Music, songs, and chanting are all powerful tonics to add to your yoga or meditation practice. Seventeen years into yoga and swapping musical faves with yogis and repeatedly approaching fellow teachers I have built my list of go-tos for those times a bit of music is a must for practice enhancement.
As an aside, if you can get yourself to a sound healing or a yoga class with live music and sound healing, hello amazing body bliss! I’m thrilled to see so many options to integrate modalities that take into account the full sensory experience of our bodies, and it’s another one to add to my bucket list of “more stuff I would like to learn”.
You bliss’n like me bub?
For the pregnant mammas, music is a lovely thing to incorporate into your practice whilst bub is womb-side as well as consider in preparation for birthing day. As music is such a personal thing, I highly recommend you spend some time browsing through iTunes or Spotify to find that musical sweet spot. Take some time leading up to the big day to listen and feel the tunes that really resonate for you and your bub. Goose-bump ripples of calm and soothing, a warm glowing feeling of heart happiness, as well as little kicks from the womb-dweller were usually the box tickers.
What I have found remarkable is how students and friends have always enquired about the same few artists and songs over the years. Below, are a few to get you started on your own little adventure down the rabbit hole. Oh, and word to the wise, if you’re off to the hospital to deliver the wee one, don’t forget the tunes at home. 😉
Super Magical Mamma Tunes – Craig Pruess & Ananda, 108 Sacred Names of Mother Divine
I fell in love with this at a little studio and was lucky enough to get my own copy. These tunes are blissful transportation regardless of your Sanskrit knowledge. Perfect for restorative, meditation and savasana.
Angel voice – Essential Snatam Kaur, Sacred Chants for Healing
I rocked and chanted with my girl in my womb to Ong Namo during meditation sessions prior to her debut. It was truly marvellous to see her little head turn once I played it after she was earthside. We still cuddle on to these when she’s not busy taking over the world or the lounge room. Many of these tunes were on my birthing day playlist.
If you just want a relaxed vibe, without the vocals, try Deuter
Sometimes this sounds a bit “spa-ish” to me but I find Deuter is pretty neutral to have on if I am feeling a bit overstimulated and need simple, soothing sounds. I have a few of his albums. Reiki Sound Healing is my fave. Nada Himalaya rocks during meditation sessions.
Sacred Earth = Australian Magic
Hmmm so blissful. A bit of mantra, gorgeous instruments. Feel the love. After all these years I still find Breathing Space, on the Call to the Divine album to be an amazing
Ambient, other-worldly chill’n try Divination by Akasha
I usually only listen to the first selection of songs that are more relaxing. Descent is a perfect 14:55 long. Just right for a nice meditation or savasana session when that’s all you have time for. The second suite of tunes is a bit robot doof-doof, but hey, perhaps you could use it for your next big rave after baby arrives.
In our prenatal yoga classes I ask mammas to load up with as many props as they can. As everyone settles in with their goodies arranged we begin, and as we progress without fail a mamma declares, “gee I really need some of these!” My emphatic response is always, “Yes you do!” Pregnant or not, here’s why we all deserve a little help from our prop friends.
Keep your yoga groove on
If you want to have an appropriate and responsive home practice, you need to get yourself some props, stat. I know there is still the odd soul who thinks not needing a block elevates the supposed complexity of a yoga practice, but let’s get real about our bodies and what they need from time to time. In my travels it has been extremely rare to see a yogi who can effortlessly sit cross-legged without a little support from a blanket to keep a natural spinal curve and open pelvis. Body proportions(and changes therein, meaning both expanding and shrinking), illness & injury all deserve respect so we can enjoy our bodies and practice for the long haul.
Safety before cirque de soleil
No one should contort the body into inappropriately strained, squishy, or stressed shapes for a posture’s sake. There are a million variations of any pose, and using a block, strap or bolster to keep your body in that just right “sthira sukham” zone is the real way to yoga for the vast majority of us who do not have gymnastic or dance backgrounds. Long term misalignment caused by lack of support leads to permanent injury and/or pain; so check your Yoga Journal cover shoot superstar ego at the door and be nice to yourself.
Explore your creative side
Those nights when I can’t be asked to stand on my feet any longer as I’ve had another full one of hide and seek and other shenanigans the little dragon has cooked up I look happily to my bolsters and ease my aching limbs over, around and on top. The extra support feels luscious and heavenly, acquainting me with some kinder, gentler me time. Though my passion for yoga was initially sparked with my love for vinyasa, I am a mamma who has had a change of heart with the bliss a restorative practice brings. Props are a necessity to let go and go deep; many of us would benefit from a slower, more supported practice once or twice a week.
Mix up your seating situation
I’ve been grooving on Katy Bowman for over a year now, enjoying her podcasts and adding her books to my long list of must-reads. Katy is a big proponent of getting more varied, or “nutritious movement” into our days. New flash: hanging out on the sofa all night isn’t really doing your body any favours. She recommends reducing your bum’s time on furniture, but if you want a bit of comfort while you experiment with new seating arrangements, bolsters and blocks can help with the transi
So what do you need?
