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Keeping Your Cool with Sitali Pranayama

If I could give one piece of advice to every new parent, it wouldn’t actually be a piece of advice at all. I’d take the opportunity to share a breathing exercise that will serve them time and time again. From the first pregnancy to the empty nest, parenting offers plenty of opportunities to experience anxiety, irritation, and anger. Keeping your cool isn’t always easy and parenting while frustrated doesn’t usually go too well. Fortunately, yoga offers us a breathing exercise called “Sitali Pranayama” that can save the day. It’s easy to do, you don’t need any special equipment, and you can even do it while your kids are fighting in the back of the car!

Sitali Pranayama gives power, strength, and vitality while soothing and releasing hot emotions like irritation, shame, and anger. It’s calming, cooling, and brings you back to center. I always teach the pregnant mamas in my prenatal yoga classes this breath as it can be useful during the intensity of labor. Moms with anxiety love it because it slows the breath down and helps them regain a sense of calm and control. Kids love it because it looks silly and they can learn to regulate their own emotions. It’s really a kind of one-size-fits-all yoga wonder!

Knowing Sitali Pranayama (or as we call it in Kids Yoga, “The Really Cool Breath”) is like having a built-in air conditioner in your body. Whether the heat is coming from the outside on a hot summer day or the inside when you’re so upset you feel your blood could boil, Sitali Pranayama is there to cool you off and make you comfortable again.

How to do it: Sit up tall Easy Pose or in a chair, contracting the neck just slightly as if to make a double chin. We call this “Neck Lock,” or Jalandhar Bandh in yoga. Close your eyes (unless you’re driving) and stick out your tongue. Curl your tongue into a tube lengthwise, like a taco shape. Inhale deeply through the rolled tongue, close your mouth, and exhale through the nose. Continue breathing in this way for 3-11 minutes. If you can’t roll and extend your tongue as directed, you may gently hold the tongue between the teeth.

Seva Shakti Mother Care

“Mother Roasting is showing up for postpartum women in ways no one else will.”  ~The Art of Sacred Postpartum

I’ve been working on something new over the past several months.  I’ve got a new title even.  I’m now a certified Sacred Postpartum Mother Roaster and am launching a new line of services under the name Seva Shakti Mother Care.  Seva means service and Shakti is the divine feminine power.  In other words, I take good care of new mamas and treat them like the goddesses they are!

As a newly minted Sacred Postpartum Mother Roaster, I am trained in ancient wise woman traditions of honoring, warming, and nourishing postpartum women as they heal and seal from the rawness of birth.  Holding space for women as they close the birth journey and cross the threshold from maiden to mother is a special privilege and I am blessed to able to honor families in this way.  Having worked with women in the valley since 2008 as a prenatal yoga teacher and mommy & me yoga teacher, becoming a Mother Roaster seemed a natural extension of the work I’ve already been doing with mothers.  

What does that really mean, to be a Mother Roaster?  I listen to the birth story and hear how things are really going with the new baby.  I serve comforting and nutritive herbal teas and lovingly prepared warming and easily digestible soup.  I can offer a handmade flower crown and set up a floral bath which helps a new mama to see herself in the beauty way while symbolically washing away the birth.  I help new moms let go of their worst fears in a powerful fire fear release ceremony.  Card readings from The Mother Wisdom Deck invite reflection and inspire confidence.  As postpartum moms tend to feel cold and stagnant after giving birth I use moxa treatments, v-steams, and a hot stone abdominal press to warm her up again and get the energy flowing.  A special sealing ceremony called “Closing of the Bones Sacred Tuck In” brings mom back together physically, energetically, and emotionally.  Bengkung belly binding, a Malaysian tradition, provides support to the torso and speeds up the healing process.  A mother may choose only a couple of services or she may choose them all.  My role is to serve the new mother with loving care and witness her transition into motherhood.

Women may choose to combine Mother Roasting services with private Kundalini Yoga & Meditation sessions for maximum benefit.

Private Classes

Sat Nam!

Lately I have been getting more and more requests for private classes, and it is really something I love to do.  There is something really special about getting to know a student well, and tailoring the classes to suit him/her.  I love to dig through my yoga manuals and select just the right kriyas and meditations to serve the particular needs of the person I am working with.  It is very gratifying also to see people dive deeply into the teachings of Kundalini Yoga.  Often those who desire private classes wish to practice also at home and really accelerate their personal growth.

