Embrace the discomfort

Hey there,

After we moved to Rhode Island seven months ago, there were days when I could not stop sobbing (and if you’ve been reading these letters for a bit, you know how hard this move has been for me). Sure, I would find moments of joy staring out into Narragansett Bay and watching Bodhi throw seashells into the water. But, I was surprised to feel supreme sadness about the move. I didn’t feel like I was moving towards something, but rather away from so much that I loved in central Pennsylvania (and, wow, I never thought I would say that!).

I was scared that Bodhi would pick up on my emotions. So, I hid them. I would cry behind closed doors, shielding my tears from him and my husband until I couldn’t hide anymore and then would explode with sobbing all over again. I would try and validate how “great” this place is (the beaches! the food! New England!), which was actually invalidating where I was/am at right now, which is sometimes pretty sad. And, that’s not what I want my son to learn to do.

I want him to feel his emotions wherever he is.
I want him to know that feelings and emotions are neither good nor bad, they just are.
I want him to know that he does not need to guard his feelings to protect those around him.
I want him to get curious with his feelings, to give them space.
I want him to know that even though he feels something, that doesn’t mean he IS that thing.

art by @robertbubel via @the.madrona

art by @robertbubel via @the.madrona

I’ve been getting curious with how I’m feeling as a result of this big move in my life, including the transition of selling/closing my studio to focus on yoga therapy (to support mamas and families like yours!). I’m learning to question when I stopped giving my emotions space for fear that those feelings would “harm” or make others feel uncomfortable. So now I say, feel what you feel. Write it down. Move it out of your body in a yoga practice or long walk. Talk about it with a friend or trusted therapist (talk, yoga, etc.). Meditate to get still and allow those feelings to show up. [Also side note: JUST because you are sad, that does not mean a) you are depressed or b) that you cannot also experience joy. However, if you think you may have depression, please see a trusted care provider].

And, at first that is SCARY. It’s scary to acknowledge where you are, especially if it’s a hard place. For example, if your birth was traumatic, then embrace where you are, what you feel. Try not to think, “but I’m healthy or my baby is healthy.” If you’re not sleeping at night, try not to say “but at least she’s nursing so well.” If you’re having a tough time in the transition to working motherhood and you ache for days with your child, don’t say “but at least I have a job.” It’s okay to sit with your emotions, even better to embrace the discomfort for a bit.

Why? First, experiencing a feeling in the moment is crucial towards actually finding your way back to a more peaceful place. Feel it now, rather than bottle it up and explode later. My very favorite acupuncturists, therapist, and yoga teacher all share this thought.

Second, when you validate your own feelings and emotions, you allow your baby or toddler to do the same. You let them cry when they need to, have tantrums when they need to, be held when they need to. They learn to embrace their emotions rather than label them as “good” or “bad.” And, babies and toddlers do this so naturally - Bodhi would wail for hours in my arms at night before finally sleeping. That was him processing his day the only way he knew how, and the crying wasn’t “bad.” He has tantrums when I don’t give into a “cereal cup,” which is a real treat in our house. He explodes with joy and yelling when he runs in circles outside. That’s fine. Feel it, move it out, embrace it all.

I realize that this letter is super deep, and could write so much more on the topic. In fact, I probably will because this process of leaning into feelings and seeing how they show up as emotions has largely informed my work so far in yoga therapy and sleep consulting. And, at first there is discomfort when something shows up that isn’t so shiny. It’s okay. You’re still okay. You’re still amazing.

I would love to hear your thoughts. First, take a moment to ask if you allow yourself to feel the whole range of emotions. What comes up there? What are you feeling right now? Second, how do you react to your baby or toddler’s stronger emotions? Does an emotion trigger something in you? What do you say? There is no right or wrong or judgement here, just continuing awareness. Promise.

How can you give your feelings and emotions some attention and curiosity? Is that uncomfortable? Write to me! I’d love to hear from you.

