Sara Guenther

Benefits of Prenatal Yoga

Congratulations on your pregnancy and for making a commitment to yourself, your health, and your baby by practicing yoga during pregnancy and motherhood. There are many benefits to a consistent yoga practice during pregnancy. Rather than just taking my word on this though experience and embody these benefits within yourself. Roll out your mat and devote 5, 10, or 20 minutes a day or every other day to your practice. Yoga is meant to be a living practice not only physically but also mentally and emotionally. I guarantee you with some dedication you will experience first hand the beauty and grace yoga has to offer us.

1. Relaxation Skills.

Through physical movement, breath, meditation, and mindfulness practices you will expand your capacity to slow down, breathe, and bring more awareness to the present moment. With increased demands on women and families, pregnancy often becomes an experience of “doing” more (prenatal visits, gift registries, preparing a nursery, classes, etc.). Prenatal yoga however, beautifully invites you to practice “being” in addition to the demands of life. “Being” includes practicing softening, receiving, and allowing yourself to go within and notice sensation, emotion, and breath. It’s definitely a practice though and prenatal yoga provides a much needed invitation to slow down and receive.

2. Self and Body Awareness

During pregnancy you are much more connected to your intuition (higher self, inner voice, greater pulsation of energy) than other stages of life. Your intuition will guide you in making the many decisions inherent in pregnancy and motherhood. Your intuition will guide you in how to care for your body physically. Your intuition will guide you in deciding where to receive your prenatal care and deliver your baby. Your intuition will guide you in navigating shifts and refinements that naturally occur in relationships both during pregnancy and post baby. Your intuition will certainly guide you with navigating any complications that might arise during your pregnancy and it will guide you in setting up your prenatal and postpartum support system. The practice of yoga will serve to strengthen your connection with your inner voice. To begin to hear the whispers of your intuition. To trust your gut feelings and honor a greater knowing that is often awakened during pregnancy.

Physically there are many shifts that occur in the body both during pregnancy and postpartum. Through the practice of yoga we bring awareness to common movement patterns that profoundly influence how your pregnancy unfolds. How are you sitting? How are you standing and walking? How about getting in and out of bed, showering, holding your toddler, etc.? The practice of prenatal yoga will naturally bring more awareness to these everyday movement patterns and slowly make shifts to bring your body more into alignment.

3. Deeper Fuller Breath

The further along you get in pregnancy, the harder it is to take a deep, full breath. Your diaphragm will often become more constricted and there is just less room for your lungs to expand fully. That combined with common patterns of chest breathing versus deep diaphragmatic breathing contribute to a shortness of breath. Through the practice of prenatal yoga you will learn how to sit or stand in alignment to support your body’s natural breathing patterns and the synergistic relationships between your diaphragm and pelvic floor. Once students practice and embody alignment in sitting and standing postures, more advanced breathing exercises can be incorporated to invoke different states within the body.

4. Present Moment Awareness

Let's be honest! How much of life are we living in autopilot mode? How often do we go through the rhythms of life, but not really being fully present with any of it? How often do we pause and connect with ourselves or fully see others around us? How often do we fully connect with this beautiful soul growing within us? Inherent within the practice of yoga is present moment awareness. Awareness of both your inhalations and your exhalations. Awareness of the pause at the top of your inhalation and at the bottom of your exhalation. Awareness of this moment as your entire life has led you to the here and now.

5. Empowerment

It is our birthright as women to be beautiful. To be powerful. To be pure grace and abundance. But often like the layers of an onion we lose sight of our own inner strength. We lose sight of the bounty that lies within. Yoga becomes a practice of slowly peeling back those layers to tap into the sweetness that has always and will always be there. Yoga becomes the invitation to connect with not only your physical strength but also a mental, emotional, and spiritual strength that is just waiting to unfold within you.

