Wednesday, August 15, 2012

My Prenatal Yoga Series

I actually wrote this many weeks ago and have been meaning to have Ami take some better photos to go with it so that there would be a corresponding photo for each asana...but that still hasn't happened, so I've decided to just post as is.  Let's all enjoy this hilarious series of yoga self-portraits.

(I'm about 28 weeks in these pics.  The shirts I'm wearing here would be only go about half way down my belly by now, tee hee hee).

The original post...

I was fiddling around with the timer feature on my camera (yes, I'm that novice of a photographer if you haven't already noticed the evidence all over this blog) and got inspired to take some pics of my yoga series to share, along with the information and background I have about each of the asanas.  I did a huge project for midwifery school last year about emotional health and movement (or as most people would say, exercise) in pregnancy and in preparation for childbirth.  A lot of it was yoga based, with some other exercises from various sources thrown in, which is pretty much what my daily series is like.  I've thrown in some of these hilarious images for fun, then had Ami take some better pics for practical purposes (including adding them to my MW school project in place of the Google images from all over the web that I used for the original presentation so I can publish that via the Matrona).

Some preliminary rambling about the history of my yoga practice: I've been practicing yoga since I was about 18, so that means I've been at it for, 8 years now (yikes, that was really 8 years ago?).  I took a class at community college and learned more from books and a few classes here and there.  My practice was pretty off and on until I was pregnant for the first time.  I had been in an on phase for about three months already and it was January so I was all new years resolution inspired to really get into the ashtanga groove (as a former gymnast turned gymnastics coach who teaches from a body mechanics perspective I was pretty comfortable with self teaching from the book I have Ashtanga Yoga for Women, which teaches a progressive relatively (compared with other Ashtanga series) easy series).  That only lasted for a couple weeks in January before I realized that I was pregnant and the caffeine withdrawl and subsequent fatigue and anemia set in.  So I settled for a 1-2 times per week practice of Jeannine Parvati Baker's series from Prenatal Yoga and Natural Childbirth.  That series was really perfect for me, being relatively out of shape (for me) and with my body under a lot of stress in later pregnancy (for a variety of reasons which I may or may not post more about at some later point, I was not in radiant health in my first pregnancy).  

After Chobe was born I was really ready to get back into my body in the way where I was active and capable of my normal physical abilities and range of motion (which, again because of my history as a gymnast dance kind of type is probably beyond what I would consider as a healthy baseline).  So I started yoga as soon as I could after the birth and have actually been more consistent with it than ever before in my yoga career.  Last June I decided that I was ready to get back into Ashtanga through the self-teaching discussed above.  By the time I was pregnant again in January I had progressed pretty well with my practice and was able to do a lot of the body weight bearing asanas.  So that was kind of the baseline where I started this practice.

The Series
Modified Pregnancy Sun Salutation I
Starting in Tadasana (standing up straight, feet hip width apart hands in namaste or prayer)
Forward bend, maintaining a concave position for the back
Step feet back one at a time into a push-up position and lower to the floor in plank with elbows in
Push up in half plank with knees on the ground for extra support
Push back to downward dog
Step feet back up to forward bend
Sweep arms around to reach up, squat position
Return to Uttadasana
Repeat four more times

Modified Pregnancy Sun Salutation II
Starting in Uttadasana (standing up straight, feet hip width apart hands in namaste or prayer)
Forward bend, maintaining a concave position for the back
Step feet back one at a time into a push-up position and lower to the floor in plank with elbows in
Push up in half plank with knees on the ground for extra support
Push back to downward dog
Step right foot forward to outside of right hand into lunge arms reaching up
exhale release arms to ground and step back into plank and lower body to floor
inhale push up in half plank with kness on the ground for extra support
exhale Push back into downward dog
inhale Step left leg forward to outside of left hand, reaching arm ups and lunging
exhale release arms to ground and step back into plank and lower body to floor
inhale push up in half plank with kness on the ground for extra support
exhale Push back into downward dog
Step feet back up to forward bend one at a time
Sweep arms around to reach up, squat position
Return to Uttadasana
Repeat four more times

Benefits: energizing, warming, toning, opening

Utthita Trikonasana

Benefits: energizing pose, opens the chest and tones the legs, benefits circulation and respiration, stretches the spine, relieves back ache

