adapting a yoga class for pregnancy

Adapting a yoga class for pregnancy

This week I went to my first face to face yoga class since finding out I am pregnant. Until now I’ve been practicing yoga at home following a beautiful program for pregnancy by Salina at Kukoon Yoga. I’ve also been using the tools I’m learning in the pre and postnatal yoga teacher training with Bliss Baby Yoga. I am about half way through and enjoying so much! But this week a friend was teaching a flow and restore class here in Athens so I decided to join. Finding a yoga class for pregnancy is ideal but it is safe to go to a regular yoga class if you feel comfortable adapting the practice to your needs.

Benefits of yoga during pregnancy

Pregnant or not, each of the elements of yoga has profound effects on your body, mind and spirit. Combining supportive movement, breath awareness and mindful awareness of your thoughts can help to make this time more easeful and enjoyable. Some of the benefits of the practice of yoga during pregnancy include:

  • Reduces stress and promotes relaxation and emotional wellbeing
  • Helps to maintain good posture as your body changes during pregnancy
  • Can help to alleviate or prevent common aches and pains
  • Improves physical fitness, deep core strength and mobility for pregnancy and birth
  • Encourages breath awareness and control (a fantastic tool for birth)

A yoga class for pregnancy is specifically designed with pregnant women in mind and also offers additional benefits:

  • Helps you to better understand the changes occurring in your body during pregnancy
  • Nourishes the spiritual connection between you and your baby
  • Offers wisdom and tools for a conscious pregnancy and birth
  • Provides an opportunity to meet other pregnant women and build a supportive network

Adapting a yoga class for pregnancy

The goal of adapting a yoga class for pregnancy is to avoid compressing, straining or over-stretching the belly. This means taking care with twists, backbends and prone (face down lying) poses. The number one rule is to always listen to your body. If something feels strange or uncomfortable in your body it is more important than ever to pay attention and modify appropriately.

Some of the basic rules for adapting a yoga class for pregnancy :

  • The first step is to check in with your doctor or care team that it is safe for you to practice yoga. Generally, this will be a yes for most women with a “low risk” pregnancy. Other women may be safe to practice but may need additional modifications so it’s best to get checked out.
  • Keeping the feet wider than hip distance apart in mountain, forward fold, child’s pose, downward facing dog and kneeling lunge. This creates more space in your pelvis for your growing bump and avoids putting pressure on your belly
  • Avoiding over-tucking the tailbone in standing poses. We want to maintain good posture and not over arch the lower back. Saying that, a gentle forward tilt of the pelvis is natural in pregnancy. Tucking the tail can cause constriction and tightness in the pelvis which we want to avoid for an easier birth
  • You also want to minimise engaging the abdominals during pregnancy. This can make diastasis recti (the separation of the 6 pack muscles) worse. Avoid poses such as boat where you need to contract the abdominals. Modify by placing your hands and feet on the ground. Focus on deep core engagement instead of the surface level muscles.
  • Take it easy with the stretching! We release a hormone called relaxin during pregnancy which helps muscles, tendons and ligaments to soften in preparation for birth. This can make you feel more flexible but also at risk of overstretching and injury
  • Move slowly, being mindful of your changing body and how it affects the way you move. Throughout the pregnancy you’ll gradually be carrying more weight and your center of gravity will shift. This can affect your balance and co-ordination so it can be helpful to be near a wall for support.
  • Props are your best friend during pregnancy! Bring in blocks, bolsters, blankets or anything else you need to feel supported in your practice. Ask your teacher for some tips before the class or do some research online. Find the most comfortable way for you to use props so you can bring them in as you need.

Now for some specific tips for adapting a yoga class for pregnancy in each trimester!

First trimester

In the first trimester, your baby is tiny and well protected deep within your pelvic bowl. During this time it is generally safe to continue your yoga practice as before. If you didn’t practice yoga before pregnancy, it is best to start slow with a gentle, beginners level yoga class. Or if you have been practicing for for a while it is safe to keep attending your usual yoga class with a few minor adjustments. Remember that each woman’s body is different. For some, even gentle backbends and inversions may already be uncomfortable early in the pregnancy.

The first trimester also comes with it’s own challenges which may affect your yoga practice. It is common to experience fatigue, nausea and headaches during the first few months of pregnancy. If this is your experience, be kind to yourself and SLOW DOWN. A restorative yoga class can be great for pregnancy, supporting deep rest and relaxation. Avoiding or modifying poses like downward facing dog and forward fold where the head is below the heart is best if you are feeling sick or have a headache. For example, child’s pose and half way lift are great alternatives in a sun salutation flow.

Second trimester

The second trimester is often referred to as the “golden time” of pregnancy. Usually the nausea and fatigue of the first trimester have passed. You start to see your bump growing but it’s likely not yet big enough to be in the way. Of course for some women, symptoms continue into the second trimester and it’s possible to have a big bump already, especially if its not your first pregnancy or you are expecting multiples. Again, listening to YOUR body is the most important when adapting a yoga class for pregnancy.

If you attend a non-pregnancy specific yoga class during the second trimester, again you want to avoid compressing, straining or over-stretching the belly. Probably this will come more naturally to you now as you start to see your bump grow and maybe even feel your baby move! Instead of poses such as locust or cobra where you are lying on your belly, try gentle seated or kneeling backbends instead. For example, you can replace chaturanga and cobra or upward facing dog with one round of cat-cow.

It is beneficial to keep gentle spinal twists in your practice but instead of twisting the whole length of your spine, focus on movement in the upper back and neck. You will probably also feel more comfortable practicing open twists rather than closed twists where your belly is compressed. The second trimester is the time when you might consider switching your usual savasana with a side lying version. Most health professionals recommend avoid lying flat on your back from the second trimester on.

Third trimester

By the third trimester, you will have noticed significant difference in your body. It is great to stay active but now is definitely a time to slow down. At this stage a regular vinyasa or ashtanga class will probably no longer be supportive, unless you had been practicing yoga for many years prior to pregnancy. Now is a good time to seek out a prenatal class as it will be designed to your needs and will also help you to feel prepared for birth. If you can’t find once locally, there are lots of great live and pre-recorded classes available online.

It’s also a good time to check in again with your care team to make sure you don’t have any conditions that could affect your practice. Certain yoga poses are not recommended for women who have a low lying placenta or a baby in breech position. If you experience sciatica, sacroiliac joint (SIJ) pain or symphysis pubis dysfunction (SPD) you will also need specific modifications for your practice. These are most common during the third trimester but might also arise earlier in the pregnancy. Be sure to inform your yoga teacher if you have any of these conditions so that they can advise you appropriately.

Other than that, keep moving slowly and mindfully, keeping in mind the general adaptations for pregnancy. Enjoy the increased connection with your body and baby that the practice encourages. Moments of stillness during the practice are a great time to place your hands on your bump and bring your awareness down to baby. You might even feel him or her kick in response or the gentle swaying of the breath might lull them to sleep. Either way, know you are doing something great for both you and baby by practicing yoga during pregnancy!

