignoring it was the problem. It held me back.

I was talking to a client the other day who ignored the severe pain she was having for a year because her endocrinologist said “getting pregnant would fix it”. We need to get back in touch with our intuition, and stop ignoring your period.

What kind of words do you associate with it? Are you trying to get pregnant and dread that time?  Are you “postpartum” and can’t seem to find a good normal?  Have you been able to learn to love it? What are your favorite ways?

Any of this sound like what you’d love to know?  Let me help you.  Schedule your Mama Wellness Breakthrough Session by clicking here.  Let’s get an action plan going for your specific period needs.

How to Live Mindfully From the Couch

I read a piece from the NY Times the other day about how gratitude practices have evolved to really just be self-help nonsense.  That we’ve turned the gratitude exercises from motivating us to share and help others to narcissistic-feel-better-about-yourself-without-doing-anything mumbo jumbo. 2008-01-01 12.31.54

Well they’re partially right.  There is a superficial nature to some of them.  Random sayings embroidered on pillows about embracing life or following your bliss don’t really help us in any practical way.  And they don’t help anyone else either.  (Truth be told I actually have a pet peeve for cheesy sayings pasted on walls or t shirts).

But there is a science to gratitude.  “gratitude stimulates the hypothalamus (a key part of the brain that regulates stress) and the ventral tegmental area (part of our “reward circuitry” that produces the sensation of pleasure).”

And gratitude has been shown to improve mental health and wellness.  And do you know what happens when women have improved mood, self-esteem, and mental health?  They not only have better physical health, but so do their families. In short, finding gratitude motivates us towards expressing gratitude in the world around us, and therefore makes the world a better place.  Here’s your formula: Gratitude for Mama = Happier Planet.

In short, finding gratitude motivates us towards expressing gratitude in the world around us, and therefore makes the world a better place.  Here’s your formula: Gratitude for Mama = Happier Planet.

I have been trapped in bed for weeks.

With a toddler and a grumpy husband who is slowly recovering from the most challenging academic semester of his life.  I’m 457 weeks pregnant with twins.  We’re moving tomorrow 4 hours away to be closer to his PhD program (and farther away from the budding birth center that I have been – until now- a part of building.  A lifelong dream of mine.) It’s -4 degrees outside. Did I mention that we all have had a head cold for over 6 weeks? THis particular virus responds to no amount of echinacea/vitamin c/homemade elderberry/neti pot/EOs/bone broth.  Nor the the antibiotics I finally caved in and tried a week ago in an act of desperation despite my obsession with healthy bacteria during pregnancy.

I say all of this not to complain or self-depricate but to prove my point: gratitude grows in strange places with faith; and in fact, it’s these places where it is needed the most.

I am living mindfully from the couch.

It’s not that I don’t think negative things.  There have been several occasions (ok, more than several) where I have cried into my husband’s shoulder “I give up, I can’t do it’.  He once found me in the bathroom with the lights off crying by myself, hiding from my cranky toddler (he had been gone for 3 hours).  But I believe that God is the God of the darkness and the light; the pain in the night and the joy in the morning.  And I believe that in limitations creativity begins to thrive.

“gratitude grows in strange places with faith; and in fact, it’s these places where it is needed the most.”

 

When Walls Become Doorways: Creativity and the Transforming Illness is a great book about the lives of so many beautiful artists that were limited by their illnesses and had to use creative ways to not only make art, but that the making of the art became their only way to convalesce.

My yoga practice is my favorite healing tool.  But my serious Symphysis Pubis Discomfort and consistent braxton hicks have left me with about 4 poses that are accessible (legs up the wall, cat/cow, child’s pose and heart melting pose).  And sometimes moving between them can cause me to wince in pain (though once I arrive the relief is wonderful.)  I can journal and knit and thankfully meet with clients on the phone, but I can’t cook nourishing foods, I sometimes have to ask for help to get out of the bathtub, and taking a walk is out of the question.

So what to do?   Create a new way to be mindful, to have gratitude, to praise God in a dark night of discomfort that things are growing and will eventually bloom in unexpected and awe-inspiring ways.

There will be a spring!

I breathe.  A LOT.  I rely heavily on my husband (and also my closest friends) which has brought us to many new points of understanding and love.  I read to my toddler and I knit and read and pray.

