As a celebration of Mara's birthday on Jan 25, we are offering a special on our YTT early bird price.
$2700 + tax
Collaborate with us!
To apply: Tell us about yourself:
- What nourishes you?
- How would you describe your true essence?
- Tell us about that time you reached Nirvana… or got close
- What does your yoga practice look like?
- What is your favorite yoga posture at this moment and why?
- What are you seeking in your life right now?
Send $500 deposit to firstname.lastname@example.org
"Yoga is the journey of the self, through the self, to the self" - Bhagavad Gita
Nuala was conceived in the Fall. We lived in a small apartment on the top floor of a house in Halifax. I had a marvelous time as I spiraled through my pregnancy. I danced, did yoga, taught yoga, chanted, meditated, and spent time in nature. I did all my favourite things but everything had the added extra element of Nuala. We got to know each other. After she was born, I would look back at memories of my pregnancy and think, “It was you! That whole time, it was you inside me!”
I loved feeling her kick from the inside when I was pregnant. I was amazed by how sensitive my husband Scott was to feeling her kicks from the outside. The way we could feel her was unique. Whenever she kicked forwards towards the outside of my belly, I would get him to feel and we would all bond over the amazing miracle that was our baby. Sometimes laying awake at night soaking up every moment of her acrobatics, I would wish Scott could feel what I was experiencing. I savored the mind blowing feeling of her moving within me. I would think about all the kicks I could feel on the sides of my belly and in the back and down low in my pelvis that he couldn’t feel. But then I realized that the experience of feeling her move was just hers and mine. Birth left me with the same feeling: everyone else could understand only a part of the experience. Nuala and I were the center of the birth spiral, everyone else was outside.
No one told us what gender she was. I didn’t really have a hunch as to whether she was a girl or a boy. I had some dreams that she was a girl and some dreams that I was having a boy. I dreamt of her past lives. I dreamt of India, a cabin in northern mountains, and ship wrecks. She took me places in my dreams that I have never been before and I have never visited since.
We went through the snowy months together eating mostly apples, pears, and the winter vegetables: potatoes, cabbage, squash, kale, and greens. Scott and I buy every type of vegetable and fruit available from our favourite farmers at the Saturday market. I adore the ritual of choosing the food and preparing it throughout the week. I loved the idea of my baby tasting the food along with me. As my baby grew, winter yielded to spring and every week there was a new delight to sample from the farmer’s market. I imagined what it would be like to taste each vegetable and fruit for the first time. Strawberries never tasted so good!
My decision to have a home birth arose from my distrust of the medical system and my complete trust in the abilities of my body and my baby. I have had numerous personal experiences with the medical industry that have led me down the path to self healing. Giving birth at the hospital seemed impossible to me. I couldn’t picture it. To me, birth was a sacred rite of passage. To place me in a hospital would be to put me in a cage. I kept getting stopped at the idea of the windows in the hospital and worrying about whether I would be able to open them. I couldn’t stand the idea of not being able to breathe in fresh air. I was going to protect myself and my baby from the toxic smells, interventions, and beliefs of the hospital, no matter what. Through my networks, I met two home birth advocates: Natalie and Mara. I trusted them right away, just like I trusted my own body and my baby to work together in harmony. These wimyn became my dear friends and we made a plan that they would attend my baby’s birth. I was ecstatic to have a birth team made up of wise wimyn.
My close friends and the wimyn who would attend my birth gathered at my apartment for a blessing way. I was given beads from everyone for a necklace that I cherish and that Nuala now loves to wear. I was given beeswax candles that we ended up lighting during my labour. It was a ritual of support, love, and confidence building. Everyone went around in a circle and told the story of how we met and how they see me, and what they love about me. I felt like a goddess, pampered and taken care of by my sisters.
As the solstice sun brought zucchini, peppers, broccoli, blueberries, swimming, camping, and music festivals, Nuala settled into her position for birth.
About six weeks before I went into labour, I noticed a difference in the way she moved. I felt the movement of Nuala’s arms and legs, but she she wouldn’t do flips and somersaults like I was used to. I asked Natalie about this change. What she saidmade a lot of sense to me. Nuala was getting so big that there was less room for her to move around and she had decided to prepare for her birth by positioning herself with her head down. We could feel her bum up top in my belly.