Over to you…

If you would like to work with me 1-2-1 to balance your hormones and improve your health, contact me to set up a free discovery call. I am a nutritionist, yoga teacher and women’s wellness coach. We will create a plan tailored to your individual needs and vision for your health. I will then be there for support, guidance and accountability as you work towards your goals!

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Niyamas pregnancy yoga

The Niyamas in pregnancy yoga

Following on from the recent post I shared about how to live the Yamas in pregnancy, today we are looking at the second of the eight limbs: the Niyamas. In pregnancy yoga there is a big focus on movement and breath which are amazing tools to support us during this time. But the yoga practice offers us so much more! Yoga can help us to develop a mindset and lifestyle practice to support ourselves through pregnancy, motherhood and beyond.

The Niyamas are the inner attitudes we are encouraged to cultivate as part of a yogic lifestyle. There are five Niyamas: Saucha, Santosha, Tapas, Svadhyaya and Isvara Pranidhana. Together they offer us a philosophy for living a whole and awakened life. Adopting these attitudes during pregnancy helps us to have a more mindful, conscious experience of this time of transformation.

Saucha (cleanliness)

The first of the Niyamas, Saucha, translates as cleanliness. This means both external cleanliness such as a tidy environment and also personal hygiene. It also relates to internal cleanliness of the body mind system. We can keep ourselves “clean” on the inside by minimising the toxic material we take in and by regularly detoxing. This is important for all yoga practitioners, not only for pregnancy yoga.

On a physical level, toxicity can come from the food we eat and any products we use to keep our bodies and homes clean. Choosing natural, organic products where possible will reduce our toxic load to protect ourselves and our baby. One that is harder to control is the air that we breathe. As many of us live in cities, it is difficult to avoid breathing air contaminated with chemicals from cars, cigarette smoke and industrial fumes. Living a pregnancy yoga lifestyle is not about being perfect but is about doing the best we can and accepting the rest with grace.

Mental toxicity is equally important and can arise from our relationships and any media we consume. Excessive drama and conflict in our personal relationships and the information overload and competition encouraged by the internet and social media can lead to excessive mental chatter. During pregnancy it can be easy to fall into the trap of comparison or be influenced by other peoples’ opinions of what we should be doing or experiencing. This can make it harder to feel at peace and to think clearly, to make decisions that our right for ourselves and our growing baby.

We don’t have to do anything extreme such as fasting, enemas or rigid diets to detox. Especially in pregnancy yoga, it is important to take things slowly and be gentle with ourselves. Taking time in nature to breathe fresh air, live simply and take a break from technology can support our own natural detox systems. It can be especially beneficial to do mini-detox like this prior to conception but also at regular intervals throughout pregnancy.

Santosha (contentedness)

The second of the Niyamas is Santosha, meaning adopting an attitude of contentedness. During pregnancy, we see so much change in our physical bodies and also in our lifestyle. If it’s our first pregnancy, we are also navigating the transition into motherhood which is a huge identity shift. We have to accept that we may not be able to do all of the things we used to do. And we definitely do not look the way we used to look, especially for a period of time!

The practice of Santosha encourages us to accept and be happy with where we are in each moment. Instead of living in the past or anticipating the future, we try to stay right here in the present moment. Pregnancy is a beautiful journey and so much is happening at each stage. It can be easy to be excited and count down the weeks till baby arrives or to wish away the more challenging periods (hello first trimester!). But by doing this we miss out on the full spectrum of this unique womanly experience.

In our physical yoga practice, there are things we need to consider or skip altogether to avoid harming ourselves and our baby. Instead of being frustrated that we cannot practice more dynamic or advanced asana, we can focus on deepening our connection within ourselves and to our baby. Pregnancy yoga involves slowing down and being more mindful that ever of our bodies, breath and the energy flowing through us. If we appreciate it for what it is, it can be a beautiful journey that transforms us on all levels.

Tapas (discipline)

The third of the Niyamas, Tapas is all about discipline and stoking the “fire within”. In pregnancy yoga this is not about enforcing harsh rules on ourselves, remember the practice of Ahimsa (non-violence) always comes first! But we do need to have a certain amount of discipline to maintain a healthy lifestyle and to do the things that best support us and the baby during pregnancy.

A practice of Tapas also includes committing to a daily pregnancy yoga practice. This can be different every day, depending on our needs. It may look like a gentle flow to get energy moving or a series of restorative poses to restore energy. Other days our practice may not be on the mat at all. Sitting for ten minutes to focus on our breath, still the mind and connect to our baby is also a great daily pregnancy yoga practice. I’ve also really enjoyed guided yoga nidra practices to deeply relax after a long day.

We also need a certain amount of discipline to keep to a healthy diet and lifestyle throughout our pregnancy. When we are feeling tired and overwhelmed, we might feel like giving up on healthy eating, moving our bodies, paying attention to our posture or other self-care practices. Staying committed to our pregnancy yoga practice keeps us on track and helps us to feel better. Even though it takes effort, the rewards in terms of better energy and less physical discomfort later in pregnancy are definitely worth it.

Svadhyaya (self-study)

The fourth Niyama Svadhyaya is usually translated as self-study or self-inquiry. Both are equally important parts of pregnancy yoga. In the traditional yoga practice study relates to the study of ancient texts. Translating this to pregnancy could mean educating ourselves by learning from experts in the fields of pregnancy yoga, nutrition and midwifery. There are so many amazing resources out there which can help us to become informed about pregnancy in all dimensions: physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. Just a few of my favourite books include:

As well as seeking external information, we can also practice Svadhyaya in pregnancy yoga via self-inquiry. This means tuning into the wisdom within us. It’s a fine line between empowering ourselves through learning and becoming overwhelmed. We don’t want to take in so much information that we lose connection with our own intuition and become completely reliant on external sources of information and support.

A daily journaling practice throughout pregnancy is beautiful. Not only does it help us to understand and process what we are experiencing but it will also be something beautiful to read back over in the future.

Isvara Pranidhana  (surrender to a higher power)

The final Niyama, Isvara Pranidhana invites us to surrender to something greater than ourselves. I think this is one of the most important considerations for pregnancy yoga. It’s amazing that our bodies just know how to grow a baby for nine months. We don’t have to think consciously each day about where to place the delicate eyelashes or how to build each of the incredible organs. All of this is controlled by a power far greater than us. And at the same time we are this power!

So the practice of surrender to the flow of nature, God or however you prefer to refer it is the foundation of pregnancy yoga. As I shared in my post about the Yamas, we can only do so much and trying to control every possible outcome only leads us to more worry and stress. During pregnancy and birth, we need to prepare for the unexpected. To be willing to let go of resistance and to experience everything as it arises. Easier said than done, I know. But if we can align with this natural flow, our experience of this time will be more peaceful.

