CategoryHealth

Yogi Mamas: Self-care is not selfish

There was a time in my life when a 5-minute shower was a luxury. All the other minutes in a day were filled with caring for a tiny bundle. There was definitely no yoga, no green smoothies or relaxing afternoon teas with friends. Once I finally got in that shower…I felt immensely guilty. I even heard fantom baby screams. Sound familiar?

We have all been there: feeling guilty, inadequate and egoistic. and how could we not? If we stepped into the shower, perhaps we heard the baby screaming from the carrier cot. Or because we scrolled Facebook while breastfeeding and dropped our phones on their heads (true story).

We all want to be the best version of our self to our little ones.

It is easy to forget: happy mum = happy baby.

Self-care is not selfish. Not now, not ever.

Image Credit: bruce mars via Unsplash.

Let’s start with the research. Stuart Shanker, (“Self-Reg” book) states that babies (and young children) aim at limbic homeostasis. In simple terms: if you try to lull your infant to sleep while being very stressed yourself… most likely, it won’t work. It appears that our brains “talk” to each other. No matter how calm you try to appear, your baby will
sense how you actually are. Worse still, they will endeavor to match that state. The result? An overtired, stressed, angry mum (or carer) equals an un-settle-able little one. What does it mean for us? Yes, you’ve guessed it: Self-care, and taking a break from caring for others so you may care for your self, is vital.

Many of us practice attachment parenting. In the early days, it means almost non-stop carrying and breastfeeding. While I do not argue with its principles (in fact, I am an attachment mum myself), but where did the idea come from? Of course – from tribal cultures! There’s a simple catch, though. In most tribal cultures, the ratio of an adult per baby is 4:1. And babies spend an average of 60% of the time away from the mother, in other tribespeople’s arms (as per E. Aron, “Highly Sensitive Child’).

Thus, the need for time alone spent napping, reading, staring into space or doing yoga is of paramount importance to mothers. But how on earth can you carve out this time? Enlisting your “village” to help is the key. In the beginning, even 30 minutes of “off time” can be a lifesaver. Can a friend come over? Great! Plop the little miracle in their arms and go have a bath or eat a meal that the friend brings over. Are grandparents available? Do you have good neighbors? Would it be possible to have a sitter over for an hour every second day if your partner is working long hours or you are a single mum? Certainly, hiring a nanny costs money but sanity and well-being are priceless.

5-minute self-care hacks for newborn mums:

Image Credit: rawpixel via Unsplash.
  • Fix yourself a berry, oatmeal, almond milk, and banana smoothie, with chlorella or spirulina
  • Take a Vitamin C tablet and/or a probiotic
  • Sit or lay down and take 10 deep breaths. Inhalation equal to exhalation
  • At a countertop or table, do 10 “cat and cow” movements, ensuring 90-degree angle between hips and belly
  • Sit in the sun for 3-5 minutes. Close your eyes. Roll the head left to right gently.

5-30 minute self-care hacks:

  • Have a soak in lavender-rose oil
  • Do a session of sleep yoga, Yoga Nidra
  • If your energy allows, move. Go for a walk — even around the block
  • Complete a maximum of 5 yoga poses
  • Order in, or cook a simple hot meal. Eat slowly, no baby on your lap

1-hour hacks:

Image Credit: Rima Kruciene via Unsplash.
  • Attend a gentle yoga class of your own choosing
  • If you are advanced enough in your postpartum, having a swim is a great idea
  • Walk in nature, spend some time in the sun
  • Talk to a supportive person
  • Have a massage or acupuncture session

It may not be easy to take this time out. You may hear phantom cries and be convinced your baby is suffering. Remember, however, even the tiniest break will make appreciating and caring for your bundle much easier. It will allow your stress levels to regulate faster. You will be able to process the tiredness, hard or unexpected feelings better. This, in turn, will — as science tells us — help your baby to regulate more effectively. Who knows? Maybe they will even sleep more and better. Self-care is not selfish. It is a right.

