Class Theme for the Week: BURPEE

During each of my classes last week I started with the question: What is a tool you plan to bring into your birth?

I had some incredible answers.  Including ‘Focusing on Myself’, ‘Not having any expectations’, and ‘Living in the Moment’.  Each were encouraging for myself and all the other mamas in the room!

The inspiration for this question and overall theme came about while I was going over my old prenatal yoga teacher training notes.  I was thankful to come across this acronym that we learned to provide us with tools and tips during birth.  I decided to craft my classes last week around sharing this acronym and all it’s wisdom.

The acronym is BURPEE and it stands for:

B – Breathe. To bring your body into a parasympathetic nervous system response (where birth happens), we can work to make our exhales longer relative to our inhales.  This will keep us relaxed and able to mentally focus on the work of labour.  Breath is also our anchor.  No matter what happens as our families, bodies, and homes change during birth, our breath remains the same.

U – Urinate.  Creating space for baby by clearing the bladder often is useful in labour.  This also tells us that we should be drinking water during labour to keep ourselves hydrated.  Also, the ‘birth cave’ or bathroom can feel like a safe, contained place to labour.  Sitting on the toilet can be a helpful position to encourage the hips to open!

R – Rest/Relax.  Remaining in the ‘Rest and Digest’ response of the nervous system (parasympathetic) will make it easier for us to effectively rest and relax between surges.  Living in the moment and enjoying this natural break in work instead of worrying about the next surge will help us to labour effectively.  Between surges you may find it helpful to be in child’s pose (or some variation), a forward fold, sitting, or draped over a birthing ball.

P – Positions. Knowing that you can vary your positions throughout birth (and varying them as needed) is important.  Although we don’t know what position(s) our bodies will crave until the moment comes, we can be prepared with various positions in mind ahead of time.  Squatting, All Fours, Child’s Pose, the Birthing Stool, Sitting or Hugging a Birthing Ball are just a few.  Penny Simkin’s The Birth Partner has a huge spread of useful positions you can use.

E – Environment.  There is a lot we can do to control our birthing environment.  Whether you birth at home, the Birth Centre, or the hospital, it is wise to do what you can to make your space comfortable, relaxing, and peaceful.  Make sure you are surrounded by people you can be vulnerable with – you can invite/uninvite whoever you want to your birth!  It is your choice alone as to who is there.  Also, having supportive things around you such as your favourite tea, music, essential oils for smell, or even your favourite foods.  Comfort is key to keeping yourself in that parasympathetic, safe birthing state.

E – Encouragement.  Make your birth team a team of cheerleaders!  Your partner, best friend, sister, mother, father, doula – if they’re not on your team and rooting for your best interests, perhaps they don’t need to be there.  Don’t be afraid to speak to your team about your desires for an encouraging, supportive environment – if you’re up front about this ahead of time you will thank yourself.

Wishing you all the best in your birth preparations.  May you take any of these tools that can be useful for you and leave the rest aside.  And remember, truly, the only thing you need to birth is right on  your yoga mat.  You.

Love and Peace,

Megan

Class Theme for the Week: Your Pelvic Floor

This past week, I was so very thrilled to bring the theme ‘Your Pelvic Floor’ into each of my prenatal yoga classes.  I learned quite a lot in the process and hopefully inspired some awareness amoung my students.  I even had a few come to me later in the week saying they booked in for a prenatal appointment with a pelvic floor physiotherapist!  Woot!

In a couple of my classes the intro question was: Have you heard of, or are you seeing a Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist?

The range of answers was rather astounding.  In one class, out of 11 people, 10 were seeing a PFP.  In my next class, out of 7 people, every single person was not!  That’s quite a difference if you ask me.

I started off each class sharing a little from this blog post from the Blooma Blog.  I then took a solid 15 minutes to do a few incredibly powerful pelvic floor/abdominal exercises, adding in layers of depth after each grouping of breath.  I think it’s incredibly important to include these exercises (to some degree) into a prenatal yoga class!

A few of my students asked the following questions about seeing a Pelvic Floor Physio:

Do I need to go before baby is born?

My suggestion on this is yes!  It can’t hurt!  I wish I went before my first son was born to learn more about my own pelvic floor, what my strength level was, details about birth and how the baby descends, and to get exercises to strengthen and relax the muscles beforehand.  Mostly though, I wish I went in order to learn about/talk about how to ‘push’ ahead of time.

What does the physiotherapist do in a session?

Most PFPs go in and do an internal, manual exam to check out your pelvic floor and determine if you need to work on relaxing or strengthening the muscles.  In my case, we had to practice ‘awakening’ my pelvic floor and figuring out the cues to get this mind-body connection to turn on.  After figuring out the right cues for me, I could go home and have a better idea of how to do the exercises and how it was supposed to ‘feel’.  It all was incredibly eye-opening and encouraging to get to know this part of the body on a different level.  I feel like after the experience of birth, with my core and pelvic floor ‘falling apart’ in a way, building it all back together has taught me in unthinkable ways about how my body works.  This knowledge has changed who I am.

