How to modify in yoga class when pregnant

A student of mine recently wrote to me:
I’m a longtime student of yours and I was wondering if I could ask you for some advice. I am pregnant with my first child (just 7 weeks). My yoga teachers have given me conflicting information – one says since I have a 10 year practice I can keep up my regular vinyasa practice in my 1st and 2nd trimesters (except for lying on my tummy in the 2nd) and the other says I should immediately refrain from forward folding and twisting.  Now I’m confused and I really trust your experience and knowledge and I’d appreciate your advice if you have some!
 
 
My reply:
There’s a ton of conflicting information around pregnancy, not only in yoga but with fitness in general.
 
The first thing I’ll say is that I am not a doctor so I’m just giving you another opinion to think about. Physio therapists are great people to ask if you’re not sure or want an educated answer. 
 
I’m prenatal and postnatal certified yoga teacher and I’m almost 5 months pregnant right now with my first babe.
It’s been quite a trip for me and I’m sure it has been for you as well.
 
I’ll just share with you what I’ve learned and intuited.
Prenatal yoga
In my prenatal training with my teacher, Shiva Rea, she really stressed being gentle in the first trimester as this is when miscarriage is more likely to happen. She encouraged newly pregnant Goddesses (loved her name for us) to really take it slow and listen to their own bodies about what felt right/good and what didn’t. Especially if you’ve been a long time practitioner, your body will let you know if the pose/transition is working or not working.
 
 
Midwives I’ve spoken to say that you can continue doing what you’ve been doing throughout your pregnancy, especially in the first two trimesters. The key is not introducing something very intense into your workout/practice that you were NOT doing before you were pregnant, as you don’t have the muscle memory or understanding of how the move works with a “regular” body. Make sense?
 
Your body will let you know when it longer works for you to lie on your belly. In my own body, during the first trimester, it felt terrible but early in the second trimester and tail end of my first trimester, it felt totally fine. Now it’s not working as my belly is bigger than my boobs.
 
 
Prenatal yoga image
The general rule of thumb when pregnant is not to twist or backbend too deeply. It’s not recommended to over stretch your abdomen since you’ve got a little bean in there. Now that being said, I’ve known quite a few yoginis who did full wheel throughout their pregnancy. So, what I always recommend around that is really listen to your own body. What can happen, especially those of us who have been practicing a long time, our ego can step in and say “we can do this!”.
 
Questions a few older yogini moms have posed to me are:
“Is it worth it?”
“To what end?”
Ask yourself, why am I doing this pose?
Does this pose serve the two of us?
 
I’ve been airing on the side of caution in my own practice and really taking my time. I haven’t been doing deep backbends, instead focusing opening my chest and getting my back body strong to prepare for the weight I’ll be carrying in the front body as my baby gets bigger.
 
My mantra has been “This pregnant body is temporary and I have my whole life to do all the things.” Why not chill a bit?
 
With twists, just do open twists so there’s space for your babe. Be mindful of where you feel the stretch. If you feel a “tug” deep in your belly, maybe take it down a notch.
 
Shiva recommended to take out inversions in the first trimester, again because it’s a precarious time. If you have an inversion practice, you can bring it back in in your second trimester. It’s recommended to do them against the wall so there’s no fear to flip over into full wheel. I’ve known some women who love inversions during pregnancy and others who did not. Feel it out for yourself.
 
Great rule of thumb: When you’re about to do a big movement, engage your pelvic floor and TA (transverse abdominals) first to stabilize your pelvis.
 
I’ve never heard anything about pregnancy being a contraindication of forward folds. The only thing I would say is about that is make space between your legs for your belly as you fold.
 
There are quite a few schools of thought that believe you should not twist, invert, do core work or backbend throughout your whole pregnancy. They are airing on the side of caution which I recommend to women who come to yoga for the first time when pregnant. Again, rule of thumb, pregnancy is NOT a time to introduce new intense forms of movement.
Clara roberts oss prenatal
The other thing to think about is that you have a ton of relaxin flowing through your body which makes the space around your joints a bit more loosey goosey so just be mindful of “over stretching”. I’ve been really working hugging in as I “stretch” so I can keep the insertion points of my muscles safe.
 
There’s a great online course called “Empowered Birth” on Commune that I would recommend. I took it and found it so insightful.
 
My last piece of advice is take a deep breath, trust that ahhhmazing body of yours and know that you know. 🙃
 
Feel free to email me about your journey or if you have more questions.
 
Enjoy the inquiry this time is offering you!
 
Check out my 20 minute video on how to modify in a vinyasa yoga class. 

