One of the top issues that I hear from my prenatal yoga students is the havoc that sleeping on the side does to them in pregnancy. From achy joints to back pain to lack of sleep, it seems as if the effects are endless. Although I may not be able to solve every problem, I am going offer you all a few solutions that may provide some relief from laying on the side. The number one thing to acknowledge is that this is all temporary. As much as it feels like these symptoms will go on forever and the discomfort is now a life-long event, it will all pass. In the meantime, here are some tips for relief.
Alternate Sides - Thankfully gone are the days where most doctors suggest only sleeping on the left side. Alternating sides may help to balance out the body during the pregnancy allowing for baby to have more space, and for you to get more rest. Alternating sides does not just mean while sleeping either. During the day check to see if you favor a side when sitting and standing. One approach here is to alternate crossing the leg under a table or to sit without crossing the legs. Try to keep the hips level when sitting and the feet level when standing so that weight is more evenly distributed.
Support Your Back & Hips - There are a number of product on the market listed as "pregnancy pillows" that are designed to help support the pregnant body during sleep. Some are great, some are not so great and all are very personal to you. In a pinch or if you are just not interested in purchasing yet another item. you can take throw pillows or extra pillows to contour to you as you sleep. Pillows around the hips, lower back, and between the legs close the knees and ankles can be helpful. These keep the hips stacked and supported which may help to alleviate aches and pains.
Side-Body Stretches - A few extra stretches when you wake up in the morning or even more importantly before you lay down in bed for the night could help to alleviate tension in the muscles and connective tissue. Sit on the floor cross-legged or on a hard chair. Reach one arm up and tip your body in the opposite direction getting a stretch along the arm, side and hip. Try the other side. From here, twist and look to one side for 3 long breaths, then the other side for 3 long breaths. Stand up to find a wall. Face the wall so that your side is at the wall and you are looking down the wall. Cross your outside leg over the leg closest the wall and reach the arm that is furthest away from the wall up and over your head. Try the other side. Finish with a couple of cat/cows and hip circles.
Consistency - As with most things consistency is key. Try the stretches, pillows or alternating sides every day and see how this works to help relieve aches and pains. A weekly yoga class either in studio or online can also be very helpful.
I hope this helps you find some relief! Let me know in the comments!
I want to start off by being clear that I have no issues with screens. I tend to work on one screen while another one is playing a video or a podcast. I rarely clean the house without listening to or watching something. Unfortunately, my children are also very interested in keeping busy by watching screens including movies, YouTube, and educational programming.
Yesterday I spent a beautiful afternoon with my 6 year old. We took a family yoga class, then got ice cream together. We then did some more workouts and cuddled up on the floor of our Rec Room in front of a toy tent he had set up. In these moments of connecting screen free, I learned so much about my son. We laughed. We snuggled. We truly enjoyed our time together without interruption. Not only was this time to get to know each other better, but it was also time that was relatively anxiety free. I was not worried that my son would stumble on a YouTube video that would frighten him or would be inappropriate for our household. There was sense of community vs. the isolation of staring at a screen in an empty room.
A trend that has started some time ago is Screen Free Sundays where families get together free of a screen and spend some time together. Setting aside screens for a day can be daunting for some (including myself) so here are some tips for getting started with screen free time.
Start Small - If taking on a full day of screen free time is overwhelming, start small. Maybe it's just no screens at dinner or taking time away from screens for the first hour or two of the morning. As everyone gets used to less screens, you can try extending the time and eventually taking on an entire weekend day.
Plan Activities - Plan activities for screen free time. At first children (and adults for that matter) may be "bored". You may even meet as a family, and create a list of things to do when not watching something on a screen.
Be reasonable - There will be times when the entire family is sick or needs more downtime. Being reasonable means allowing space for this without turning back on your plans to reduce screen time.
Have fun! - Have fun with this project. Make sure everyone in the household has a voice in the process, and after one week review how things are going.
Enjoy this time together, and let me know in the comments how it is going!
As Nelly said, "it's getting hot in here"... or should we say it's getting hot out there! Summer is rapidly approaching and alongside your summer vacation plans and cookouts, yoga may be a priority for you. Here are some tips for FREE yoga all summer long!
