Yoga & Pregnancy: What NOT to do (video!)

I made this video months back after being in yoga classes (regular group mind you, NOT prenatal), and being dismayed that some instructors are not giving the pregnant ladies special attention (or modifications!).  I wasn’t particularly worried for myself,  as I was aware of what NOT to do, but a few times I had another preggo in the class and was definitely concerned for them. One time in particular, I wanted to walk over and say “Please, stop doing that!,” to a mom-to-be who was taking class as if she wasn’t carrying a 7+ month fetus.

Problem viewing video? Click here to view on Youtube! 

Bottom line is, yoga is great during pregnancy, but in a standard group class, we typically can’t not rely on the instructor to guide us through the whole time. Many of them don’t even know enough about pre-natal yoga to offer great modifications as the standard RYT (registered yoga teacher) does a brief study on it, but not nearly enough (which is why pre-natal teachers have separate trainings.)

That being said, mamas-to-be, please arm yourself with knowledge before jumping in a regular group class. Or, better yet, take a few prenatal classes to get going on the right track. Regardless, here are some clear NO, NOs from me to you. Ultimately, remember to listen to your body, and don’t push it (no, matter what anyone says). Take care of yourself and baby!

Disclaimer: Always talk to your doctor before starting any exercise program. 

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Hidden Gem: MAP Program At Greenwich Music House (the perfect pre-school option)

greenwhich music house MAPThe school days are almost upon us! NYC Public schools start next week, and while Aria is super excited about going to school, she also insists she wants to go back to her old school “with Miss. Lyra and Emy”.

Last year Aria attended the MAP (Music, Art & Play) at Greenwich Music house in the West Village. We had done the whole Nursery School application routine (alright, only really one place), but in the end decided on Greenwich Music House. In retrospect, I think it was one of the best things we could have done for her, and the program is definitely a hidden gem for west village parents.

Greenwich Music house offers a variety of programs for all ages, but the MAP program is perfect for 3 year olds, providing just what they need at that age. Art, music and play suits their age perfectly, stimulating their senses and creativity, but not overwhelming them (and it’s FUN — social skills develop too!).

We got a great variety of daily art projects sent home, seeing Aria’s creativity bloom (and I’m convinced today she’s such a good drawer in part because of this). We also saw our little one grasp onto music, finding confidence in her voice and embracing all different kinds of instruments and her own musicality.

The building is a charming brownstone, a warm loving environment that is safe and contained, and also boasts a sweet outdoor garden for them to play. Many a day, Aria did not want to leave after wrapping up with the daily, “It’s time to go now,” Goodbye Song.

MAP program greenwich music house nyc pre kLearning also extended beyond the brick and mortar of the school. The kids had a variety of field trips and outings, serving the community with a holiday sing-along at a local senior center, and taking advantage of the cultural playground that is NYC (see photo from a Very Young People’s concert at Merkin Hall).

Finally, and most importantly, the teachers are WONDERFUL. I can’t say enough good things about their care, which definitely eases an anxious parent who may be leaving their child in another’s care for the first time. Both Ms. Lyra and Ms. Emy are extremely capable, loving and caring, and very communicative with parents– providing email newsletters on what the little ones are up to, and always being open and welcoming to all.

The program is offered half days (mornings) for up to 5 days a week. We loved the flexibility of it, not having to commit to 5 days, but setting up times that worked with our lifestyle and our child. That being said, if you’re a NYC mom or dad of a toddler who’s looking for a GREAT nursery option this fall, check out Greenwich Music House. I promise you won’t be disappointed (except when it’s time to go!)

Sometimes we need to just breathe….

childs pose brightI just finished a yoga class and as always feel more open, relaxed and tuned in. These days it’s getting increasingly more difficult to move and breathe with ease (thank you baby #2), and I haven’t been able to keep up with my practice or usual exercise routine. It’s forced me to sit back, accept and try to take all a little bit more slowly (not my nature).