Open to the possibilities

Vinyasa yoga

VINYASA
~to place in a sacred way~

💠

One of my favourite Sanskrit words -within the meaning it reminds me to give meaning to all that I do.

I’ve spent the last two weeks immersed in our 200 hour yoga teacher training following a fairly regimented schedule, getting up at the same time every day (5am!) and going to bed at the same time every night (8pm). We went through the history of this rich lineage (starting in the Indus Valley circa 2500 BCE), read and discussed two of the sacred texts (Yoga Sutras & The Bhagavad Gita), asked ourselves the bigger questions (what’s the point of all this?) and shared our own histories of how we came to be here.

I have taught this training many times however each time is different since the students, group dynamic and I am different. I love having Yoga be the common ingredient, knowing that the recipe and therefore the dishes will taste, feel, and be experienced completely different each time.

It’s a reminder to stay open to the possibility of each experience, letting go of expectations of what came before.

And now, it’s time to rest and reset.
I hope you’re having a wonderful transition into fall and hopefully see you further down the path,
Clara

Flow with me online. 

We’ve added the following new classes on our paid membership platform!

Stand On Your Hands (28 min)
This short vinyasa practice starts with heat right out the gates–core and handstand play–then goes into a fiery flow of twists, upper back strengthening and backbends. Ends with seated meditation or shavasana as you like. This is a personal fave.

Light Ourselves Up (8 min)
This short, yet invigorating, pranayama (breath work) practice is designed to create more energy in the body, focus in the mind and have a bit of fun while doing it. Great any time of day.

Unwind Your Shoulders (6 min)
This short flow was created to bring movement and relieve tension in shoulders and wrists after either sitting at the computer, cooking, making art or anything else that involves hunching over a table for an extended period of time. No mat necessary.

Hope you enjoy!

All the Hemispheres

Vinyasa Yoga Class Quote

Born between 1310 and 1325, Shamseddin Mohammad was a Persian poet known by his pen name, Hafiz or Hafez. Some claim that this name was given to him because he had memorized the Quran in 14 ways. Persian-speaking households have the poetry of Hafiz in their homes and many of them have memorized his poems and use the verses as proverbs. He was the most loved and influential poet of the century. Even today, he is regarded as one of the seven literary wonders. Emerson said about Hafiz that ‘’Hafiz is a poet for poets’. He had such a huge impact on the literary world that even Sherlock Holmes quotes his verse.

Poetry style and Inspiration

Hafiz’s style was lyrical or ghazal which is a style used to express ecstasy in mystical love poems. In his poems, he expressed faith, religious hypocrisy and spiritual romanticism. After his death, a lot of stories were made about his life. It is said that he learned the Quran by listening to his father recite it. Later, at a very young age, he also memorized the work of Saadi, who was his inspiration, Farid, Rumi and Nizami.

A tradition narrates that he used to work at a bakery, while he was under the mentorship of Hajji Zayn al-attar who was his Sufi master. At the bakery, he saw Shak-e-Nabat; a beautiful and wealthy woman. It is said that some of Hafiz’s poems are addressed to her. William Jones translated his work from Persian to English in 1771 and this inspired many Western writers like Goethe, Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson. Such great is his influence that Iran celebrated October 12th as Hafiz Day.

Hafiz in today’s World

Today, Iranian and Afghani music is inspired by his poems. Still, translators and interpreters are not certain about the meaning of his poetry. While some say it is lyrical, others find mysticism in it. Wheeler Thackston explains this by saying that the poet ‘’ sang a rare blend of human and mystic love so balanced… that it is impossible to separate one from the other’’. Today, many people find solace in his words and get memorized by the depth of these verses and how they can resonate so closely with his poetry. All the Hemispheres is a beautiful poem by Hafiz, translated into English by Daniel Ladinsky.

Leave the familiar for a while.
Let your senses and bodies stretch out

Like a welcomed season
Onto the meadows and shores and hills.

Open up to the Roof.
Make a new water-mark on your excitement
And love.

Like a blooming night flower,
Bestow your vital fragrance of happiness
And giving

Upon our intimate assembly.

Change rooms in your mind for a day.

All the hemispheres in existence
Lie beside an equator
In your heart.

Greet Yourself
In your thousand other forms
As you mount the hidden tide and travel
Back home.

All the hemispheres in heaven
Are sitting around a fire
Chatting

While stitching themselves together
Into the Great Circle inside of
You.