I could feel her feet starting to kick up and out. We could actually see her feet through my skin near my ribs in those last weeks of my pregnancy. I taught my last yoga classes. I felt introverted in the days leading up to my labour. I couldn’t muster the mental energy to speak to anyone except Scott, who knew how I was feeling.
The day I went into labour, Scott had been off work for a few days and he left early in the morning to help a friend for a couple of hours. I woke up slowly, had breakfast, relaxed, and did some yoga. When he got home, we made love like we had done all the way through my pregnancy. Still in bed cuddling, we ordered a pizza. He left to go pick up the pizza. I said bye, relishing a few more moments in bed. When I got up, I felt something. It felt good and exciting, like a wave of energy. A few more came and I knew that labour was starting. I made a salad and danced through the sensations in my kitchen. When Scott got home, I told him and we ate the pizza and the salad. Eating gave me energy. I was feeling amazing. There was a steady rhythm to the sensations that kept gently increasing in intensity.
“Let’s go out for a walk.” I said. It was a hot July day. It was clear after one block that I needed to rest and have support while the sensations rushed over me so we went straight back home.
Scott was a huge support. I hung off him while I went through rushes. As if we were slow dancing, I made circles with my hips. I blew my exhales out of my mouth, making a vibrating humming sound.
My uterus was stretching upwards and this action was opening up my cervix, the hole that enlarges to let the baby’s head come through. My mucous plug, that seals the baby in started to leak out. It was a white colour streaked with red.
Scott played music and we giggled at the contrast between his soothing folk tunes and the intensity of what I was feeling. I went in and out of the tub. I lay down between rushes. I drank chamomile tea.
When my friends arrived, I was deep in labour land. We told them the names we had chosen for our baby, which we had kept secret until then. No one but us knew that our little one would be called. It felt amazing to finally share the names we loved with our friends. It was an action that announced our baby was on her way out and we were ready. Mara and Natalie lit all the candles from my blessing way. There were flames in every room.
My support team set up the birth pool, fixed an air leak in the pool, and filled it up with as much hot water as was in our tank. I hopped into the pool and submerged myself in the soothing water. I was in my element. I love water. I stayed in the pool for the next 6 hours. I moaned through the sensations. It was a gorgeous primal moan somewhere between pleasure and effort. Mara and Natalie left Scott and I alone while they rested with their babies. There were two babies at Nuala’s birth: Charlotte and Selah, each of my friends brought their baby.
Mara woke up and came into the living room. She was wearing Selah on her chest. She asked me, “Would you like some hot water added into the pool?”
I replied enthusiastically, “yes!”
Mara and Scott filled kettles of water and poured them into the pool. The rhythm of their work echoed the rhythm of my rushes. Through the hot water, kettle by kettle, they were working along with me. Gravity pulled their hot water into the pool. I loved the sound of the water being poured. It promised that I too would flow into the birth of my baby. My rushes were ever present, layered, and endless like the waves.
Natalie woke up and tiptoed behind Scott while he was filling a kettle. She had Charlotte in a baby carrier on her back. She startled Scott by saying, “I think the hot water tank has refilled by now.” Everyone laughed about this later. It was hilarious to all of us that Scott and Mara had become so deeply mesmerized by their work with the kettles that they had forgotten that the tank had probably been full of hot water for hours.
They filled the birth pool and I journeyed deeper into labour. I thought about whales. I went outside myself. I would hear myself making my sounds and then I would reunite with my body. I liked to go through the rushes kneeling and pushing into the sides of the birth pool with each of my hands.
I ate strawberries or slices of a cucumber and had some water between every rush. Between rushes, I entered a dreamy rest state where I felt so great and relaxed that I could even sleep for a few minutes, leaning my back against the pool.
We sang “Precious child of the universe, come on through. It is just a little trip, you can do. So wag your little head and shake your little toes, your mama wants to nurse you like she already knows.” over and over again.