The latest pregnancy woe (or WHOA!) has been the excruciating leg cramps that I’ve been getting at night (think charley horse on steroids or someone stabbing you in the calf). The pain has been ridiculous, and I’ve found myself feeling it long after the initial attack. My calf muscles are all bound up, and I’ve resorted to stretching before bed (mainly long holds in down dog with deep breaths) to try and ease the pain.

So far stretching and breathing has been my biggest relief, and today in yoga class I found myself particularly tuned into the power of breath. Vinyasa, of course, is the linking of breath and movement, but we as human beings so often don’t fully breathe (in yoga or in life).

As I sat on my mat practicing pranayama, it became especially clear to me how the simple act of breathing opens us up, and allows us to move towards a place of ease and away from (even if only temporarily) pain and discomfort. We all have our own stresses and traumas, and although none can be healed instantly, the simple act of breathing is a powerful place to start.

The last 24hours, I’ve been thinking a lot about Alison Parker and Adam Ward, and the horrendous situation that occurred yesterday morning. As a former news reporter, it hits home with me, as I’ve stood in her shoes so many times. Countless mornings I’ve been out live, conducting interviews and watching the sun rise with camera men and crews who become a second family. My heart tightens when I think about this tragedy, her bright smile and potential, the lives so pointlessly lost, and the tremendous pain their families must feel. And then I need to breathe. Deeply.

We all have our own traumas. Some much greater than others, but inevitably in life we will all face hardship and pain. We will all come to a place at some point where the pain is so great that it binds us, and we feel like we simply can’t breath. It’s then that we need to most. To let the rhythmic steadiness of our inhale and exhale be our focus, and allow it to open us up, and help lead us away from the hurt. It sounds so simple (and perhaps silly when we are really suffering), but it is perhaps one of the most powerful things we can do.

So today, I say we breathe. Deeply, fully and deliberately. And hopefully, we can all find relief from whatever pain we hold.

These are the times to hold onto…

savor the momentI’m amazed that summer is flying by and the calendar is already approaching September. I posted a picture on Instagram this morning and captioned it, “These are the times to hold onto,” and have been increasingly aware of enjoying the moment, and that time is so fleeting. I was discussing parenthood with a student in my yoga class the other day, and he said, “yes, the days are long but the years are short.” How true.

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So, increasingly I am trying to savor the moments. We’ve spent a lot of time at our lake house this summer and I feel incredibly grateful for the serenity that I have here, the time for quiet reflection and the pure enjoyment that it brings us. We bought it when I was pregnant with Aria, and being pregnant here again is a blessing– and big relief from the city heat and our walk up apartment stairs! Aria is increasingly excited about her baby brother coming, showering my stomach (and him) with love, sweet words and adoration. Life is sometimes so sweet.

kids swim lessons learningShe’s also spent plenty of time splashing around, just recently beginning to swim on her own. I wrote about swimming lessons of past– which ended up being very short lived as she wanted no part of being told when she had to get in the water (my little stubborn girl). However, her determination is also are what got her swimming all on her own. All she needed was a little time, and the ability to do it on her own terms. That’s my girl.

So, today may we all be a little more mindful to not let the sweet moments just pass us by. To be grateful and focus on all the good that we do have in our lives, and hold onto to it tightly.

3 Simple Steps To Finding Your Flow (on and off the mat)

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Spring is in full bloom and everything is flourishing around us. I sit at our lake house staring out at what are now full canopies of green leaves, when just weeks ago there were just little buds springing out on bare branches.  Nature is an amazing and beautiful thing, constantly renewing itself and allowing the seasons to take their course.

I taught this past weekend at Mayfest (see post below) on Finding Our Flow (both on and off the mat.) So, how do we do that? It’s an ever-progressing task and, even though teaching on the subject, I must admit, often I am not in flow. It’s always a work in progress, and indeed I believe we all come in and out of flow. But, when we are in that space, doesn’t it feel so good? When all seems aligned and we are in the place of effortlessness and fluidity. When we feel like all within and around us is just moving in the right direction, or we are just “in the zone” and operating at our best.

