Prenatal Yoga and Time Magazine (Oct 2010)

Yoga instructors and massage therapists have known for years what science is finally beginning to examine and take seriously; our nervous systems affect our health. We recognize this most basically when stress is linked to disease or in studies of how environmental exposure can create effects in the body many years later.  Currently, the science is getting even deeper. New and continuing research is showing that a woman’s health and state of mind during pregnancy may have much to do with both their child’s health as a baby and perhaps even into adulthood and old age. This is the science of fetal origin. Its ideas and research are becoming mainstream enough to be the cover article of Time magazine’s October 4th issue. 

This article hit the newsstands just a few days after I returned from a Prenatal Yoga Teacher Training at Shoshoni. As we learned there, prenatal yoga (in the tradition of Hatha yoga from this particular school) is not about prenatal fitness. It is about the more meditative aspects of yoga: breathing deeply, quieting the mind, becoming more connected to and aware of the body, and (YES) settling the nervous system. As a prenatal massage therapist, this came as no surprise to me. Although I always treat areas of pain or tension in a prenatal session, I also always spend time tapping into the parasympathetic nervous system creating increased levels of endorphins, seratonin, and decreasing cortisone (endorphins & seratonin= feelings of well being and happiness, cortisone= stress). The important thing to know here is that mom and baby are sharing everything from nutrients in food, to levels of hormones in blood, to oxygen, to feelings of stress or well-being. 

As Annie Murphy Paul, the author of the Time magazine article suggests, this research could be added to the laundry list of pregnancy do’s and don’ts, or we can put our hope into this research leading to positive changes for affected women. I can easily see this becoming one more area for a pregnant woman to be stressed about (“Now I am not only stressed, I’m stressed about being stressed!”), but like Paul I prefer to see this research in the positive light. It gives pregnant moms one more excuse to make yoga and massage a regular (and from this research, integral) part of their prenatal routine. We all know that life does not stop and become a blissful cloud 9 just because you are pregnant and it hasn’t for most generations, through most times in history. (Some very lucky few women belong to social units that believe pregnant women should be pampered, pampered, pampered.) 

So, we do the best we can. Adding prenatal yoga can give you time to really connect to your baby and your body in a positive way during pregnancy. Practicing prenatal yoga increases levels of oxygen in the blood, teaches the body about endurance and strength in challenging poses, and allows a conscious connection to release and deep relaxation in restorative poses. And, maybe most importantly, yoga creates a time in your day where you can let go of other stresses and cares and just share a few moments with your baby.


Meditation for a Month (July 2010)

“If during the day you could go within and meditate just for a while, you could tap that source, and then you would remain in a state of continual enthusiasm and joy. Inside everyone is a divine, conscious energy…. Through meditation, this inner energy is awakened and it makes a spontaneous yoga unfold within.”

- Swami Muktananda, Where Are You Going?

Not even 2 months away from the end of my time at Shoshoni Ashram ( and the beginning of my personal seated meditation practice I began to slip. I went from sitting every day for 15 minutes, to sitting every so often for 5 minutes, to not sitting at all while I was on vacation with my family. How often has this happened to any of us: we learn something new or engage with a community that inspires us (whether soccer camp, an ashram, or an interesting educational class) and our natural gung-ho-ness grabs ahold and we ride on the excitement for a few weeks until it slowly peters out, and then drops off all together leaving us wondering why we have so many pairs of soccer shorts, meditation seats, or reading binders.  While I was expecting my personal practice to slow down, I really did not want to lose it all together within the first 2 months. So, I decided to commit to 30 minutes a day of seated meditation practice for 30 days. 

Before starting, I realized that with such a private practice I needed someone else to hold me accountable. I did not feel this was an instance when I could buddy up and go to the meditation gym with a friend (like when you chose a workout buddy and you always call each other or meet up at the gym). So, like Julie in Julie & Julia, I decided to hold myself accountable through a blog.

This blog falls halfway through the 30 days and I want to share with you that I have discovered (once again) that I am completely and utterly human.

AND I’ve learned a few good lessons along the way

Having a scheduled time to meditate is great, when you are living on a schedule. 

 When I was living in Boulder and could wake up every morning in my own bed and on my own schedule it was simple to get up, brush my teeth, and go straight to my cushion for 20 minutes or a 1/2 hour. While traveling and living according to other people’s schedules, I really struggle to discipline myself and prioritize a meditation practice into my day. Days when my own life seems a little over-busy I find it challenging to carve out time to sit and these are the days when I need the quiet the most. In a favorite expression of my father’s, “We have to make the time.”  To adapt this theme, perhaps we need to give ourselves the time. 

I am self-conscious about meditating. 

I’m not self-conscious about sitting in a quiet room all by myself I am self-conscious when I am sitting somewhere where others might walk by or repeating mantra out loud where others might hear me. The craziest part is that I think meditating is cool. I think my new jeans are cool so I wear them out everywhere, but meditation does not provoke the same response for me.  To help myself, I’m starting small. I sing mantra from my heart when my housemates are gone and try not to wonder what the neighbors must think. I sit in a space where I feel a sense of inner quiet and my own bubble even if there are people nearby and I try to tap directly into the Self that is radiating from inside, and not so concerned about the attention of those on the outside. 

I can spend 10 minutes accidentally doing just about anything, except for meditating.

Checking messages, looking at email, reading facebook, flipping through a magazine, cleaning my room. So how is it possible that somedays I tell myself that, “I just don’t have time”.  Yes, it takes a different level of consciousness to flip through the newest J. Crew than to sit and be for 10 minutes, but for me simply being aware of where I was spending my time helped me find more time to meditate and less excuses to not.

A change of scenery can be just the challenge to revitalize the practice.

Every so often I sit in my vegetable garden enjoying the sunshine as I meditate. This change of scenery and the external stimulus (neighbors playing, construction going) brings the challenge I need to focus my mind. In my quiet dark room it was easy to feel like I was really settling in and quieting my mind, but in the outdoors I really had the chance to test my ability to let go of the external world. 


So many people I have talk to about meditation express that, “their minds are just too busy to meditate”. MINE TOO. And that is where mantra comes in. Settle into your seat. Choose a mantra. Whether it is a beautiful line of sanskrit, basic counting, or a word that you need to hear on a particular day, give your mind something to focus on. Let the mind be attentive to the mantra while the rest of you gets in touch with the inner Self. Some days I need it for the first 10 minutes and other days I use mantra for the whole practice. The point of meditation is not to force the mind into quiet, but to find practices that allow your mind to settle. 

Find inspiration.

Whether you look in a book, a guided meditation CD, within yourself, to a friend, or a local class does not matter. Find inspiration for your seated practice wherever you can and soon enough the inspiration will find you.

And now the invitation (and not just because I love a good party).


Try out your own daily seated practice. Maybe 5 minutes, 10 minutes, whatever fits into your day. Start by finding a comfortable seated posture and simply noticing your breath without any judgement: see how it makes you feel. Be in your body and let the thoughts float by the mind without attaching to them.

  What challenges do you face? What makes you not want to sit and what makes you want to jump off your seat once you’ve started? Where are your great successes? When is it “easy” to quiet your mind? Does a seated practice affect your day? Feel free to note them to yourself or leave a comment. Tap into your source and see what spontaneous yoga unfolds in your day.