Half Moon Pose
Ardha Chandrasana

Benefits: energizing, reduces anxiety, stabilizes mood, can help with certain kinds of bleeding during pregnancy, relieves feelings of heaviness in the breasts, strengthens and tones the chest, spine, and pelvis, tones the placenta, can reduce itchiness, opens the torso to make more room for baby, reduces nausea, gently tones legs and abdominals

Standing Wide Angle Forward Bend
benefits: energizing, improves leg circulation, relaxes and opens pelvic floor mucles

Goddess Pose
benefits: tones legs and glutes


Heel Stretch
Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana

Benefits: balance, toning

Standing Hip Stretch
Benefit: opens the hips, balance

Balancing Stick and Pose of the Dancer

Benefits: tones pelvic floor, thighs and glutes

Transition to Floor Poses
Forward bend, step feet back to plank, lower with elbows in, push up to plank, push back to downward dog, strep forward into lunge

Warrior I

Warrior II

Exaulted Warrior
Benefits: tones legs, eases morning sickness (although not to be used as a relief position), stimulates liver and spleen thus benefiting digestion, tones the pelvic region

Downward Dog
 Benefits: lifts uterus, tones pelvic floor, gently tones abdominals

Straight leg posterior leg lifts
five on each side

Centaur Pose
benefits: Opens hip flexors, energizes ovaries, tones back muscles

Seated Backward Bend
benefits: tones reproductive system

Cat Cow Series with Variations
benefits: tones core muscles, facilitates optimal fetal positioning.

Opposite Arm/Leg Lift

Pushups in Semi-Plank
12-15 times

Seated Arm Stretches
Cow Face Arms and Reverse Namaste

Squatting for 10 breaths with Kegels
benefits: tones pelvic floor and complimentary muscles in glutes and lower back facilitating optimal pelvic floor function

note: There is some really interesting info out there about how kegels are not actually helpful for pelvic floor health, for example this blog post discusses some problems with kegels.  After doing some more research, I made the personal decision to do kegels and squats since they work complimentary muscles which seems to make the most senese for whole body wellness to me.  Just as it's important to build muscle on both your biceps and triceps to keep your body in balance, it seems smart to tone glutes and PCs in balance too.
Squatting to Standing
Up and down from standing to squat 12 times

Seated Wide Angle Pose
benefits: opens and tones pelvis, stregnthens spine
Seated Bound Angle Pose
benefits: opens pelvis

Neck Rolls
Benefits: Loosens and streches neck, which reflexively relates to the cervix.

Crunches with Rectus Abdominus Support
Hands hold the two sides of the abdominal muscles together while crunching.  Lower abdominals and PC muscles enganged.

Oblique Crunches

Ankle Flexion and Extension
Flexing and poiting toes.

Benefits: reduces edema in the feet and lower legs

Namaste, happy yoga and happy pregnancy and happy babies!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Lotus Birth and Related Crafts

I've finished a couple more projects this week, but before I get to showing off my handiwork, I need a little preamble about why this project was called for in the first place.

Anyone who knows me knows that I am all about the natural homebirth way of doing things,  I think I also mention all the time that I was a student midwife last we all know that as the baseline.  But there is one aspect of giving birth that is possibly even unusual for me being the hippy homebirther.  "Lotus birth."  There are other terms out there, but this is the one I use since I had first heard of the practice with this name.  Basically, it is where the cord is not cut after birth.  The cord remains intact connecting the baby and the placenta until the cord dries and falls off, just as it does with babies who do have their cords cut and the stump falls off. 

The main questions that I've gotten about this are the obvious ones: Why would you want to carry the placenta around with the baby? and Isn't that gross/dangerous?

