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.


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.

Ten Ways to Sneak in Meditation When You’re a New Mom

I hear it time and time again from new moms.

“I don’t have time to meditate.”  I get it.  I’ve been there.  Thrice.  Of course it’s amazing if you can “make time” for your practice, but there are ways to get creative and sneak meditation in here and there throughout your day.

Here are my top ten mom hacks to experience a meditative mind each and every day. Have something to add to the list?  Comment below so we can all benefit!

  1. Get up early.  Rise before your children do, sneak out of bed, tiptoe to your sacred space, and hop to it.  A meditation teacher I know uses the acronym RPM- Rise, Pee, Meditate.  (I like to brush my teeth first so that would be RPBM).
  2. Breathe long and deep while you’re nursing or bottle feeding your baby.  If baby isn’t looking for eye contact from you, that’s your cue to close your own eyes, roll them up and inward to focus at the brow point, and slow down your breath.  Inhale while mentally chanting “Sat” (truth), exhale while mentally chanting “Nam” (identity).  Use Sat Nam to affirm “Truth is my essence” with each and every breath.
  3. Floor time, tummy time, toy time.  When your baby is safely engaged in something besides YOU, take advantage of the opportunity to turn your own focus inward, even for 1-3 minutes.  
  4. Bath time.  When your child is old enough to sit unassisted in the bath but still needs close supervision, be right there in the bathroom with him/her, but take a few moments to find your center with some long deep breathing, breath of fire, right or left nostril breathing, whatever it is you need at that moment.
  5. Babywearing & Walking.  Get baby secured on your chest or back and head for the trails or even the sidewalk.  Use Breathwalk meditation techniques to supercharge your walk and harness the power of rhythmic breathing, mantra, and mudra while in motion. Alternatively, chant while you walk!
  6. In the car!  Keep your eyes on the road and your hands on the wheel, obviously!  I will often chant in my car, or practice Sitali Pranayama, or Breath of Fire, or Long Deep Breathing on my way to wherever I’m going.
  7. While cooking.  Nothing is so nourishing as food cooked with love and infused with the vibrations of mantra chanting.  If you're not ready to chant, just play some on the stereo.  Try it!
  8. My very favorite- Baby’s first nap of the day.  Resist the urge to hop on social media or catch up on laundry.  Start at the beginning of baby’s nap or you may find you put it off too long and surprise, nap’s over.  With baby snugly and safely down for a nap, you can dive in deep with your meditation practice.  Warm up first, with basic spinal flex, and basic spinal twist, some life nerve stretch, and maybe some Kundalini crow squats if you’re up for it.  Fold up a firm wool blanket, sit up tall, and do your work.  
  9. Before bed.  Once the kids are tucked in, you may feel like flopping into bed yourself. That’s understandable!  But I encourage you to take a few minutes for yourself.  One of my Peace for Postpartum beta testers, Molly, shared this, “There were times that, out of sheer sleep deprivation or exhaustion, I wanted to lie on the floor and do nothing, but once I meditated, the shift was tremendous.”
  10. Ask for help with the kids so you can make time!  When you make your mental and emotional health a priority and set yourself up for success, you will be amazed at the progress you can make!

If you read this far and you’re rolling your eyes because you’ve tried meditation before and found it boring, or if you’re interested in meditation but you have no idea where to start, I want to tell you about Kundalini Meditation as taught by Yogi Bhajan.  This, my friends, is where the magic is.  Kundalini meditation is where it's at, and it works it's magic in as little as three minutes.  It’s perfect for householders (like parents with small children) and it works quickly, directly, and powerfully to shift your consciousness in a big way.  There are different meditations to meet your various needs, and that’s what I love the most.  In my Peace for Postpartum online meditation course, I’ve compiled the very best meditations for overcoming the unfortunately common postpartum challenges like moodiness, depression, anxiety, rage, birth trauma, and insomnia all into one easy to navigate online platform.  The course contains over 20 meditations, my favorites collected over 10 years of working with moms, and has received rave reviews from participants.