Hafiz-

From: ‘The Subject Tonight is Love’
Translated by Daniel Ladinsky

Rest, it’s important

Clara Roberts Oss in vinyasa yoga pose
“The longer we live, the more experiences we accumulate. Some are pleasing, some are relatively neutral, and others are unpleasantly stressful. Left unresolved, all negative stressful experiences remain stored indefinitely in our unconscious. The various feelings, memories, and sensations related to unpleasant stress have a negative impact on your mind and how it relates to the world–and also affect your health and physical well-being…The good news is that your brain is elastic. When it experiences enough of an interruption between stress cycles, brain function returns to a state that supports well-being. This is where relaxation comes in. An ever-expanding body of research is showing the vital role of relaxation.”
–Rod Stryker, The Four Desires
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I invite you to take time in the next few days and lie down and rest your body and mind. For those of us who like to be guided, head over to my profile for a link to my Third Eye Meditation. It’s a 20 minuted guided meditation I recommend listening to while lying down. Let me know what you think.
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What do you choose today?

Vinyasa yoga pose
“Strengthen your mind and refuse to carry the burden of mental and moral weakness acquired in past years; burn them in the fires of your present divine resolutions and right activities. By this constructive attitude you will attain freedom.”
–Paramahansa Yogananada
*
The greatest lesson this practice has taught me is that I have a CHOICE. Do I want to continue to be angry–at the world, my mother, the people I was working with etc? Do I want to continue telling myself the same story of who I was/am? For a while, the answer was YES. Back in 1998 I was angry, self righteous, and hard core (insert trend of the moment). Then I started going to yoga regularly and I started to change. I started offering these toxic thoughts to my practice, sweating my prayers with 70 other people every day before heading to the restaurant I was working at. Slowly the anger started to dissolve and a quiet contentment started to surface.
*
We don’t have much control of the world around us but we have a CHOICE on what we do with our feelings, our action and thoughts.
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What do you choose today?

The goal is the technique

Clara Roberts Oss yoga retreats
“Meditation…is simply the creation of space in which we are able to expose and undo our neurotic games, our self deceptions, our hidden fears and hopes. We provide space through the simple discipline of doing nothing. The basic practice is to be present, right here. The goal is also the technique. Precisely being in this moment, neither suppressing nor wildly letting go, but being precisely aware of what you are.”
-Chogyam Trungpa
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So much of mindful practices are about creating space in our minds and bodies so that we can truly see ourselves. When I have sat for extended periods of time, I have been able to observe my defense mechanisms, the narratives I have created that may or may not be true and how much of my experience is perception.
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Acceptance of all aspects of myself has been one of the hardest pills to swallow HOWEVER when I am able to do it (because it’s a minute to minute decision), I am able to practice forgiveness with myself and others with more ease.
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May I continue to see mySelf,
May I continue to accept and even love ALL aspects of myself,
May I forgive myself and others,
May I learn from my mistakes and make a conscious effort to create change.

Yoga Class Etiquette

Vinyasa yoga teacher training

The biggest thing to remember is the yoga room is many people’s sanctuary, so be mindful of how you enter, move through and leave the space. Think of the yoga starting as you enter the yoga studio. So much of this practice is about cultivating awareness.

Some questions to ponder as you land–what’s the quality of my mind like right now? How’s my body feeling? How am I affecting the people and physical space around me? How is it affecting me?

I created this list because I’ve been having discussions about yoga room etiquette so much lately, I thought I might as well write them all down. There’s many more to add to the list but here are a few to consider…….

Yoga Class Etiquette

Show up early. Nothing worse than running to yoga. Aim to be at the studio 15 minutes early so you can take your time signing in, putting your mat down, getting water and putting your stuff away. If you’re new to a studio, aim to be there 25 minutes early so you fill out all the paper work.

We’re all late sometimes. If this is the case and you’re able to enter the room, look around. If everyone is sitting in meditation, then just sit by the door and wait until students go into downward dog/first movement before you enter the space. It is very disruptive to move around the room as the teacher is centering the class.

My general rule for public classes is: show up early and stay until the end. If that’s not possible, then do home practice.

Leave all your belongings out of the room if you can. This is a major part of the practice—separating yourself from all your “stuff”. Enter the studio with just the clothes on your back, water bottle and yoga mat. If the studio has experienced theft, bring your stuff in, leave it in a corner or in the cubbies provided. Try to minimize how much clutter you have around you. Less stuff, less distraction.

Keep your voice down in the yoga room, especially if there’s quiet music or no music playing. This means the teacher is creating a quiet space for people to reflect and transition from the day. No one wants to listen to your conversation. If you’re having a catch up with your yoga buddy, go out into the tea room. If you enter the studio and loud music is playing, all bets are off. 🙂

Keep your cell phone out of the yoga room. If you have emails/texts to finish before class, sit in the tea room or change room and finish. When you walk into the yoga room, you want to leave the material world behind. Take this opportunity to connect to your internal landscape, letting the to do lists and such to fade into the background. This is one of the reasons we don’t wear shoes in the yoga shala/room, leave the outside world outside. If you’re on call, let the teacher know and sit by the door. Have the pager/phone on vibrate.