Doing this special and important core work will also help you with incontinence after birth.  It’s true mamas, you needn’t suffer in silence when coughing or sneezing – there is much you can do to avoid these issues and any pelvic pain you may have!

The PFP also will check your diastasis (the degree of separation of your abdominal muscles) and help you to do your best to minimize this separation and rebuild your core in a safe and healthy way.  There are many common exercises that are done in yoga (or even throughout our daily lives) which should be avoided for potentially up to a year postpartum in order to properly rebuild the core.  For this reason alone, I recommend seeing a PFP!  A PFP is like a personal coach in rebuilding your core and body after birth, now who can say no to that!

Thank-you to all the people out there who are practicing pelvic floor physiotherapy.  Your work is inspiring to me and I will do all I can to spread the word of pelvic health.

If you have any questions or live in the GTA and would like a referral to a GOOD PFP, please leave me a message.

Love and Life,

Megan

Class Theme for the Week: Doulas!

This week, each of my prenatal classes surrounded the theme ‘Doulas!’  The goal was to increase awareness of the role of the doula in birth, and also for me to get a feel for how often my students are using/considering including a doula in their birth team.

Since becoming a prenatal yoga instructor, I have met and worked with MANY doulas, and as I get to know them, they and their work continue to inspire me.  I am also blessed to have a neighbour who is currently getting her doula practice off the ground, she is just a wealth of knowledge!

In preparation for this series of classes, I emailed a prenatal yoga teacher colleague who also has a full-time doula business.  It is Taylor of Tayomi Births. She was incredibly helpful in providing suggestions as to how I approach this task of raising awareness around doulas and their work.

She gave me a number of testimonies from her practice which all speak for themselves (some can be found on her website and Facebook page), a few of which I was blessed to share in class.

As far as resources that are incredibly useful surrounding learning about doulas and what they do, check out The Birth Partner by Penny Simkin (now in it’s 4th edition).  Simkin is known as the grandmother of doulas, and her book helped me understand the role of the doula vs. midwife/doctor amoungst other things.

As I asked each of the students in my classes the question: “Will you be having a doula at your birth?”, I got some fairly interesting responses – all from which I continue to learn. I would say probably 10% of my students have actually hired a doula for their upcoming birth, and 20% have considered having a doula on their birthing team.  I am glad and hopeful to have increased awareness and clarified some questions about the doula role amidst those I teach.

Please leave me any questions you may have about this topic.

Happy birth prep!

Megan

Class Theme for the Week: Postpartum Mood Disorders

This week each of my prenatal yoga classes were focused around Postpartum Mood Disorders.  My goal was to bring awareness of Postpartum Depression, Anxiety, and OCD to my students and to help prepare them for action, if and when these situations present themselves.

When I gave birth to my first child, just over two years ago, there were close to 20 other women who I know who gave birth within that year.  Was it because most of us were turning 30?  Perhaps!  But from this large amount, I have known 2 or 3 to have gone through some form of postpartum depression, specifically.

As far as my story goes, here is why I think it’s important to talk about ppd and other related disorders: Towards the end of my pregnancy, I was speaking with one of my coworkers at the psychotherapy clinic I was working at.  She mentioned how she had suffered from depression long before her first baby was born and was worried about ppd.  I mentioned that I was in a similar situation and she suggested I get hooked up with the ppd program at Women’s College Hospital here in Toronto.  They have a program called the Reproductive Life Stages Program.  Basically you get a referral from your doctor or midwife and make an appointment to see a doctor there to determine if you’re at risk for a postpartum mood disorder.  It is great because if you do have troubles after the baby is born, you’re already in the system and can more easily make an appointment to seek care (wait lists can be long apparently).  I decided to take action and see what would come of it.

After an incredibly lengthy and somewhat cathartic intake session with a psychiatrist (this ended up happening postpartum because I was late in getting the referral), I was told that more than anything, I may be at a slight risk for a Postpartum Anxiety Disorder.  This was surprising to me and my natural tendency was to put up a defense, and I did (on the inside).

But it all added up.  Since my baby was born, my house was cleaner than it had ever been.  I felt incredibly anxious when the baby was asleep and didn’t know what to do next to make myself as productive as possible.  Sleep?  Sew?  Clean?  Cook?  Yoga?  Shower?  All this amoungst other things.

This session with the doctor really helped me to see things a little clearer, and it has taught me what my tendency is toward – anxiety.  I can see my anxious thoughts and behaviours creeping up in my second pregnancy, and I will surely be on the lookout for their presence postpartum this time around.  And I know there is help out there if I need it.

In my research for my classes this week, I came across a few great resources which I’d love to share with you:

  1. The Postpartum Progress website, and specifically the checklist they provide.
  2. Postpartum Support International website (thanks Rose)
  3. This blog post from the owner of Blooma – Sarah Longacre
  4. Brooke Shields’ book Down Came The Rain (I read this during my first pregnancy and it really helped to see things more clearly)

May is Postpartum Mood Disorder Awareness Month, and you can bet I will be revisiting this topic in my classes then.  It was quite a challenge to attempt to lead a yoga class with this as the theme.  But I know the benefits far outweigh the consequences.