Sometimes people who seek out private classes simply want to experience Kundalini Yoga by themselves a few times before joining a class with others.  Sometimes it is because the regular scheduled classes don’t fit into their schedule.  And sometimes it is because they feel intimidated by the thought of exercising in a group.  Generally, though, people seek out private classes so they can experience a class tailor made for them.

Often as I get to know a student, they will tell me their stories, their health concerns and goals, and other information about them that can help me choose appropriate kriyas and meditations suited for them. The beautiful thing about Kundalini Yoga is that there is pretty much a specific kriya or meditation for everything under the sun. With kriyas with titles like “Stress Set for the Adrenals and Kidneys,” “Abdominal Strengthening Set,” “Firing Up the Metabolism,” “Detoxification,” “Kriya for a Calm and Open Heart,” “To Relieve Inner Anger,” “Glandular System Tune Up,” “To Make the Skin Radiant,” “Refreshing the Nervous System,” “Kriya for Elevation,” “Let the Liver Live,” and “Kriya for Disease Resistance,” (to name just a few) we really can target specific conditions with yoga. And the meditations are countless as well. There are meditations for prosperity, dealing with depression, healing, good luck, removing negative thoughts, boosting self-esteem, becoming more intuitive, healing the wounds of love, and even for keeping up with your children! Truly the possibilities and combinations are almost endless.

Another way to tailor a class to an individual is to do a Tantric Numerology Reading.  The numbers of one’s birthday are plugged into an ancient yogic formula, and a reading is given with customized suggestions for a personal yoga practice based on the individual’s results.

For more information and to schedule, please give me a call at (406) 595-2547.

Divine Birth by Snatam Kaur

Often times the first thing I hear from a mama after her first prenatal yoga class with me is, “Wow! That song at the end of class was amazing, where can I find it?” That is, if they aren’t too choked up and teary-eyed by the pure blissful joy and beauty of experiencing it for the first time. In fact, Snatam Kaur’s version of the “Long Time Sun” song is part of the reason I fell in love with Kundalini Yoga to begin with.
This year at the Summer Solstice Sadhana in New Mexico, I had the opportunity to tell Snatam a story about how a student of mine who had to have a planned c-section for medical reasons arranged for her baby to born to the “Long Time Sun” song as part of her efforts to create the “best c-section ever”, and how special that song is for all of the students who come through my class. Then she told me about her new album, “Divine Birth“, and how she and her mother, Prabhu Nam Kaur included special mantras specifically for pregnancy and birth, ones that she had used herself during her recent pregnancy. Ever since our conversation I have looked forward to hearing it for myself. I even entered a contest to win it on my friend Rajdev’s blog, and shortly after was approached by the sweet folks at Spirit Voyage to write a review for it.
Today I received my copy of “Divine Birth” in the mail, and this evening I used it for the first time in my prenatal yoga class. As I taught the exercises, I played the first two tracks in the background, and let the mamas know that I was about to write a review for this album and to note any feelings they had about the music and let me know after class. As in every masterpiece released by Snatam, her angelic voice soars and dips (along with her mother’s equally beautiful voice), touching your very heart and soul and helping you find your connection to the Divine. The instrumentals in the background accompany beautifully, moving effortlessly from sweet support to intricate melodies between vocals. The first track is a prayer for the child’s protection and blessing, and the second track blissfully proclaims the importance of recognizing each soul as a gift from the Divine. Both are sung in Gurmukhi, an ancient sacred language derived from Sanskrit, and the sound current of the mantras coupled with the instrumental background truly creates a peaceful and nurturing environment for both mama and baby.
The third track is Aadi Shakti, a mantra to honor the divine creative feminine. Often in our prenatal yoga classes, we will practice a meditation with this mantra to call upon that divine creative strength within ourselves. After teaching the meditation with this version of the mantra this evening, I know it will be my go-to version in prenatal classes from now on. The vibration is perfect for the sweet state of pregnancy.
The mamas in class tonight were grateful to hear the new album, and agreed that the music brought them into a relaxed state of mind, allowed them to feel their emotions fully, and helped them feel very connected to their babies while practicing yoga.
I didn’t get to play the last 3 tracks for my class, but here’s a quick overview. Track 4 is the Guru Ram Das Lullaby. If you’re the type of parent that loves to expose your children to many cultures and faiths through music and the arts, this modern Sikh lullaby is sure to be a favorite in your house, with its catchy yet nurturing melody cozily soothing you and your loved ones into a blissful rest.
Tracks 5 and 6 are a recitation of the same mantras that were set so beautifully to music in the first two tracks, perfect for the serious yogini mama to chant along in the original form as suggested by Yogi Bhajan.
You may purchase “Divine Birth” as a CD or mp3 at Spirit Voyage.