At minimum every yogi should, in addition to a mat of course, own at least 2 bolsters of different shapes, a strap, two blocks, a firm thick-ish blanket, and a nicely weighted eye pillow.(those things are brilliant for insomniacs, trust) Check out the larger yoga studios in your area to get started with your purchases or ask your yoga teacher for a recommendation. Here in Oz I am a big fan of Stretch Now equipment, because it is durable and pretty so it can hang out in your lounge room un-offensively. Mandukha offerings always have me salivating – that would be my go-to if I were on the other side of the blue ball.
If you haven’t purchased your props yet, make the investment! You will open the door on so many lovely yoga adventures that I look forward to sharing with you in the weeks ahead.
Without hesitation I could relive the moment of seeing the double line on my pregnancy test stick. No drug could replicate the sheer rush of excitement that a baby was joining us; I giggle thinking back to my husband’s expression when I shared the news.
It was with a fluttering heartbeat that the realisation sunk in: a little soul has decided and is most certainly on the way. I’ve found the transition from conception to parenthood and beyond is one of the biggest chasms to cross, and it’s one I’ll be navigating for awhile yet.
As much as we like to focus on the joyous aspects of the mamma journey there will be times we’ll feel as though we’re being pushed to our edge physically, psychologically and emotionally.
From the disappointment of a negative pregnancy test to coping with nausea, the various physical discomforts of accommodating our darlings in the womb, to the devastation of losing a longed-for soul too soon, and to the moment of the journey through the birth canal or incision right to the merging of our lives as a family and what lies beyond, the dance of motherhood is a long, complex and beautiful one.
Mothering (and fathering, and creating anything really…) requires a very personal and attuned level of faith, trust and loving compassion to be receptive to our evolving roles as parents and women (and artists, leaders, ethical professionals, human beings, etc).
Caring for a completely dependent – and later on a very independent – being is about making space in our bodies, minds, lives and most importantly hearts. As mothers we come to the mat to remind ourselves that there is more space, we can return to the sense of ease in a moment, with a breath or a thought. The easiest way to get that freedom comes not from a reckless forcing or pushing, but from connecting with our breath, feeling into the tight spots, taking a moment and trusting that if we approach life with a soft awareness, that things will free up precisely as and when they need to.
In tomorrow’s prenatal class at the Nest on Silas I’ll be drawing your attention to this idea with some exploration in our asana, relaxation and meditation practices. We’ll play and welcome softness in when things might start to feel compressed, be it in your body, heart or mind. I’ll share some personal practices I’ve enjoyed that remind me to be gentle and create space with ease and acceptance.
My intention is that you will walk out of the class knowing that whatever pregnancy, birth and motherhood has in store for you and bubba, that you will find your way. And your beautiful little babies, whether they’re in the ether or your womb, can feel this gentle support from your before the earth-side day arrives.
I can assure you, this whole parenting gig, it is a delightful, lovely, challenging ride. And I wish you the best wherever you are in your adventure.
For those of you not attending or not pregnant, or perhaps without vaginas, how can you safely soften in your practice and in your life? And how might this serve you more adequately than the common default position in our hectic society of specific exertion. Have a play in the days ahead. When you have what I like to call a “tight moment” – most typically defined by something that you feel in your body in a day to day incident or discussion, how can you open up, find space and just trust that what happens next just will?
Yoga love to all,
I remember the first time I taught prenatal yoga. It was during my training in an Advanced Diploma of Yoga Teaching at the CAE in Melbourne. The ladies in class weren’t actually pregnant, but just pretending to be for the sake of a practice session in prenatal instruction. The energy in the room was palpable and otherworldly, despite only one of my classmates actually being pregnant. It dawned on me as I walked amongst the ladies and felt a tender wave of love rush over me; this was a direct way to connect with the future, creating a nurturing, loving space for women and their babies before more formal introductions took place.
That was about five years ago, and reflecting on both my yoga practice and experience of bringing our first child into the world, my approach and philosophy on prenatal yoga teaching has evolved in a way that I would not have expected.
Our baby’s pending arrival over two years ago was one that I was positively relishing. I had a fabulous, complication-free pregnancy and could not wait to give birth and experience what my body was capable of. We had a lovely team of midwives and had planned for a home birth, where I was hoping for a water birth.
And then plans were thrown way off axis. In short, bub was eventually discovered to be footling breech. Nothing much about the dream for welcoming baby into our lives happened; at the end of it I was left with a beautiful critter whom I’m grateful to call my daughter and a five-inch scar along my lower abdomen.
The weeks leading up to darling’s birth were the most upsetting, disorienting and miserable in my life and something I would never wish upon anyone. I was heartbroken, felt like a failure and illogically at times wondered if I had done something to bring what I at the time viewed as a horrendous experience upon myself.
