Becoming a Mother: Our Birth Story

Lessons Learned in Late Pregnancy

All the time she spent in my belly was wonderful preparation for parenting: I could start to feel maternal instincts slowly emerge, the desire to be more cautious with my body, slowing down, being more conscientious about bad habits (my husband would often remind me, “Is that something you want to teach your child?”)

I also learned the invaluable lessons of letting go and acceptance: as my body gradually changed to accommodate my growing child, I had to let go of the control of my body that I had become accustomed to through diet and exercise. Some activities became nearly impossible in late pregnancy. This change precipatated another lesson – learning to accept help graciously. I realized just how fiercely independent I had been and how I typically acted in a way to avoid receiving help and bothering people. Pregnancy forced me into situations where I needed more help, and luckily, I found that many people were happy to help. I often felt like all the people around me on the street were looking out for me, like I had numerous guardian angels. One day, I was walking speedily to catch a bus, and a construction worker across the street saw me and whistled at the bus driver to stop and wait. It felt like a scene from a movie, and it made me feel watched over and cared for.

 

At other times, I felt like a circus freak, a creature that people rarely see out in public. Indeed, we don’t see very pregnant women walking around, eating at restaurants, going to yoga classes, too often. As I progressed into the last weeks of pregnancy, people on the street, mostly would either give me looks of encouragement to “keep going”, or sympathetic glances. Then, as my due date came and went, the waiting game began, and even though I knew how silly the idea of a due date was, I could not help feeling disappointed when I became overdue. I felt like I had somehow failed my family who has all gathered for the birth. But eventually, I let go of that too.

Our Birth Story

Labor started on Thursday night with my water breaking, and ended on Sunday just past midnight with the birth of our daughter, Baby Mo. Friday morning, I went to the birth center as my water had broken but no contractions started. I was told to make a “birth cave” and relax all day, waiting for nightfall when labor was more likely to start. Around 8pm, I drank a “cocktail” of champagne, almond butter, apricot juice, and the notorious castor oil. A well-known “labor inducer”, castor oil activates digestion, and usually gives you diarrhea. Combined with the champagne, it was disgusting to drink and gave me explosive diarrhea for a few hours. It did also activate some contractions, but not enough for active labor. You see, there is a window of about 24-30 hours after the water breaks to go into active labor, as there is a heightened chance of infection. So around 6am, after shedding a few tears over my perfect birth center birth with sound healer and all, we went to the hospital.

Fortunately, the midwife Erin, was there with us every step of the way! She put me on a light dose of Pitocin, the mention of which sent fear into my natural-birth loving heart, to kick start the contractions.  Because of the pitocin, I was also on continuous metal monitoring, so two straps around my belly hooked up to a machine. This typically limits movement, which can make pain intolerable for many women. But, I did not let the straps, or the nurses who had to come in readjust my straps every 30 minutes, stop me, and I stayed as active as possible. Erin helped by offering suggestions of positions that I could move into that would allow monitoring. The best: On knees with belly against a birth ball against the back of the bed! (That is how I gave birth ^v^)

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Regular contractions, about 5 minutes or less apart, lasted about 10 hours, but I had been up 24 hours before that, so it was a long day. Somehow, I got through it with 5 minute snoozes when I could. My husband was there with me the whole time, massaging and encouraging me, bringing me water and snacks. It was really a beautiful experience in partnership. He really came through when it counted, and was present every step of the way.

I felt so blessed to have my parents and my mother in law there as well. They stayed in the room most of the day, going out to get some food or take a walk. My mother, who had had 2 C-sections, was a bit squeamish when I first brought up the idea of being in the delivery room. In the end, she was with me the whole time and amazed by what she saw.

 

Around 7pm, I had only progressed to about 5cm dilated, so Erin striped my membranes, and found that I had a water sac at the base of my uterus, protecting baby from infection. The water breaking 2 nights before had been from a higher part of my uterus, thus keeping the integrity of the sac at the base. She popped it, and almost immediately active labor started. From then on, it was intense contractions at 3 minute intervals. So this was what everyone talks about!

We tried different positions, singing, and going to the bathroom. As night fell, I needed to be in water I felt, so we discussed taking off the fetal monitors so I could use the shower. After 30 minutes of consistently good heart rate, I was awarded the ability to take the monitor off! I spent some time in the shower which allowed some relief from the intensity of contractions. Now I get the buzz about water birth! I also spent time on the toilet, since I felt like I had to poop really bad. Yes, that was baby pressing down on my cervix. I could feel her and I wanted to see her soon.