6. Community

Motherhood was never intended to be done in isolation. It is within our collective being to be surrounded by women (mothers, grandmothers, sisters, doulas, etc.) during pregnancy and other divine rites of passage. But so often women find themselves working long hours, tending to the home, dealing with external affairs and struggling to develop the supportive community she needs. Through open dialog and group discussions (with seated supportive movements weaved into these discussions) women are able to share and support one another on their individual and yet collective journeys of motehrhood. They are able to share from an open heart and feel heard and seen and then hold this space for others. It is powerful medicine to know you are not alone, you are held, you are seen, you are supported and loved just as you are.

Welcome to prenatal yoga!!! May you continue to reap all the benefits of yoga during this sacred journey of pregnancy, labor/delivery, and your postpartum journey.

xoxo

Sara

I Love Myself

I’ve been on a mission lately to plant seeds of authentic, profound self-love in every woman I meet throughout my weekly classes and trainings and most importantly within myself. This seed was planted for me several weeks ago during a Valentine’s Day toddler yoga class (well let's be honest I think about love all the time… haha). All the children were jumping up and down… 1-2-3 MEDITATE! We then sat down in a seated meditation, massaged our third eye and repeated the affirmation, “I LOVE MYSELF! I LOVE MYSELF!!! I LOVE MYSELF!!!!!!!!" How incredibly sweet to witness a room full of toddlers screaming, "I LOVE MYSELF!"

I then asked the women in the room, “What do YOU love about yourself?” One brave soul raised her hand and shared she loves the enthusiasm she brings to life. Amazing! I could feel her enthusiasm throughout the class and was honored to witness her journey of self-love. Then the room became completely silent, well as silent as it can get with toddlers roaming about. I asked myself, “In a class of this size how can only one woman love something about herself?” So I got really curious and decided to call upon someone. And I asked in the most compassionate way, “What do you love about yourself?” Her response was “NOTHING.” That was it. In that first moment she was unable to think of a single thing she loves about herself. She then looked lovingly at her toddler and you could see in her eyes a moment of recognition that she was planting seeds here and needed to be a positive role model for her son. She then went on to say, “I love that I am a great mom.”

"YES, you are an amazing mom!" I wanted to scream. I can feel your compassion and your unconditional love for your child. You are an amazing mom AND you are so much more. You are absolute beauty and abundance and bliss. You radiate beauty and truth and inner sweetness. Oh how I wish you could see within yourself everything I can see within you!!!

After that encounter I decided to get even more curious. I posed this question to multiple students during my classes that week… ”What do YOU love about yourself?” The answers I received were so very honest and so incredibly sad. “I can’t really think of anything I love about myself. I need to think about it some more.” “There are a couple things I like about myself but I can’t really think of anything I love about myself.” “I haven’t really thought about it much.”

Yup that was me even 1-2 years ago. I could rattle off in a heartbeat everything I loved about my children and my friends and my family but if anyone were to ask me what I loved about myself, I would have had absolutely nothing or very little to offer.

Today I can honestly tell you I love myself. I love my open heart. I love my commitment to my personal practice and deepening my connection to spirit. I love my enthusiasm for life and ability to continuously grow in this world. I love my ability to listen to myself and to others. I love that I am planting seeds for my own children of self-love. I love how I am a forever student always asking myself how can I rise up in this world? I even love my body. I love my curiosity and desire to create change. Shall I keep going?!?! Sure this is an ongoing process for me but I can honestly say I LOVE MYSELF!

If we want our children to love themselves we have to start by loving ourselves. If we want our relationships to grow and evolve we have to start loving ourselves and allowing ourselves to grow. If we want to create deeper levels of love within our lives we have to start loving ourselves in deeper ways.

So, I challenge you to contemplate, “WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOURSELF?” Journal it. Meditate on it. Comment below. Tell your kids everyday what you love about yourself. Ask them to tell you what they love about themselves and what they love about you. Go ahead, give yourself permission to bathe in unconditional, authentic, profound self-love. Have a self-love fest. It may not come naturally at first but with time and with lots and lots and lots of practice I know you will also fall completely in love with yourself!

xoxo

Sara

Sara is the lead yoga instructor at the mama’hood. She leads several weekly yoga classes in addition to our prenatal and postnatal yoga teacher trainings, our mother daughter yoga and date nights, and our birth story healing circles. To learn more about Sara and her offerings visit www.begraceyoga.com or email Sara at sara@themamahood.com.