Hanna Skomra

Yogic Recipes: Homemade Nut Bread

This easy homemade ‘grain-free’ bread recipe is delicious and super nutritious. It is incredibly versatile, and once you get in the swing of making this bread, you may try a range of different options: use a combination of various nuts, seeds, or us sweet potato or buckwheat flour instead of ground almonds. For a vegan option omit the eggs and replace with a flax egg (see note at bottom). Enjoy!

Prep: 20 minutes

Makes: 1 loaf

Ingredients

3 eggs (for flax eggs see below)

60ml coconut milk

1 tbsp maple syrup

1 tsp Apple Cider Vinegar

200g roughly ground mixed nuts (combination of sunflower seeds, pistachio, cashew or hazelnuts)

100g ground almonds (or try sweet potato, buckwheat flour or other gluten-free flours)

60g arrowroot flour

2 tbsp coconut oil

50g coconut flour

1 tbsp chia seeds

1 tsp bicarb soda

Pinch of salt

20g black sesame seeds

Method 

1. Preheat the over to 170°/325°f and line a loaf tin 18cm x 9cm (7” x 3.5”) with baking parchment

2. Whisk the eggs with the coconut milk, maple syrup, apple cider vinegar and set aside

3. Combine ground nuts and ground nuts with the arrowroot flour, coconut oil, coconut flour, chia seeds, bicarb of soda and sea salt

4. Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until everything is well combined

5. Pour the mixture into a lined tin and smooth out with a spatula

6. Top with black sesame seeds and press them gently into the dough

7. Bake for 20 minutes then turn the oven down to 150°/300°f  for a further 10-15 minutes

8. Insert a skewer to the centre and it should come out clean.

9. This loaf will keep for a week in the fridge and freezes well

To Make a 1 Flax egg

Whisk together the 1 tbsp ground flax seeds and 3 tbsp water until well combined, then place in the fridge to set for 15 minutes.

Admin
When you\'re ready to go further

Scar tissue – your new best friend

Scar tissue gets such bad press. It is seen as a bad thing. Something to be avoided at all costs. But is that the whole story? Definitely not! Scar tissue is amazing and here’s why you will love it…

Super scar tissue?

Image Credit: Brian Patrick Tagalog via Unsplash.

Did you know that very few of our tissues can regenerate themselves when they get injured or damaged? Most of our tissues heal by replacing damaged tissue with new, fresh scar tissue. This is one stage of the inflammatory process that follows any injury. But we are getting ahead of ourselves – scar tissue is only half of the story.

Now you’ve torn it…

As soon as tissues are injured, the body springs into action to control the damage. Immediately blood vessels in the area become narrower to reduce blood flow.  Within 5-10 mins of injury, those same blood vessels will dilate and get bigger. If any of them have been torn then blood will pass into the surrounding tissues, which is why you get bruising in some injuries. Bruising is simply blood that has leaked into the tissues. But this isn’t the only thing that happens to blood vessels…

Also within a few minutes of injury, the walls of the blood vessels become leaky. They become specifically leaky to the chemicals needed to drive the healing process and they ooze a clear fluid into surrounding tissues. This fluid is what causes swelling in some injuries.

Recovery starts immediately

Next, cells that are always present in our tissues (monocytes) transform into voracious scavengers (macrophages). These macrophages are awesome – they actually engulf and absorb any damaged tissue in the area. This cleanup job prepares the way for the next stage of the process when scar tissue is laid down.

At the same time as the rubbish is being cleared away, the body is laying down a kind of glue that holds the injured tissue together with a blood clot. This allows scar tissue fibres to grow into the clot and bridge the gap. Blood vessels also grow into the clot from about 12 hours after injury to supply nourishment and oxygen to the new scar tissue.

So, over a few days the injury is cleaned up and filled with fresh new scar tissue. This takes a few days for mild injuries and weeks for severe injuries.

The magic of movement

Image Credit: Andrei Lazarev via Unsplash.