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The pushing phase was rather short, hastened by my own desire to see my child, and, of course the discomfort of her bearing down on my birth canal. I spent that last 45 minutes on my knees, with the birth ball between my chest and the bed, moaning. Every so often, my father or mother would say a non-sequitor, and I would respond. Otherwise, I was on another plane, totally present, completely absorbed in my body. I was too focused on pushing to really think about the pain or anything beyond that moment. I did ask for the same song, Ek Ong Kar Sat Guru Prasad, to be repeated. It gave me some kind of peace and added some levity to the situation.  I was told to push as hard as I could, so with a few hard pushes combined with loud and long screeches of power and pain, our little one arrived on earth, welcomed by gravity and the sound of Snatam Kaur. The head crowned, and with it an intense burning sensation like nothing I’ve ever felt. That sensation passed quickly, allowing a great sense of relief as the head passed the opening of my vagina, followed quickly by the little body that just slid out.

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I will never forget the moment my life changed forever. In a second, my world shifted, or perhaps my place in this world shifted. At first, I couldn’t really believe it, that I had birthed a baby. I was on my hands and knees, so I didn’t see her come out. My husband was crying, my mothers cheering, and the nurses and midwife congratulating us. A moment later, I was on my back in bed, and our little baby girl was on my chest, staring up at me. We acknowledged each other’s existence. Automatically, we knew who we were in this world. I was amazed that this adorable little creature, fully formed with hair and fingernails, had grown from a couple cells into this tiny human inside my body. At once, I felt in awe of the miracle that is life in general, and in particular that brought this child into our lives. Without hesitation, she started to suckle at my breast, and I started to feel a deep and overpowering love for her, like nothing I had ever felt before.

I have sensed for years that having children and becoming a mother would greatly impact my life, by teaching me many important lessons and giving my life a shape. For a while, I have thought that my career would be heavily influenced by motherhood, in its content as well as its form. Despite these premonitions, I could not have prepared myself for the full-on reality of actually becoming a mother, and all of the wonder and power in it. I am filled with excitement and joy as I proceed on this path with my family.

May on the Mat

The 5th Chakra and Changing Your World

This month, the 5th month of the year, I have been exploring the 5th chakra (get it?) on my yoga mat, through poses and breath work. The 5th chakra, Vissudha, is associated with the throat, expression, and truth. Through the 5th chakra, we purify our emotions, express our truth, and give voice to the spirit.  It is much deeper than simply talking; when we actively use the 5th chakra, our words are spoken truthfully, almost pouring forth from our core.

As most of us have experienced, speaking in this way, openly and from the heart is NOT more easily said than done. We are often stopped from being totally honest by something in our heart – maybe the desire for approval or the fear of upsetting others (that is what get’s me!). There are many reasons why being honest can be risky. Sometimes people will think you are literally crazy, as in the Carrie character in drama series Homeland (my recent addiction). However, it is the ONLY way we can truly grow, realize our potential, and change the world around us.

I don’t mean “change the world” in some kind of big way, like create new laws or end a war or something like that. I mean simply have a real effect on the people around us. An example from my life: My husband and I are talking about a topic that is tough to discuss – something that he did that upset me (there are many possible situations that this could fit ^v^). I could speak in anger and EGO, telling him how wrong he was so I will somehow feel better because he feels worse. OR, I can speak from honesty and HEART, explain how his actions hurt me; I can show him my VULNERABILITY. When you speak in this way, from “I” statements rather than “you” statements, the energy of the conversation changes, the other person’s response changes, and literally, the world around you changes. (For more on this style of interacting, check out Nonviolent Communication, NVC at http://www.cnvc.org. It was introduced to me years ago while I was in my previous relationship and has revolutionized my perspective on communication.)

Turning Your World Upside Down – The Benefits of Headstand Practice

I love teaching Headstand, Sirsasana.  Maybe its because it took me one year of regular practice to get up safely and comfortably hold this pose. Maybe its the reaction from students who “get” the pose for the first time in class – something clicks, they release some fear around the pose, and they feel an awesome sense of accomplishment and jubilation. This month, I will have been focusing on Headstand and variations of it in my power vinyasa classes at Corepower Yoga.

This pose offers so many benefits including:

1. Reverses the effects of gravity. Gravity literally pulls us and everything in our world down. The force causes pressure on our spines and swelling in the legs. Going upside down elongates the spine and reverses the flow of lymph, reducing swelling in the feet.

2. Refreshes the mind and stimulates all the glands in the brain. By providing a rush of blood flow to your brain and the glands there, the pituitary and pineal to name a couple, you stimulate and refresh the brain and glands. If you are feeling mentally sluggish, going upside down can give you that pick me up(side down!).

3. Core Strengthening. Being able to get into and hold headstand without a wall requires deep core muscle strength, a combined effort of the psoas, transverse abdominis, and the pelvic floor. The pose also helps to strengthen these muscles, a beautifully virtuous cycle that helps support everything from a healthy back to regular digestion.

4. Improved Digestion. Headstand creates more space in the digestive track, loosening up stuff that has been compounded due to gravity, letting things flow as they should.