Summary

So these are my thoughts on the Niyamas and pregnancy yoga. If you have any other ideas I’d love to hear from you! I love how the yoga practice supports us in all ways and is adaptable to the different stages of our lives as women. Through my practice, I hope to approach pregnancy and motherhood in a conscious way. The seeds we plant now in our children will be the flowers we see throughout the generations to come. I want my actions now to create resilient, healthy, empowered children and to lead to ripples of positive change in the future.

Over to you…

If you would like to work with me 1-2-1 to balance your hormones and improve your health, contact me to set up a free discovery call. I am a nutritionist, yoga teacher and women’s wellness coach. We will create a plan tailored to your individual needs and vision for your health. I will then be there for support, guidance and accountability as you work towards your goals!

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prenatal yoga yamas

Prenatal yoga: how to live the Yamas in pregnancy

In a recent post, I shared my experience of the first trimester of pregnancy as a yogi. If you have read that one you will know that I had quite a wild ride with first trimester symptoms. I’m now in the second trimester and thankfully feeling much better! I have more energy to reflect and express my experience and how the practice of prenatal yoga helped me to get through this challenging time. Today I want to focus on the Yamas and how they fit into a prenatal yoga practice.

The Yamas are the first of the eight limbs or facets of the yoga practice, as described in the yoga sutras. Yamas are ethical codes or “codes for life” according to the practice of yoga. They describe some of the negative behaviour patterns that we want to avoid to live a peaceful and fulfilling yogic life. I especially like the interpretation of the sutras, The Secret Power of Yoga by Nischala Joy Devi. She gives the Yamas more of a positive spin, focusing on behaviours to cultivate and not only what to avoid. In prenatal yoga I feel like this more feminine, nurturing approach to yoga is even more relevant.

Ahimsa (non-violence)

The first of the Yamas is Ahimsa, translated as non-violence. This can also be interpreted more widely as compassion and peacefulness. It goes without saying that Ahimsa is at the foundation of a prenatal yoga practice. We are suddenly adjusting to having another life growing inside us that we need to consider in everything we do. During the first trimester we spend time educating ourselves about what is safe for our baby. Lifestyle adjustments are necessary to make sure that we create a nourishing environment, free of toxins to support baby’s health and development.

Not only that, we also might be experiencing physical symptoms such as fatigue, nausea, headaches and digestive upsets. Emotional symptoms including anxiety, fear, confusion and frustration are also common in the first trimester. A prenatal yoga practice and especially Ahimsa helps us to show ourselves compassion as well as others. We learn to acknowledge that we are going through a major period transformation and offer ourselves grace. Instead of judging ourselves harshly for not keeping up with our previous workload, social life or family responsibilities, we need to be dedicated to self-compassion and kindness.

Satya (truthfulness)

The second of the Yamas is Satya, translated as truthfulness and integrity. Living life according to Satya means being honest in thought, word and actions. In prenatal yoga, we may practice truthfulness with our partner about how we feel and what we are experiencing during this time. This is not to say ruthless honesty at all costs though! As T.K.V Desikachar shares in the Heart of Yoga, Ahimsa always comes first meaning that sometimes it’s better to say nothing when the truth could cause harm. As a test we can ask ourselves “Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary?” looking for a yes to all three.

Satya also means being truthful to ourselves, especially in the first trimester. It’s important to be honest about how we are really feeling and what we need in each moment. Do we need more rest or to move stagnant energy? More closeness and affection or time alone to reflect? To educate ourselves more or to reflect within? It can be tempting to bury fears and ignore physical symptoms in an attempt to get on with things. Sometimes we feel obliged to meet our commitments to others and show up despite feeling rubbish. But by doing this we are not being truthful or living in integrity.

Asteya (non-stealing)

The third of the Yamas is Asteya, translated as non-stealing. Aside from the obvious, not taking physical possessions from others, stealing can also apply to things like time, energy, emotions and ideas. Living life according to Asteya means respecting others’ boundaries and their creations. It can also be interpreted as living generously. In prenatal yoga, we want to be generous with our baby in terms of nutrition, rest and attention. For me, part of practicing Asteya in the first trimester also meant not “stealing” time by bombarding everyone I met with updates about my pregnancy.

Despite me being in awe and slightly obsessed (first time mum here!) I knew that friends and family had their own lives to live. I tried not to over-share and find a balance in my relationships. Instead of telling everything to everyone, I was more mindful of how much time I spent talking about the ups and downs of pregnancy. Sometimes that meant spending more time alone. Not everyone will agree with me on this one I know, it’s just a personal opinion. It definitely helped to have a couple of pregnant/new mama friends to share freely with as I was also interested to listen to all of their experiences too. I also recently joined a local support group which has been great so far.

Brahmacharya (moderation of the senses)

The fourth of the Yamas is Brahmacharya, usually translated as moderation. This means living a life where we enjoy the pleasures of the senses whilst maintaining balance and harmony within. This can apply to all areas of life including our diet, movement, work and relationships. Overdoing anything can lead to disease but restricting ourselves also causes stress and harm. In pregnancy there are certain things we want to minimise but obsessing to the point of anxiety is certainly not helpful. It’s also a time to connect deeply to the feminine force within us. Part of her energy is sensuality and experiencing the pleasures of the physical body. So a certain amount of indulgence should be welcomed.

Saying that, in prenatal yoga, learning to moderate our sensory inputs and energetic output is super important. The first trimester is a tender time when we can easily be overwhelmed. The practice of Brahmacharya encourages us to find balance between rest and activity in both body and mind. Physically, we want to stay active and keep our bodies healthy whilst making sure to get plenty of rest. Mentally, we want to educate ourselves about pregnancy, birth and motherhood without overloading ourselves. We want to avoid being over stimulated, slow down and be gentle. So enjoying thing that nourish us and leave us feeling relaxed and content can be prioritised over intense stimulation.

Aparigraha (non-possessiveness)

The final of the five Yamas is Aparigraha, meaning non-possessiveness or non-attachment. Pregnancy can be a time of extreme uncertainty, especially if it’s our first time. So many things are changing in our physical bodies and we are also preparing for a huge transition from maiden to motherhood. It’s normal for us to feel out of control at times. Aparigraha teaches us to step back, let go a little and accept that pregnancy is a natural process that happens beyond our conscious awareness. We want to create the best environment but at the end of the day, there is only so much we can do.

I know for me, letting go of control has been a lifelong practice. Even when it came to getting pregnant, I always imagined that I’d have it planned and have been through a perfect pre-conception phase. In the end it was a surprise (a happy one of course) and the first trimester hit me like a ton of bricks. I found myself fighting the experience at first, wondering why a very healthy woman like me was suffering so much. Eventually I was able to just let go and ride the wave and be present with the experience for what it was. Aparigraha in one form or another was a big part of my daily prenatal yoga practice!

Summary

So these are my interpretations of the Yamas within prenatal yoga. There is so much more to yoga than just making shapes with our bodies. When yoga becomes a way of life, it changes the way we think about ourselves and the world around us. It encourages us to be more aware and conscious of every action we take. By doing this we are practicing yoga all day long, not only when we step on the mat.