At about 3 weeks after injury, the scar tissue starts to change from standard scar tissue into something much more like the damaged tissue it has replaced. It does this best if it is being moved and stressed just enough to encourage the fibers to get sorted into the strongest and most mobile arrangement they can. But it is a balancing act – too much resting in one position and the scar becomes stiff and sticky; too much movement and the tissues will pull apart and start the whole injury process again. So how much movement is the right amount? Read on!

Get the best healing you can

Here is where a few basic principles can help you to get it right.

  • Control swelling – Use ice packs and elevate the limb (if possible) to help the body reabsorb the swelling as fast as possible.
  • Move a little – as soon as you can, start moving the injured part gently. Only move in a range that causes you no extra pain. Move in as many directions as you can. Gradually aim to increase the range of these movements until you have full range but never push into pain unless you have been told to by a healthcare professional.
  • Move as often as you can – as a physiotherapist I advise people to move an injured part for about 5 minutes every hour throughout the waking day. Little and often is definitely best.
  • Do not stretch – it is tempting to stretch an injured part but if you do you are just going to damage the fresh scar tissue and prolong the healing process. Do not stretch an injury until you can work the muscles in the area really hard with no pain or discomfort.
  • Mindful return to practice – even with an injury there are likely to be poses that don’t hurt you – these are fine to keep doing in the first few days after an injury. As your pain starts to settle, gradually reintroduce poses or modified poses that cause you no pain. If you have no pain you are not overstressing the scar tissue. Listen to your body and slowly return to your normal practice. It is far better to be too cautious at this stage than rush ahead and re-injure yourself.

 

When to seek help

Image Credit: rawpixel via Unsplash.

Happy, healthy scar tissue is mobile, flexible and strong. Follow these basic principles and you give yourself the best possible chance of a high-quality recovery from an injury. But what if the injury is severe? In this case, you may benefit from the guidance of a rehabilitation professional to get the best results. In the UK your GP or a hospital doctor can refer you to an NHS Physiotherapy Department or you can go directly to a Private Physiotherapist without needing to see a Doctor first.

If an injury is old and continuing to be troublesome you may need to seek professional help. Physiotherapists are also skilled in treating old scar tissue and advising on appropriate rehabilitation to get back to optimum fitness.

And finally

Scar tissue is truly amazing stuff. I love it! I hope you now have a healthy respect for this incredible, natural repair facility that the body has. Here’s to scar tissue and all that it can achieve.

Sally Schofield
For inspiration

Yogic Recipes: Lentil & Chard Salad

Enjoy this simple, nutrient-packed, sprouted lentil salad. Sprouting is the practice of germinating seeds from grains, nuts, beans and other kinds of seeds. Once sprouted, they are bioavailable and easier to digest, with your body being able to access their full nutritional profile.

Prep: 20 minutes

Makes: 4 servings

Ingredients

4 cups sprouted black lentils

1 tbsp coconut oil

2 small red onion, finely chopped

1 tbsp turmeric powder 

2-3 tbsp tamari

1 large bunch of Swiss chard, chopped (including stalks) 

1⁄3 cup light tahini

1⁄3 cup filtered water (add more if you need)

1⁄2 lemon, juiced

1 handful toasted sunflower or pumpkin seeds

Sea salt & black pepper to taste

1 cup sprouted Micro-greens

Method

1. Gently steam the sprouted lentils until soft. Set aside and let it cool.

2. In a medium sized frying pan, melt coconut oil and gently fry the onions for 2-3min

3. Add the tamari, turmeric and Swiss chard. Saute on medium heat briefly until wilted.

5. Season with a small pinch of sea salt and black pepper

6. Place sautéed Swiss chard with steamed lentils, red onion in a large bowl. Gently mix together and set aside.

8. In a small bowl, whisk together tahini, lemon, and water. 

9. Serve the tahini dressing separate.

11. Top with toasted sunflower or pumpkin seeds. 

10. Garnish the salad with micro-greens

Enjoy the benefits of healthy eating!