Home Practice: There's nothing like a home practice. You can practice at any time, with minimal propping, in any discipline, and for any length of time. Your home practice is FREE, and I like to pull some poses together that I like the most or want to work on and add a short meditation at the beginning and end. Great way to start or reset your day especially if you have little ones at home and do not have time to get to a studio.
YouTube: There are a lot of great videos and teachers on YouTube. My advice just like at a studio is to try a few teachers to see who fits. You can also search for a style of yoga or even an intention and work from there. And starting June 5, you can practice with ME (yes, me!) 5 days a week on YouTube. Just search for Valerie Kacian Yoga on YouTube, and let's practice together.
Eventbrite: Looking for a FREE outdoor class in your area? Maybe a community class in a cool studio? Check out Eventbrite and search for "free yoga" or "community yoga" and check out what may be happening near you.
Community/Library Calendar: Many community centers and libraries offer free yoga options for both adults and kids. Check out your local calendar to see what may be offered in your area.
Low Cost Options: Summer is a great time to SAVE on class passes at many studios. Grab a summer membership at a studio or fitness center and enjoy yoga and perhaps some other perks.
However you get your yoga this summer enjoy a moment to yourself to refresh your day and refocus. It's a perfect time of year for an outdoor practice or a cozy indoor practice. Those of you with children can join me on this blog or on YouTube for tips, idea, and a practice just for you!
The Wheel of Fortune is a symbol of the capricious nature of fate. Sometimes we are like Imagine Dragons sing, "on top of the world". Sometimes we are at the bottom of the wheel looking for an upswing. The goddess Fortuna is said to spin this wheel at random, and thus why it may feel like quite suddenly our luck can turn for the better or worse. Ancient Indian art depicts a wheel called "The Wheel of Becoming" (Bhavacakra) which represents samsara or cyclical existence. Used in Indian and Tibetan Buddhism, the word is derived of two words, "bhava" and "cakra". Bhava means worldly existence, birth, becoming, origin and Cakra or chakra means wheel. This wheels consists of elements or layers that relate to elements of human existence. Without going into too much detail, the bhavacakra presents us with poisons (ignorance, attachment, aversion), karma, layers of samsara, impermanence, and liberation. For more general information visit my sources below.
Last week quite unexpectantly and with no known source, I came down with Covid (again, within 6 months of my last bout). I quickly rearranged my schedule and prepared to take care of myself and lie low. During that same week, I was informed that one of the classes that I have held dear for about 4 years would be given another teacher. It wasn't necessarily my teaching, but the fact that the number of attendees coming to the class were lower than needed to run the class with me as a teacher. I felt defeated on both counts. My body was feeling sick and sore, my mind was distorted from the virus, I could not work, and I have just lost a class that meant a lot to me. So, I did what I always do in these times, I turned to yoga. When I needed to move and stretch my joints, I did a simple practice. I meditated. I took care of myself and others around me. I took time in the sun and in nature. With subtle sadness, I released my attachment to that particular class feeling things open to new possibilities. I welcomed the impermanence of the sickness that had taken over me.
In these moments, the wheel turned and I began to feel that sense of awakening and discovery. These series of events were not Fortuna spinning her hand, but Bhavacakra reminding me to look deeper within myself to better understand karma (action), attachments, impermanence and liberation from it all. I returned to the yoga studios this week, refreshed and awakened to deeper possibilities within myself and others.
How can this translate to parenting?
There are moments in parenting that do not feel like "wins" at the beginning. Whether it's a struggle with breastfeeding or working with your toddler on taking care of their belongings or a call from the police about your teenager, these events can feel like major setbacks in parenting. There have been times in my own parenting, where I feel defeated, frustrated, and completely alone. If we consider these times under the context of bhavacakra we may be able to view them from another lens. Perhaps these are the times we are asked to let go of expectations (attachments), consider our own actions, realize the cycles of life, and understand that these moments will pass. It's how we approach these times that may be the most meaningful of all. Maybe it's not about making lemonade out of our "lemons", but taste the bitterness, let go, and trust the process.
Looking for private instruction for you or your family? Let me know!