I felt like I needed to have a bowel movement so I got out of the birth pool and went to the bathroom. My water had still not broken. I couldn’t have a bowel movement, so we all went into the bedroom. Scott lay down. I put my arms around my friends and I said, “Get ready everyone” as another rush came because I thought I would have a bowel movement. Natalie kept gently reminding me that I was feeling my baby, not a bowel movement. I couldn’t believe yet that my baby was really coming. It still didn’t seem real.
I got back in the pool and I said I was tired. Another rush came and I hoisted myself up into my kneeling position, kicked my head back and arched my spine. Tiredness overcame me. My legs were tired. I started to need reassurance. This was the moment called transition.
Natalie suggested that Scott get into the pool with me. This seemed like a great idea to me so when Scott said, “Sure”, I said, “Your swim shorts are in the bottom drawer of your dresser.” Everyone laughed when I said this because it was funny that I could think practically when I had been off navigating the wild land of labour for the past several hours. I thought I must have seemed just as entranced as I felt.
It helped a lot to lean on Scott. He sat with his back to the wall of the pool and I wrapped my arms around his neck. We were belly to belly. He told me later that he could feel Nuala descending through my skin from the outside.
Nuala passed through my cervix and descended down into my yoni. There was no ambiguity about whether I should push. The rushes demanded that I push. I didn’t hold back. For an hour Nuala descended further down during each rush and then when the rush was over, she would slide back up a little.
I asked my friends if this was like taking two steps forward and one step back and they were very encouraging.
I wondered if it was okay to be so loud. I needed reassurance that the sounds I was making were alright, even though I already knew they were. I thrive on positive reinforcement and my friends generously encouraged me. My support team chanted “Ohm” as I sounded my way through the rushes. I felt comforted by their voices. I didn’t feel alone in the experience. I was surrounded by love. We laughed. I was letting go and starting to enjoy the intensity.
I talked to my baby, “We are ready for you baby, we want to meet you. We want to see you.”
Natalie encouraged me to feel what was emerging from my yoni. My water still had not broken. I reached down felt my bag of water bulging out.
“The baby is in the caul.” I said. and Natalie said “Yup” as if she already knew. I wasn’t surprised. I had a dream during my pregnancy that prepared me for having Nuala in the caul. Natalie and I had talked during one of our prenatal visits about babies in the caul, so I already knew what it was. I felt scared that my placenta would come out at the same time as the baby. That seemed like too much for me, and I didn’t want that to happen.
Natalie assured me that it would be very unlikely for the placenta to come out with the baby.
I went inwards. I thought about how I was precisely where I wanted to be for my baby’s birth. Everything about this birth was perfect, it was everything I wanted.
Mara said that Selah came out in almost the exact same kneeling position that I was in, except with her leg out to the side. This seemed like a good idea to me, so I tried it. With the next rush, Nuala slid out all at once within her amniotic sac. My waters never released during my labour.
The sun was rising. It was 7 in the morning. We no longer needed the candles, the entire room was illuminated with daylight.
Her amniotic sac was around her head and torso. She had kicked off the bottom part of the sac with her feet, which had been around her lower belly and her legs. I saw her in the pool, within her bubble. She was face-up, her arms were spread out, her hands outstretched. She was swimming.
I caught her in the water. My fingers pierced through her sac, through her waters, and reached her torso. I pulled her up out of the water. I saw that she was a girl first and as I brought her to my chest, I joyously shouted, “She’s a girl!”
The next thing I saw was her cord, which was wrapped under her arm and around her neck.
Natalie started to explain how to unwrap the cord. I interrupted her, “No I need you to come here and do it. I don’t know how.”
Natalie hurried to my side. She said, “Let’s take this off first.” about the caul. The thin latex-like amniotic sac was still on Nuala. I held Nuala while Natalie peeled it off. Then Natalie unwrapped the cord. She told me later that Nuala’s cord was not pulsing at first, but that it began to pulse vigorously as soon as she unwrapped it. I was never for an instant worried about Nuala. I knew that she was here with us. I knew that she had arrived. I could feel the strength of her soul in the room. I never had any fear or doubt.
Her eyes were open, dark portals into her exuberant soul. She made gentle purring sounds. In that moment everything changed. Scott and I were in love with Nuala, with each other, with everyone, with everything. I had gracefully helped my daughter through onto the earth. We sat in a pool of blood. It was crimson red. It was a symbol of my power. It was impossible to dilute the red colour. One splash of blood could colour the entire pool. Scott and I were the shelter for our new little one. I cradled the new creature and gazed in her eyes. We said her name over and over again.