Love, Light, and Awareness,

Megan

7 Natural Remedies for Hemorrhoids

It’s nothing to be ashamed of.

May my struggles and learnings from my lovely hemorrhoids only help others!

This is why I’m posting about hemorrhoids. I never would have dreamed of talking about this publicly in the past, but these little buggers have been such a part of my life and I’ve learned so much from having them, that I’m here to say: “You’re not alone in having hemorrhoids! And here’s what might help!”

Of course the pregnant, birthing, and post-partum body can be largely susceptible to hemorrhoids. Hence why I’m posting about this now.  I’m using many of these remedies everyday to keep my hemmies at bay.  Mamas, listen up!

1. A cool shower, or even better – alternating between hot and cold in the shower. This stimulates your lymphatic system and can help with ‘closing’ things (veins, sphincters, etc.) up, the opposite of solely heating and thereby opening up the body. Do you see what I mean?

2. Topical Treatments: Venoforce, Geranium Essential Oil & Witch Hazel – A. Vogel makes a product called ‘Venoforce’ which can help.  I have the gel as opposed to the tablets in this link.  Geranium Essential Oil has been known to help as well. I use both everyday. Both products are also good to improve venous return in the case of varicose veins which can also be common in pregnancy.

Also of course, you can buy witch hazel. Please do not go to Shoppers Drug Mart for this! Their products are watered down and not effective. You can get Thayers Witch Hazel from your local health food store. Don’t get one of the scented ones, rather the original or aloe vera.

Alternatively, you can buy the witch hazel herb and steep it like you do tea.  Cool it and use that topically.  Post-partum mamas often like this sprayed onto a cotton reusable pad and then frozen before putting on their lady parts.  So refreshing right after birth!

3. Eating healthy, whole foods – I often find that when I eat something unhealthy, or when I have a lot of wheat my hemmies act up.  For example two nights ago we went out to a pub and I had a poutine.  There was very little nutrition in it and the next day I could tell because of my bottom!  Wheat also tends to ‘clog’ you up, back up your bowels, etc, so I find if I minimize my wheat intake I feel a lot better overall.

4. Pelvic floor physio/exercises – I wouldn’t have believed this in my first pregnancy, but it’s definitely true!  Your pelvic floor extends all the way back to incorporate your anal sphincter, so if these muscles are toned, you may gain great help in the hemorrhoid department.

5. Hydration – The key to life.  A healthy body is a hydrated body!  Check out the app WaterMinder for a daily reading on your water intake and what you should be drinking.  I have not used it much but my husband claims it has changed his life (and he is my inspiration!).  Water keeps our bowels hydrated.  Did you know if you’re dehydrated, your body will take it from your bowels?  We want those bowels nice and hydrated so they will be eliminated from our bodies easily.

6. Breathing down bowel movements instead of straining – I learned about ‘breathing it down’ from my Hypnobirthing class!  They have you practice before your birth by ‘breathing down’ your bowel movements.  The key is to wait until you definitely have to go (you can’t do anything else) and then just sit down on the toilet.  As you exhale, imagine you’re breathing down your bowels.  It’s incredible!

7. Elevating your feet on the toilet – The Squatty Potty is revolutionary, but you can also just use a simple stool for $12.99 from Canadian Tire.  Ours doubles for our son to get up to the toilet/wash his hands.  Your body was made to eliminate while your spine is in flexion (like cat pose, chin to chest and tailbone drawing down).  Our standard Western toilets do not support our bodies in this shape while we’re eliminating!  It brought new meaning to when I went to China and literally had to squat most of the time – the way it was meant to be!

That’s all for now!  All the best in your hemorrhoid prevention/elimination.  Do not believe what people say – you don’t have to suffer forever, and your only option isn’t just surgery!

Much hemmie love,

Megan

**Please note that this post in no way replaces medical advice.  Please consult your naturopathic doctor before taking on any of these suggestions, and of course for dosing. These remedies have worked for my body and this post is merely a summary of my suggestions.

Stretch Mark Cream


The next natural beauty product I’ve been blessed to make is a Stretch Mark Cream.

Now, for my first pregnancy I’m so grateful to say I did not get stretch marks. But I’ll have you know I didn’t make and use this cream in my first pregnancy. All I did was put pure cocoa butter on my tummy, and it worked like a dream.

But this time around I had a recipe from For The Love of Body and all the ingredients, so I went for it!

The result is a smooth and buttery cream that I slather on my growing tummy as often as I can (1-2 times per day).

Here are the ingredients as pictured above:

-1 part shea butter

-1 part cocoa butter

-1 part coconut oil

-1/4 part apricot kernel oil

-1 part calendula infused olive oil

-vitamin E

Using your double broiler or a pot and stainless steel bowl, melt the butters and then add the coconut oil and melt.  Take away from heat and stir in liquid oils, then add a little vitamin E.  Pour into a jar and store at room temperature.  Use generously!


Happy belly-stretching,

Megan