Why? There may be some idealogies floating around out there about why lotus birth is a good idea, but for me its about creating a gentle transition from intrauterine to extrauterine life.  There are physiologic benefits for delayed cord clamping because the baby gets her/his full blood volume.  All of these apply also to lotus birth.  But the thing that a lotus birth does really well is faciliate a peaceful, slow paced environment after birth.  It's a lot harder to want to run around if you have a newborn and placenta!  It also creates kind of a special bubble around the baby that I feel like visitors can sense helping to avoid passing the baby around the room the a hot potato and other overstimulating activities.  I guess that last statement might seem a bit extreme since that's how a lot of babies are welcomed, but again I have different opinions.  (stepping onto my soap box) For a long time in this culture babies have been treated as though they are not sentient.  I don't believe this is true and there is actually a whole field of study devoted to the understanding prenatal and newborn awareness.  Birth is a powerful and incredibly stimulating (miraculous, esctatic..) event.  So it the transition to life outside the womb.  Just like with any major transition, its really nice for one's overall (but especially psychological and emotional well-being) to have some time to get grounded afterward before adding new experiences.  This is a lot of the thinking behind the Gentle Birth movement, I think lotus birth is a way to continue the gentle transition into the first days of life. 

Mama and baby are also uniquely physiologically adapted to each other, especially when skin to skin contact is maintained, so that mama's temperature fluctuates to keep baby's tempertaure normal where it needs to be, it allows baby's blood sugar, breathing, and heartbeat to be better regulated, faciliates nursing, allows for optimal exposure normal flora in establishing healthy digestive and body flora in the baby, which is an important foundational step in establishing a healthy immune system.  Giving baby time to land and be in nearly constant skin-to-skin contact with mama helps all of baby's body systems to become regulated giving a solid foundation for lifelong health.  This is how our family does lotus birth not that lotus birth magically make this happen or that everyone who lotus births does it this way or that this kind of skin-to-skin transition can't happen without an attached placenta.  Also skin to skin contact with papa and siblings happens here too, immediate families share a lot of their body flora and generally have been exposed to the same enviornment so have a decreased risk of introducing microbes mama's milk would lack antibodies for.  When newborn or three-day-old baby is getting all those kisses from grandma and auntie and cousin and neighbor Joe, mama often misses out (I know no one tried to stick their fingers in my hands so I would grab onto them, or load my face up with kisses during Chobe's first days), meaning that baby is exposed to things that mama isn't.  Not that I'm a total germ-a-phobe or anything, but baby is being colonized with the body flora they will have for life and there is a lot of really interesting research coming out about the connections between intestinal flora and psychological states/conditions, so that's almost a whole other level to consider.  I feel like I know how to deal with my own (and my husband's own) brands of craziness the best... 

But another really important thing about having a prolonged intimate kind of immediate family only time with baby in the first days after birth is that I think this also prepares baby to feel more safe, secure and aware when baby is ready to meet other family members and friends.  This kind of builds on Joseph Chilton Pearce's ideas about child development.  Essentially the idea is that children learn through periods of stress and relaxation (actually everything grows/learns this way).  Stresses (which are positive in this context) come as new experiences, the relaxation phase is then relating these new experiences back to a familiar matrix.  In the case of the newborn, the familiar matrix is the mother.  Colostrum has the same smell/taste as amniotic fluid, frequent breastfeeding after birth (and I think as long as the Colostrum lasts) allows baby to reference the new sensory experiences of birth and the scenes of the first few days of life back to a familiar matrix.  All babies seek visual contact with faces even within the first hour after birth in an undrugged baby, so that as the familar matrix of the amniotic fluid is replaced by the milk, the baby's new matrix is mama's face, which he/she sees often while nursing and has up until the point of the milk coming in has become part of the matrix in which new experiences are embedded.  To give another example from later in life, when toddlers begin to explore their world their level of concrete knowledge explodes, then later in childhood with this matrix of concrete material they are ready to appreciate symbolic representations of these experiences in a more meaningful way, providing a more solid foundation for advanced abstract thought
(like mathematics) than if this process is rushed. (More on all of that later, if I ever get around to writing up my homeschooling philosophy to share, since it is very much informed by Pearce's work).  So all of this is to say, that with a lotus birth and the initmate space it helps maintain after birth I think that it helps baby to have a more secure and lucid experience, faciliating deeper bonds with relatives and friends when baby is ready.  I like that.

And as for the grossness...The umblicial cord is full of a substance called "Wharton's jelly" which firms up after the baby is born (more specifically after the baby's transition from newborn to neonatal circulation has completed and the cord has been allowed to pulse as long as it needs to to calibrate the exact amount of blood that baby needs in the body and in the placenta and then the placenta detatches).  So there isn't a significant (as in any realistic) chance of anything harmful coming in through the cord after birth.  The placenta is rinsed and powdered with rosemary which helps act as a drying agent and is antimircobial and then positioned to allow maximal air circulation so it can dry out like to cord.  Cleaning and topical anti-microbial herbs are applied around the navel/cord attachment site as needed.

