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!

Magnesium and Pregnancy

magnesium pregnancy

Mama Wellness Tip this week – magnesium.  A lot of women are magnesium deficient and aren’t aware.  In particular in pregnancy.  This can show up as:

  • Muscle spasms
  • Vomiting/nausea
  • Insomnia
  • Headaches
  • Irritability
  • Restless Leg Syndrome
  • Anxiety
  • Constipation

A lot of practitioners say that the best way to absorb magnesium is transdermally (via skin) by using magnesium lotion, and/or taking mineral baths.  The lotion is fairly easy to make yourself too. Though I really enjoy the baths (especially with sore muscles), I always found taking magnesium in the form of magnesium citrate is the best way to quickly feel some anxiety relief, nausea relief and constipation relief.  Calm is my favorite brand – as it comes in a fizzy powder form and absorbs quickly!  Not to mention keeping it on hand for that dreaded postpartum poop!  (You know what I’m talking about… I had zero problems!) It’s also necessary for bone health and absorption of vitamin D.

Almonds, avocados and brown rice contain magnesium so those are great to keep including in your diet as well.

Enjoy mamas!

 

Pregnancy and Allergies

pregnancy and allergies

This time of year I’ve seen a lot of women come in with runny nose, sneezing, sinus headaches.  When you’re pregnant you can’t take all those anti-histamines, and really they’re only suppressing symptoms anyway.  What you want to do is manage the mast cell response.  These are the cells in your immune system that are hypersensitive to your environment and react when you encounter an allergen that your body doesn’t like.  They begin a process called degranulation where they release arachindonic acid causing an inflammatory response.  These compounds are different for different individuals, in response to different allergens.

Over the counter drugs mostly try to block the receptors once these compounds have formed, or try to block the compounds from being formed.  Unfortunately there are a lot of side effects and they don’t treat the underlying cause of inflammation – the mast cell instability.  Herbal remedies help to decrease the inflammation by stabilizing mast cells.

One of the best herbal remedies is Goldenseal, as it nourishes the mucus membranes so well, but it’s not safe for pregnancy.

Safe herbal tonic for allergic rhinitis:

  • Dandelion (supports healthy liver function – immune system response)
  • Milk Thistle (supports healthy liver function- immune system response)
  • Nettles (strengthens tissues, contains calcium and lots of iron, soothes hayfever response)
  • Licorice (nourishes mucus membranes and bronchial pathways, soothes upper respiratory system)
  • Chamomile (sedating, antibacterial, anti-inflammatroy, toning for the liver, uterus and endocrine system)

You can drink a tea with this combination, or purchase the tinctures (herbal extracts) to take daily.  Chamomile is very soothing to mucus membranes (unless you’re allergic to chamomile) and can be inhaled via steam if the tincture has been placed in a cup of hot water.

All of these are safe for nursing mamas as well.

How to Squat with Purpose

malasana garland pose yoga squat

Malasana or garland pose is one of those classic poses that a lot of people can do, and has a variety of benefits. Here are a few that will likely apply to you!

  • Creates a feeling of being “grounded” and safe (as it deeply activates and connects you to the root chakra).
  • An easy pose to locate and strengthen your pelvic floor.
  • Relieves lower back pain. Especially for people who sit at a desk all day and have poor posture!
  • Opens your hips and pelvis for conception and birth.
  • Enhances circulation to the pelvis and womb.
  • Lubricates knee and hip joints.
  • Encourages deep breathing.

Here are my tips for maximizing the benefits of malasana!