 

Need to know how to sprout? Here’s how:

1. Rinse the lentils and put into a suitable mason jar or container (1 litre is good). 

2. Add 500-750ml water, filling the jar three-quarters full. Cover with mesh or sprouting lid. 

3. Soak the lentils at least 8 hours or overnight. 

4. Drain and rinse the lentils thoroughly. 

5. Invert the jar over a bowl at an angle so that the lentils will drain.

6. Repeat rinsing and draining 2-3 times per day until sprouts are the desired length, usually 2-3 days. 

Vaness Jaich

Mamas in Class. Teacher’s Guide – Part II

As a society, we give expecting mums a lot of focus. There’s pregnancy yoga, an array of body therapies, pampering sessions and baby showers. The birth itself is the spotlight. We make birth plans, go to active birth classes and everyone is really excited about the due date. All this energy disperses after the little one is earthside. Partners go back to work. Doulas and midwives no longer visit. Friends and family return to their lives. A mum is left on her own with a brand new baby, most of the time feeling absolutely out of her depth.

Image Credit: Antonika Chanel via Unsplash.

Here’s how to talk to that mum, in and out of class:

  1. Help her adjust to her new body shape
  2. Help talk to her about her pelvic floor
  3. Teach her some breathing techniques
  4. Give her the skinny on what to do after a c-section
  5. Explain why antenatal yoga before 6 weeks may not help
  6. Suggest a checkup on her tummy for muscle separation
  7. See if she needs ideas for quick, nutritious snacks she can make with one hand
  8. If you know any reliable postnatal doulas, share their details with her.
  9. Be observant. Does she look sad and down consistently? Be diplomatic but if needed, suggest psychological support.
  10. Don’t make her baby the focus. Focus on HER.

To be a yoga teacher is a vocation. It is more than showing how to perform a complex stretch correctly. To many of us, it is about building mini-communities. It is about helping our students achieve both physical and emotional health. A good yoga instructor usually has regulars that come back for years. It is especially true for those of us who teach pregnant and postnatal yoga. We become trusted advisors – our recommendations and tips matter.

Image Credit: Luma Pimentel via Unsplash.

Things teachers hear from their pre and postnatal students can range from:

  • “When I was in labour, I heard your voice”.
  • “I used that breathing technique you taught me”.
  • “I remembered one of the positions you taught and used it”!

The same is true for postnatal students coping with new body shapes. Mums with children in their teens can still recall cruel or unkind words from an unsympathetic teacher. Personally, when visiting my parents, three months after the birth of my son, I went to a local postnatal class. When I tearfully confessed to feeling flabby and weak after my emergency c-section during the class-closing circle, the teacher curtly observed “It is important to strive hard to achieve a natural birth. It is equally important not to let yourself go after the birth.” Needlessly to say, I never returned to that class.

Each person arrives in your class for a reason, whether we know it or they know it. Don’t attempt to be wiser/more experienced than you are. Being yourself is best. Admit to gaps in knowledge. Research questions you couldn’t answer and return to the topic next week. If you don’t have children of your own and never birthed, you still can lend a sympathetic ear. It is better to listen than give unsolicited advice. If she does ask you for your opinion, be tactful and diplomatic. If you do have babies, this is even more important – stay neutral and grounded. It is so easy to get lost in your own experience when talking to other mums!

Image Credit: Ruben Ortega via Unsplash.

I feel that yoga class fulfills more than one need for a postnatal mum. It gives them gentle physical activity. It gives time away from their home and all the demands at home. There is the internal space that yoga gives, something postnatal mums desperately need. Finally, there is a community of individuals who are all in the same boat – potential new friends.  And there is you, giving support, not only in downward dog.

First, listen. Then listen more.

Hanna Skomra

Zen Monkey, a sub-division of YogaLondon, is an online conduit for yoga students and teachers to share ideas and develop a catalogue of content that is informative, creative and fun. We are a community founded from the collection of writers and yogis we've mentored, worked with and been inspired by. Together, we are building a tribe that shares the tools, the inspiration and the motivation to lead a healthy, mindful and sustainable life.