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Blessing for a Mother-To-Be

      

Yesterday, Union Yoga had the honor of leading a mother-to-be and a small group of her family and friends in a Yin Yoga Pre-natal class and Birth Blessing. The buzz of bees, bird songs, and April air drifted in through the open windows as we remembered our bodies as our original home. To close the practice, we read this poem by John O’Donahue. 

For a Mother-To-Be

    By John O’Donahue

 

Nothing could have prepared

Your heart to open like this.

 

From beyond the skies and the stars

This echo arrived inside of you

And started to pulse with life

Each beat a tiny act of growth,

Traversing all our ancient shapes,

On its way home to itself.

 

Once it began, you were no longer your own.

A new, more courageous you, offering itself

In a new way to a presence you can sense

But you have not seen or known.

 

It has made you feel alone

In a way you never knew before;

Everyone else sees only from the outside

What you feel and feed

With every fiber of your being.

 

Never have you traveled farther inward

Where words and thoughts become half-light

unable to reach the fund of brightness

Strengthening inside the night of your womb.

 

Like some primeval moon,

Your soul brightens

The tides of essence

That flow to your child.

 

You know your life has changed forever,

For in all the days and years to come,

Distance will never be able to cut you off

From the one you now carry

For nine months under your heart.

 

May you be blessed with quiet confidence

That destiny will guide you and mind you.

 

May the emerging spirit of your child

Imbibe encouragement and joy

From the continuous music of your heart,

So that it can grow with ease,

Expectant of wonder and welcome

When its form is fully filled

 

And it makes it journey out

To see you and settle at last

Relieved and glad in your arms.

 

– John O’Donohue, To Bless the Space Between Us:

A Book of Blessings

 

Cleansing During the Transition for a Healthy Energetic Spring

I love watching the transition from Winter into Spring. Out of the darkness of winter, the light finally returns. While the transition can sometimes seem slow, other times we go from cold & rainy to hot & sunny within a matter of hours. We are even expecting another snow tomorrow! We continue to travel through the Kapha season of Water and Earth. You see the perfect example of Water and Earth in the mud that defines this season characterized by wet, cold & dense.

As we learned in our last seasonal retreat, we have to counterbalance the cold, damp, heaviness of winter with movement, warmth and drying. My husband and I have had a great deal of success this winter, following a diet called, Whole30. This diet is defined primarily by removing the common allergens and congesting foods in our diet, namely, dairy, grains, sugar and legumes. This has had a profound effect on our bodies and our health.  I believe it is the main reason why we have escaped the influenza virus that has plagued almost everyone we know this Winter.

Nature has it’s own cleansing process each year. After the heavy dark winter, spring offers us a way to naturally cleanse with the ubiquitous green shoots of spring’s vibrant edible greens. Herbs like chickweed, dandelion and violets provide us with nutrients, fiber and support for our livers and gallbladders, the organs of this time of year, according to Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Chickweed helps us to absorb nutrients, like minerals and also helps dissolve and break down things like cysts, mucus and excess fat cells. Chickweed, itself, is rich in nutrients like calcium, magnesium, manganese, zinc, iron, phosphorus, and potassium, and vitamins A & C, and B factors such as folic acid, riboflavin, niacin, and thiamine.

Dandelion and other bitter greens assist digestion. Ingesting the leaves increases hydrochloric acid in the stomach, sends messages to the liver to prepare for digestion, increases the appetite and prepares the liver to break down fats. Dandelion is also high in vitamin C, potassium, calcium, Iron, B vitamins, and protein. Dandelion increases circulation and fluid waste elimination in the body, without depleting the body of important nutrients. 

Violets are alterative, which means they help the body restore optimal functioning by aiding metabolic processes, especially the elimination of waste products. Violet stimulates the lymphatic glands, helping the body get rid of bacteria and other toxins. It is especially useful for swollen glands. Taking Violet after a long winter is a wonderful way to get our bodies ready for a healthy and energetic spring. 

Celebrate the new season and add some of these fresh greens to a spring salad. Simply add a bit of olive oil and apple cider vinegar or lemon juice as a dressing. Keep it simple as you savor the bitter, pungent, and salty flavor inherent in spring’s bounty.

For more information on how the change in seasons effects us and some recommendations for how to respond, as well as a luxurious restorative yoga class to support you during this time of year, consider attending one of our next seasonal retreats.

Strong Back, Soft Front, Wild Heart

Recently, I heard a wonderful interview with Brene Brown, where she used the phrase “Strong Back, Soft Front, Wild Heart.” This immediately made me think of one of the central offerings baby-lifting-weight-2of a Yoga practice: a balance between Sthira (Steadiness) and Sukha (Ease). In Yoga, the belief that our bodies are inextricably connected to our hearts and minds means that the pursuit of physical health has reverberations for our mental and emotional well being.

This balance between suppleness and strength has farther reaching implications into the realm of relationships, our role in our community, and sustainable social outreach. In the words of the great leader, Martin Luther King:

“Power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anemic.”