We sang to her. First I sang: “Old friend you were like the winter, you freeze and you melt and you urge me to shelter.” Then Scott sang, “This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine.” She was laying on my chest. Then she let out a lovely big cry.
I wanted the placenta out. I wanted to be in my bed. I felt like someone who had been swimming for a while and wanted to get to dry land.
“When the next rush comes, if you feel the urge to push, go with it and give it a little push.” Natalie said. With the next rush, I pushed and some blot clots came out. The sensations were gentle. With the next one, I pushed again and out came the fleshy mass of my placenta. We put it in a bowl. Later, I ate it in smoothies and took it in pills after it was dehydrated. I also put a piece of the placenta under my tongue a few minutes after it was out.
I moved into the bedroom and I laid down. Nuala was lying on my chest and cooed and wiggled. We then lay down side to side and I offered her my nipple. My friends and Scott burnt the cord with beeswax candles. As they were burning the cord, Nuala latched onto me and started to nurse.
My postpartum was an exquisite rest. My friends cooked for me and dropped off meals. Scott supported me as always. Nuala and I loved breastfeeding right away and we still love it now, 14 months later. The first few months of Nuala’s life were pure bliss. I felt powerful after giving birth. I saw myself as a goddess. I had transformed into a mother. Things that used to make me anxious no longer did. I became the mother bear, alert and calm, taking care of all my precious loved ones.
Open up any restorative yoga book, and you will see images of people lying on bolsters, hanging off chairs, and propping up their knees with blocks. When I first started to experiment at home with restorative yoga, I did not own any props. I modified the postures I saw in my books so that I could do them with just my yoga mat, the ground and the walls around me, and blankets and pillows that I already had on hand. I discovered that the postures were deeply beneficial even though I wasn't using fancy props. My body was supported and I relaxed into a comforting sense of surrender.
I feel an immense amount of gratitude toward restorative yoga. Restorative yoga was the only type of yoga I could practice when my hands were sore from going through withdrawal from pharmaceutical creams for eczema (topical steroids). For three years, I avoided using my hands in yoga and as much as I could in my daily life. Often I couldn't move my fingers without pain so I tried to reduce all the things that required my fingers to move. This had numerous consequences including not reciprocating when people initiated a handshake with me, leaning on my husband to cook and clean for us, and choosing to work jobs outside of the restaurant industry. In the same way that my life adapted, I had to change my yoga practice. Restorative yoga was an important ally on my journey toward healing myself. The gentle postures made me feel powerful and calm. Restorative yoga showed me how to feel comfortable in my body even though I was in pain. I was able to find positions that brought me a sense of peace. Restorative postures did not ask my sore hands to do anything but to enjoy a sweet sense of rest.
If you are experiencing chronic pain, find yoga postures that do not augment the pain. You may find that while doing a sequence of restorative postures, you are able to experience the absence of pain temporarily. Relish these moments of freedom. Remember that it is possible to live in your body without pain, even if it was only for a few delicious moments as you floated away to the rhythm of your breath.
Chronic pain sends our nervous system into overdrive. When we feel pain, we are occupying the part of our nervous system that governs our fight or flight response (also known as the sympathetic nervous system). Pain and stress often walk hand in hand into our lives.
The flip side is our parasympathetic nervous system, which governs the involuntary actions of the body such as circulation, the creation of new cells and the destruction of old cells, our immune system, our digestion, etcetera. When we take a deep breath, we send a message to our brain that there are no threats and this helps us switch from the fight or flight mode of our nervous system to the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest).
Restorative yoga is a tool to help you transition into your parasympathetic nervous system, where the potential exists for you to heal yourself from within.
When your body is fully supported in a restorative yoga posture, you can release the effort that you usually exert to hold yourself up. In this relaxed state, all your energy can then be channelled towards your own self healing. Try working with an intention that describes your unique goal for self healing. Change the tense of your intention to the present. For example, if your intention is “I want my back to be stronger”, change it to: “My back is strong”. By virtue of the fact that you chose your intention, it is already coming true. The present tense reflects the work you are already doing towards healing.