Podcast with The Motherhood Bozeman

What an honor to be the very first guest speaker on The Motherhood Bozeman’s new podcast series!  A few months ago, I sat down with Jazmin Price, Certified Professional Midwife and founder of The Motherhood Bozeman to talk about finding balance for motherhood through meditation.  In this episode, I speak about my work with mothers, give some practical meditation tips and advice, share a story about one of my children using meditation to manage his own emotions, and speak about my upcoming online meditation course for women with postpartum mood and anxiety disorders.

Have a listen!

The GONG is HERE! Wahe Guru!

I feel so lucky and so blessed that the gong is finally here.  An instrument as fine as this is so special and I am eternally grateful to everyone who contributed financially to help manifest this potent gong sound therapy right here in Bozeman, Montana.  Since it’s arrival, I have had the great honor of playing it for family, friends, students, other teachers, and even people I had otherwise never met before!  I love sensing and feeling the shifts that take place in those resting and relaxing while I play for them, and I love falling into the flow and grace that playing the gong induces.  I am in awe of it’s powerful resonance and ability to transform.  I hope you’ll decide to try it for yourself!

“The gong is very simple.  It is an inter-vibratory system.  It is the sound of Creativity itself.  The gong is nothing more, nothing less.  One who plays the gong plays the universe.  The gong is not an ordinary thing to play.  Out of it came all music, all sounds, and all words.  The sound of the gong is the nucleus of the Word.”  ~Yogi Bhajan

“The gong is a sacred threshold.  It is a portal that links the finite and the infinite experience of the self.  The most sublime instrument of the Yogi is the Gong.  It is a musical instrument, a healing tool for the nervous system and a cauldron in which you can create alchemical blends of qualities that open and develop the inner self.  The sound of the gong creates deep relaxation, releases you from the torrent of thoughts and stimulates the glandular system to a higher level of functioning.  The gong impacts the body and it’s meridians.  It releases blocks, reduces tension, and stimulates circulation.  The result of this is a reorganization of the emotional energy and feelings that are tied into the body structure.”
Excerpted from The Art of the Gong in Kundalini Yoga & Meditation by Yogi Bhajan, Ph.D. and Gurucharan Singh Khalsa, Ph.D.

I am pleased to announce that I am now offering private Gong Sound Therapy Sessions in addition to playing the gong during savasana after select classes and workshops.  My instrument is a hand selected 32 inch Paiste Symphonic Gong from Soul of the Gong.  The gong is the most potent form of sound therapy I’ve ever come across, and I would be honored to play for you.  Choose from 90 minute (Yoga, Meditation, and Gong), 60 minute (Yoga & Gong), and 30 minute (Gong only) options.  Private and Semi-Private appointments are available.  Please call me at (406) 595-2547 to arrange a session.

YogaMotion Graduation

Over the past 9 months, I’ve been studying Hatha Yoga with local teacher Nancy Ruby in her YogaMotion teacher training. It’s been an incredible journey of transformation infused with love and joy. Here I am accepting my certificate at our teacher training graduation ceremony last night. I look forward to sharing BOTH Kundalini and Hatha Yoga with our sweet community! Namaste!

(photo credit Neil Hetherington)

Morning Sadhana and the Aquarian Dream

A few months ago I stumbled across at post in my Facebook feed from a musician in the Kundalini Yoga community named Livtar.  It read, “Does anyone want to write a short review (a few words or sentences) of the sadhana cd Aquarian Dream to help get it out there?  Thanks, Livtar.”  My interest was sparked, you see, because although I love Morning Sadhana, my practice of this special pre-dawn yoga & meditation experience had been sporadic to non-existent and in dire need of resurrection and restoration.  In the back of my mind I’d always thought that someday I’d get into doing Morning Sadhana more regularly, even every day.  Someday, when the kids are older, when I don’t have to worry about tiptoeing around in order to not waken everyone else.  Someday when I get enough sleep and we all go to bed early enough.  Someday…………

One of the Five Sutras for the Aquarian Age is “When the time is on you, start, and the pressure will be off.”  Over the past year I’ve been really feeling the pressure to get going on this Morning Sadhana practice.  All I needed was a little inspiration to get started!  Traditionally done 2.5 hours before sunrise, carving out the time and obeying the alarm clock are essential to beginning this practice and over time the body’s natural rhythms will synchronize with the practice of Morning Sadhana and waking up will become effortless.

