Toddler yoga

by Christina on August 24, 2016

I’ve been doing a lot of toddler yoga lately. And I don’t mean doing yoga with my toddler — I mean that my toddler is teaching me yoga. Teaching me to breathe. Teaching me to be present. Reminding me that all moments are temporary.

We’ve had some challenging moments lately — he wants something he can’t have, he cries and screams, and I get quickly frustrated losing my calm and not being my best self.

As I practice the 7th series, I’ve been wondering how to handle his toddler self more yogic-ally.

I recently read No-Drama Discipline and really resonated with this overall theme of the book: “It’s when our kids are most upset that they need us the most.” 

Some of my immediate take-aways from the book:

  • Disciplining our children should be a way to show them how much we love and respect them.  It is a chance to communicate with them “I’m with you. I’ve got your back. Even when you’re at your worst and I don’t like the way you’re acting, I love you, and I’m here for you. I understand you’re having a hard time and I am here.”
  • If a child is misbehaving they are often one of these: Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired.
  • Before responding to misbehavior, ask yourself Why? What? How?
    • Why did he act this way – what is he trying to express?
    • What lesson do I want to teach?
    • How can I best teach this lesson?
  • Avoid time-outs. Children experience this as rejection when what they need is connection. “It’s during these times that a child most needs our comfort and calm presence. Forcing her to go off and sit by herself can feel like abandonment to a child… You don’t want to send the message that you’ll be in a relationship with her when she’s “good” or happy, but you’ll withhold your love and affection when she’s not.”
  • Consider “time-in,” sitting with your child to talk about what could be done differently
  • Find a way to turn No into YES. Instead of saying no to what your toddler wants, say a conditional yes – yes we can read another story tomorrow. Yes you can watch more truck tunes after dinner.
  • Emphasize the positive. Instead of saying “stop whining” say “I like when you talk in your normal voice” or “ask me in your powerful big-boy voice that way I can really listen.”

One of the best things of the book is this “refrigerator sheet” in the back — now hanging on our fridge!

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So here is what we’ve been trying recently for our little guy:

  • Are his basic needs being met — is he tired/hungry? Is he feeling safe and secure?
  • Can I find ways to give him more attention and love? Does he need to be held? What activity can we do together right now – sing a song, draw a picture? Is there any way to make him laugh?
  • Is he exercising enough? Does he need to go run around outside?
  • Has he been eating food that nourishes him? Are we avoiding sugar and sweets?
  • Can I help teach him empathy by showing him that his behavior can make me feel sad?
  • Can I find a way to YES to something he wants?
  • Can I tell him what I LIKE about his behavior?

It’s a work in progress. And while I’ve talked mostly about the challenging times, this is also one of the most fun and rewarding times watching him learn and grow.

I’m also trying to appreciate what a great yoga teacher he is for his mama.

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Practicing the Seventh Series

by Christina on August 15, 2016

In the ashtanga practice there are six asana “series” — each with physical poses that are progressively more difficult. Most of us ashtangis don’t get past the 2nd or 3rd series. Interestingly, the little talked about final “seventh series” is not about physical poses, but rather refers to the practice of family life.

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I used to wake up before sunrise to make it to morning mysore practice. I loved my morning routine – wake up early, make coffee, have a sweaty intense yoga practice with my fellow ashtangis, and then be ready for the day ahead. I became obsessed. I started in my pre-med school days and kept it up throughout residency.

Everything changed when I had my son two years ago. I don’t think the ashtanga world talks enough about how motherhood changes the practice, and most ashtangi moms I know transition away from the practice, or move to a much-modified home practice. A lot of us then disconnect from the ashtanga community.

I sometimes feel disappointed in myself for not making it to the yoga studio and not doing the same physical practice as before. I sometimes feel guilty or feel like I should be doing more.

My “asana” practice these days involves haphazard distracted time on the yoga mat with a toddler running around and a resting newborn next to me.

IMG_3193FullSizeRender (5)It’s easy to forget that I’m actually in the thick of one of the hardest and most difficult series of the ashtanga practice – the seventh series.

My real “practice” now is off the mat:

  • When I’m fully present looking into the eyes of my newborn, Max
  • When I’m patiently cuddling my two-year old JJ, late at night, first thing in the morning, and in the middle of the night when he’s crying after a bad dream
  • When the house is a mess and I can feel content and present in the moment
  • When I crouch down and calmly talk with my two-year old son about why he should not hit me
  • When my husband is also exhausted and I am loving and patient with him
  • When I let go of a need to “be productive” and put away my phone or computer to be present with my family
  • When I don’t feel guilty about not exercising like I used to, or insecure about not having the body I used to

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One day I know I’ll have the time and freedom to get back to the mysore practice. One day my boys will be grown and they won’t need me like they do now. But for now my practice is here, at home, with my boys. It’s sometimes on the mat, but mostly off of it.

It’s the 7th series. It’s something we should be proud of and be talking about more.

Any fellow ashtangi moms out there, please take a look at this beautiful post on the “invisible practice” that we are all doing:

Ashtanga’s 7th Series – The Invisible Practice

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A new baby, a new microbiome

by Christina on August 10, 2016

“During infancy the microbial equivalent of a land grab is occurring in the gut. Species that are successful in establishing early can persist for decades, and perhaps throughout life.” ~From “The Good Gut” by Justin and Erica Sonnenburg

I’ve been thinking a lot about how to optimize my newborn’s gut microbiome.

Max 1 weekI thought about it a bit after baby #1, and there has been a lot more talk about the gut microbiome in the past couple of years. For example this article from last year, and the Sonnenburg’s excellent book The Good Gut that also came out last year.

We now know that one’s gut microbiome is really important for long-term health, specifically for inflammatory bowel disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes, but also much more that continues to be discovered.

We also know that creating the optimal gut bacteria actually starts in the womb and at birth, and this time likely has lifelong effects.

In terms of specifics, this is what we know for optimizing your newborn’s gut bacteria:

  1. Deliver vaginally (if possible): this first exposes the infant to mom’s vaginal bacteria, which then colonizes the gut. In contrast, a c-section birth exposes the baby to different skin flora. If vaginal birth is not possible, one day we may consider a providing baby with vaginal swab after delivery (see more on this below). As this article points out:

    During vaginal delivery, facultative anaerobic species such as Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus, and Streptococcus colonize the infant gut and produce anaerobic environs in the first few days of life that allow strict anaerobes like Bacteroides and Bifidobacterium spp. to thrive.

  1. Breastfeed: Breast milk contain important bacteria that colonize the gut, as well as prebiotics called human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs) that help optimal bacteria grow in the infant gut. Even if full time breast feeding is not possible, even a little can go a long way. As the Sonnenburgs say in The Good Gut: 

    “Breast milk, and specifically the quintessential microbiotia accessible carbohydrate (MAC) human milk oligosaccharides, is a microbiota superfood.”

  2. Avoid antibiotics: Antibiotics kill both good and bad bacteria, damaging the diversity of the gut flora. Doctors are learning the dangers of antibiotic use and we are really trying to limit their use to the times they are truly needed (and there are certainly those times).
  3. Give probiotics: There may be some benefit to giving infant probiotics, and once babies start on solids they can be fed both prebiotic and probiotic foods.

I’m sure there will be a lot more that’ll be coming out on all this. I also wonder if doing a vaginal swab colonization after c-sections will start happening more (I’ve already had a few patients ask about this).

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