I did a bit of reading on the subject of how creatives “get in the flow,” and much of the research comes back to a Professor of Psychology, Dr. Csikszentmihalyi, who asks the question “What makes a life worth living?” He concludes that pleasure and satisfaction in lasting activities that bring about “flow” (versus the material or superficial) are the only answer. From yogis to composers to star athletes, we all seem to want to be in that flow space. Even just as human beings– as moms and dads, entrepreneurs or just regular ol’ folk making our way– we all desire to be in a state of ease, having the feeling that we are at our peak, effortlessly creating and exactly where we are meant to be.

So, how do we get into flow? Easier said than done, right? When is the last time you felt content or, moreover, in flow?

3 Steps To Get Into the Flow

Do the Work: Well, as mentioned, Flow is a work in progress– the key word being work. We have to make efforts to get to that space, no matter what we are doing. And, as Dr. Csikszentmihalyi points out, we have just the right balance of challenge (in activity) and skill to take on that challenge. So, we need to find our achievable challenge, and work at it.

On the mat that translates to knowing our asana (poses and alignments), and being able to execute them without letting anything else, especially our minds, get in our way. If we’re too busy thinking about our foot placement, or where our hands are supposed to go, or what the pose looks like, we cant get into flow. We need to know the poses and alignments, so that we can stop thinking about them, and just do them. Proper alignment also (literally) opens us up, allowing energy to flow easily (along our meridians) within.

Off the mat we also have to do the work that’s required to get to our desired place. Life is full of challenge, but when we can align ourselves and our lives with our ultimate goals we can move toward happiness and flow. But first we have to figure out where we want to go. What are our passions? What brings us happiness? We need to know this before we can move in that direction. Then we also need to do the work. How do we make the changes in our life that are necessary to get to that place? What do we need to eliminate? What do we need to work harder at to bring change? We often get comfortable or lazy in life, not wanting to reach toward the ultimate, and instead settling for a life the is “good enough.” Good enough doesn’t bring flow, or the ultimate bliss that comes along with it.

Be Present: Csikszentmihalyi’s work has identified that one of the factors of flow is “intense and focused concentration” on the present moment. Makes sense, since we can’t be fully in something if our mind, intention or body is not fully involved.

On the mat this is often challenging, no matter what our experience level. As new yogis, we often get uncomfortable in the poses, feeling awkward and challenged, often yearning to get out. Even experienced yogis battle with fully being in each pose, perhaps jumping ahead of whatever the pose by predicting the sequence, or simply getting uncomfortable and looking forward to next movement. No matter what our level, often all the chatter in our mind and our “inner critic” further prevents us from being fully present. We are instead thinking about how we didn’t do that last movement right, or how we don’t look as good as the person on the mat next to us. But all of this only hinders us, and our flow. We need to just BE where WE are, not worrying about anyone else, or even about what we did up until that point, silencing our inner critic and just being present. Be in the pose of the moment. Breathe in it, and be there.

Off the mat it’s also often a challenge to stay present. We often get caught up thinking about what has already happened, or what’s to come in our lives. We repeat the past in our mind, letting it literally hold us back, instead of just letting it go. Or we are constantly thinking about (or worrying about) the future– what we still need, or all the things we don’t yet have. These are extremely limiting, and will block flow completely. When we are IN the moment, completely immersed in the present, we can’t be longing for anything of past or future. If we can just be where we are, trusting it’s exactly where we need to be, then are we able to experience the fullness of it, and move with ease through it.

Just Breathe : Here comes the yoga teacher in me, bringing it all back to breath. I believe that both on and off the mat, a simple way to move toward flow begins with breathing. Focusing on the easy, steady, rhythmic, balance of breath can allow us to move toward a state of calm, ease and flow. Our inhales open us up, literally letting gravity (or the universe) fill us, and create more space within us. Our exhales allow us to release and let go, only to be filled again. It’s this steady, even cycle that allows us to tune in, and be in tune. Just  like the trees and so much of nature, we can effortlessly move through different seasons.