My yoga space sits in front of a large east facing window- with a view of the sunrise and the Bridger Mountain range- though it’s dark when I begin and my eyes are closed during this time to go within.  Sadhana is as much of a spiritual practice as it is a lesson in self-discipline.  By cleaning the subconscious mind through meditation at a time when the sun’s angle to the earth is perfect for this task, we have an opportunity to achieve a kind of victory- a self victory.  Life flows easier after Morning Sadhana and I notice that I am able to relate to my children better, I feel more energetic, polished, even sparkly, and I live my life from a higher level of consciousness.  I’m on top of my game and the little things that used to bother me don’t seem to be such a big deal any more.  And you know what?  I don’t even miss the sleep I lost.

Livtar says his new Sadhana album “Aquarian Dream” was made in service to those who practice Sadhana.  It’s true.  You can feel it.  His steady voice carries the mantras in the proper rhythm while maintaining a peaceful meditative space.  Grounded and earthy as well as expansive, this album sets the stage for an authentic experience of Morning Sadhana.

I hope you enjoy Livtar’s “Aquarian Dream” as much as I have!  You can download it here.

Feeling Good Today~ A Kids Yoga Music Review

As a parent of two children I’m always happy to find an album of music that is not only fun for the kids, but enjoyable for the adults as well with an uplifting message.  Snatam Kaur’s “Feeling Good Today” is a perfect fit for a kids yoga class, jamming out in the car, and playing around or dancing in the house.  Sing-songy enough for the little ones to love, intricate enough for the parents to appreciate, and varied enough to suit a range of moods, this album has become a quick favorite in both my home and the studio.  Snatam weaves her melodic voice of an angel with the Children’s Kundalini Choir for a truly unique sound.  Yogic mantras and yogic philosophy are playfully arranged with a lightness of being while preserving the spiritual integrity of the mantras.  The first track “Feeling Good Today” sets the mood and is a great way to start a day with your child!  My favorite verse: “God inside is lighting up my way, and I can see that light in your eyes too, and I am feeling good today!”  Track 2 “The Sun Shines on Everyone” introduces the concept of spreading peace, life, and love to everyone and praying for everyone, not “making choices” about who we would like to pray for.  The third track “I am Happy” is a mantra Yogi Bhajan gave to the children to use when their parents were fighting or in crisis so they could have an experience of remaining stable and unaffected.  Simple, catchy, and upbeat, it’s an instant favorite!  Track 4 “Gobinday” celebrates the eight aspects of the Infinite.  Things really start to get groovy in track 5 “Make the Love Grow!”  One of my favorites to have mamas dance to in prenatal yoga, this song starts slow and sweet and gets you up and bouncing and swinging your hips all the while grinning as you sing along “This is the way we make the love grow!”  Track 6 is a wonderful song for improving self esteem and honoring one’s self with “I am the Light of the Soul.”  Track 7 “Sa Ta Na Ma” celebrates the cycles of life and makes a classic Kundalini Yoga mantra more accessible for children.  Track 8, “Adi Shakti” creates awareness of and honors the divine Feminine force of the Universe.  And finally, the last track is Snatam’s lovely kids version of “Long Time Sun.”  I love to end my Mommy & Me classes with this one!

Parents with older children will also appreciate “Shanti the Yogi:  Mountain Adventure,” a kids yoga dvd with Snatam Kaur as teacher.  Incorporating storytelling, simple yet elegant imaginative drawings, mantra, movement, yoga and meditation, Snatam leads the children through a beautiful kundalini yoga practice in real time as they use their imagination to follow Shanti on her journey up the mountain.

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