I’ve contemplated this and looked deeply as both an instructor and student in pre-natal yoga classes, where the full realities of the birth experience, at least in my humble opinion, are not always addressed. I’ve attended yoga classes where the instructor’s sole messaging and instructional cues were skewed to the vaginal birth experience. I wondered, both before and after our girl’s arrival, where that left all of the other mums out there who, for whatever reason, birthed surgically.
You see I was a great believer, and still very much am, in the body’s ability to bring baby into the world. But I believe not giving space to the caesarean experience, as well as other interventions that mums might need or choose for whatever reason, is a disservice to some prenatal yoga students who I’d argue need just as much support, caring, recognition and space as those who have the privilege of experiencing a natural birth.
Meeting your baby under the theatre lights can be so very different, but equally as beautiful, as those who get acquainted in the labour ward, birthing centre or home. I am committed to addressing as many facets of the birth experience as possible when I commence my new class offering tomorrow at The Nest on Silas.
Whether a caesarean is scheduled or not, I believe discussing the process candidly and positively can help alleviate a lot of the fear, apprehension and potential aftermath. My intention isn’t to create complacency towards the increasing and sometimes alarming c-section rates, but rather, to give new mammas a few more tools in the treasure chest before delivery day arrives. Having a bit of knowledge can set your mind at ease before, during and after.
My hope is that all mums experience a beautiful, empowered, informed and supported birth. That mamma and baby pass through the fires of initiation with grace and strength; that if medical assistance in any form at any stage in a pregnancy or birth is logically deemed necessary and made clear from a place of respect and honesty that the mother can be at peace with the process and have faith that all is well while holding gratitude for modern medicine.
I will never forget the moment I first laid eyes on our girl, or the weight of her perfect tiny body as it was laid upon me; for that slice of time I am forever grateful. I hope all mothers are able to look back on their birthing experiences with that indescribable spark of indelible, delicious recollection, whatever path leads them to the first moment of connection with babe outside the womb.
So if you’re pregnant or practicing to be, I would be honoured to meet you in class soon, as we explore the myriad ways we can embrace our own unique journeys, support our bodies and spirits and prepare to welcome the little souls into our families.
It’s been a couple weeks now so the distance and time brings me closer to acceptance, and the reality of the long view is coming into focus. I had to say no, to what once would have been an easy and perfect opportunity. There is a craving to return to yoga teaching. Of course, like everything with a youngster, this is easier said than done. Things seemed aligned and perfectly falling into place. A studio I previously taught at had an available slot, Thursday evenings 5:30 until 7:00, perfect! Preliminary verbal arrangements with my mother-in-law were made for child-minding one evening a week so that I recommence teaching.
And then a reality I didn’t anticipate set in. Mondays and Thursdays are also daycare days. She is settling in; on the fourth visit there were no tears, for her or I. With each day she attends her time there has extended and she has become close to her carers. But there’s one thing that has not faded for me and that’s my desire to see her after a day away from her. Maybe in time I will feel different but I know reconnecting is important for us both. I let the available slot at the studio go; despite knowing this was right for our family it was still so hard.
Even though I adore my child I wrestle with the sense of loss that comes with fading oneself into the background as a parent. Staying confident in myself, remaining patient, and knowing that I can pursue my passions while providing a stable environment for girlie is harder than I anticipated. I admit, I get a bit angry at my pre-baby self, wondering if I didn’t waste time in the past, taking for granted all of the freedom I had to focus on those ambitions. Time has changed, and I am adjusting to the unforeseen sacrifices that I will make as a mother for the sake of a happy child.
This incident sparked reflection on the whole idea of letting go. So often in yoga class the ultimate release happens at the end of class when we lie in savasana, or corpse pose. But to truly release in an easeful way takes bravery and strength. Patanjali speaks of sthira and sukahm, or strength and lightness, in II.46 of the Sutras. Though he is referring to this in the context of asana this relationship between grasping and releasing applies to life in general.
No yoga posture can be obtained purely through one avenue alone; you must always refine and explore the perfect ratio that enables you to use your strength and proper alignment to safely release into your expression of the posture.
Physiologically speaking, all strength and the rigidity prevents you from feeling true release. All softness and those precious connective tissues are in grave danger of strain and tearing, potentially impacting your body’s functioning and alignment in the long term, possibly permanently.
As a new mother, life presents opportunities to observe the symbiotic relationship of these yogic foundations. Letting go of opportunities and desires that would have once been simpler to pursue without a child requires self-conviction. A belief that alongside the new mom I’m becoming, the yoga teacher waits with confident patience, knowing that releasing this chance does not mean relinquishing long-term goals forever. In time, with perseverance, the right balance will be struck.
And so I continue this journey of watching a brilliant new life unfold. Grateful that this little being has opened my heart in ways that no other experience has.