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Getting Over the Hump with My Belly Bump

Thank you Frances Graham for sharing your experiences with yoga and your birth story.

Getting Over the Hump with My Belly Bump
By Frances Graham

I had never participated in yoga. I was scared and intimidated. I didn’t know downward dog from cat cow. And I most definitely didn’t feel like a warrior. But in my gut, I knew prenatal yoga was something I wanted to do.

After returning from a leadership retreat at Knoll Farm in Vermont where every meal was entirely local, we practiced daily meditation, and spoon carving was a daily activity, I wanted to continue my meditation practice and the amazing connection that I felt to my body and to the land. I wanted to explore prenatal yoga, but I was extremely intimidated by a yoga class. My perceptions were that I would not have the right clothes, say the right words or be able to get into pretzel-shaped postures, even though I was 22-weeks pregnant (I was thinking, was I supposed to be able to still contort my body?).

A friend of mine who was also pregnant, Kris, had heard about a prenatal class taught by Gloria Overcash. Kris sent me Gloria’s information, and I immediately picked up the phone and called her to see if there was space in the class. I told her my intimidation. I told her I’d never done yoga or been in a yoga class. I told her I had just returned from Vermont and had an amazing week of meditating in a yurt. And, I told her my first daughter died after two days of birth less than a year prior. I needed support for this pregnancy.

Gloria’s response was immediate compassion and care. She also explained that her class was based on Kundalini Yoga, potentially different from other yoga I may have seen or heard. When she described it, I knew it was what I wanted. And, I knew I wanted to start the practice with her as my instructor.

I attended my first prenatal yoga class with much anticipation, nervousness, and delight. During that first class, I felt something new. I became more alive. More connected. More invigorated. More in tune with my body, my breath, and my baby. I felt like I could conquer the world. I left that class thinking I had found the perfect program for me – from a spiritual practice and health perspective. On my drive home, I sang the chant and the closing song over and over. I felt like a woman! Who knew that it would change my life forever.

I continued going to prenatal yoga every week until the birth of my baby girl. After each class, we gathered for tea and snacks, immersing ourselves in conversation. A community of friendships was born. It was a weekly ritual that I cherished.

At any point if I had any hesitation, I felt comfortable sharing with Gloria. For instance, one of the sessions was themed “trusting our ability to birth.” I knew I was going to have a scheduled c-section. So, I didn’t want to participate if the class was focused on a vaginal birth. Gloria assured me that the class would still be appropriate for me to attend. Amazingly, that is the class that held me through my c-section!

Keep up exercises are practiced during each class. These “keep up” exercises are designed to take you past your comfort zone in labor and birth. Although I knew I was not going to labor for this birth, I knew deep in my soul that I needed to have the strength and wisdom within me to birth our second child.

Prior to the scheduled c-section, Gloria had the class experience a group meditation specifically for my strength and the birth of my child. It was one of the most moving, profound and inspirational moments of my life. I felt the love, strength and honor of the women surround and embrace me. I was truly humbled. I also felt complete and prepared for the days ahead.

On a Wednesday afternoon, my husband and I went to the doctor’s office for a prenatal stress test, which I had been doing twice a week since 30-weeks pregnant. After about an hour on the monitor, my ob-gyn thought we should have the c-section that night, rather than wait until the scheduled surgery for the morning. It took us all by surprise, but we trusted her judgment. We went home, gathered our bags for the trip to the hospital, and anxiously and nervously returned to Labor and Delivery at Bozeman Deaconess Hospital.

Upon arrival, we checked into L&D and settled into our room. I changed into the oh-so-lovely hospital gown, turned the lights low, put on some lavender oil, and turned on some very calming music, all to set the stage for a pleasant birth. My husband and I turned to one another, holding hands, and began a meditational breathing exercise learned in prenatal yoga. Our doctor came in along with the anesthesiologist, and together we all walked to the operating room.

I felt calm. I felt strong. I felt centered. I felt at peace. And, I felt connected.