Over to you…

If you would like to work with me 1-2-1 to balance your hormones and improve your health, contact me to set up a free discovery call. I am a nutritionist, yoga teacher and women’s wellness coach. We will create a plan tailored to your individual needs and vision for your health. I will then be there for support, guidance and accountability as you work towards your goals!

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yoga first trimester pregnancy 2

My first trimester in pregnancy as a yogi

How do you think a yogi experiences the first trimester in pregnancy? Before experiencing pregnancy myself, I thought that having a regular yoga practice and a healthy diet would make that dreaded first trimester easier. I hadn’t thought about it too much really as this pregnancy came as a (welcomed) surprise. I had assumed that I would experience fewer of the many symptoms common in this trimester. Well, how wrong could I be!

It turns out that how we will move through the first trimester in pregnancy really is something we can’t predict. It really seems like pot luck as to which, if any, and the intensity of experiences that a women can go through. Having a nutritious diet, regular exercise routine and stress management tools are great to support healthy conception and pregnancy. Unfortunately, many of the discomforts are part of a normal pregnancy and cannot be avoided, however healthy our lifestyle.

Hormonal changes in pregnancy

A women’s body goes through huge hormonal shifts during pregnancy. Firstly we start to produce a new hormone HCG (Human Chorionic Gonadotropin). This is what is detected by pregnancy tests and the amount we produce doubles every 2-3 days in early pregnancy! We also see increases in progesterone, to levels higher than in a typical menstrual cycle. This results in a general slowing down of our bodily functions and can hugely affect our energy, mood and digestion.

first trimester in pregnancy hormones

Image source

Ladies, many of you understand the powerful effects of progesterone during the pre-menstrual phase! Some women seem to be naturally more sensitive to the effects of these hormonal “chemical messengers”. After speaking to many female friends and family members about their own experiences with pregnancy, I really don’t see any patterns. Many women experience only mild symptoms and some none at all. I’ve even heard that women with multiple children experience pregnancy different each time.

In this post I will give an overview of my own experience of the first trimester in pregnancy. I know I’ve really enjoyed reading other women’s experiences. It’s helped me a lot to not worry that something is wrong. I’ll also share how some the different elements of the yoga practice have been supportive in maintaining my physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health during this challenging time. I’ll be diving deeper into some of these topics in the next few posts so stay tuned if you’re interested!

First trimester in pregnancy symptoms

I don’t really like to use the word “symptom” because it makes it sound like pregnancy is a disease. or that something is wrong But truthfully, in the early stages of the first trimester in pregnancy it can feel like being ill rather than that there is new life developing inside of you. Especially until you have that first scan when you actually see the baby, it can be difficult to accept that it is real. Even after that I felt like my body had been invaded and was amazed that this tiny bean was causing so much havoc!

I definitely was more focused on how I was feeling myself during the first trimester. It was simply a matter of getting through each day. Finding ways of coping with the different symptoms, trying to stay afloat of my responsibilities and taking care of myself as best as I could during this time. I found out I was pregnant at around the 4 week mark and pretty much from then I started to notice changes:

Weeks 5-7

The first thing I felt was being more tired than usual. Although at the time though I put this down to the cold weather. I travelled back to the UK to visit family for the Christmas holidays and during this time I had much less motivation for partying than usual! We spent the New Year in Paris and I felt like I was dragging myself around trying to make the most of it. I was even stuck in bed for few days because I caught a bad cold and was completely wiped out.

I started to feel a bit nauseous too but at this point it was very mild. Because of this I had hope that I was one of the lucky ones who wouldn’t experience morning sickness. On the other hand, instead I had awful constipation and bloating that made me look 4 moths pregnant already! I tried adding more fibre, drinking more water.. all the usual tips but nothing worked. This was definitely one of the most frustrating experiences in the beginning.

Weeks 8-10

Once we were back in Athens and to our normal routines, I really started to notice that my appetite had changed. I couldn’t stomach a lot of foods I normally love, especially most vegetables and any meat except chicken. I went through phases of strong cravings for specific foods which lasted a few days. First for salty crisps and cheese, then granola, then fruit (my cupboard is full of half finished things now). Overall I wanted to eat any easily digested carbs and also any food that wasn’t cooked by me!

Smells started to get intense and to bother me a lot. My morning walking commute became a nightmare because of the cars exhaust fumes and cigarette smell, perfume from someone sat next to me on the bus. I couldn’t stand even my own boyfriends shower gel. I also felt nauseous all the time, as if I was stuck on a boat in bad conditions. My previous ideas of “morning sickness” were blasted apart as this lasted all day long. Anything could set me off retching – it was a struggle!

Weeks 11-13

Despite feeling constantly nauseous, up until week 10 I wasn’t actually sick at all. Then the headache phase began. I started having daily headaches that built up to full blown migraines and vomiting, sometimes several times a day. This would last for about 5 days then I’d get a few days relief and it would start again. I was waking up in the morning and going to bed at night with a headache. Sometimes I would wake up during the night and not be able to fall asleep again because I was so uncomfortable.

I’d heard mixed messages about whether it was safe to take painkillers during the first trimester of pregnancy. So I limited them as much as possible and mostly I just lay still with the lights down and wait for it to ease. I started to feel quite down during this time because I was missing out on many things, cancelling plans and having to take time off work and my studies. I was exhausted, in pain and still constipated and it really started to bother me. When could I except that pregnancy glow to arrive again??

My yoga practice in the first trimester in pregnancy

So with all of this going on, naturally my yoga practice changed a lot. Overall though, I’d say my personal practice became much more consistent. I stopped all group classes around week 10 because it didn’t feel right to hold space when I had so much going on. But as I had let go of other commitments, this left more space for a daily yoga practice. I relied on the many elements of the yoga practice during this time. It really was my rock!

Fortunately, I had already been studying pre and post-natal yoga with Ana Davis of Bliss Baby Yoga, where I also trained in fertility yoga. So I had a good idea of how to adapt my practice to this new state of being. But it was still a huge learning process to feel into this new body which was changing subtly week by week. I also started a weekly home practice following the Kukoon Yoga online program which has been amazing so far.

Asana and pranayama in the first trimester in pregnancy

The biggest change was to S L O W D O W N. Not that my physical practice was the most intense or advanced before by any means. But still, there was a dialing back and simplifying of the asana and pranayama practice. I avoided deep twists and backbends, working the abs and of course lying on my belly. Lots of restorative yoga and yoga nidra was beautiful to help my body relax and conserve energy. This was especially needed after nights of poor sleep!

On days when I had the energy, kept up with a gentle vinyasa style practice. Standing poses are great to build strength and stamina in the lower body, ready to carry that rapidly growing baby bump! Lots of the practices from fertility yoga are great for pregnancy too. The feminine elements of hip opening and releasing, connection to the womb and the root and stretching the side body have all felt great during this time.