Here are my tips if you are in a season of needing to live mindfully from your “couch”.  (i.e. you need to get creative with tools for understanding and expressing gratitude):

  1. Breathe.  Nothing brings stability and humility like a cleansing breath.  A warming or cooling breath.  A deep, deep breath that reminds you you’re alive and all is well for 2 seconds.
  2. Whatever yoga practice you can do, do.  Moving the body in meditation is so pwerful and healing.
  3. Pray.  Rely on the holy spirit to lead you through your season of seeming dryness to the next season of reaping joy.
  4. Surrender.  This is in fact my bhavana for the year.  (Don’t know what that is?  Join the Virtual Mama Wellness Circle every month and find out!) There is so much beauty in the art of surrender and I learning that in small, painfully beautiful steps.
  5. Be grateful.  You can be grateful from anywhere.

 

Need help with your Mama Wellness Journey?  I’m here.  Let’s meet and get you the tools you need to create a deeper level of wellness.

Skipping the Milk for Calcium in Pregnancy

Don’t get me wrong, I believe that many people do just fine with a small portion of high quality dairy in their diet.  (Though many don’t process dairy very well at all).  However, there is a large difference between different types of dairy and how they not only affect nutrition content but can affect hormonal balance (and fertility).

Leafy greens are often something we generally don’t get enough of as a nation.  However, we’re taking tons of calcium supplements and constantly worried about calcium intake as women.  We’ve also been marketed to for a long time by a dairy industry trying to make sure we eat plenty of cheese and milk.

A much superior source for calcium would be leafy greens!  And there are many ways to include them in your diet without going nuts.  Here are a few:

  • Add them to a smoothie
  • Add some to a pot of fresh bone broth or vegetable based soup
  • Quickly sautee with some garlic as a fast side dish to whatever else you’re eating
  • Add them to a sandwich
  • Add them to an omelet or scrambled eggs

Your body will thank you for the extra calcium, but also the iron and protein! Enjoy!

Take Your Practice into Winter

 

Winter Yoga Practice

As the weather turns colder, your practice will change as well.  A season of drying and cold, it’s important to include poses that are warming, grounding and nourishing to your thymus and lymph system.  The pose pictured above, legs up the wall or viparita karani, is wonderful for reversing lymph flow and increasing circulation.  If you’re pregnant, prop up your upper body or your hips to take pressure of the vena cava nerve.

Other poses that are useful for winter might include: ujjayi breath (the victorious breath), camel pose (stimulates thymus and throat chakra – beneficial when bronchial problems are abundant!), warming sun salutations and plenty of time to meditate.

Bonus! The pose on the right (fierce pose or chair pose) is great for enhancing fertility by increasing circulation to the pelvis!

Screen Shot 2015-05-13 at 11.11.15 AM 9 half squat

Guest Post: Authentic Mama Emotion

When we recognize our right to feel what we feel and really experience our emotions, the good and the bad, we connect to a deeper part of ourselves and allow real healing to occur.

This week has been full of the unexpected for me. My three year old was rushed to the ER and will subsequently need surgery next week, and an old friend has been declared missing.  I’m normally in touch with my emotions, but this week a weird thing happened.  I felt like I didn’t have the right to feel what I was feeling.

My sons ER trip ended in the best way it possibly could have, and we are extremely blessed that we didn’t end up in an emergency surgery situation. A part of me felt guilty for feeling so afraid and upset about his upcoming surgery when I know that the outcome could have been so much worse.

When I found out that my friend was missing, I had a horrible ache in my heart that has yet to go away, but logically I felt that it was selfish to be so upset myself when his family and close friends must be unconsolable.

But the truth is that every emotion I may be feeling, logical or not, is completely valid.  I am scared. I am heartbroken.

While I am so incredibly grateful that my son was okay that night and didn’t need emergency surgery, it doesn’t take away my fear of his upcoming procedure.

This amazing man who was once an incredibly close friend will always have space in my  heart even though we haven’t seen each other in a decade and our lives took different paths. Yes, my pain is different than the unimaginable pain his mother, father, brother and sister are feeling, but it doesn’t make it any less real.

I’ve talked to so many mothers who push aside feelings of fear, anxiety or doubt because they feel they should be grateful to experience motherhood at all.  But the fear and doubt doesn’t cancel out the joy and excitement. To be scared doesn’t mean you are not incredibly grateful and happy. We are beautiful and complex and contradictory, and by honouring all of our emotions, we are honouring our entire selves.