5. Confidence Building. Like accomplishing anything that is challenging, getting this pose is a huge confidence builder. Because of all the fear surrounding going upside down, it is especially helpful in helping one overcome an insurmountable challenge that may produces fear off the mat.

Manifest in May

As I write, my baby is growing inside my belly. We are in week 32, which means we have just under two months before our darling little one arrives. (My husband and I opted to wait until our baby is born to find out the gender, so we call baby “baby”, or “Tako” ^v^.) Two months feels like a blink of the eyes, and I know it is going to fly, so I need to focus on all that I want to achieve BEFORE the baby arrives. A couple of things I have cooking – a prenatal yoga video series that I will debut on Youtube soon, a Prenatal Yoga Challenge for Instagram, and of course, starting grad school for Mental Health Counselling in June (really). Please look forward to my videos and Yoga challenge soon. I am so excited about these projects, so please be excited with me!!

So, aside from the occasional Homeland watching (occasional meaning nightly) and the food coma that ensues after a binge on fried chicken (not proud of it, but it happens – baby likes grease ^v^), I am keeping myself healthy and focused with my yoga practice, meditation, and my dream of making a contribution in this world as a holistic, mindfulness-based mental health counsellor. Having tools like yoga asana and meditation has been VITAL to keeping my healthy, happy, and focused. Having a dream, a goal, something that keeps you going is also indispensable.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Slow and Steady Practice – Lessons from Pregnancy #1

I am now 28 weeks pregnant, which means I have had a baby in my belly for 7 months. Wow. For those of you who have never been pregnant, that must sound amazing, unbelievable, weird, scary, as it does for me. I am constantly intrigued, excited, impressed, confused, and wowed by the fact that my body, and the bodies of all female mammals and some other species too, can (in theory) sustain life.

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I highly recommend watching at least some of the live video of a giraffe in a New York zoo giving birth (it’s over 3 hours long) to appreciate the wonder of birth.

And yet, being pregnant is one of the most common, normal, natural phenomena in our world. Women who have been pregnant, especially a few times, may even deride my wide-eyed appreciation for my pregnant body. Most females do it. Almost all of us can, so really, there is nothing special about me.

It’s like Shunryu Suzuki writes about practicing Zazen meditation to obtain clarity and eventually enlightenment or direct expression of our true nature.

“If you continue this simple practice every day, you will obtain some wonderful power. Before you attain it, it is something wonderful,                                                                          but after you attain it, it is nothing special.”

                       — Shunryu Suzuki, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind

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In the same way, being pregnant is like a daily practice to attain the ultimate goal of birthing a child. Honestly, I have felt frustration with the monotony of waking up pregnant day after day, to the same feeling of being heavy and unable to tie my shoes. However, I know this daily practice, that I have undertaken with some kind of will of my own, will produce incredible results. Just like the slow and steady practice of anything from piano to pokemon games – when you keep at something, you will progress towards achievement of your goal.

For someone like myself who has always had trouble with following routines – I prefer to trust my intuition and go with my feeling at the moment – and has a track record of giving up on instruments like piano and trumpet before I had practiced enough to enjoy playing them, the idea of sticking to daily practice that is by definition monotonous seems a bit, well, tedious and unattractive. I was listening to Tim Urban, of waitbutwhy.com on the TED Radio Hour yesterday as he talked about why procrastinators procrastinate – because we have this instant gratification monkey living in our brains who sabotage any rational yet boring plan. I could relate, and was happy to see that their was some good that comes out of procrastination. However, pregnancy is teaching me that much good comes with slow, steady practice.

The past 2 months, I have made an effort to sit and meditate for at least 10 minutes each day, and record my experience, time, and epiphanies on my iPhone. Honestly, 10 minutes is not a lot, nor does it sound like a lot, but when you consistently practice anything for a period of time, the impact of your effort accumulates. So now, after nearly 2 months of meditating regularly, I have meditated for over 10 hours! According to the some studies, it typically takes 66 days to form a new automatic habit, so I am almost there!

On the yoga mat, slow and steady practice is the only way to progress in yoga asana. Many poses require strength and flexibility, which can only develop over time. Some people may be naturally flexible but not strong, or vice versa. To develop the physical and mental stamina needed to do advanced poses like Visvamitrasana, you need to practice. No adult was born able to do them (though some kids might be able to!).

This week in class, we will delve into a slow flow to approach these two challenging postures, Visvamitrasana and Compass Pose, with a calm mind and an aware body. Using a sequence inspired by the great yoga teacher Jason Crandell and my own Slow Flow soundtrack (below), we’ll prepare our bodies and minds for this intense practice.

In this fun comparison of pre-pregnancy pose and pregnancy pose, you can see how time and consistent practice (of being pregnant) has changed my body.