Restorative yoga is sometimes compared to sleep. It is true that we do some of our best self healing work while we are sleeping. One one the best ways to recover from illness is to sleep. Restorative yoga is even more effective at helping you heal than sleep. When we sleep, tension can build within us subconsciously. Restorative postures are just as restful as sleeping positions but when we practice them, we remain conscious and mindful of the kinds of thoughts that are swirling in our minds. If tension arises within us, we are aware of that tension and we can use our breath to release it.
The inspiration for this blog post came from another yoga teacher who wrote to me to ask for advice on teaching a restorative class at a studio where there are no bolsters. I want to inspire her and all of you to try restorative yoga without props. Props can be helpful but don't let the fact that you don't own props stop you from experiencing the transcendental benefits of restorative yoga.
When I stopped taking the birth control pill, my period did not return for seven months. I have heard numerous similar stories from other women and many of them express the same sentiment of longing for their period that I felt at that time. I wondered why my period had stopped, and I hoped that it would come back soon.
At the time, I did not understand that what was missing was my ovulation. I wasn't getting my period because I wasn't ovulating. I also didn't understand that the periods I was having on the pill were not true periods at all.
Women on the birth control pill do not ovulate. The birth control pill contains synthetic progesterone and estrogen. Each birth control pill contains the same amount of estrogen and progesterone. By taking synthetic hormones that do not vary in levels depending on what day of the cycle it is, ovulation is not possible. Taking synthetic hormones in a pill causes the female body to stop producing its own hormones.
Let's look at what happens during the female menstrual cycle, naturally, without synthetic hormones, to better understand the effect of the pill.
The hormones within the female body orchestrate ovulation and menstruation. The menstrual cycle flows along with the changes in levels of these hormones from day to day. After menstruation, the levels of estrogen and progesterone are very low. Slowly, day by day, the levels of estrogen start to rise and build until the estrogen reaches the height necessary to ripen some of the eggs. These eggs race to be the biggest, strongest one or sometimes two (in this case, conception of twins is possible) that will burst out of the ovary. Eggs live for about 24 hours. Ovulation results in two possible outcomes: conception in the case of unprotected sex or menstruation in the absence of semen or in the case of protected sex.
If the egg does not encounter sperm during its lifetime, the egg dies. The casing of the egg continues to live: this is called the corpus luteum. The corpus luteum secretes progesterone for 12 to 16 days and then dies. After these 12 to 16 days, the corpus luteum degenerates and the levels of progesterone suddenly drop. The sudden drop in the levels of hormones causes menstruation to begin. The uterus sheds its lining.
Even though women on the pill don't ovulate, they will still bleed if they stop taking the pill every fourth week. This is withdrawal bleeding. During the window of sugar (placebo) pill days, women bleed because they are not taking in any hormones. Without the hormones in the pills, levels of progesterone and estrogen suddenly plummet within her. This triggers the uterus to shed its lining, which has been building up since the last time she bled.
I have found that it is not easy to find answers about pharmaceutical birth control on the internet. I have not been able to find clear information about the hormonal IUD and ovulation. The pharmaceutical companies that manufacture Mirena (one brand of hormonal IUD that is common in Canada) maintains that it may stop ovulation. In the online chat groups and from a friends of mine who were on Mirena, I have heard many women report that they do not get their periods on Mirena. Although it is possible to bleed without ovulating, it is impossible to ovulate without bleeding (unless you conceived a baby). From everything I have studied about the female menstrual cycle, it seems to me that ovulation is not occurring for women on Mirena. Mirena is a T-shaped plastic frame is a synthetic progesterone hormone called levonorgestrel that is inserted into the uterus and can remain there for up to 5 years. Mirena prevents pregnancy by thickening the cervical mucus at the entrance to the vagina by blocking sperm from entering. It also thins the lining of her uterus (her endometrium), creating an inhospitable environment for a fertilized egg to implant. In the pharmaseutical explanation of how Mirena works, they also say that the hormonal IUD also prevents the sperm from fertilizing her egg.... But my question is: What egg? The synthetic progesterone that the IUD delivers to her body stops the natural build-up of estrogen, which creates the miracle of ovulation in the natural menstrual cycle. Without this build-up of estrogen, there will be no ovulation.