Today, I wanted to share a simple meditation I do when I am feeling unsettled about a particular emotion or feeling I am having.  It connects me to my authentic emotions and gets me out of my head, allowing me to move forward from a place of wholeness and light and let real healing begin.Screen Shot 2015-11-10 at 9.51.37 AM

If you have any meditation items you use, set them up to create a place of peace for yourself. I set up my meditation blanket, burn some palo santo or sage and set the intention of the meditation while holding my mala beads and favorite stone.

  • Repeat silently or out loud your intention for the meditation:

“ I set the intention for this meditation to tune me into my truest emotions allowing myself to move forward from a place of love, peace and acceptance”

  • Sit comfortably with your legs crossed. Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths, witnessing but not judging your breath.
  • Feel the cool air entering your nostrils and the warm air exiting.
  • Bring your focus to what has been bothering you and bring your awareness to the physical sensations in your body.
  • Settle your awareness on any tension or restriction in your body. Feel it without judgement. You may experience fear, anxiety or joy.  Let each come to you organically and feel the physical manifestation of your emotion.
  • Sit with this feeling until it begins to subside
  • Once the feeling starts to subside, imagine with each inhale a bright light filling the area with acceptance and love. Exhale any remaining tension.
  • When you are ready bring your awareness back to your breath and spend a few moments absorbing the meditation.
  • Close your meditation by thanking your body for guiding you to your authentic emotions.

 

“Thank you for allowing me to see my true feelings without judgement. I accept my true emotions with love and compassion”

Namaste

 

It is my intention that we all embrace and accept ourselves as the complex, beautiful and sometimes contradictory women and mothers that we are lucky to be. Click here to listen to the guided meditation from Heather.

 

mama mala guest postHeather Mudry is the founder of Mama Malas, creating mala beads and intentional accessories that support women on the journey of motherhood. She lives in Calgary, AB with her three year old son, husband and pup and is obsessed with coffee, bonfires, mountains and the moon. She believes every mother deserves to feel radiant, adore her life and create her own path and strives to foster a community of mindful mamas that encourage and support each other to live according to their intuitions and desires.

Abhyanga – Daily Ayurveda Practice for Pregnancy

ayurveda pregnancy
In Ayurvedic view, the season of pregnancy is dominated by vata energy.  Vata is one of the 3 main constitutions (vata, pitta and kapha).  Being dominant and out of balance with vata is  characterized by dryness, hurried mind, anxiety, constipation, the need to buy things, quick, changeable, cold hands and feet.
I am already predominantly a vata constitution, so pregnancy really aggravates this in me and I need to pay extra careful attention to use foods and habits that nourish my system.  Here are a few key (and easy) ways to help balance vata in pregnancy:
  • Warm dairy
  • Routine and Rhythm
  • Rest when you can around 2-4 pm
  • Warm bone broths
  • Spices like cinnamon, ginger, clove
  • Foods like avocado, coconut oil, nuts, sesame oil, cooked veggies (especially root veggies and greens)
  • Abhyanga: daily self massage with oil

Abhyanga is super easy. Choose a vata balancing oil like avocado, almond or sesame (I prefer sesame in the winter).  Make sure they’re organic high quality oils.  And give yourself a fully body rub down daily.  Especially in a downward direction.  Morning and evening is best.  Take those few moments to breath, be quiet and go inward.  It doesn’t take a lot of time and really does help! My favorite way to have the warm oil is to fill up the sink a little with hot water and stick the glass bottle of oil in it while I’m in the shower or bath and then it’s all warm and ready to go when I get out!

Enjoy!

 

How to take those awful tasting herbs.

how to take herbs

How to take herbs easily (especially the really awful tasting ones!)

Are you one of those women who wants to take all the herbs and tinctures but that smell or taste just really puts you off?  Especially during pregnancy, this can be a problem.

The solution though is fairly easy and simple.  Take a little advice from Mary Poppins.  Since I prefer liquid versions of herbs for most people, taking a tincture is a great way to go.  The simple way to sweeten it up is to mix it with some raw honey and make it a syrup!