For pranayama I mainly focused on slow mindful breath using the three-part breath technique. I also started to explore different breathwork tools for birth preparation. Early I know, but these were also useful to cope with the discomforts of some of the first trimester in pregnancy symptoms. My boyfriend definitely thought I’d gone mad as most of the techniques involve being pretty vocal! With names like horse lips, waterfall breath and the MOAN you probably get the idea..

Yama and niyama in the first trimester in pregnancy

The first two of the 8 limbs of the yoga path were something that helped me on and off the mat. So much so that I actually want to dedicate a whole post to how these elements of yoga philosophy can be supportive in the first trimester in pregnancy. One that stands out the most though is the idea of ahimsa, translated as non-harm or compassion. Also isvara pranidhana, which can be understood as dedication to a higher power but I usually understand as “surrender to the flow of life”.

I came back to these two ideas many times during the first trimester. It was a struggle not to keep pushing myself to keep up with what I did before. To accept that I needed to release some things and shift my priorities for a while. But I knew that fighting what is would only cause harm in the long run. Showing compassion to myself when I was struggling or felt like I was letting others down was a big help. I kept reminding myself that this would pass and to try to lean into it as much as possible.

How am I feeling now?

I am now right about the 16 week mark which is crazy to me. I can’t believe the first trimester in pregnancy is over. It’s already been nearly 4 months of growing this little one who is now the size of a large orange! I’ve been using the Pregnancy+ app for weekly updates about how it is developing and it’s so amazing to know that’s all happening beyond my control or awareness. I can’t wait to feel the first kicks and soon to know the gender of our little one.

It helps that I’ve been feeling much better the last couple of weeks. The nausea has completely disappeared and my energy levels are rising again. The headaches still come and go but they are less intense and not every single day so it feels more manageable. I’m not yet back to my usual routine and still missing out on social activities but I’ve come to terms with it. I’m just over the moon to at least feel like myself for some hours of the day again.

Overall I feel more able to relax and enjoy the experience of pregnancy. The first trimester can definitely be a challenge. I certainly have even more respect for all the women who have been through this to give us the gift of life today!

Over to you…

If you would like to work with me 1-2-1 to balance your hormones and improve your health, contact me to set up a free discovery call. I am a nutritionist, yoga teacher and women’s wellness coach. We will create a plan tailored to your individual needs and vision for your health. I will then be there for support, guidance and accountability as you work towards your goals!

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The powerful benefits of yoga for women

In Sanskrit, the meaning of the word yoga is “union”. This is often translated as the union of mind and body. We can also interpret it as the joining of the individual self with the greater, universal consciousness. Therefore, practicing yoga helps us to improve our mind-body communication and to align with the intelligence of nature. I see yoga for women as listening to the wisdom of our bodies and our monthly cycles. Also to consider the phases of our life as we move from maiden to mother (whether this includes birthing children or other projects) to wise woman.

yoga for women all generations
Photo by Gustavo Fring on Pexels.com

What is the practice of yoga?

Yoga for women is based on the 8-limbed path of yoga as set out in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. The first six of these are what make up the actual practice of yoga as they are things we can actually do. The final two are states of being that can arise as a result of continuous and heart-led practice.

  1. Yamas – Moral code and ethical behaviour
  2. Niyamas – Personal practices and inner work
  3. Asana – Posture and finding ease in the body
  4. Pranayama – Guiding the flow of life force energy via the breath
  5. Pratyahara – Withdrawal of the senses from the outer to the inner world
  6. Dharana – Concentration of awareness within or onto an object of focus
  7. Dhyana – Effortless meditation and non-doing
  8. Samadhi – Blissful union of the self with the Self (you with the greater whole)

So as you can see, yoga is a many faceted practice that affects how we live, move, breath and think!

Key elements of the yoga for women practice

The main elements of a yoga for women class are yoga postures, breathwork and guided meditation practices to help you go within. This includes yoga nidra, a deeply restorative relaxation practice where the body is “asleep” whilst the mind remains alert. All yoga for women practices stem from traditional hatha yoga with some modifications to support feminine bodies and connection to shakti prana (feminine energy).

I will write another post about how we interpret limbs 1 and 2, the yamas and niyamas, in the yoga for women practice. These are like codes for a balanced and fulfilling life which should be practiced both on and off the mat. They include things like honesty, non-violence, moderation and sharing.

One very important niyama in the yoga for women practice is reflection and self-study by paying attention to the menstrual cycle and how you feel in the different phases. The other practices can then be adapted for where you are in your cycle. For example, choosing a more restorative practice during menstruation. Similarly, choosing practices which encourage blood flow to the ovaries prior to ovulation.

The benefits of regular yoga practice

Yoga has many known benefits for our physical, emotional, mental and spiritual health. These include:

  • Improved strength, mobility and balance
  • Health of all bodily systems (muscular, skeletal, digestive, immune etc.)
  • Reduced stress and tension
  • Deeper and more easeful breathing
  • Improved sleep
  • A calmer, less reactive mental state

These benefits of are reported by those who practice the different elements of yoga regularly. A well-rounded yoga practice is not just a workout but a way to take care of yourself and improve your health in a holistic way.

Additional benefits of yoga for women

As well as the above benefits which apply to everyone, there are some additional potential benefits of yoga for women, including:

  • Restore regular menstrual cycles
  • Reduce menstrual cramping and excessive bleeding
  • Eliminate or better management pre-menstrual symptoms
  • Improve fertility
  • Accept and appreciate the feminine body and all she can do

It is important to note that these apply to a specific yoga for women practice. Not all yoga practices were designed with women’s bodies in mind and sometimes can do more harm than good. For example, intense practice of dynamic ashtanga or vinyasa yoga without regard for the phases of the menstrual cycle can actually cause imbalances and impact female fertility in a negative way.

Join a yoga for women class

For those of you in Athens, Greece, I am currently teaching two yoga for women group classes per week. Click HERE for class descriptions, locations and timings if you’d like to join a class. For anyone in the rest of the world, please contact me if you would be interested in joining an online yoga for women class. I am considering setting up a weekly class on Sunday evenings (Eastern European timezone) if there is enough interest.

Over to you…

If you would like to work with me 1-2-1 to balance your hormones and improve your health, contact me to set up a free discovery call. I am a nutritionist, yoga teacher and women’s wellness coach. We will create a plan tailored to your individual needs and vision for your health. I will then be there for support, guidance and accountability as you work towards your goals!

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yoga for fertility

The magic of a yoga for fertility practice

I often get asked what style of yoga I teach in my Yoga for Women’s Health and Lunar Yoga classes. My teaching style in these classes is based on my training in yoga for fertility with Bliss Baby Yoga. This is a feminine approach to yoga which supports reproductive health and overall wellbeing for women. These group classes incorporate elements of the yoga for fertility practice without being specifically aimed at supporting fertility.

