Letting go {and other lessons}

Dearest yoga friends,

After many, many months (even before our move to Rhode Island), I have felt the pull towards a new path for me and for my family. And, I'm finally surrendering. I have made the decision to transition out of studio ownership at Yoga Dear. I could share the many reasons, but simply it's time.

As I type with slightly trembling fingers, I realize that some of you reading may never have stepped foot into the central PA studio and that, for others, this space has been a deeply healing and community filled spaceHowever you are connected with Yoga Dear or Yoga Dear Mama, I hope you will read this post. I wish I could tell each and every one of you this in person.

***

Trusting my intuition and opening the Yoga Dear studio was one of the best choices I have EVER made. It was scary. I had never taken one class in business. It didn't logically make sense to leave my career at the time. However, I felt like I just had to build a dynamic, supportive yoga community in central Pennsylvania. I felt the calling to teach and share and learn and grow with fellow yoga students, some who are now teachers themselves. I hoped to facilitate the growth and healing of a handful of students, that then became hundreds. I wanted to look back on my life and know that I had tried. And, together, we've created something beautiful.

And, now it's time to let go. For a few months now, I have explored selling the studio portion of Yoga Dear, and believe the next studio owner may be out there. In the event a sale is not made or a buyer not identified, we will be closing the studio on April 30, 2019. Read more in the "P.P.S." below for how this might affect your membership.

Of course, I hope you're reading this so that you are aware of the state of the studio (especially if you're an in-person student), but I also hope you are reading this email to recognize that it's okay to really listen to the inner knowing that's always within you...even if it's scary. It's okay to take risks. It's more than okay to believe in yourself. It's okay to honor curiosities and gentle nudges. It's okay because as a human and spiritual being, these are signals of growth and change, and growth and change aren't always painless.

***

art by @ineslongevial

art by @ineslongevial

Now, my own inner voice is nudging me down a new path in my yoga career, and I wish I could tell you exactly where it ends up. But, that's the evolution, right? Sitting with the uncertainty, allowing it, accepting it, and continuing to surrenderYoga will always be a huge part of my life, and I will continue to share its gifts through writing (the Yoga Dear + Yoga Dear Mama letters will continue!), yoga therapy work, future retreats + trainings, the sky's the limit and I'm letting it unfold. This is only the beginning of my own yoga journey. I'm so grateful it began with you. YOU are a tremendously important person in my life whether we've shared a practice in person, chatted via email, or you simply read from afar. I hope our relationship continues to unfold, and I hope you realize that it's okay to accept change as you grow and evolve, too. 

With so much love,
Leanne (and Eugene + Bodhi)



P.S. I want to make sure it's clear that Yoga Dear is multifaceted, and the studio is a piece. While I am transitioning out of owning a yoga studio, my work and commitment to yoga, yoga therapy, writing the regular letters and Yoga Dear Mama letters, teacher training, and retreats will continue (aka there will still be a www.YogaDear.com - ahem this site). So, this is truly not goodbye. Yoga and its teachings are too precious not to share. With love and big hug to you.

P.P.S. If you are a member of the studio currently, please read this: In the event a sale is not made, all auto-pay and yearly memberships will be turned off on April 16, 2019. Yearly Members will have access to studio classes until the end of April regardless of when their contract "ends" each month. Drop-in's for the rest of the month will be discounted to $14/class. Gift Cards must be redeemed in APRIL. We will not be offering refunds on any unused gift card purchases.

While this sounds very official, we do believe there may be a new studio owner stepping forth to carry this community into its next evolution, but I want to make sure we are including you in the conversations here and preparing for what may come if not. I believe that central PA needs a place to gather, meditate, practice, connect, and am hopeful a new owner will come forward. Please know that I am forever touched by you, by this place. You've changed my life beyond measure. I bow to you. Namaste.

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.

Your relationship to your body

Note: This message may be a trigger for those dealing with body dysmorphia or eating disorders; however, it focuses less on that and more about true self-love.