Looking forward to seeing you on the mat soon! Check my class schedule and join when you can!

 

 

 

April on the Mat 四月の意図

The Storms of Transition

It just seems right to start the new year in April. We used to in the West, which are the roots of April Fool’s Day,  and in Japan and many other Asian countries, April is still the start of a new school year and financial year. The stormy lion of March comes in with lots of work to finish up, and moves into the lamb of Aries, the star sign from March 20 -April 19 (or so). In Japan, they also have what is called the 春一番 (haru-ichi-ban), the 1st storm of Spring, that rolls in to clear out the last of winter’s heavy and wet energy.

So it makes sense that this time of year is stormy emotionally and physically, as our bodies tend to mimic nature. We are more likely to catch a cold during the change of seasons, as warm days are followed by cooler ones, 三寒四温 (san-kan-shi-on) as they say in Japan. That’s why its exceptionally important to

It also seems natural to feel a desire for change, as the warm weather calls us to be more active and the influence of Aries, the cardinal fire sign who loves action and change, starts to light a fire under all our asses.

Last year at this time, I moved from Japan (where I lived for 12 years) to Georgia, a new place to live with my new partner, way out in the countryside. The huge transition made me feel sad, uncertain, unstable, and basically depressed for all of April. Fortunately, I had time, a comfortable home, and a loving partner who encouraged me to meditate and enjoy my transition free time. I meditated, practiced physical asana, and read books like the Yoga Sutras everyday. After a month of introspection, I came to some degree of clarity – I decided what studies to pursue in order to create the career that I dreamed of.

Ready to Spring into Action

As an Aries myself, I am feeling ready to embrace the change and call to action this year. I started off the month with our Karma Yoga project at Corepower Yoga with our teacher trainees, which I hope can become a regular practice. Taking my yoga practice off the mat into the shelter and other places where mindfulness and health are needed is my long term goal, so I felt like I was making a little progress on that path.

This month, as I prepare for motherhood and we all start to blossom towards the sun, I feel like focusing on heart and shoulder opening, all realms of the 4th chakra, the chakra of unconditional love. The 4th chakra is also connected to the thymus gland, the seat of our immunity, which we will ignite through yoga asana and breathing.

This Week at Corepower

As we open the physical chest and heart in poses, it is natural to feel emotional,

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Natajarasana

especially vulnerable and uncertain. That is why it is essential to stay grounded in one’s breath and legs.  The sequence this week will start in the legs, with plenty of grounding and strengthening poses. We will move into the standing balance and heart opener, Dancer’s Pose – Natajarasana, and deepen the unfolding process in King Pigeon – Eka Pada Rajakapotasana. These are two beautiful poses that are often photographed on Instagram, and that many even intermediate practitioners struggle with. Including myself (pre-pregnancy as well ^v^). We will work up to the poses mindfully, and use a strap to go deeper.  Allow your strap be an extension of your arms, and surprise yourself!

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Eka Pada Rajakapotasana

Inspired by a recent class with the wonderful Alicia and Jen’s inversion workshop, we will be starting with Shoulder Pressing Pose – Bhujapidasana this week, and working up to more challenging arm balances throughout the month. Truth be told, I am focusing on arm balances that I can still muster with my ever growing belly, thus limiting the possibilities. I do hope to offer lots of technical and emotional support and room for experimentation so that students can progress steadily and confidently.

 

It is my pleasure to share my practice with you all!  Check out the class schedule for my regular classes. Hope to see you in class soon!

 

Creative Yoga Poses for Mid-Pregnancy

While some yoga purists will say there are only 84 yoga poses (as defined by the Lord Shiva in the ancient texts), there are literally thousands, maybe an uncountable amount of variations of those poses. At 20 weeks pregnant, there are definitely some poses that I can’t and shouldn’t do. Here are a few poses that I got a little creative with, and that are good for pregnant women too. Remember, even just standing or sitting with awareness and breath is yoga, so feel free to create your own poses. The important part is to enjoy the process! For more about yoga during pregnancy, I recommend the book Iyengar Yoga for Motherhood.

 

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Half Moon with Leg Bind – Chapasana

Half Moon with a leg bind  (Ardha Chandrasana Chapasana)

In the first trimester, backends can stretch and weaken the uterus. After the first 16 weeks, you should trust your body and do the poses that feel good. Half Moon is a challenging pose that strengthens the legs and lengthens the torso, which is important for pregnant ladies. Adding the backbend can feel really good for some. If you do not feel stable, you can hold a block or even a chair.

 

Gate Pose (Parighasana)

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Gate Pose – Parighasana

 

All of us neglect to stretch our sides in daily life; typical motions usually bend us forward or back. That’s why its really good to incorporate side stretches in yoga practice. Pregnant ladies especially can benefit from the stretching of the muscles between the ribs and the side of the belly. We need as much space in the abdomen as possible. This pose is simple, accessible to most, and feels so good. Keep your torso in line with your leg; don’t bend forward.