Toddlers are a special group. As they rapidly learn about the world around them, they can go from happy-go-lucky or sweet to a puddle of tears or an anger burst in just seconds. Toddlers have short-attention spans and tend to run from one thing to the other quickly.
If you practice yoga and wish to share your love of the practice with your toddler, you may be in for some rewards and challenges. Creating a short home practice with your toddler can be tremendously rewarding both as a bonding experience and for a new, fresh way to "play" with your child. Keeping your child engaged and finding an ideal time can be the challenge. Below are some tips to approaching the practice. I offer Toddler Yoga in Middlesex County for those of you local to Massachusetts. Visit HERE for more info. Not local? Reach out to me HERE, and I'll get you on the mailing list for a new program starting July 1.
Tips for a Toddler Yoga Practice
Be ready to move the practice off the mat - Toddlers tend to like to move around the room or the house if you are at home. Keep the practice moving along wherever your child may roam, or choose one room for practice. You won't even really need a mat.
Songs, Toys & More - Toddlers I work with typically like to sing songs, dance, move around, and play with toys during their practice. Anything that lights up is even better. Making your practice fun and playful will keep them engaged and interested.
Short & Sweet - Keep your practice to around 10 minutes to start. In a studio setting, we can just barely keep toddlers engaged for 30-40 minutes. Starting small with some breathing, a few poses, and a story is a great way to get your toddler interested.
Let's Get Physical - If you have a toddler you already know that they love to jump on you and pretend your gym equipment. Partner poses can bring the two (or three or four) of you together. They get to play physically while also learning how to work as a team.
Snuggle Time - Don't skip rest time at the end of practice! Even if it's just for a minute or two, your toddler will learn how to calm their bodies through rest. Add a head or foot massage and enhance bonding with your child.
Have fun, and enjoy! Let me know how it goes!
As a writer and a mom of 3, I have found that making time to write has been a process that has sometimes been successful and has often faltered. I have tried it all. Writing in short bursts, writing early in the morning, writing late at night, bullet writing, giving up on writing, or simply fantasizing about writing. Perhaps you are not necessarily a "writer" but would like to devote time to charting your child's progress and next steps or you are pregnant and would like to journal your pregnancy for your child to read later. I can tell you that it's all possible. It may not be easy, but it's possible. Below are some tips to make time for writing or journaling.
Quick Tips for Success
As the third trimester approaches, many of the Moms I work with begin to turn inward. This inward reflection begins to stir up either strengths or doubt about the birthing process. In a prenatal yoga practice we discuss this time, then move and breathe in ways to support strength, release in the pelvic floor, as well as the mind, and at times discovering courage. Some cultures believe during birth a mother transcends life to bring her baby into the world.
In the Western culture, birth is largely cloaked in fear. Movies depict women screaming in agony or reacting violently to something that is a natural series of events. In actuality, birthing a child is an extreme act of strength, resilience, and empowerment for women.
Decisions (as opinions) are plentiful around childbirth. In prenatal yoga, we foster an accepting practice that allows each student to make the best decision around movement, breath, and ultimately bringing your child into the world. The two poses pictures above are examples of ways to access the physical body and mind to build that strength and guide the body to relax to prepare for childbirth. Poses can be taken anytime in pregnancy. Six weeks prior to your due date may be a time to work these poses into a daily practice. Below is a description of each pose. Try them out, and let me know what you think.
View the POSES on YouTube.
Rocking Childs Pose
Come to all 4's (tabletop pose), then bring knees wider than the hips with toes coming together. Keep shoulders in line with wrists, then rock the hips about half way back to heels, then ease them forward again. Continue to rock allowing the hips to get heavier as you work. Feel free to pause in childs or rest on forearms at any time. This pose is soothing for body and mind and helps relax the pelvis.
Come to all 4's (table top pose). Widen the knees slightly with toes pointing back behind you. Swing hips to one side, back to heel, sweep to opposite heel, to the side and forward. Imagine you are drawing a circle on your mat or floor. Reverse the direction. You can pause anytime you want for extra stretch or space. This pose guides your baby into the optimal position for birth, and can even be done during birth.