As I mentioned, we did a lotus birth with Chobie and it took about five days for the cord to come off on its own.  We are planning to this again, so one of the projects is a placenta bag for carrying the placenta with the baby as needed while the cord site is still healing.  This isn't really designed for use before the placenta is pretty much dried out, nor is it meant for carrying the placenta on a day out or anything.  More like in transition from the bedroom to the living room, or to make some lunch or go for a little walk around outside on day 6 of the placenta being attached while baby is in a sling (then placenta tucked in with baby).

So here it's basically a circular drawstring bag.

Bottom detail

Cut the pattern, with two pieces, both natural, breathable fabric.

Add optional embelishments to the outside piece of fabric.

Sew together with wrong sides together, leaving a little gap to turn right side out.

Topstitch and add two rounds of stitching for the drawstring.

Seam rip a small opening in fabric between the rounds of stitching.  Insert cord and pull closed.  I used 2 yards of yarn for my cord, which was made using the double reverse wrap method, which I learned originally for making cordage.  I couldn't find a good web tutorial for this, so maybe I'll make and post my own one day...

And for the related project, I used the same men's dress shirt (hey, it's a dress shirt for us!) that I used for one side of the placenta bag to make some little pants for Chobe.  Making pants from old shirts and especially wool sweaters for babies is one of my favorite projects.  I will be giving more details about this too one day!

Thursday, August 9, 2012


So baby fever is officially here (if it wasn't already, since all I've been doing in my spare time for the past eight months is make things for my babies).  And apparently it's contagious.

Ami came upstairs this morning to tell me that I should go look at the chickens in their yard.  There are baby chicks!  So many tiny fluff ball baby chicks!  Ten of them all stuffed under their little mama's wings running in and out and tweeting....

This is the cutest thing I've ever seen.  We've had several batches of baby chicks around over the last three years since we started raising them, but this is so beautiful to see the babies with their mama. 

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Handmade Goods V: Baby Blocks

Here's my latest project: homemade cloth baby blocks.  They say newborns love contrast and symmetry!  I also did funky inside out style seams, really mostly because it would be easier to avoid handsewing after stuffing, but I also like how the contrasting black thread adds more, well, contrast.

First I got out some newsprint and made the block face patterns, all 3 1/2" squares.

Then I made the patterns for the images:

Cutting, cutting, cutting...

Then the sewing began.  This was quite time consuming!  I did a zig-zag stitch around the edge of each shape, centered on the block faces.

Edges are sewn together with zig-zag at the very edge and then a straight stitch just beneath for structural reinforcement.  This series of photos shows how the pieces are sewn together to get a cube/block shape.

When all edges except for the last one are sewn, then stuff.

Then sew the final edge while pulling the stuffing away from the seam and pressing the giant mass of block down to fit through the machine.


Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Works in Progress

Wow, there are so many projects that I'm in the middle of right now.  I usually wait until something is completed to post about it.  But, like I said, I'm in the middle of several different sets of projects right now.  I've been working on a pair of legwarmers and little monkey toy for one of my pregnant friends.  I have a bunch of contrast block pattern pieces cut out for my soon-to-emerge little one, and probably someone else's too since I accidentally doubled the pattern.  And I've been working on some quick little gnome and fairy toys for Chobe.  But these have been anything but quick.  I really wanted to make something small and simple, but to try to make something human-like has been a new crochet experience.  It's quite the engaging project for me though, since the only crocheted toys I've done have been animal patterns from a book or super-simple (crocheted balls).  So I've completed two different prototypes.  Well, completed is a bit of a stretch.  For one I spent a whole day making a head for a fairy and in the end, decided it looked way too much like a fashion doll for 7-year-old girls than the simple little woodland creatures that I had imagined taking out into the woods with Chobe for imaginative play.  The next one is still a set of parts- a complete set this time, but still a bit more complicated than I want it to be.   I stopped working on these guys though to get the baby gift I mentioned done.  I'm on the verge of finishing the monkey with just the ears and sewing the parts together to completion.  So here's some project previews:

adding hair to fashion fairy head

finished abandoned fairy prototype

patterns for contrast blocks