When we set our intentions, do the work/meet the challenges and remain present, we move toward flow. I believe the real yoga happens when we can drop out of our heads and into our hearts. When we can can operate from this space, letting our hearts lead, we can navigate with a little more ease– both on and off the mat. So, perhaps today we all breathe a little deeper, open up a little more and move with a little more steadiness and grace. Ultimately, we can find our flow.

This Weekend: MAYfest– Music, Art & Yoga for the whole family.

So, this weekend I’ll be teaching at Mayfest, the Hudson Valley’s first Music, Art & Yoga Festival. I’ll be teaching a Vinyasa class on Saturday at 11am called Finding Your Flow, for all of you out there who want to find your flow (both on and off the mat). I’m excited to be a part of such fun weekend event, and to be teaching alongside some renowned teachers like Sadie Nardini and Justin Wolfer.

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The weekend will basically be like going back to camp (for all ages). The lineup includes great bands, stellar yoga classes, nature hikes, paddle board yoga, a wellness village and so much more– all in a beautiful lakeside location that is just over an hour from NYC.

The best part is it’s totally a family affair. Bring the kids along because Mayfest is also offering a “Kids Canteen” with plenty of offerings for the little ones including story time, yoga, sports, and even nature writing. Plus (best, best part), childcare is available so that mom and dad can totally take advantage of all the adult fun stuff going on.

For more information or to get tickets go to www.MAYfestNY.com. Hope to see you there!

Lessons From The Mat: Being Expansive

Screen Shot 2015-05-12 at 12.47.08 PMOver the last few weeks, I’ve been chatting about the idea of renewal and expansion with my yoga classes. How we can expand in our practice– maybe breathe a little deeper, reach a little higher, give a little more– and also (as always with yoga) how we can take that off the mat and put it into practice in our lives.

Sometimes we get narrow– especially when we get uncomfortable or face something difficult. We get anxious, and our mind seems to only focus in on the problem in front of us. Whether that’s in life, or while encountering discomfort in a particular pose, we let that situation overtake us, and can’t seem to see anything beyond that. But what if we could expand beyond the discomfort in these moments? What if we could see whatever that encounter is as trivial or temporary, and look past it, not letting it take us over?

Perspective is such a huge part of being happy. Think about it. What are you focusing on today? Believe me, there are plenty of days I have to remind myself to not get caught up in the negative. Inevitably the “what ifs” and “should have beens” creep into my own mind as well,  and I have to (as Taylor Swift so aptly sings) shake em off. Just last night I lay in bed thinking about what could be different, how I might be happier, and about the things my life is missing. Sometimes we just can’t help but go there, but how detrimental this is!! Thank God it’s a conscious choice to let it go, and go beyond this type of thinking. This morning, I looked around me and was reminded of how incredibly blessed I am am. How full and abundant my life is, regardless of it’s imperfection, and how much I have to be thankful for.

No, life is not perfect. It never will be. And we can always find things to want, things that are missing or things could simply be better. But focusing on all that we do have can flip a switch in us– literally turn darkness into light. Seeing (and focusing on) the abundance that IS there, will only bring happiness and, in turn, more abundance.

A common psychology tool for those who are depressed, is to have them to look up, above the buildings or trees, and into the sky and above the horizon– to see beyond what’s right in front of their feet, or in they’re immediate line of vision. Sometimes when life is hard, we need to remember this. Even when it’s not, how much sweeter is life when we look upward and realize how much possibility exists beyond what we can see?

So today, I hope we can all be more expansive. Reach a little higher, breathe a little deeper and turn our faces to the sky and feel the warmth of the sun. Today, look above the building tops or out into the horizon, and realize how much goodness and possibility exists, and how many more good things are to come.