Currently in my life, I am grieving the end of a romantic relationship. As I walk through my own natural, human layers of sadness, I am noticing how the practice of Yoga is helping me stay stable, strong and alert, in order to, paradoxically, hold my own vulnerability. In the same way that aligned posture helps reduce physical pain, allowing our own raw places of tenderness to express themselves, requires patience, discipline, and strength; as if holding ourselves from the inside. This is a paradox, but one that Yoga philosophy understands and invites.

Where, in your practice today, is increased strength allowing for greater ease? How is love supporting your power and power supporting your love? How do you sense a connection between a strong back, a soft front, and a wild heart?

 

Do You Know Your Life’s Purpose?

As we prepare for our upcoming seasonal retreat, we are contemplating the Water element. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the Kidneys are the yin organs associated with Water and with our Essence, Our True Nature. One of the many ways an imbalance in Water shows up in an individual is with a lack of purpose, a sense of malaise, a lack of motivation. One wonders, especially during winter and early spring, what is my purpose in life?

Thankfully, there are several practices we can draw on to support and build our kidney energy and therefore restore balance to our Water element. One way is to incorporate nourishing herbal infusions as a daily tonic. A favorite Kidney tonic is Nettles (Urtica dioica) also known as Stinging Nettles. Nettles are ubiquitous in gardens and waysides from Maine to Florida and New York to California. Maybe an indicator of how many people benefit from this tonic herb?

Another Kidney tonic, an adaptogen, which enhances the body’s natural response to stress, is Tulsi (Oscimum sanctum) or Holy Basil which is a sacred plant in India and is planted near temples on the Indian subcontinent. Tulsi is a powerful antioxidant, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-inflammatory herb. And the smell of the plant and it’s essential oils is divine. Try making a delicious herbal infusion with Holy Basil.

Whole Foods, like whole herbs, are recommended to help balance the Kidneys. Specifically, black-colored foods and foods with the salty taste are beneficial to the Kidneys. These foods include seaweeds and other sea foods that have been marinated in the bounty of natural sea salts for millennia. Legumes, like Kidney beans, and other black foods, such as black sesame seeds, black beans and black walnuts are tonifying to the Kidneys.

Restorative Practices, like Yoga, Meditation, Tai Chi, and Deep Rest, especially during the hours of 3-7am and 3-7pm are recommended to restore our Kidney energy. Learn to practice restorative yoga, specifically tailored for this time of year and more practices to balance your energy during winter and early spring by attending our upcoming retreat.

In the meantime, try incorporating some of these practices now. And ask yourself, “What is your life’s purpose?” Can you articulate it? Or write it down? Continue to practice these three recommendations for the next week. Ask yourself again “What is Your life’s purpose?” Try again in one month. One Year. “What is your life’s purpose?” Has your answer has changed? Has your answer become more clear? “What IS Your Life’s Purpose?”

Out With the Old and In With the New

How are those New Year’s Resolutions going? The New Year is usually the time most of us decide to make changes to our diet, lifestyle, and goals for the rest of the year. Unfortunately, the winter season does not necessarily afford us the luxury of following through on our new habits and plans. Wintertime encourages us to turn inward, retreat, and receive. Winter is a time to slow down and contract in the freezing cold temperatures. For many of us, it is heavy, slow and potentially stagnant and not the time to start something new, especially without seeing immediate results.

A better use of our time, may be in making use of the adage, “Out with the old and in with the new!” January and February are great months to utilize the cold dark days and nights to go through some of those piles of items that are taking up space and weighing you down. Late Winter and early spring is the Kapha (Water and Earth) time of year, according to the Traditional Healing Philosophy of India, Ayurveda, the sister science to Yoga.

This is the time of year when we need to be attentive to things in our nature that are heavy, things we may cling or attach ourselves to. According to my teacher, Maya Tiwari, “Clear unobstructed space is essential to Kapha’s wellbeing. Their greatest sadhana (practice) is to detach from unnecessary hoarding… and to determine what is absolutely necessary.”

As a Virgo, I love clutter clearing, and I have been particularly inspired by Marie Kondo’s book, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. This book lays out a specific methodology for how to go through your things so that you will not obstruct your precious space ever again. And because Kapha wants to see immediate results and improvements, try Marie Kondo’s method which suggests going through your clothes first. But if even this seems too daunting, use your own method and start small. For example, if you would like to clean out your kitchen, start with one drawer. You will usually feel so great by the time you finish one drawer that you will keep going. Movement is a fantastic antidote to the heavy, contracted winter months and movement with an end goal is even better.

For more information on how the change in seasons effects us and some recommendations for how to respond, as well as a luxurious restorative yoga class to support you during this time of year, consider attending our next seasonal retreat: Yoga to Lift the Spirits, A Seasonal Restorative Yoga Retreat on Sunday, February 25th, 1pm – 4pm.