With love,
Leanne


P.S. I’ll be taking a pause for the next month to really honor the many recent happenings - leading a teacher training and its graduation, selling/closing the studio, and finally settling in a little more to Rhode Island (I’m not sure I’m embracing it yet, but I’ll give it a go wink wink). I also want to get clearer on how Yoga Dear Mama is shaping, informing, and growing, and I’m really excited to share that with you. There are so many thoughts up in my head begging to be jotted down and considered. Talk to you soon. <3

Sleep is not a luxury

Hey there,

About nine months ago, I decided that I would embark on a journey to become a certified Sleep Consultant for infants and toddlers. This made zero logical sense to me at the time I committed.

#1. I knew I was re-entering a three-year yoga therapy program, and who would be crazy to partake in two modes of study at once??
#2. At the time, I had a 10 month old (now 19 months). Do I need to say more?
#3. I was about to guide an 8 month yoga training program that took up LOTS of my time…why add more to my plate?

Photo by @misskyreeloves

Photo by @misskyreeloves

But, I had this feeling - this indescribable feeling that understanding and supporting baby/toddler sleep would benefit my desire to support mothers during the postpartum experience and into new motherhood.

And, I’m so glad I followed that nudge.

Nine months later (and six months after a move to Rhode Island from Pennsylvania), I’m knee deep in yoga therapy, nearing the completion of my sleep training, and loving the transition my work is taking to supporting women and their families. I’m ready to share sleep consulting with you.

***

One thing I’m realizing after supporting families and studying sleep/yoga therapy: Sleep is NOT a luxury. It’s a necessity for our emotional and physical well-being at all stages of life, and this is backed by science. We NEED sleep. BUT, sleep isn’t always the “issue.”

Sleep (or lack of restful sleep) is an indicator of emotions, feelings, physical state, and our relationship to our environment. We need to understand our child’s emotional state, developmental age, current events in/outside of the home, as well as the family parenting philosophy in order to help our babies and toddlers get the rest they need. And that rest, of course, leads to happier babies and mothers, but it also helps develop deeper bonds between mother and child. I firmly believe that.

As a yoga therapist, I advocate for a sleep consulting approach that compliments the family’s parenting philosophy, while also emphasizing a deeper connection and understanding between mamas and their babies. I take into consideration the mother’s state of well-being, concerns, and goals for sleep support. And, I work together with mothers (and parents) to design a sleep plan that is right for babies’ and toddlers’ unique temperaments and developmental ages, as well as ensuring that mothers feel nurtured and cared for throughout the whole process, too. Note: I take a gentle, baby-led and parent informed approach to sleep.

So, if you’re struggling with sleep, please let me know. You can read more about Sleep Consulting services by clicking the links below:

***

I guess there are still two main thoughts as I wrap up this message to you.

#1. Dear Mama, please follow those nudges and tugs on your heart, even if they don’t make sense. You really can’t know where it leads, but it’s often more beautiful than you could imagine.
#2. I’m ready to start supporting your family as a Sleep Consultant! To kick off these services, I’m offering 50% off of the Infant & Toddler Prepared Sleep Plan package for the next two weeks!

Thank you for being a part of the Yoga Dear Mama community. I’m honored you’re here and delighted to continue to share more. And, please write and share your experiences with sleep (you and/or your child’s)! How are you sleeping? How is your baby sleeping? What about your toddler? I’d love to hear from you.

With love,
Leanne

P.S. If your family is sleeping well, please share this letter with a mama friend who isn’t. Sleep is not a luxury, but a necessity, especially after those early months of babyhood. The Infant & Toddler Prepared Sleep Plan is 50% off now, and includes a consultation, full intake, full sleep plan presentation, follow-up phone call, and three days of email support.

Prenatal Yoga is not the same as "Gentle Yoga"

Hey there,

When I share that one of my specialities is teaching prenatal yoga, a common reaction is that it must be super gentle, slow, and full of stretching. In 99% of situations, people think that prenatal yoga is more “restorative”//”gentle” and it certainly can be (and at the end of every practice it is), but it’s also building stamina and strength, teaching women how to work with and through sensation (i.e. preparing for contractions), and sometimes, there is sweat.