 

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Yogi Squat – Malasana

 

Yogi Squat (Malasana)

The yogi squat is probably the best pose to prepare a woman for childbirth. It strengthens the legs and opens the hips, so you should spend plenty of time here. The are a few ways to deepen or vary the posture, and one that feels good is the open twist. Press one hand into the mat next to your foot, reach the other arm up and open to that side. It should feel more like a chest opening pose than a twist.

 

 

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Bharadvajasana

Kneeling Open Twist (Bharadvajasana)

It is recommended to avoid twists during pregnancy, but this one is open enough that you can enjoy the twist without squishing your baby. Recommended by Iyengar, this simple seated twist feels great. Focus on twisting from the middle and upper torso.

 

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Floor Bow – Dhanurasana

 

Floor Bow  (Dhanurasana)

After the first trimester, all belly down backbends are out. So while playing in class one day, I started doing this, and it felt good! This bow pose done on your side also has the added benefit or a shoulder stretch! Lie on your side with arms extended behind you, bend both legs and take hold of the tops of your feet. It’s the same as regular bow, just on your side. If it’s too hard on your shoulder, use a thick mat or blanket underneath. Make sure to do the pose on both sides.

 

The Art of Communication with Myself

This week is a really exciting for me as a yoga teacher, and a human. Corepower’s Power Yoga Teacher Training starts this week, and I will be facilitating as a Coach. I have imagined myself leading yoga teacher training for a long time now, and finally I am making the next big step on that path.

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Teacher Training Team at Corepower Atlanta Midtown

It doesn’t matter that I am a yoga teacher trainer – I could be a dog trainer – the point is that I am living something that was previously a far off thought, even a dream. I used to think that it was some very special thing to be a yoga teacher trainer, and something that I wasn’t sure if I could be. Now, I realize that becoming a yoga teacher trainer (or anything) simply requires

1. Having an intention – I want to be a yoga teacher trainer

2. Taking steps on that path – Practice, teach, and practice more, from the heart

3. Saying it out loud – Declare to as many people as possible, I am a yoga teacher trainer!     (There is a shift in your mindset, and thus all your actions, when you make “I am” statements.) The dear, wise writer and spiritual teacher Wayne Dyer has some words on this subject. http://www.drwaynedyer.com/blog/the-power-of-i-am/

It’s seems rather fitting that my focus for my next few weeks in class is the 5th chakra, all about communicating your truth. That may be living the life you really believe you want to, or speaking your mind about difficult topics. Communicating our true feelings and thoughts is a powerful action in the world and takes a lot of courage. That is why many of us have trouble doing it. The 5th chakra is connected to our physical throats and ears, and this inability to speak truthfully has been connected with physical problems such as a soar throat or other related illness.

“To listen well is as powerful a means of communication as to talk well.” – John Marshall http://www.edu.aceswebworld.com/john_marshall.html

This week at home, I had an encounter with my husband that forced me to question my communication skills, my ability to listen compassionately and speak truthfully. I love when that happens – stuff I am focusing on spiritually finds its way into my daily life.

Listening to others is an important skill, but listening to yourself is an art – it requires patience, inspiration, and an open heart. But, it’s also a science – you can improve it through practice and with certain methods. Practicing yoga is a kind of conversation with yourself. In its purest form, you move and breath, and develop awareness of your inner state. Poses show you what you body can do and how you feel in different positions, as well as how you respond to different situations. Breathing and silence in practice helps you tune in with yourself more.

The next 2 weeks of C2 will focus on the 5th chakra, the seat of communication, which is also connected to the 2nd chakra, the home of the emotions. So, we are opening the neck and the hips! The poses and some fun breathing exercises will help you release tension and quite your mind so you can listen to your inner voice, as listening is the first step to good communication.

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Half Bound Lotus Tree Pose (Ardha Baddha Padmottanasana) Impressive looking but totally accessible. Helps build strong legs and greater hip mobility. Using a strap around your waist attached to you foot really helps pull your leg up higher.

 

 

 

 

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Toe Stand (Padangusthasana) – Ah this balance borrowed from Bikram yoga is a challenge. You are balancing all your weight on one foot’s toes! Helps develop balance and also flexibility in the feet.

 

 

 

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Half Bound Lotus Boat Pose (Ardha Baddha Padma Navasana-maybe)  I bet you are starting to see the theme here! Working through half lotus in a number of different ways to free the hips.

 

 

Check out my new playlist, dedicated to the 5th chakra, breath, and listening.

 

Valentine’s Day Flow – This week’s focus

In honor of Valentine’s Day, I am dedicating my C2 class this week to Love and the Heart Chakra. I don’t care if it sounds corny, as I believe that any opportunity to celebrate love and compassion are all good.

