November 23, 2008

Fabulous Home Practice Tool!!!

Just came across My Yoga 2 Go fabulous looking tool to support anyone and everyone's at home practice! It was created by yoga teacher and mom Beth Siegel, after her first child was born when she realized that without much extra time to attend classes and workshops, she was favoring particular asanas and practicing the same flows over and over at home. She created this system to keep herself challenged and inspired by her practice...

At $29.95, I think I'm gonna have to order me one of these! From her Web site:

With My Yoga 2 Go practice system you'll select from 70 different postures, as well as 7 different sequences:
  • Ashtanga (power)
  • Flow
  • Core Strength for Athletes
  • Hip Opening
  • Back Strength
  • Relaxation
  • Energizer

Each sequence is labeled as either beginner, intermediate or advanced, so that you can begin a yoga practice and continue to challenge and grow your practice with only one purchase of the My Yoga 2 Go practice system. Unlike books or DVD’s, the My Yoga 2 Go practice system has a endless combination of sequences that you can customize yourself, using the over 70 posture cards.

November 21, 2008

Why Yoga for Kids?

I start to answer that question in a guest post for Boston's Savvy Source blog. Check it out, and thanks to the Boston editor, Jill Notkin (who blogs about work-at-home momhood over at The Daily Grind) for the invitation to contribute!

November 19, 2008

Calm Down with Your Sixth Sense

Ever wonder why yoga is so calming for babies, kids, and grown ups alike? Did you know that motion without touch is more soothing than touch without motion for an infant (touch and motion together are the ideal)? Or that in one study, babies who were held and spun around in an office chair demonstrated much faster reflex and motor development than babies who were not? Ever been on a meditation retreat? If so, have you noticed how many adults, when they silently sit with their own thoughts, begin to rock or sway to self-soothe?

Now that our whole family is feeling better, I am finally getting to one of my favorite subjects - vestibular motion!!! I know, as favorite subjects go, this one might be a bit strange, but I'm fascinated. From one one of my favorite books on child development, What's Going On In There? How the Brain and Mind Develop in the First Five Years of Life:
From the moment of birth, children love the sensation of motion. Whether it's rocking, jiggling, bouncing, or just being carried around the house, babies find great comfort in the feeling of repetitive motion, and older children love to be spun, swung, or flipped upside down. The reason they are so receptive to motion is because they are born with a highly developed vestibular system - a "sixth" sense that allows us to perceive our body's movement and degree of balance. The vestibular senses are very old, in evolutionary terms, since all earthly organisms have had to orient themselves with respect to gravity and their own motion. Accordingly, they emerge quite early during embryonic development. Like touch, the vestibular system is precociously poised to transmit sensation that is not only very comforting for babies but also critical to their early development.
Surprisingly, vestibular stimulation makes important contributions to motor development, and deficiencies in the vestibular system are linked to emotional problems, perceptual or attention deficits, learning disabilities, language disorders, and autism. While not the sole cause of these disorders, balance and motion make a big difference for little ones. And infants who are born prematurely gain weight faster, are less irritable, breathe more regularly, move less jerkily, sleep more, and spend more time in a quiet, alert state when they are swayed, bounced, rocked, carried and spun.

Early vestibular stimulation provides a building block for the development of other sensory and motor abilities. And although the vestibular system's sensitivity peaks between six and eight months, as one of our most primitive senses, it remains available as a fast lane to calm.

Spinning, jumping, or moving to an upside down position has an immediately calming effect on children and grown ups alike. In my yoga classes for kids, I suggest poses to parents (like down dog, headstand, and spinning around or jumping up and down) that are particularly effective for averting an oncoming tantrum - but when my husband and I remember to try them ourselves, we always realize that they are just as effective for averting big people tantrums as they are for pint-sized ones!

Photo Credit: gemsling (flckr)

November 13, 2008

Laughing...and Coughing...

Just a quick note to say that as soon as I thought I was "back on track" - I came down with the bug that Kai and Bob have had! So it will be a few more days before I get back to posting.

November 11, 2008

Begin Again

How fitting that I recently wrote about surrendering, prioritizing, and committing to self-care. Almost immediately after writing that post, I faced several challenges to my own rituals of peace and wellness. Bob started a new nearly full-time position with a nearby gym, I started a new set of 6-week Itsy Bitsy Yoga sessions, Kai got a nasty cold, and Bob threw his back out. As soon as Bob's back got better, he got Kai's cold and a bad case of laryngitis. I went kind of non-stop for two weeks, not really getting more than a few moments to or for myself. Still not sure how single parents do it, and I bow down to them. Knowing that the circumstances I faced were very temporary, if exhausting, I decided not to renegotiate a whole new patter of self-care, but rather, to breathe as deeply as I could whenever I had a moment to do so, and forgive myself the lapse.

Now everyone is on the mend and our family is settling into new routines based on Bob's new schedule. And as always in this life, I begin again. Begin again with writing for this blog. Begin again with my commitment to practice yoga and meditation as close to daily as possible. Begin again with running and strength training.

Tomorrow I will have the post I promised last week, about the amazing power of vestibular motion (spinning, up-and-down, upside down movements), but tonight I just wanted to check in and say, I'm still here. I've been thinking of this blog, and all of you, often during the past week, and have been eager to reconnect. So happy to be doing so now!