Elements of the yoga for fertility practice

The yoga for fertility practice includes a combination of more traditional hatha yoga practices as well as restorative yoga and yoga nidra (yogic sleep). Some of the key elements of this beautiful, healing practice include:

  • Honouring and aligning with the menstrual cycle
  • Connecting to and opening the heart and womb space
  • Encouraging deep relaxation and connection within
  • Creating a receptive womb space to nurture your intentions
  • Releasing stored tension and emotional energy from the pelvic muscles

Each class is 90 minutes which allows plenty of time to move through dynamic and restorative postures, breathwork practices and guided deep relaxation (yoga nidra).

Generally, we use props such as bolsters, blocks and blankets to create deep sense of comfort and nurturing in the restorative postures. This enables you to let go of the need to grip and hold on and allow yourself to be fully supported by the feminine power of the earth.

Who is yoga for fertility for?

Yoga for fertility is of course ideal for women who are hoping to get pregnant in the near future. However, it also supports regular and easeful menstrual cycles in all women. It is the perfect practice for women experiencing painful menstruation, irregular or missing periods or disruptive pre-menstrual symptoms.

For women who have already passed into the post-menopause wise woman phase, yoga for fertility is still a beautiful healing practice to connect with the inner feminine energy and cycles of nature. The same goes for women on hormonal contraception who wish to stay connected to the feminine rhythms whilst they are not experiencing a natural cycle.

Why choose yoga for fertility?

There are so many variations of yoga out there these days. The most important thing is to find a practice that you enjoy and that supports you in your current phases of life. For me, yoga for fertility is a practice that I fell in love with and felt the healing benefits of immediately.

No other practice felt as sustainable or in alignment with the changes I experienced in my body each month. My period always felt like a disruption to my practice whereas now I feel I can adjust and align more easily. We are simply not the same every day and so a yoga practice which supports these ebbs and flows is ideal for us as women.

This style of practice is not one to dramatically increase your physical fitness or capabilities. Rather, it is a more gentle practice aimed at maintaining health and wellbeing. Yoga for fertility can be a great standalone practice but it can also work brilliantly alongside other styles as an addition to your currently weekly yoga routine.

Private yoga for fertility classes

I also offer private Yoga for Fertility classes, online and in Athens, which are completely dedicated to this intention. The physical element of the practice is the same but these sessions include focused guided meditations and visualisations to support you on your fertility journey. Currently, I do not offer a group Yoga for Fertility class but if this is something you are interested in, please reach out as I am open to the idea!

Over to you…

If you would like to work with me 1-2-1 to balance your hormones and improve your health, contact me to set up a free discovery call. I am a nutritionist, yoga teacher and women’s wellness coach. We will create a plan tailored to your individual needs and vision for your health. I will then be there for support, guidance and accountability as you work towards your goals!

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befriending and understanding the menstrual cycle

Understanding the menstrual cycle as a force of nature

Understanding the menstrual cycle is one of the most important tools for your health as a cycling woman. The fluctuations in hormones that you experience each month have profound impacts on your physical, psychological and emotional wellbeing. Living in alignment with your menstrual cycle is also a deep spiritual practice which will help you to connect with your self on a deeper level.

Understanding the menstrual cycle phases as inner seasons

Your menstrual cycle can be broken down into four phases, each with their own energy and personality:

  1. Menstrual phase
  2. Follicular phase
  3. Ovulatory phase
  4. Pre-menstrual or luteal phase

Alexandra Pope and Sjanie Wurlitzer, authors of the incredible book Wild Power, liken these four phases of the menstrual cycle to the four inner seasons. Understanding the menstrual cycle in this way can help us to approach the cyclic changes we experience in a mindful and non-judgmental way.

Menstruation is the winter time of the cycle when our energies tend to be at their lowest point. Many women can feel more introverted and need extra nourishment and warmth during this phase.

Following menstruation, the follicular phase is the spring time of the cycle. This can feel like a fresh start, bringing with it rising energy and motivation for projects and engagement with the outer world.

Ovulation is that bold, high summer energy when we feel at our most expressive and expansive. It’s a time of free flowing joy and unconditional giving and receiving. We can feel at our most social and drawn to beauty and sensual experiences.

The shift into the pre-menstrual phase can be the most challenging for many women. This is the autumn season of the cycle when the tide turns and we are called to retreat inwards again. Energy levels start to decrease and we may notice an impact on our mood.

understanding the menstrual cycle

Image credit: Woman log

Understanding the menstrual cycle phases as lunar phases

Another analogy I love is from my fertility yoga teacher and mentor Ana Davis. In her book Moving with the Moon she describes the menstrual cycle as the four phases of the moon: dark moon, waxing moon, full moon and waning moon.

Menstruation is the dark moon when the sky is dark and we are plunged into our inner dream world. Our follicular phase is the waxing moon when the moon, like us, steadily increases in vitality, beauty and brightness. The expansive, feminine full moon represents ovulation when we are also at our most juicy and fertile. The luteal phase corresponds to the waning moon as the moon turns away from the sun and we gradually turn away from the outside world.

This can be a lovely visualisation to help with understanding the menstrual cycle. For some women, their menstrual cycle actually aligns with these phases of the moon. Others experience the same four “inner lunar phases” but at different times to the actual moon. This is not something to worry about and there is no evidence that it negatively impacts your health. Although you may find that if you start tracking your cycle and the lunar phases they may just fall in sync!

Befriending your menstrual cycle

The theme for this week’s Yoga for Women’s Health class is “Befriending your Cycle”. We will be talking about how to start tracking your cycle and identifying these four phases. Understanding the menstrual cycle in this way will change your experience of life as a woman. Taking action to live in alignment with these phase can also help to promote hormonal balance and boost fertility. I will be sharing the basics of adapting your yoga practice and lifestyle to the phases of the menstrual cycle. This is a great class if you are just starting out with this work and wondering where to start!

befriending and understanding the menstrual cycle

Over to you…

If you would like to work with me 1-2-1 to balance your hormones and improve your health, contact me to set up a free discovery call. I am a nutritionist, yoga teacher and women’s wellness coach. We will create a plan tailored to your individual needs and vision for your health. I will then be there for support, guidance and accountability as you work towards your goals!

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yoga poses for period pain childs pose

The best restorative yoga poses for period pain

Menstrual cramps can be uncomfortable, painful and sometimes debilitating. In fact, the same prostaglandins which cause period pain are also involved in contractions during birth! For some women, menstrual cramps can be equivalent to early labour. Research shows that yoga is effective in relieving painful periods. Today I want to share some of the best restorative yoga poses for period pain that I practice myself and with my clients.

Why practice yoga for painful periods?

In today’s society we have a tendency to “push through” everything. As modern women we juggle so many responsibilities from busy careers and family duties to keeping fit and maintaining an active social life. This constant striving and accountability can lead to imbalances in our hormonal system. It’s no wonder that over 80% of women experience painful periods on a regular basis!