Try not to walk on other people’s mats.

If you’re new to yoga or this specific class, sit somewhere in the middle. You’ll be able to see examples of what the teacher is instructing all around you.

If you’re working with injuries or enjoy doing more “advanced” variations, go into the back row so you don’t confuse the newer students with your modifications/variations. Please don’t sit in the front row, it distracts everyone.

Take good care of yourself. If there’s anything being offered that doesn’t work for your body, then do something similar or rest in child’s pose. Remember that you don’t have to everything. A large part of the practice is listening to your body.

Be aware of how you affect the space—
-do a quick scent check before you come into class. If you can smell yourself, take care of it (wash or add another layer of deodorant). If you’re wearing strong perfume or oils, wash it off. Most studios are scent free. As you sweat, you “scent” becomes stronger and your neighbors will get whiff of it.
-If you’ve practicing Ujjayi for 6 months or more, it should only be audible to yourself and not your neighbor. Contain your energy.
-Especially in busy classes, keep your movements within the parameters of your mat.
-If you’re new to inversions (handstand, headstand, forearm stand and shoulder stand) and the teacher is offering an opportunity to kick up in the center of the room, don’t fling your legs in the air. I can’t tell you how many students have been kicked by a neighbor. Stay in control of your limbs. I would recommend practicing at home or after class when there’s lots of room around you.

If you didn’t like the class, instead of telling the teacher all the reasons why you didn’t appreciate their class, don’t come back. There are plenty of teachers. Ask the front desk for recommendations, let them know what kind of class you’re looking for—they’re usually very knowledgeable. That being said, if you felt unsafe in the class for any reason, please go directly to a manager and share your experience with them. Our number one job as teachers is to create safe space and if that was not done, then please help hold the teacher accountable.

If you need to leave early, tell the teacher prior and have your mat by the door. Ask your teacher when the appropriate time to leave is so as to create the least amount of disruption.

If lying down in savasana makes you uncomfortable, then sit in meditation or forward fold. As best as you can, minimize your movements during this time so others can enjoy their rest.

The biggest thing to remember is the yoga room is many people’s sanctuary, treat it that way.

Passion vs Curiosity

“I am a big advocate for the pursuit of curiosity. You’ve maybe heard me talk about this before? We are constantly being told to pursue our passions in life, but there are times when passion is a TALL ORDER, and really hard to reach. In seasons of confusion, of loss, of boredom, of insecurity, of distraction, the idea of “passion” can feel completely inaccessible and impossible. In such times, you are lucky to be able to get your laundry done (that sometimes feels as high as you can aim) and when someone tells you to follow your passion, you want to give them the middle finger. (Go ahead and do it, by the way. But wait till their back is turned, out of civility.)

But curiosity, I have found, is always within reach.

Passion is a tower of flame, but curiosity is a tiny tap on the shoulder — a little whisper in the ear that says, “Hey, that’s kind of interesting…”

Passion is rare; curiosity is everyday.

Curiosity is therefore a lot easier to reach at at times than full-on passion — and the stakes are lower, easier to manage.

The trick is to just follow your small moments of curiosity. It doesn’t take a massive effort. Just turn your head an inch. Pause for a instant. Respond to what has caught your attention. Look into it a bit. Is there something there for you? A piece of information?

For me, a lifetime devoted to creativity is nothing but a scavenger hunt — where each successive clue is another tiny little hit of curiosity. Pick each one up, unfold it, see where it leads you next.

Small steps.

Keep doing that, and I promise you: The curiosity will eventually lead you to the passion.”

–Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic

I was recently listening to an interview on On Being with Elizabeth Gilbert and this idea of passion versus curiosity came up. I LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVED it. Curiosity is process orientated, it keeps you present in such a conscious way where passion takes over the experience. I think of when I have felt passion, either when watching performance art, eating delicious food, being intimate with my lover…the world as I know it falls away and all that is left is what I’m focusing on. Now, I’m not against passion but as Gilbert said so eloquently, it can be a tall order.  When passion arises, I allow it to take over however I try not to seek it. As we have learned on the spiritual path, seeking passion or any very strong emotion creates suffering in some way shape or form if it is not attained or maintained.

A more manageable quest is can I stay curious about life, love, the practice, myself? This is a way for me to stay engaged in the world versus being complacent or at the mercy of the situation.