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Chapasana or Sugarcane, a Half Moon variation

Since January, I have been focusing on a different chakra each week, moving up the body from the 1st. Each week’s class includes poses that are meant to open, stimulate, and allow us to focus on the energy of that chakra, with music and intentions to match. As you start to release physical tension and open up certain body parts, different feelings are stimulated and evoked.

The 4th or Heart Chakra, Anahata, is located in the center of the chest, corresponding to the thymus gland. This location naturally is connected with the heart and lungs, and just as our own culture associates the heart with love, so did ancient yogis. (http://loveyogaanatomy.com/opening-the-heart/) Thus, the 4th Chakra is primarily concerned with love, in the unconditional sense, and compassion for all beings. Not quite the romantic love that is usually associated with Valentines Day, but close enough ^v^

Ponder this:

“Each time we breathe deeply, the lungs massage and give the heart a hug” – From Body-Mind Centering

Breathing deeply, releasing tension in the chest and shoulders, has the effect of warming and calming the heart, thus releasing fear.

Imagine a person with hunched shoulders and a collapsed chest. This kind of physical posture, so prevalent in our modern work world, is not open, strong, nor confident. People with hunched shoulders tend to be less confident in expressing their mind, act in a shy manner, and do not welcome others easily, usually out of fear. A hunched posture has even been connected with depression by experienced therapists (https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/spycatcher/201205/what-the-shoulders-say-about-us).

It’s really a vicious mind-body cycle, where a low energy emotional state, like depression, lends itself to a type of posture, and that very posture makes you feel worse. With depression and low energy often comes fear, as people feel lonely and thus afraid. It’s a fear of being emotionally open, of sharing one’s love, of letting people in.

On the other hand, open chests, relaxed shoulders, and good shoulder posture are physical  cues associated with confidence, a welcoming attitude, and a willingness to connect with others. (https://www.fastcompany.com/3041688/body-week/the-surprising-and-powerful-links-between-posture-and-mood)

In the past, I too experienced these emotional fears. Scars from past relationships, being rejected by my partner, caused me to close up and lose confidence. Through yoga and the awareness that comes with deep practice, I started to open up, express love, and allow myself to be vulnerable. Loving another person deeply is in fact an act of vulnerability – being honest with strong emotions leaves you open to get hurt. But also open for so much more joy and passion.

“Being vulnerable is the only way to allow your hear to feel true pleasure” – Bob Marley

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Half Camel

This week’s class was designed to open the shoulders and chest, and make you feel that vulnerability in challenging poses, as well as the deep joy in yummy poses  from the release of shoulder and neck tension. If this in some way resonates with you, join me for a class at Corepower Yoga!!

With love and light,

Ali

 

 

Re-learning the Importance of Connection – 1st Month teaching at Corepower コアーパワーヨガの第1ヶ月ーつながりの大切さの再確認

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Starting out in a new place as an employee is always a little hard. I find myself being overly self-conscious, wondering if I am making a good impression, if I am stepping on toes, worried that I will make a mistake or forget something important. I felt very intensely how this effected my yoga teaching.

As a teacher, we are expected to hold space, to be encouraging, nurturing, friendly, energetic, teach a well paced 60 minute sequence from memory, make sure the temperature is comfortable, give assists, and keep calm. When I write it out like that, a yoga teacher’s task seems huge and daunting. And that was how it felt, especially the first few classes when I was more worried about not making a mistake than connecting with my students. No student will care if you miss a pose in the sequence, but they will certainly care if you don’t smile when you greet them, or watch them as they practice. Ultimately, that is the goal of each yoga class, but it took me a week to remember that. Once you start to focus on that, all the other stuff seems more simple, it just seems second nature. Because I am a yoga teacher, and I know what to do.

新しい職場に入ることはいつも難しい。ヨガのスタジオは同じです。私は間違いをしないように、いい印象をあ耐えるようになど、緊張してしまう。しかし、この緊張はヨガのクラスに悪い影響を与えてしまった。

インストラクターとして、間をキープしたり、励んだり、養いたり、エネルギーを与えたり、ペースよく60分のクラスをリードしたり、温度を調整したり、アドジャストをあげたりすることをしないといけない。全部書いてみると、ヨガのインストラクターの仕事は大きくて仁王立ちなものに感じる。最初の一種間はそう感じた。間違いをしないことが生徒さんとつながることより集中した。ポーズを忘れたら、生徒さんは気にしないが、生徒さんを見ないことや笑わないことしないと、絶対に気になる。最終的に、すべてのヨガのクラスの目的はつながりである。それを思い出してから、インストラクターの仕事が一気に楽しくなった^v^ほかのことが自然とできるようになる。もちろん、経験のあるヨガインストラクターだから。

I’ve been listening to a daily meditation by Deepak Chopra and Oprah this past week (they offer these free 3 week trials of their AWESOME meditation series. I would pay for it, but while it’s free…) and it’s all about relationships. If we are talking about relationships, the key word is connection. I was speaking to a lovely smelling lady in a cafe the other day (we started talking because she smelled so good), and we got on the subject of the therapist-client relationship. She, a researcher and speech pathologist, mentioned how the myriad of therapy techniques available are all proven to be effective to similar extents; but the single greatest ingredient in efficacy is the relationship between the therapist and the client, i.e. how connected they feel.  WOW!

