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Having just finished teaching the first Mom and Baby class of a new session, it is apparent that the moms that made the conscious effort to pack up their babies from 6 weeks to 6 months and drag car seats and diaper bags through today’s cold rain to take class, had more than just stretching on their minds.
When baby enters the family, all of the sudden your intentions come second to your child’s needs. But in truth those needs don’t disappear. One of those needs is feeling a sense of community. Becoming a mom is like a caterpillar becoming a butterfly. We have nine months of physical metamorphosis while our baby grows and then upon delivery we are permanently transformed into “mom”. The mental changes are not even fathomed until that baby is in your arms. We must make an instantaneous mental adjustment as well. Going from working on projects with deadlines, we now find an endless day of watching our child for signs that signal their need for sleep, for food or for diaper changes. The sense of gratification we once achieved from completed work is substituted with the delayed gratification of raising a well-adjusted person. We went from lunches with friends and colleagues to picking at leftover Cheerios while watching the endless cycle of laundry begin again.
Mothers need a moment. They need time to connect to their new bodies, new responsibilities and new dreams. Without stopping to put that time in the schedule, it is easy to run on autopilot. Moms need to stop and be mindful and to listen to their hearts. They need to connect with others who are in the same situation trying to make sense of this new life experience.
My mom and baby yoga class is a fusion of baby massage, yoga and strengthening poses for mom, and the blessing of taking that moment—time to connect with other moms with babies of the same age, time to connect with the voice inside that may sound different. It is a time to connect with one’s body, one’s baby and one’s breath.
From the book Mindfulness: Mother with Mindfulness, Compassion and Grace by Denise Roy:
Today, take some alone time. Even if it’s only five minutes.
• Light a candle. Go for a walk. Sit outside.
• Lock yourself in the bathroom.
• Create a little zone of quiet.
• Congratulate yourself for taking this time. It’s an act of love.
• Now imagine that life is like an ocean.
• At the surface, there can also be a lot of turbulence. Life’s busyness and demands and ups and downs can be like rough waves that whirl around us.
• Now imagine that deep down in the ocean, thirty or forty feet below the surface, is a place of constant stillness.
• Take a breath, and drop down into this place of quiet and calm.
As you keep practicing taking this alone time, it will get easier to practice in the midst of the chaos of a day. You will be able to drop into that place of stillness wherever you are.
The breath. Prana. The life force. Without breath, there is no life. It is an obvious statement but one that I look at with a new appreciation as a mother of a child with asthma.
It wasn’t until recently that I realized the bigger picture that someone living with asthma struggles with regularly. Living without feeling in control of one’s own body. Not being able to catch a breath and not always knowing when that might occur must affect a person down to his or her core. You can see how the mind/body connection can become disconnected when the body reacts without warning or the ability to control it.
My family’s personal asthma journey lead us down both a pharmaceutical path, as well as, some alternative therapies. We have traveled from steroidal creams to help subside terrible eczema to antihistamines to help with allergy triggers. We’ve occasionally stopped at oral steroids when an asthma episode was out of control and then continued onto inhaled steroids for preventative purposes. Before the meds we had tried homeopathic remedies (and when I say we I really mean my son though I am emotionally on this ride to health with him). While taking the medications my son tried acupuncture. He is in the process of getting allergy shots to remove his asthma triggers. Three shots once a week initially, now every other week for the last year. We were told that he needs to continue with shots for another year or two! We (and I mean my husband and I) are tired of all this effort and want to see our son off this medication that, although helps him breathe better, has negative side effects as most medications do.
What is a parent to do?
I decided to research. I found the information out there abundant yet confusing.
I have found a hospital study linking inhaled steroids of a certain dosage to an increased BMI in children, but the doctors I’ve confronted dismiss a connection between weight gain and these kind of drugs.
I have seen studies showing a connection between asthma sufferers and a deficiency in magnesium, but a test has never been suggested to determine if a simple vitamin supplement might help my son’s condition.
Most interestingly, I have read about a breathing technique that claims to help asthmatics. Buteyko breathing teaches people a technique that changes the inflow of oxygen and outflow of Co2. Apparently, asthma suffers tend to be mouth breathers and take in too much oxygen which in turn creates too much carbon dioxide which can trigger airway passages to tighten. The amount of positive information out there is amazing. No one has ever mentioned this innocuous means to better health.
To be honest. I am frustrated. I suppose as a yoga teacher and someone who is in touch with mind, body and spirit, I question why the medical help we have experienced thus far has been so narrowly focused. I am curious about practitioners that look at the whole patient. Can the mind and controlled breathing reduce asthma and remove the need for medication? Can a vitamin help do the same. It makes me wonder how much pharmaceutical companies influence the type of health care we are exposed to. People can’t make money on breath, but maybe that is the key to turning around many health issues of today.
Act now to help Congress pass a strong Child Nutrition Act. Click here to quickly link to your local legislators.
We are more than half way through the school year, and, at least in this household, the homework is revving up and along with it the stress. It is hard to juggle the pressures of school, the recommended allotment of daily physical activity, after school commitments and homework. Getting a good night’s sleep falls by the way side most nights while kids try to keep up with the constant demands of life in 2010.
I was trying to think of a way to simplify our lives recently. What could we remove to help everyone slow down? There were no vestigial schedule appendixes. I couldn’t find anything in the schedule that stood out as being “extra” and no longer of use. So how do we help our kids adjust to a lifestyle where the demands are plenty and the hours few? How can we take the edge off the daily stress?
Tips to help your child navigate through the pressures of life:
1. Make dinner at home and find time to eat together around the table. There is no greater way to remove pent up stress than by connecting with those who support and love you. The New York Times article, “The Guilt-Trip Casserole-Dinner and the Busy Family” points out the positive benefits of joining together around the table.
2. Before tackling homework, spend a little time outdoors. Soak in the fresh air. Feel the sun or wind or rain on your face. Have contact with nature. Studies show that nature reduces stress in kids as well as helps kids with ADD.
3. Inversions are a great way to gain energy and increase mental alertness so go upside down in a handstand or headstand. Or, for a more restorative inversion, lie on the ground with your feet up against the wall.
4. One of my favorite books for relaxation scripts is, Ready… Set… R.E.L.A.X. written by Jeffrey Allen Med. This great archive of self-empowering meditations has scripts with messages such as “I remember what I learn”, “When I am relaxed, my body and mind work well”, “I am a good listener” and specific test preparation scripts for achievement tests. To teach your child that they can relax their mind and find calm in tense situations will help them throughout their school days and beyond.
5. I also recommend Stin Hansen’s meditation, “Think Like a Great Student”, to help kids with school anxiety.
6. Having a calm and organized work space is also very helpful for your child. A great tip that I recently read to help your child through their homework is to write down each topic of homework on a sticky note. Have your child determine how much time each subject will take and write that on the sticky notes too. Then have your child prioritize the work according to time and difficulty. After each task, the sticky note can be removed, giving your child a visual sense of control and accomplishment.
7. Have your child stand up and stretch. Do some gentle yoga poses like cat/cows, forward bends, seated spinal twists or more inversions between each assignment to break up the time and to recharge and change focus.
Life doesn’t slow down and stress doesn’t disappear. By teaching your child how to manage stress, you teach them how to positively navigate through life.