Ovulation is a wonderful time for me in my menstrual cycle and I will never ever again accept offerings from the pharmaceutical industry that stop ovulation. When I ovulate, I feel full of energy, I feel beautiful, I feel confident, I feel sexy. Women emit special pheromones when they are ovulating that are attractive to her partner. These pheromones are also responsible for the phenomenon of women's cycles syncing up with each other when they live together. Women smelling the ovulation pheromones of another woman can inspire her to build up the estrogen necessary for ovulation more quickly, and to possibly ovulate sooner.
The birth control pill did not only steal my ovulation from me, it also stole my menstruation. I want real, true periods that are not a result of taking a break from the synthetic hormones. My period is not a burden to me, and it never has been. My period is a time for me to slow down, lie down, rest, do calming yoga postures on the floor, dream, and become introspective. I enjoy the rhythm that my menstrual cycle creates in my life. After my period, my energy starts to return and I am attracted to socializing and taking on ambitious projects. In the days leading up to menstruation, I feel blue, sensitive, and I am more willing to express my feelings about whatever is bothering me to my loved ones. In our society, this time of the cycle is mislabelled a "syndrome" - PMS. Our society views the signs that our period is coming as a disease. In cultures where shamans heal people, female shamans report feeling the most powerful on the days before their period and during their menstruation. I love this quote from in the book: The Woman in the Shaman's Body by Barbara Tedlock
There is one last piece to this ovulation puzzle: why do so many women go months with no period after they stop taking the pill? Let me introduce you to your hypothalamus and your pituitary glands: located in your brain, these glands produce the hormones of the menstrual cycle. The functioning of the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland become suppressed under the influence of the pill. The glands of a woman on the pill do not produce their own hormones because of the presence of the synthetic hormones in her body. Menstrual cycles don't start right away after women come off the pill because it can take a while for these glands to resume their natural production of hormones.
There is another aspect of the birth control pill that affects your fertility once you stop taking it. The birth control pill damages the cervical crypts that produce "egg white" cervical fluid. "Egg white" cervical fluid appears around the time of ovulation. Sperm can live in this fluid for up to 5 days. Recording the changes in your cervical fluid is one part of charting your cycle, which can help you estimate when you ovulate during your cycle.
Reclaiming your ovulation is an act of resistance against mainstream society. The popular opinion is that pharmaceutical birth control is the solution to avoiding pregnancy. Society told me I was supposed to feel empowered by taking the pill. I didn't. I feel empowered by flowing through my menstrual cycle without any interference from synthetic hormones.
My solution to timing my pregnancies is to chart my cycle. This type of birth control is free. I remember feeling upset about handing over money when I went to the pharmacy to buy birth control pills every month. Pharmaceutical corporations took my money and they took my ovulation. They weren't honest about the risks. No one told me I would be loosing the beautiful, sacred, and nourishing bodily functions of ovulation and menstruation. Fertility awareness is not only free, it is also freeing. By saying no to hormonal birth control, you find freedom: financial freedom, hormonal freedom, freedom to enjoy your body as your true self, with all your own beautiful hormones playing symphonies within you.
To make the Sauce:
Melt coconut oil in a large saucepan
Add Ginger and cook for a few minutes
3 cups Carrot juice
1/3 cup Lemon juice
1/3 cup Tamari
Stalk of lemongrass, trimmed and crushed to release the flavor
3/4 cup Shredded coconut
1/2 cup Ground sunflower seeds
Bring to a boil and then simmer for 1 hour. Remove lemongrass stalk.
* I usually go heavy on the sunflower seeds and Shredded Coconut because I like the Sauce to be thick**
**Tip:** order a fresh pressed Carrot juice from a restaurant with a juicer if you don't have one. I avoid the grocery store brands which in my experience are either GMO (bolthouse brand) or expensive (the organic bottle is $9). Don't worry if you can't find fresh lemongrass. I've made it without the lemongrass numerous times and it turns out as delicious as always.
Stir the sauce into the rice noodles and add your favourite vegetables.