So connection has been my theme for the past month.

Now, I have been teaching vinyasa power yoga and hot yoga and Corepower Yoga for the past month, it has been awesome connecting with students and other teachers. Actually, I am a bit of a connection-aholic. I crave it, I need it. That is a big part of why I teach yoga. I feel genuinely grateful for my new home at Corepower Yoga. I love the energy, the chance to interact with other teachers, and the encouragement to grow as a teacher.

Biggest learning chances recently: sequencing for vinyasa classes and playlist making. I have been having lots of fun playing with making sequences that make your body sing, and playlists that are seamless.

I look forward to 2017 with enthusiasm for what may come. I know it will be a year of deepening and expanding, as well as a lot of learning. Bring it on!

最近、デーパック・チョプラとオープラの瞑想シリーズを聞いて(本当にいいので、無料にアクセスできるときもある)、そのテーマは人間関係。人間関係でいうと、つながりがキーワード。この間、カフェで素敵な女性と話せて、クライエントとセラピストとの関係に関して話した。彼女は研究者とスピーチセラピストでセラピーの方法の効率に関して述べた。研究による、セラピーの方法はそれぞれで効率のよさを比べると要因として一番大事なのは、クライエントとセラピストの関係である!面白いな。

だから、今月のテーマはつながりであった。

いままで、コアーパワーヨガでヴィンヤサ・パワーヨガとホットヨガを一ヶ月間教えてきた。本当に生徒さんや先生たちとつながることがとても素晴らしい。実は、私はつながりの中毒である。既に欲しくて、必要としている。ヨガを教えるようになったのはそれが大きな要因である。コアーパワーヨガで教えることに本当に感謝している。エネルギーとほかのインストラクターと交流できることと先生として成長するサポートがあるから。

最近の学び:ヴィンヤサヨガのシークエンスと音楽のリスト作り。楽しく頑張っている!

2017年を楽しみにしている。絶対に、深くなったり、広げたりすることがあるの。カモン!!

First EVER Yoga Studio Audition

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Yoga Studio Audition – Practice in Being Present

After the intensive, I set my sites on Corepower.

My goal: To pass my audition and get on the schedule teaching at least 5 classes a week.

If you want to achieve something, you have to do the work. So for 2 weeks, I went to classes, taught myself the sequence, literally immersed myself in Corepower for the audition.

As with any big interview, I prepared my outfit the day before. I made sure I looked neat and presentable, prepared my notes and the training book. I went to a detoxifying hot yoga class in the afternoon, to help me feel clear and relaxed. Then I took a shower. With 30 minutes before I had to leave, I was just getting out of the shower when the emergency alarm went off and signalled everyone to quickly vacate the building! Really.

I think it took me a total of 4 minutes to get out the door. (1 minute was spent on deliberating over whether or not to take the cats to the audition. In the end, I left them, praying that it wasn’t a devastating fire.)  After talking with some neighbours who assured me that it was most likely a mistake, I made my way to the studio. The emergency exit forced me to leave ahead of schedule, giving me lots of time to get to the audition and settle in. As well, experiencing something vaguely life threatening allowed me to put the audition in perspective. I dare say that fake emergency was a  little gift from my angels!

I arrived at the studio early, though I was not the first. Finally, all 11 of us gathered, friendly faces with whom I had shared the intensive weekend with. We started off introducing ourselves to the 4 studio managers and area manager, explaining why we wished to work at Corepower. Next, we took part in a roleplay exercise where we simulated speaking to a new client. Corepower prides itself on teacher-student connections. They foster this by having teachers greet students at the reception desk, which is really different from most yoga studios. Rather than a simple “How are you doing?”, teachers are encouraged to probe a little deeper, especially with first time students. I quite enjoyed this aspect of the audition as I do love getting to know people.

Then, the teaching part. We set up in class as we normally would. Alicia, the warm and friendly area manager, called out our names and the sequence to teach. At first, she went in order from left to right, so I calculated when my turn would be. This kept me in a semi-nervous state, so at some point I decided to stop thinking.  Confident in my knowledge of the sequence and my ability to teach yoga, I started enjoy my practice. When my name was called, I called out the poses and the cues, watched my students and cued accordingly. I demo-ed crow, one of my favorite poses, and I remembered, I am a yoga teacher. After my turn, I sent warm and loving wishes to my fellow yogis.