Hey there,

There was a time I was seriously disconnected from my body.

My obsession with my body as a thing outside of “me” didn’t really begin until my mid-20’s. At that time, I had been dealing with chronic stomach pain and overwhelming anxiety. Eventually, I’d get a diagnosis of severe gluten intolerance, but not before I dealt with all the stress through extreme physical exercise and an obsession with “eating clean” (a term I now loathe…but, we can talk about that in a later letter). I’ve shared this before, but both practices affected my fertility and even more than that, they altered my relationship with myself.

When I started to find a healing path, I promised to give myself more grace and to celebrate my body throughout all its stages of life and giving life. It’s been a long road to get here, and I cannot say I look in the mirror every day and don’t find something to critique. But, I can say, after having a baby I truly am more comfortable being in my body than I ever have been before (at least in my adult life…I’m pretty sure my toddler self was in awe of her body). But, it’s not just because of the “having a baby,” but because of the relationship I started to develop with my body over the years. What is your relationship like with your body?

Image from #takebackpostpartum via @nazzie_ox on Instagram

Image from #takebackpostpartum via @nazzie_ox on Instagram

***

Yes, today is a day of romance and love [Happy Valentine’s Day!], but before you radiate that love outwards, can you focus on you? Consider:

What is your relationship to your body?
How do you talk to her?
How do you treat her?
Do you listen to her needs?
Do you know how?
Do believe it’s even important to listen?
What could you do TODAY to show love to your body?

***

Before finally conceiving, I remember realizing that my way towards wellness was to start to believe and embody that joy did not come from my physical looks or even abilities. They are not associated. I could choose to feel joy and happiness, even if I didn’t go for a five mile run, even if my body didn’t look the way I “wanted” it to. I started to find joy in other ways - more yoga (no hot yoga), more long walks, more slowing down to prepare a nutritious meal, more notes on my mirror that said things like “I love and approve of myself” (I’m serious), and really listening to what my body wanted on any given day (rather than what I thought I should do or had to do). I found joy in how my body could feel…and she could feel amazing, which in turn could create feelings of joy.

I promised to take care of myself the same way during pregnancy - to appreciate a growing baby, to move in ways that felt good (more prenatal yoga) + LOTS of walks - and later postpartum - to take my time to heal, practice deep breathing to connect and slowly rehab my core & pelvic floor, get outside, and to try not to judge my belly.

But, I’ve found that it’s really hard to come to this realization when we are disconnected from our bodies. Your body, your mind, and your soul are delicately intertwined and each is trying to talk to you all the time. But, are you listening? I think that’s the first question towards building a relationship: How can you listen to your body more? Take a few deep breaths, close your eyes and ask that question. Note what comes up. And, based on the answer: How can you show your body you love her? Is it rest? More deep breathing and meditation? More warming soups? Getting outside? Patience?

Your body is a vessel meant to help you live out your work in this life (familial, professional, etc.), and we certainly want to treat it well. It is an undeniable part of you, but our bodies alone do not hold the key to contentment or love. So, maybe the next time you find yourself getting frustrated with her, you start to build the relationship: What does my body need in this moment? Am I listening? I can promise that with time this will be incredibly healing, and will help you establish more of a connection (and appreciation) with your Self [not a typo].

With love,
Leanne



P.S. This week I’ve been writing about listening to our bodies and also connecting with the deepest layer of ourselves (really our beings), too. You might also like reading this piece on your heart’s deepest desire.

P.P.S. Thank you to all who answered the Q’s from the last email! I will be responding to your tremendously helpful thoughts soon, and am excited for what’s to unfold next for Yoga Dear Mama.

Get the Yoga Dear Mama letters. <3

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I share encouraging, informative, and down to earth messages, each with a healthy dose of humor and honesty. Basically, the kind of thing I'd want to read during pregnancy and later postpartum...because gosh motherhood is confusing. When you subscribe, you'll receive my messages on What I wish I would've known before baby & a quick guide on the Yoga poses to avoid during pregnancy.

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