Birth is an incredible physical feat for the body, and in my opinion, prenatal yoga provides a safe space to strength the legs, engage and release the pelvic floor, strengthen the “right” abdominal muscles, etc. With that, do I advocate for high impact exercises during pregnancy? Or “heated” classes? Or constant up and down vigorous movement? No. No, I don’t (actually, my pelvic floor hurts just thinking about it). But, my favorite comment to hear after a prenatal yoga class is, “Wow, I feel strong, but calm” or “That was so uplifting and reminded me of my strength.” YAAAS.

While I’ve shared safe approaches to practicing yoga and movement in other posts, I thought I’d expand upon my philosophy towards teaching prenatal yoga here. If it resonates, I hope that you find a teacher, practice, or place that reflects the same philosophy. Note: We can work together, too, in person or via Zoom to help you feel confident and healthy in your body during pregnancy and postpartum.

My approach to sharing prenatal yoga:

  1. Our pregnant bodies are not broken, and want to move and feel strong (though this can vary day by day).

  2. Pregnancy demands different (and safe!) accommodations as our bodies grow, change, and adapt to support the life of another human being, and the wellbeing of you, the mother.

  3. What we do, how we move, how we breathe, and how we interact with our surroundings during pregnancy can affect our birth experiences, and the wellbeing of our bodies and minds during our postpartum experiences.

  4. The needs of a pregnant woman can vary throughout her pregnancy (morning sickness, fatigue, sore muscles, symphysis pubis, etc.), and a prenatal program meets her where she’s at on any given day.

  5. Building community and sharing knowledge helps women realize the choices they have during pregnancy and motherhood, alongside a supportive group of women.

Let’s break these down briefly, yes?

If you’re pregnant, your body is not broken or “less than.” Your body is beautiful and strong and maybe different than it was (or different than other bodies around you), and this is something to work with. Regular movement, and especially a prenatal practice, will help strengthen the physical body, while also finding proper stretching to open the hips, shoulders, and relieve tension that might accumulate in the back. It’s okay to feel strong as you practice. It’s not okay to feel light headed or to overheat or feel too much pressure on the pelvic floor. A knowledgeable teacher will know the balance.

Art by @yogaprints

Art by @yogaprints

With that, there are accommodations to be made as you step into or continue a yoga practice. There is such a thing as “over-stretching” during pregnancy (the hormone relaxin makes your body more flexible). We do not want to put pressure on the abdominal wall (the belly) or strengthen the rectus abdominis (the “six pack” muscles), but working with the obliques and the transverse abdominals is very helpful for birth and beyond. Further, by practicing safe shoulder and chest openers, twists, forward bends, and strengthening postures, we’re working with the soft tissues of the body, finding more ease as we move throughout our everyday and hopefully allowing our bodies to get into the right positions to deliver our babies. Emphasis on “safe” and proper modifications for these postures, because they do look different during pregnancy.

Finally, I firmly believe that what we do during pregnancy can affect our birth and postpartum experiences, both physically and mentally. Practicing yoga is known to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system - the “rest and digest” state, which is necessary to birth our babies. We want to feel calm, grounded, safe, supported. We don’t want to feel constant fear, anxiety, worry, and/or stress. Yoga equips us with not only physical movement, but breathing techniques and meditation practices that help us acknowledge and work with challenging emotions during pregnancy, birth, and during our transition to new motherhood.

It is my aim to support women as they transition into motherhood through pregnancy, birth, and during the postpartum experience, too. As a student and practitioner of yoga therapy, I use the physical body as a portal to wellness, while honoring where women are at mentally and emotionally. And, I’d love to work with you. I’ll be sharing more about yoga therapy services soon. Above all, please move your body is way that honors your pregnancy (and feels good!), find teachers you trust, and communities who will support you.

With love,
Leanne

P.S. While I periodically teach group Prenatal Yoga classes now in Rhode Island, I’m exploring new ways of supporting women during pregnancy. I’m especially interested in a yoga therapy approach, using the movement as a gateway to wellbeing, while honoring where emotions, too. How would you like to work together moving forward? Have you seen a specialist to support your movement and wellbeing during pregnancy specifically? I’d love to hear from you. With <3.