A few definitions of curious: eager to learn or know, inquisitive.

I was listening to an interview with Ta-Nehisi Coates recently and he said something that struck me. He said “Be clear about what you know and what you don’t know”. To add to that, then go seeking what you want to know. The idea that the process of learning/seeking is a scavenger hunt resonated with me, that you have to stay engaged throughout the whole process. Read the clues, connect the dots and move to the next clue.

By doing so, you’ll one day, as Rilke puts it simply, “you’ll live your way to the answers”.

Learn more about our vinyasa flow yoga, online yoga classes, or try out the 30 day yoga challenge.

Playlist-Sayulita

Nowadays, we have made our lives so complicated and so busy with everything that we do. Social media takes a toll on your mental health but most people fail to see it until it is too late. It is not only social media that is increasing stress. Everyone has to go so many things in life, with family and friends. This is what makes the stress really soar. In times like these, yoga is the best gift that you can give your body. Many people are not completely aware of how important yoga is for their wellness. I can assure you that anyone who does yoga is well-equipped to deal with stress, whether it is physical or emotional.

Yoga to the Rescue

If you have been stressed lately, yoga can rescue you from this state as it lowers stress and helps in fighting off anxiety. For example, the Bridge Pose has a huge effect on your state of mind. It might be difficult for some people in the beginning but once you manage to do it, you can benefit almost all parts of your body. This pose stretches your legs and back. Along with that, it also helps in reducing anxiety and fatigue. If you have insomnia, you could try doing this before going to bed and it will restore your sleep cycle.

The corpse pose is the easiest to do as you just have to lie down and breathe deeply for a few minutes. You might wonder what simply lying there could do for me. Well, I can assure you that this pose will help you relax like nothing else. It relaxes your nervous system and slows down breathing. As a result, you feel relaxed and rested. The Extended Triangle pose is another effective pose for stress-relief. Moreover, it stretches your whole body so any physical stress is also relieved. One of the hidden benefits of this pose is that it improves digestion. It may also play a role in reducing anxiety. If you want to benefit your whole body, you can try the Legs up the Wall pose. This pose sends fluids to all parts of the body, especially the back and neck. With the blood circulation restored, your body will function better and be more active. The drainage of lymphatic fluid also gets better with these yoga poses.

Playlist for Yoga

I have named this playlist Sayulita after the beautiful town in Mexico. The town is known for its boutiques, bars and Pacific surf. If you like the whole vibe, you would love this playlist too. If you are a teacher, play this playlist and your students will definitely enjoy the whole boho-chic vibe. It is important for yogis to remember that yoga should relax you. You do not have to be uptight or aim for perfection and every song in this playlist is an embodiment of that.

Here’s a new playlist. I hope you enjoy.

You can also follow me on Spotify for yoga playlists.

Define. Design. Direct. September 2017

define design direct

As the seasons change, we take the opportunity to asses where we are at present and reflect on what’s inspiring us. We take the time to get quiet, through asana, mantra and meditation so that we can connect to our inner knowing and listen to what is needed to feed our spirits.

Last night Carolyn Anne Budgell and I led one of our favorite events, Define. Design. Direct.

Through our own practices and discussion, Carolyn and I created this workshop. Last night was the fourth time we have shared it with our community. Each time, we are blown away with the openness and vulnerability our kula brings to the course. Each time we are inspired to go deeper. We continue to refine the offering.

In my own practice, Saraswati has been showing up strongly this season. Saraswati represents wisdom, knowledge, she is the muse of creation. Last night we chanted her mantra to invoke our own wisdom, to call upon our inner knowing.

OM AIM HRIM SARASWATYAI NAMAHA

Om, I bow to the flowing one whose essence is wisdom.

We call upon Saraswati for insight, deeper meditation, intuition, answers to questions both intellectual and practical.

Two quotes I didn’t end up sharing last night but was inspired by, I share here.

“Often when we are courting inspiration, we’ll ask the question, then try to figure out the answer mentally. There’s nothing wrong with thinking something through–it’s in fact crucial. To receive insight, you also have to go past the thinking mind, especially the inner critical voices in the mind. You have to get quiet enough, focused enough, and patient enough to discern the voice of inspiration or intuition.” –Sally Kempton, Awakening Shakti

“The English word inspiration comes from the Latin word inspire, which means to breathe. In Greek and Kabbalistic traditions inspiration was described as breathing in God who is breathing life into us.”–Sally Kempton, Awakening Shakti

May this seasonal transition be a time to slow down and reflect on what you’d like to call in.

Hari Aum.