  1. Use a support under your perineum (especially if you have Symphisis Pubis Discomfort, are late in pregnancy,or have knee issues. )  This helps increase that feeling of connectedness, earthiness and grounding.  You can use a blanket, pillow, block or bolster.
  2. Use your breath (in and out through the nose, or ujayyi breath if you’re familiar with it) to really use your pelvic floor. One of my teachers used to call them “elevator kegels“!  On either the inhale or the exhale, lift up on the pelvic floor (that sensation like you’re trying to stop the flow of urine), and then use the opposite breath to slowly release.   See if you can continue without pause between breaths or movements of the pelvic floor.
  3. Lean against a wall while doing this for a whole other world of support.  Allow everything to totally release.
  4. Relax your jaw.  The hips and the jaw are intimately connected to each other.  Notice what happens if you tense up your jaw, where else in your body do you feel that tension?  Now notice what happens if you release it?  Pigeon (eka pada rajakapotasana) is another great posture to notice the hip-jaw connection.  This is especially important to practice if you’re trying to get pregnant or are pregnant!  It’s why we kiss before sex – it loosens everything up down there.  The throat chakra (being able to express ourselves and our needs well) is related to the root chakra (feeling safe and provided for).  It’s much easier to conceive (i.e. welcome a new being into our bodies) when we feel that we are safe to be able to express our needs and have them met.
  5. Practice daily and hold the pose through any feelings of discomfort (emotional or physical).  *Pain and discomfort are different things.  If you feel pain, especially in your knees, stop! And ask your teacher how to modify or if you should skip the pose.*  Humans tend to carry a lot of feelings of disappointment in the pelvic/hip area, and women even more so.  Notice what emotions come up for you, acknowledge them, breathe with them, honor them, and let them go.

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How Art Can Make Your Birth Better

birth artPeople generally look confused, sometimes surprised when I tell them I use my art therapy degree to help improve people’s chances of getting pregnant, the health of their pregnancies and their birth outcomes. Here are the reasons I think that’s true:

  • The idea of creating “art” seems intimidating after the age of 8.
  • Isn’t art therapy for children/people who can’t speak/ intensely traumatized people?
  • It feels totally unrelated to our very medical idea of birth.

But the truth is, we need to be paying more attention to the mental health of mamas and babies just as much as the physical health.  The New York Times posted a powerful article about prenatal depression last Sunday. Postpartum Depression affects an estimated 11-25% of mothers (depending on who you ask), higher for low-income families.  This is about 1.3 million women compared to the 800,000 who will be diagnosed with Gestational Diabetes (something we screen everyone for.)  We also know that when mamas are stressed out during pregnancy they have children with higher rates of anxiety disorders and other seemingly unrelated issues (like heart problems).

It’s a big deal.  Why are we only worried about having mother and child breathing on the other side of the birth-day and nothing else?  People are starting to understand what some midwives and wise women have known intuitively for decades and centuries: what we think is not separate from what our bodies do.  They are one and the same. The Internationally renown midwife Ina May talks about the effect of safety and emotions on having a safe labor.  Pam England talks about in Birthing From Within how creating art can help your labor and postpartum go smoothly.

Creating art during conception and pregnancy can help you:

  • Reveal subconscious obstacles to getting pregnant or having an empowered birth.
  • Bring relaxation.
  • Find your voice – what you really need and express it.
  • Visualize what birth or pregnancy will be like (visualizing helps you reach your goal -ask any athlete!)
  • Get around your conscious thoughts of what you should think, feel or do and get to the root of what you really think, feel or want.

Here are a few examples of how art has helped me and clients understand ourselves, our bodies and our births much better.

I realized during my 40th week of pregnancy that I still hadn’t fully grieved my miscarriage. I was having ltos of prodromal labor or Braxton Hicks for blocks of 4 or 5 hours at a time and it was making me nuts! I carved out an hour of time to just “draw it”.  Whatever that meant.  I ended up with an image of a couple sitting, and a rainbow going from their lap to the heavens.  I cried for an hour and felt so much relief.  all my pre-labor stopped until I went into labor 5 days labor. It was hugely powerful for me to grieve that to be able to have the super smooth labor I did.