If you are anything like me there are more balls in the air than you care to admit. From the first moment I open my eyes in the morning to the time I lay my head back down, I am running from one thing to the next with very little down time. Burnout is always just a short-step behind, and the requests keep on coming. So, how do we as parents get out of the "rat race" of work, emails to teachers, shopping trips, drop offs, and Zoom meetings? I can't say I have the answers, but I can ofter a few suggestions. (And maybe even commit to these myself.)
Sthira & Sukha
In yoga, the concepts of sthira and sukha provide consideration for the balance of "effort" and "ease" in our practice on the mat, and in life. Sthira which is a derivative for "steel" reflects the effort we put forth. Sukha is the more passive of the two denoting letting go and releasing effort. We can't have one without the other, and a balance of both is in our best interests. I think somewhere on a visceral level we know this. It's putting these principles into practice that proves challenging. As with most things, awareness is the first step to making change.
Baby Steps to Find Balance
Most babies don't just up and walk one day. There is a process of rolling over, creeping, crawling, and pulling up before the final when walking without holding on begins. To think that we can become aware of a problem, then change it instantly doesn't make much sense either. Here are a few steps to get you started. Think of this as gentle guidance from one parent to another.
Need an example? I am a very work-driven individual. In high school, I was an AP student who worked 2 jobs and wrote novels in my free time. Now I am a Mom of 3 with 3 jobs who writes novels in my free time. I don't watch TV. I rarely sit down to rest. And I work so much, I only see my family in passing. On my one day off a week, I clean the house, do laundry, scrub toilets, help with landscaping, and take yoga CE programs. I do.not.stop. How do I balance this out? I burn myself out, have to take emergency time off, spend a day or two in bed, then get right back into it again. My balancing practice would be to sit and meditate, listen to my mind activity, write down what popped up and then further write about these topics to get to the bottom of why I feel I need to work so hard. Get it?
Start today. Take 5 minutes to meditate and see what comes up. Let me know!
There was a point a few weeks after my youngest child was born where I had gone into a low and dark place. I constantly worried that my baby would get hurt and generally felt immobilized by this fear. My anxiety kept me up at night and left me restless during the day. I decided to head to Google to see if there was any information about what I could do.
This is when I first came across #imomsohard. At this time the program was offered on YouTube and I watched a video where Kristen and Jen joked about how they felt in the first weeks postpartum. I started to laugh and instantly felt seen and heard. Not only did these ladies get it, they approached the content boldly and with comedy. This became a turning point for me, and I found myself being able to feel stronger and more in control of myself.
Now a hit a podcast, #imomsohard is a MUST for parents. From vaginal injury to dealing with preteen angst, there is not topic they won't cover. Their banter and ability to see the humor in just about everything has kept me standing as a mom since I came across them. As a yoga teacher who services families, I always recommend this podcast. It may not have the educational content that some families are looking for, but it's a whole lot of fun. Even on my worst of days, I have cracked a smile and laughed out loud while listening to these two, tough moms.
Give 'em a try, and let me know what you think!
Listen to #imomsohard
P.S. This is NOT a sponsored blog post. It is my honest opinion about what works from a parent who has seen a lot and wants to support others.
If you took a look at the title of this blog post and scoffed, "Meditate in one minute? What is that going to do for me?" I'm here to tell you. A lot! It is common that our lives are so full that 10 or 15 minutes uninterrupted time can be a lot to ask of ourselves and those around us. This can be a deterrent to meditation. Even one minute of meditation carved into our busy lives can help us switch gears, calm our nervous systems, and gain some clarity.
Still don't believe me? Try this. Sit in a comfy spot, close your eyes, and count to 60. Done already? My friend, you just meditated for 1 minute. Meditation can certainly be more sophisticated, but it also doesn't always have to be. There are also a whole host of apps that can provide short, guided meditations or set timers to your desired meditation time.
My advice to anyone who wants to start to meditate is to start slow and start small. Gradually build over time, and be consistent. Below are a few of the benefits of meditated every day. Good luck and enjoy!
Benefits of Daily Meditation
Hi, I'm Valerie Kacian! I am a mom of three and a yoga teacher. I am also a writer who doesn't write enough. This is my way of giving you the answers you are looking for and also to keep in touch with my first baby, writing.