What’s Love Got to Do With It?

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One of my favorite memories as a child was belting out the lyrics to “What’s Love Got to Do With It” by Tina Turner with my own mama. We were fearless and loud when we sang this song. It didn’t matter who was in the car with us or who might be listening to us on the sidewalk, we sang just to sing and we sang it loud!

“What’s love got to do, got to do with it

What’s love but a second hand emotion

What’s love got to do, got to do with it

Who needs a heart when a heart can be broken”

We were bold and courageous and so in love with each other. I look back on these moments and celebrate our playfulness and authenticity. We were so full of love, connection, and pure bliss.

I remember my dad telling me right before my daughter was born 9 years ago, “Sara you really don’t know what love is until you have a child of your own.” “How could that be,” I thought. At that time I was happily married, I had loving friendships, and thought I was well versed in love. Then Grace was born and my “small heart grew three sizes that day.” My heart was broken open in a way only a mother will ever know and I was flooded with love for this little being.

And then my sweet Porter was born and I had a direct experience of the bounty of love! Not only did I have enough love to love both of my children, but their love for each other was absolutely divine. The more we loved each other, the more love we had to give and receive.

Gurmukh’s brilliance shines through when she talks about the abundance of love.

“Sometimes I hear mothers say, “I love my child so much, I can’t imagine loving more. Where will the love come from for the new child on the way?” That is one of the true blessings of having children; they give you a direct experience of the bounty of the world. The truth is there is a bountifulness in love. It expands exponentially the minute you give to another. The fear that there isn’t enough is just a delusion of scarcity. Not only is there enough love for your new child, there is more love for your partner than you ever imagined, and the love you can create for your children is beyond measure. Love creates love. You don’t have to believe it. It’s a fact. It just is.”

Love is bountiful. Love is beautiful and blissful and pure and soulful. BUT what about the “bruitifulness” of love? What about those moments when love doesn’t lead you down the rosiest path?!? What about those moments when you feel heartbroken, angry, betrayed, hurt, confused etc. etc. etc.? What about those moments when love leads you down the path of most growth and expansion but also the path of most confusion and sadness? What about those moments when you begin to question how you are showing up for love in your life?!?! What about those moments when it takes everything you got just to show up?

One of my most favorite authors, Glennon Doyle says, “Love is not warm and fuzzy or sweet and sticky. Real love is tough as nails. It’s having your heart ripped out, putting it back together, and the next day, offering it back to the same world that just tore it up. It’s running toward pain and grief and brokenness instead of away from it. It’s turning the other cheek ’til you get whiplash. It’s resisting the overwhelming desire to quit, to save yourself for yourself. It’s exhausting and uncomfortable. Sometimes it’s ugly, like using your bare hands to search for gold in piles of crap.”

I am sure you are as well versed in the struggles of love as I am. I am sure you are as well versed as I am in those moments where we feel so small. In those moments where we realize we are just learning to love. In those moments where our heart is shredded to pieces. As the song lyrics from “Say Something” go…

“And I will stumble and fall.

I’m still learning to love.

Just starting to crawl.”

So this February, as the world around you is making dinner reservations, buying flowers, and celebrating their definition of love, I invite you to keep crawling to keep celebrating the beauty and agony of love. To keep showing up for love…both the bliss and the heartache. To choose love over fear in any and every situation. To be a student of love. And as the late Maya Angelou said, “Have enough courage to trust love one more time and always one more time.”

This February can you commit to choosing love just one more time?!?!

xoxo

Sara

Sara is the lead yoga instructor at the mama’hood. She leads several weekly yoga classes in addition to our prenatal and postnatal yoga teacher trainings, our mother daughter yoga and date nights, and our birth story healing circles. To learn more about Sara and her offerings visit www.begraceyoga.com or email Sara at sara@themamahood.com.