On November 18, 2009 at 7:53 pm, Chapin Lorae Graham was born. She was perfect in every way. We were thrilled and almost overwhelmed with how calm everything was. On the second night we realized it had been a calm before the storm. It was clear that Chapin had jaundice, the form of jaundice that occurs when O blood-type enters baby’s blood-type (in this case, A), and O begins to break down the baby’s blood cells, causing a bile build-up (the yellowish coloring). It was scary. We didn’t want to go through trauma again. For four nights and five days, we were tested at every turn – when things got better, they got worse again. Our time with Chapin was brief and scheduled – not how we wanted it. Although there were daily challenges, ups and downs, and a physical disconnect from our baby, I felt centered, connected, and calm. Although anxious to be with her and be at home, we knew that time would come. I am confident that this patience and peace of mind was due to the hard work and dedicated practice of prenatal yoga for weeks leading up to this time.

Our world has not been the same since Chapin’s birth. She was a little fire-cracker from the start. My patience was tested, and time and time again, I found myself continuing the meditation practices learned during prenatal yoga. I even began singing the closing song, “May the long time sun shine upon you, all love surround you, and the pure light within you, guide your way on” to calm Chapin to sleep (and quite possibly remind myself to stay calm). I also sang a meditation for hope and healing, “Ra ma da sa, sa say so hung” – the reverberations when she is lying on my chest continue to help calm her to this day.

About a month after Chapin was born, I was eager to see the other mama’s who had ventured on this journey with us. We all got together with the babies and enjoyed sipping tea, nursing our little ones, sharing birth stories, and capturing the hearts and souls of one another once again. We agreed: we wanted this circle of friendship to continue. We began meeting once a week to gather, play, walk, support, and love each other.

For the months after Chapin was born, Gloria wasn’t offering a post-natal Kundalini yoga class, so I resorted to DVDs. It just wasn’t the same. Thankfully, Gloria recently began offering a post-natal Kundalini yoga class. It seemed to provide a complete circle. Postnatal yoga offers a different kind of strength and recovery. And, it allows the friendships and bonding that occurred during pregnancy to revive and flourish, along with our babies.

When I say that Kundalini yoga changed my life, I am not being facetious or creating hyperbole. It is the truth. I am a different person. I live my life with more purpose, more spirit, more energy, more strength, more compassion, more love, more grace, and more honor. This was a gift. This was the gift of Kundalini yoga as taught by Yogi Bhajan and passed on by Gloria Ravi Inder Overcash. Gloria has a presence that is full of peace and calmness. She is confident in her practice and wants to share her wisdom (in a very non-threatening way). She fosters openness and truth. And, she embraces you with open arms, truly allowing you to be yourself.

I am truly blessed and eternally grateful.

Sat nam, mamas.

Read more about Frances, Todd, and Chapin’s journey through pregnancy here.

Prenatal Yoga in Your Living Room

If you can’t come to prenatal yoga, please do yourself and your baby a favor and purchase Gurmukh’s Prenatal and Postnatal Yoga DVDs.  I had the beautiful honor of learning how to teach pregnancy yoga from her and she is a fantastic teacher.  If you are curious about my classes, this will give you a hint of how Khalsa Way Prenatal Yoga is different than a typical Hatha style prenatal yoga class.   Here is the trailer for her prenatal yoga dvd:

and a trailer for her postnatal yoga dvd:

Of course, I also offer private prenatal yoga classes which can be held in your living room as well.  Please inquire for details.

Be Blessed

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Creating community through prenatal yoga

One of the most lasting benefits you can expect to gain from coming to prenatal yoga class is the sense of community formed as you get to know other women expecting babies in the same time frame as your own.  It’s a treat to witness the way little tribes of mamas form naturally through the classes.  Recently, a few mamas from my class got together and painted beautifully intricate henna designs on each other’s bellies.

They share the joy of baby showers and mother blessing ceremonies, along with deep conversation about birth plans, parenting philosophy, and how to prevent stretch marks.  Its amazing, really, to sit back and watch these friendships form and grow.  There is something really special about a friend who really understands where you are coming from, because she is literally right there with you.

Part of a class with Blissful Bellies Prenatal Yoga includes the tradition of having a cup of pregnancy tea after yoga.  This is a great way to ground yourself before you face the world again, and also a fantastic opportunity to just hang out with other expecting mamas.

When do I begin coming to prenatal yoga?

Even if you’re not showing yet, you can still benefit from prenatal yoga and meditation. Late 1st trimester or early 2nd trimester is a great time to start, although you can begin at any time.

Although it is generally safe to continue your regular yoga and exercise practice up until about 17 weeks (with a caution on deep twisting), some mamas intuitively choose pregnancy yoga from the start, and sometimes they simply crave the company of other pregnant women earlier on.

Blissful Bellies Prenatal Yoga is taught the the Khalsa Way Tradition and is safe for all stages of pregnancy.

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