I was struck by the shift in energy inside myself when my focus changed from the future to the present. What a beautiful yogi lesson! In the words of Pattabhi Jois, “Practice, and all is coming”.

Goal Achieved (for now)

4 days later, I read those welcoming words that I had passed my audition! I was so happy and excited to start teaching again. It has been nearly 6 months since I left my regular yoga classes in Japan. Perhaps because of the long absence, but I had stopped feeling like a yoga teacher. It speaks to the necessity for practice, no matter what it is, to stay engaged with what you are doing.

I must say, it feels good, to have passed the audition, to be recognized as a yoga teacher here in my new city, and to be able to start teaching!!

Now, I am preparing my lessons, practicing at Corepower as much as possible, and preparing myself mentally so that I can dive right in. I feel truly grateful for this opportunity to share yoga, learn from and be a part of the thriving and fun community at Corepower.

I start teaching next week, so stay tuned for posts about my new classes!!

 

Good Morning, Corepower Yoga!

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Sometimes, you just have to roll with destiny, and assume that just because something seems to easy to be true, does not mean it’s not good for you. Especially when it is rolling you in a direction you have been visualizing, and it is aligned with your intentions.

Roll with Destiny

First, I moved into a building that happened to be across the street from a yoga studio. While that is good enough new, that studio had opened only a month before I moved in. That wouldn’t seem such a wild coincidence, unless you knew that I had not seen the apartment until the day I actually moved in (circumstances called for my partner to make all the physical decisions, while I was away at a yoga TT).

Letting Go of Preconceptions

The studio happened to be Corepower Yoga, the largest franchise of yoga studios in the US, with over 160 studios nationwide. I had been to a Corepower in Seattle with my friend, who says she likes Corepower because it doesn’t seem to be too “culturally appropriating”, meaning it seems more American than Indian. So I took a class, as they offer your first week for free, throwing pre-conceived notions to the wind and open to all that may come. I was greeted by smiling teachers behind the reception desk, and an intense 75 minute class taught by a warm, experienced, and real yoga teacher. At the end of class, she shared a very personal story with us, and I was touched by her openness. We wound up chatting a bit, based on the story she has shared with us, and I mentioned that I taught yoga, to which she said, “Really? We are looking for teachers!” and invited me to contact the manager. An invitation to apply on the first meeting, not bad!

I still wasn’t sure how I felt about the studio, so I took a bunch of different classes, with different teachers to get a feeling before I contacted the studio manager. I found myself genuinely happy to be there, challenged by the classes, and impressed with the quality and diversity of the teachers. Finally, one teacher gave me the email of the area manager, who I promptly emailed with my info. Just in time too, as the following weekend they were holding a FREE, yes you read that right, free yoga teaching training intensive to prepare non-Corepower trained teachers to teach at Corepower. They offer these intensives rarely, and only for two reasons: 1. They are expanding and need new teachers and 2. They aim to offer a consistency in quality that requires training.

Meet Joel – Corepower’s Best Kept Secret

On Thursday, September 15th, I took a class with Joel, a master Corepower teacher who is in charge of opening new studios. He literally travels all over the country opening studios and training teachers. After the deep and joyful class, we had an info session, when he told us the history, present, and future of Corepower, with an infectious passion and joy. All the doubts I might have held about the “Starbucks” of yoga were dashed and replaced with admiration and excitement.

The next three days were filled with lots of learning, laughter and sweat. Not only did Joel share his knowledge about yoga postures, adjusts, and class management, but he also shared his warmth and encouragement. We could feel that he truly wanted us all to succeed as Corepower teachers, sharing one of Corepower’s values – team based professional development.  Corepower succeeds because it offers studios full of good, consistent, happy teachers. Seasoned teachers mentor new teachers, with a combination of a nurturing and nudging that inspires each teacher to keep practicing and keep teaching. There is a big push for teachers to take classes with other teachers, as a part of good business and good teacher development. And without a doubt it works to build better teachers and a better community, both of which benefit students.

After the Intensive

After 3 days of intense practice – we literally went through the bulk of a 200 hour training in 15 hours – we were invited to take as many classes as we could at any Corepower studio, to familiarise ourselves with the classes and culture. I jumped at the chance and took classes everyday, sometimes twice a day! What I love about yoga is that it encourages the practice as the only way to deepen knowledge. Reading and listening will only get you so far; you have to feel it to get it, and you have to practice to feel it.

Let me remind you, dear reader, that ALL of the training and these classes were offered by Corepower for FREE. While I have no issue with paying for yoga, I do greatly appreciate the rarity and generosity of this experience.

Next post is all about my first yoga studio audition. Please read!!