November 5, 2008

How to Breathe Your Way to Calm

In Yoga, the breath (prana) is considered life force and guides everything. Focus on it quiets the mind, calms the spirit, and allows us to play to our edge in poses or challenging situations that come up in life.

I quickly learned that prana was the best place to start for soothing with my own son, Kai, in his early months. And now that he's toddling, I find that I can work the same magic I've watched other parents manifest with just a little bit of breath, sometimes even curtailing tantrums before they have a chance to begin.

So today, a few simple strategies for bonding and calming using the magic of breath:

Centering: When you feel your own reactions to your little one’s behavior intensifying, take a moment to notice your own breath. Don’t try to change it, but do pay particular attention to the feeling of it on the skin under your nose for a few minutes. We find that after a few moments, this leaves us much calmer, more present, and ready to deal with the situation at hand much more lovingly.

Baby’s Breath: Hold your infant against your chest and match your breathing to hers, inhaling and exhaling on her time. Feel the sensations on your skin where your bodies connect.

Breath Beats: Next time your well-fed, clean-diapered babe fusses, hold him close and try using an up and down motion (think a Yoga/exercise ball or Goddess pose/squats) that matches in the tempo of his breathing. As he and his breathing calm, slow your pace to follow. This used to turn even my son Kai’s fiercest crying into laughter.

Tantrum Tamer: In Itsy Bitsy Yoga for Toddlers and Preschoolers: 8-Minute Routines to Help Your Child Grow Smarter, Be Happier, and Behave Better, Helen Garabedian suggests derailing an oncoming tantrum with some simple breathwork. Show your toddler how to breathe like a lion with Lion’s Breath: breathe in through your nose using an exaggerated facial motion and expression, then out through your mouth with a “haaaahhh” sound, imitating a lion’s roar.

Grown-ups (parents and non-parents alike) can work this magic on ourselves as well! It's amazing - the lessons of baby and toddler yoga can sweeten each day for big people, too. Next time you're upset, try rocking, swaying, or bouncing your body in time to your own breath, slowing your motion as your breath calms. Or let loose with a few lion's breath roars...I guarantee you'll feel better. Prana power works for everyone.

Why is up-and-down/side-to-side/upside-down motion so powerful when combined with prana? More on that tomorrow!

November 3, 2008

Mothering Is Like Meditating...

Seriously. Like a non-stop, never-ending meditation retreat. I find it impossible to cling too fiercely to the illusion of permanence when each moment presents me with a beautiful, fickle little creature who encounters every object, moment, and experience with his whole being; sometimes his whole body seems to hum with his delight, but just as quickly he finds something frustrating or upsetting. He's so obviously outside of my control that even I, practiced as I am at convincing myself I'm in charge, cannot begin to believe it is so when I'm with Kai.

There are those moments that of non-attachment, equanimity, and deep-calm-love, like when I remember to just look at Kai as he falls asleep nursing at night. Or when, as this morning, I discover something that will make him laugh right at that moment - what makes him laugh one moment does not necessarily have that effect in the next! This morning, he loved the sound of the word "oops" and couldn't get enough of it, laughing wildly whenever he heard it repeated.

But as with meditation retreats, such moments are fleeting and impermanent...thankfully that is obvious, so I can handle the more tedious moments of tantrums or exhaustion.

Today and yesterday were also filled with such moments - over the weekend, Bob both began a new job at a local training studio and threw his back out. Meaning that I was on Kai duty nearly by myself all weekend. Kai also developed a cold Friday evening, and for two nights woke up approximately every 20 -45 minutes. Add the time change this weekend, and he has been starting his days at 5am or earlier. Tired mommy. Tired mommy with no breaks during the day, and temporarily missing her extra hour of morning catch-up sleep while daddy recovers.

Every time I lost it this weekend - and my friends, I did lose it a few times, having to leave the room, Bob lying on the floor with Kai confined to a small space next to him for a few moments, because I was just so very tired and emotionally exhausted from keeping up with my sweet, crazy toddler. So yes, every time I lost it this weekend, I brought myself back into the game of parenting by reminding myself of the impermanence of the situation, and thinking about days 6 and 7 of my past 10-day meditation retreats. I have felt "done" each time at that point, and have just wished I could go home and be done with it already. But I've always dug down deep and pushed through, coming to something new and more complete in my final days as a result.

So that's what I did this weekend. And I discovered a well of playfulness deep inside me even in the late hours of the day, a time for which I had been telling myself I was utterly hopeless. I discovered that Kai likes being chased and tickled while he crawls around. That he'll chase me if I crawl away quickly and hide nearby, peeking around the corner from my hiding place and giggling. And that he will curl up happily in my lap to be read to for long periods of time. Oh, and apparently, he finds it quite soothing to listen as I quietly repeat "O-Baaa-Maaa" over and over again with the hope that he'll learn the word and make it his fourth (he's already got "mama," "papa," and "up" down pat).

I thought I was logging on to let you know that it's been a busy, tiring few days, and I'd be back for a longer post tomorrow. But then this turned itself into a longer post. So instead I'll say that tomorrow I'll be back with a more thought through and proofread post!