  1.  Get some raw, local honey from your health food store.
  2. Get a plain glass amber or blue jar like the one in the picture above (just like your tincture came in, only get a larger one without a dropper top- just a regular screw top).
  3. Mix about 1 tsp of tincture with 1/2 tsp of honey in that bottle.  Adjust accordingly to how much you want to have sweetened on hand.  (For example you could mix 3 tsp of tincture with 1.5 tsp of honey).
  4. For long term storage keep in the fridge.  For a couple months it’s fine in the cabinet.

Alternatively, you could mix each dose with a teaspoon of honey in a small glass just before you take it.

 

Enjoy!

Click here to read about some of my favorite pregnancy herbs!

Mama Wellness Tip – Is that headache actually depression?

prenatal headache

Ever get a chronic headache for awhile or a mysterious back pain that won’t seem to go away?  Sometimes there is an underlying cause that doesn’t get much attention: depression and anxiety.  Many women have symptoms like unexplained headaches or low back pain that seems unrelated to any kind of change in diet or movement.  Sometimes these symptoms can accompany feelings of depression or anxiety or they can be the sole symptom.  How do you know?  Checking with a therapist, midwife, naturopath or other trusted care provider is a good place to start, especially if you’re having other more severe symptoms (like suicidal thoughts) or the headaches are accompanied by dizziness, nausea or swelling.  But here are a few questions to get you thinking:

  • Is the pain accompanied by a life change of any kind?
  • Are you having feelings of resistance to anything in your life (old or new) such as going to work, exercise or group meetings (particularly ones you used to look forward to)?
  • Do you experience this pain at specific times of day or with specific people?
  • Is the pain dull and irritating or sharp?
  • Does rest help?
  • Does self-care help relieve it (like journaling, meditation or a yoga practice)?
  • Does it improve or disappear when you spend time in a nurturing environment?
  • Does it worsen in certain environments?

If several of these questions are a yes, the underlying cause or a portion of it, could be psychological.  It doesn’t necessarily mean you have depression but it does mean that your emotions are trying to get your attention!  Write down your answers to these and then write a list of ways you might incorporate more steps towards making changes that help you understand and heal whatever is going on emotionally!

Seeds for Hormone Health

foods for fertility

There are all kinds of things you can do to help balance hormones before, during and after baby.  Herbs, supplements, yoga, meditation, medication.  But one of the simplest is to increase foods in your diet that help to remove excess estrogen, protect the body from xenohormones (synthetics that bind with estrogen receptor sites and inhibit the liver’s ability to remove excess estrogen), contain blood nourishing iron and vitamin C to help with iron absorption, and omegas for healthy cell membranes.

Some of my favorite foods for this are a few easy-to-eat seeds. Pumpkin seeds are high in zinc which helps to support progesterone release and also omega-3 fatty acids.  Flax seeds are high in lignans and omegas, helping to block excess estrogen.  Sesame seeds are also high in lignans and sunflower seeds contain selenium – a trace mineral that aids the liver in detoxification.  Best if eaten raw, (and especially in the case of flax seed – ground), added in small amounts daily to smoothies, yogurt, or soaked cereals.   I have been craving pumpkin seeds the entire 14 weeks of this pregnancy so far!

Twist for Release – Yoga Pose for Detox

Yoga Pose Tip: Marychasana C

This deep twisting pose is incredibly cleansing for your internal organs.
If you’re suffering from PCOS, blockages in your fallopian tubes or bad PMS symptoms this pose is great for you. It compresses (cutting off prana and blood flow to) the liver, ovaries, womb, and then releases, flooding with fresh energy and oxygen!

If you cannot get your elbow to the outside of the knee, just hold that knee with your hand. Don’t strain to turn the head, let it be the natural extension of the pose. Keep the straight leg active.

When to do it:

  • After you’ve warmed up your spine and practiced some breathing exercises.
  • In the morning before eating or at bedtime (on an empty stomach).
  • During the first half of your cycle (pre-ovulation) if you’re trying to conceive, or all the way up to your period if you’re not.

When NOT to do it:

  • When you’re actually bleeding.
  • If you’re during retrieval or implantation days if you’re using those methods.
  • If you’re pregnant (you can modify by sitting in easy seated pose and just gently twisting to each side with one hand behind you and one hand on your knee.)
  • The second half of your cycle (post ovulation) if you’re trying to conceive. (You don’t want to continue to overstimulate the ovaries, instead focus on poses that encourage implantation!)

ENJOY!

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