Practicing yoga for painful periods is one way to support your body during your monthly bleed. Yoga can help reduce the intensity of menstrual cramps and improve other period related symptoms such as fatigue and anxiety. Not all yoga is equal though! Some yoga poses can actually increase period pain and leave you feeling more exhausted. On the other hand, certain restorative yoga poses are an excellent way to relieve period pain.

How can yoga poses reduce period pain?

Menstrual yoga poses help to reduce period pain by:

  • Reducing tension held in the pelvic muscles which contributes to menstrual cramps
  • Decreasing aches and pains in the lower belly and back
  • Softening the abdomen and pelvic floor to improve blood flow
  • Triggering the relaxation nervous system response
  • Restoring energy or prana to reduce fatigue

Top restorative yoga poses for period pain

There are many yoga poses which can be supportive for painful periods. In general, a restorative yoga practice using lots of props is the most beneficial during menstruation. A gentle practice gives your body the chance to rest while your uterus works hard to releasing menstrual blood. The following are my three favourite yoga poses for period pain relief.

Child’s pose

This is a great pose for anytime you need grounding and to restore energy. During painful menstruation, try resting your upper body on a cushion or bolster. You can also place a hot water bottle on your lower back in this pose to help relieve menstrual cramps. Rest your forehead and breathe deeply into your belly and lower back.

yoga poses for period pain childs pose

Benefits:

  • Stretches the lower back and hips
  • Applies a soothing pressure to the lower belly
  • Belly breath acts as a gentle massage for the reproductive organs
  • Reduces fatigue and restores energy
  • Creates a safe space to release emotions

Reclined butterfly pose

This is my overall favourite yoga pose for easing painful periods and connecting with my womb space. The foundation is creating a diamond shape with the legs, soles of the feet together and knees apart to open the groin and pelvis. The upper body then rests back on the mat or supported by a bolster or 2 blocks. Placing blocks or rolled up blanket under the knees can relieve any residual tension in the lower back.

Benefits:

  • Opens the hips and groin area
  • Release tension from the hips and lower back
  • Brings awareness into the pelvic bowl and sacral chakra
  • Restores energy and vitality
  • Opens the heart space

Luxurious rest pose

All variations of savasana aka “corpse pose” are great yoga poses for painful periods. Taking time to be still and present with anything that arises in your experience is a gift to yourself during menstruation. You can make this basic pose more luxurious by lying back on cushions, placing a small pillow over your eyes our draping a blanket over yourself.

Benefits:

  • Deep rest and relaxation
  • Reduce tension and find ease and support throughout the whole body
  • Opens the front body and allows deep belly breathing
  • Triggers the relaxation nervous system reponse
  • Creates space for reflection and emotional processing

How to practice yoga for painful periods?

Practicing these and other menstruation supportive yoga poses daily for the first 1-3 days of your period can transform your monthly experience. It doesn’t have to take up too much of your day, although if you do have the time to treat yourself to a long practice then why not! Add some candles and relaxing music for a true menstrual yoga ritual.

If you don’t have time time for that, don’t worry! A short practice of 20 minutes is usually enough to restore energy and take the edge of painful periods. And the great news is that the benefits accumulate month by month as you take time to rest and nourish your body during menstruation. This yoga practice also goes hand in hand with hormone supportive nutrition to reduce period pain and other menstrual symptoms.

Over to you…

If you would like to work with me to balance your hormones and improve your health, contact me to set up a free 15 minute discovery call. I am a nutritionist, yoga teacher and women’s wellness coach. We work together using a combination of modalities to support your individual needs and help you to feel your best.

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restorative yoga baddha konasana

How to reduce overwhelm and fatigue with restorative yoga

This weekend I have really been feeling the dark moon energy. I know many of my female friends have been too. Last night I taught a restorative yoga for the dark moon phase class. I practiced the sequence myself as I was planning the lesson and it was exactly what I needed to ground myself and restore my energy.

Dark moon phase and menstruation

The dark moon phase is the few days either side of the new moon. This moonless sky was on Monday here in Athens. This lunar phase brings with it a more gentle, slow paced and inward facing energy. We often feel more tired, less motivated to work and play and need time to rest and reflect. Just as the moon disappears from the sky, we also want to retreat away from our responsibilities and obligations.

When we align this with our menstrual cycles, the dark moon phase represents menstruation. This is the time when we feel our lowest energy levels. Some women experience cramping and pain as the uterus works hard to shed it’s lining. We often feel more tired and overwhelmed than usual. We might feel like we need a break from work and social activities.

It’s fascinating to me how many women seem to be bleeding with the new moon this lunar cycle. I started my period on Friday and so my menstrual phase spanned the dark moon phase this cycle. I also have friends in Greece, the UK and Germany who have told me that they were bleeding this weekend. Some of them told me they were experiencing more pain and exhaustion than usual. Collectively there seems to be a craving for rest and healing.

Cycle syncing in the dark moon phase

As much as I try to listen to my body and live in sync with my cycle, it can be difficult at times! In Athens right now it’s over 30°C. It’s quite challenge to reconcile that need for cool and calm energy with the fiery hot summer energy that we have right now. I want to do all of the things and sometimes my body just say no…

This weekend I had plans to go and visit an island with some friends. Even though I was bleeding I wanted to make the most of the trip. We went to the beach, ate great seafood and travelled all over the island. We saw endless pistachio groves and a beautiful temple. It was such a lovely weekend but of course when I came home I was exhausted as I hadn’t been able to take the rest I really needed. I experienced cramps into the 3rd and 4th day of my cycle which is unusual for me. Plus I still feel tired a couple of days later.

At first I started to blame myself for not taking more care when “I know better”. But really, there is no such thing as perfection when it comes to living in sync with your menstrual cycle. Sometimes it is just bad timing and there is nothing you can do about it. As much as you would like to hit pause on the world for a few days and continue were you left off, the world keeps on turning. We just have to do our best to take rest where we can and show ourselves some compassion.

Some ways we can nurture ourselves when we are busy during menstruation include:

  • Making time for a daily nap or yoga nidra practice
  • Spending at least an hour alone to reflect and dream
  • A short meditation or breathwork practice to connect with the pelvic space
  • Going to bed early or lying in if possible
  • Switching off electronics and all notifications for a while
  • Taking time to write in a journal or doodle
  • A daily restorative yoga practice

Yoga for the dark moon

One of my favourites is of course restorative yoga. I have incorporated this into my health regime over the last 3 years or so and it has done wonders for my wellbeing. Restorative yoga aligns well with the dark moon energy as it is a very slow, soft practice. We use lots of pillows and props to support the body and hold postures for 5-20 minutes at a time. The practice is designed to restore energy and stimulate healing within the body mind. It really is a transformative practice!

On Tuesday evenings I teach Yoga for Women’s Health at the Mala Centre in Holargos, Athens. With all of these energies in the air, I decided to offer a slightly different style class last night in honour of the dark moon phase. Some yoga practices can be very intense, building heat and strength in the body. It particular, vinyasa and ashtanga styles of yoga can be very dynamic and need a lot of stamina.