 

Amy was in my Holistic Pregnancy Retreat Day – the first one I did.  I asked everyone to draw a mandala of what they wanted for their birth. (Mandalas are circular images lots of cultures use to represent the universe.  You can fill them with whatever you like.  Often they have repeating geometrically features.)  She explained that she had a hard time not envisioning a clock while drawing her empowered birth.  She in fact, had drawn a clock – with images at the edge of her circle at 12, 3, 6, and 9.  When we asked her why she said “I guess I’m feeling like I have to have the perfect, short labor and birth.  My friends are OBs and they think I’m crazy for wanting to have an unmedicated birth.”  We were able to help her see that there is no such thing as a “perfect birth” and that no matter how her labor went, her friends were unlikely to change their minds.  Even if it went “perfectly” they’d probably say she was a weird exception.  This brought a lot of relief and she was able to feel much less pressure going into birth.

 

Nichole was getting ready for her 3rd un-medicated birth.  She and I worked together for awhile during pregnancy and she confessed one day she had been doing lots and lots of unnecessary shopping.  She was accumulating tons of stuff and didn’t know why.  I asked her to do a drawing of herself as “the pregnant woman”.  When we talked about how small her drawing was, what she didn’t like about it and what was missing from this woman (her hands for example), she was able to see that what she felt was missing was her grandmother (who had attended her previous 2 births before passing on a few years before.)  She was trying to fill up that support gap with stuff.  She was so relieved.  We found a way to incorporate her grandmother into her birth preparation and labor and she went on to have an amazing and smooth labor and delivery.

 

Jen was trying to get pregnant and feeling like something was off emotionally.  There was stress from her job, the pressure to get pregnant and also the weird knowledge that nothing was “technically wrong” with her that would prevent pregnancy. I asked her to draw “Conception as a landscape”.  She sketched a neat little scene with a shining sun, blue sky and rolling green hills.  When we talked about it she said the word that kept coming to mind was “cultivated” rather than organic or wild nature. This was a comfort to her as we talked about how she is cultivating the a fertile mindset as well as a fertile body.  We also talked about her use of crayons and how it made her feel connected to “her 7 year old self”.  When we talked about being a seven year old she told a story of talking to God on the school bus and hearing from him.  Her mother had unknowingly told her that she was just hearing things.  We realized together that what she is now cultivating is her connection to God and the spirit – being able to listen to her intuition and trust he is taking her down the right path.

 

Here’s how you can get started using art to get in touch with your emotional obstacles to conception or an empowered birth.

DIY isn’t for everyone – it takes a village to not only raise a child but raise a mama too.  Schedule Your Blissful Mama Breakthrough Session and let me guide you.

MWT – Lemon Balm

 

lemon balm holistic pregnancy tip

 

Happy Mama Wellness Wednesday! Here’s your Mama Wellness Tip for this week.  This one is a holistic fertility, holistic pregnancy and holistic postpartum gem.

Lemon Balm is one of my favorite mama herbs!  Safe for fertility, pregnancy and breastfeeding seasons of life, it can help to reduce tension and relieve a headache. The large amounts of essential oils in Lemon Balm (or Melissa) have an antispasmodic effect and can therefore help with digestion and gas relief. Combined with Nettle Leaf it’s a great allergy tonic for pregnant women.

But my favorite thing about Lemon Balm is it’s light, lemony flavor.  I add it to otherwise grassy or bitter tasting herbs when I’m drinking something medicinally.  I think it’s this taste that contributes to it’s ability to help with depression and insomnia.  (Two things that are my high priorities for all categories of clients: mamas trying to conceive, pregnant women and new mamas!) Because it tastes so delicious I recommend taking it as a tea or decoction.  It tastes great with almost anything and is good iced as well.

Mama Maurer’s Moodalicious Tea

  • 2-3 parts Lemon Balm
  • 1 part Motherwort
  • 1 part Red Raspberry Leaf

 

You can find Lemon Balm in my Happy Womb Tea and Fertile Mama Tea! You can also order in bulk from good sources like Mountain Rose Herbs.

Why not sip some Lemon Balm tea before you sit down for your Empowered Mama Guided Prenatal Meditation? You can download it here. Or click here for your Abundant Mama Guided Fertility Meditation!

 

Mama Wellness Wednesday – How to Take a Break Like You Mean It

mindful mama tip

Yah, yah, you’re thinking, every blog about moms says “relax“.

You’re right.  But here’s what I mean when I say “take a break”.  I’m not referring to: getting a massage, having tea with a friend or watching the sunset (though I highly recommend all those things) . I’m talking about taking a momentum break.

  • Trying desperately to feel “like yourself” and “get your body back” postpartum?
  • Trying desperately to get pregnant – in any way possible – and feeling on the verge of giving up/losing it/hiding somewhere?
  • Trying desperately to plan for an empowered birth when there are voices, tv shows, friends, parents, care providers, blogs and your own fears telling you it’s impossible and you’re not feeling that great anyway so who has the energy to plan something as grand as “empowering”?

Your Mama Wellness Tip this week: put it down.  Walk away.  With a time limit.

  • I will work on getting my body in my pre-pregnancy pants in exactly two weeks.
  • I will have sex to get pregnant in exactly two cycles.
  • I will write my birth plan in three days.

Why does the time limit matter?  It helps to relieve that boiling pressure that’s building with each moment you don’t see the fruition of your desires.  And it helps you to feel safe (you haven’t abandoned your goal forever, you’ve just put it down temporarily).

Ever notice how some couples get pregnant when they stop trying, even after years?  How some pregnancies seem to improve when we unplug from what everyone around us is telling us to do or try?  How some women “get their body back” (oh how I hate that phrase, but you know what I mean) without trying? It’s called letting go.

One study even found that women undergoing IVF cycles were more likely to get pregnant when they used “emotion-focused coping (EFC)”.  The authors found that “letting go is positively associated with risk of pregnancy”.

Prana

In the yoga world we us a word called prana.  This refers to the life force within you.  What keeps you alive, what makes your heart beat and your soul inspired.  When we run ourselves ragged chasing after something (especially something we may not have control over) we become prana deficient.  We increase prana by taking a break.  Breathing more (that’s why those breathing techniques are called pranayama), eating more whole foods, sleeping more.  Essentially, we restore. Taking a momentum break will help to restore prana (not to mention benefit relationships, help you see what your true desires are, and connect with God.)

Give it a try.  What do you have to lose?

mindful mama tip

Do you have your Abundant Mama Guided Fertility Meditation? Click here to get it free!

 

 

Bonus Mama Wellness Tip for Mother’s Day!

art for pregnancy

 

You know what’s the easiest way to see your ideal pregnancy and birth? See it.  Draw it.  I have all of my clients do creative drawing tasks to help them circumvent their conscious mind (what I think should want, see or feel) and get to the deeper needs.

It works!  Even when mamas originally feel intimidated by the idea (we’ve all been told we’re not “artists”), after realizing that it’s not about making art but using a tool to get ready for pregnancy or birth, find it so useful.

There are all kinds of specific tasks you can do – and I have clients work through these, often adding in one if they could use something unique.  Here are three steps to get you started:

1.  Pick a medium.

The simple task of choosing your art tool can say a lot about what you need.  Try not to think about it.  Do you feel drawn to something more structured like pencil or more soft like water colors?

2. Pick a theme.

If you decide to just sit down and “draw” you likely won’t ever do it, or the blank page will loom before you like a waiting audience.  Decide on one topic, word or question.  For example: “motherhood”, “conception as a landscape” or “me as a pregnant woman”.

3. Don’t think about it…until later.

As much as possible just put on paper (or into clay) what comes out.  Turn down the inner critic and filter and just create.  Focus instead on that word or question.  Later (a day, an hour, a week), come back to the drawing/work and see how it makes you feel.  At that point it’s great to notice things about the work:

  • How do the colors make you feel or what do they make you think of?
  • What surprised you about it?
  • What stands out?
  • Did you learn something about yourself/fertility/pregnancy/postpartum vision?

Enjoy!

Need guidance walking through your creative tasks for motherhood?  Schedule your Blissful Mama Breakthrough session no by clicking here!  I can’t wait to connect with you!

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