These practices are great for creating a strong and healthy physical body and focus and discipline in the mind. But it’s important to also balance this kind of yoga with a slower, cooling and calming practice. This is especially important for women as we cycle through our own monthly ebb and flow of energy. I love how the yoga practice has so much to offer us and can meet us where we are right now.

Healing new moon yoga sequence

With this in mind, we practiced a kneeling version of lunar salutes or moon salutations instead of the usual sun salutations in a hatha yoga practice. This sequence has a lovely grounding energy to it and includes lots of lunges to open the hips and side bends to create space in the side body. I also included more restorative yoga postures than usual using pillows as props.

As usual, we practiced some postures and breathwork to support healthy menstrual flow and to ease pain in the pelvis and lower back. This includes Badda Konasana (cobblers’ pose), Upavistha Konasana (wide legged seated forward fold) and Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (supported bridge pose). The class ended with a short yoga nidra practice to support deep rest, healing and restoration of that yin, lunar, feminine energy that we are craving right now.

The students left the class with a healthy, happy glow. It’s a good job the class was in the evening as we were all ready for bed afterwards! I plan to teach a similar restorative yoga class for the dark moon next cycle too as it’s such a beautiful practice.

If you live in Athens and want to join me for yoga in Holargos or Filothei, you can check the schedule and book your space HERE.

Until next time, Namaste…

Over to you…

If you would like to work with me to balance your hormones and improve your health, contact me to set up a free 15 minute discovery call. I am a nutritionist, yoga teacher and women’s wellness coach. We work together using a combination of modalities to support your individual needs and help you to feel your best.

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yoga studio criticism of self

Critical of yourself? How yoga can make you feel amazing!

On Tuesday I am starting my first in-person weekly yoga class in Athens since the pandemic – woohoo! The class is yoga for women’s health and the class theme for May is loving your body. Our first session tomorrow will be focusing on thinking with kindness. It’s so common for women to be critical of themselves, whether it’s unkind thoughts about our physical appearance, personality or abilities. Yoga has helped me so much to overcome excessive self-criticism and so I want to share these tools with other women.

What does it mean to be critical of yourself?

Self-criticism is when we evaluate ourselves in a negative way. We analyse our appearance and the things that we do and focus on the things that we believe are not good enough. This can be a good thing as it helps us to better ourselves and learn from our mistakes. But it can also get in the way of progress as being critical of yourself is associated with low self-esteem and perfectionism which can hold you back. I want every woman to feel good so that she can express herself and share her gifts with the world!

There are times in our lives when you might be more susceptible to self-criticism. Maybe starting a new job, becoming a mother, experiencing illness or changes in your physical appearance. Any time you set expectations for ourselves or go through a learning process you can find yourself being more critical of yourself. It is human nature to criticise ourselves and is one of the things that helps us to evolve and grow. However, when self-criticism becomes excessive it can be a problem.

Signs you are too critical of yourself

Signs that you are too critical of yourself include that you:

  • Tend to focus on small flaws than seeing things holistically
  • Make sweeping statements such as “I’m a failure”, “I’m ugly”, “I’m not good at anything”
  • Compare yourself to others and feel like you don’t measure up
  • Rarely take the time to celebrate your achievements
  • Always feel like you should do more/better
  • Regularly feel bad about your physical appearance
  • Struggle to accept compliments and hold onto criticism from others

Yogic understanding of self-criticism

The practice of yoga is all about turning our attention inwards and witnessing the self. In yoga philosophy, we see the human being as made up of five layers or pancha kosha:

  • Physical
  • Energetic/emotional
  • Mental
  • Intelligence
  • Soul

In my opinion, negative self-criticism resides in the mental body. It is part of that daily chitter chatter that occupies our mind whether we are aware of it or not. Our mind constantly evaluates our self based on values and beliefs that we have absorbed from the world around us and taken to be true. If we have held onto past criticisms from our childhood, these can resurface again and again. We call these mental scars samskara. Through yoga practice and self enquiry we can identify and break free of these emotional patterns.

On the other hand, positive self-criticism belongs to the intelligence. It is the power of discernment where we can evaluate our actions and decide whether they are aligned with who we want to be or not. The difference between this and negative self criticism is that we don’t attack or blame ourselves. The judgement becomes objective and impersonal. Adopting this mindset we are able to make changes without feeling inadequate as we are.

Yoga tools to overcome criticism of yourself

Regular yoga practice helps to increase your self awareness including how you speak to yourself. Often we aren’t present with our thoughts. Once we start to pay attention we can be shocked by the mean things we say. Yoga encourages us to let go of distractions so that we can listen and observe. We can then use our intelligence to transform our thoughts and intentions to those of love. Here are three yoga tools to reduce criticism of self.

1.Power poses to boost confidence

When you practice yoga postures, you don’t just make shapes with your body. In fact, you affect the energy flow throughout your whole being and your state of mind. Practicing standing poses such as the warrior sequence helps you to stand tall, feel confident and radiate positive energy. Compared with rounded shoulders and a curved spine which can make you feel small and lacking in confidence which can lead to self-critical thoughts. Posture matters!

2.Meditation to overcome criticism of yourself

Through meditation we connect to the innermost part of our being, the soul or the spirit which cannot be judged as bad. It just is what it is – pure conscious awareness. Through yoga practice, we reach the point of meditation where our body is still and our mind is quiet and we feel inner peace. We know intuitively that we are perfect exactly as we are. Experiencing this on a daily basis, even for 10 minutes, can help to overcome excessive criticism of yourself.

3.Mantra and affirmation

A mantra or affirmation is a short word or phrase that you repeat to yourself again and again. It helps you to focus and set an intention for your thoughts and actions. Adopting a mantra relating to self-acceptance and empowerment can help in moments when you are feeling critical of yourself. A few examples:

“I am perfect and whole just as I am”

“Nothing more to do. Nothing more to be. I am enough”

“I am a divine being having a human experience”

“Om Shanti Shanti Shanti” (“Om peace peace peace)

These mantras can be repeated in your mind or out loud. Mantra practice works well at the beginning and end of the day. It is also great to try mantra at the end of a yoga practice when your mind is in a receptive and relaxed state.

Come practice yoga with me!

Why not join me for a yoga class? My current schedule is:

Hatha Yoga for Beginners (Online) – Friday 2pm GMT+3

Yoga for Women’s Health (Cholargos, Athens) – Tuesdays 8.30pm GMT+3

For more information and booking click HERE

Over to you…

If you would like to work with me to balance your hormones and improve your health, contact me to set up a free 15 minute discovery call. I am a nutritionist, yoga teacher and women’s wellness coach. We work together using a combination of modalities to support your individual needs and help you to feel your best.

  • Please like this post and share to support my business
  • If you liked this post, follow my blog or subscribe by email to receive updates on new content
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