Redefining Your Practice after Motherhood

Ashtanga Yoga teacher and professional rock climber Olivia Hsu talks motherhood and why she finds her yoga practice more liberating since having her son.

Olivia Hsu and her son Walker

Having a kid was never a major goal…

in my life. It wasn’t a huge want or desire, so to end up becoming a mom has been a real gift and a really surreal and cool experience. It’s been the ultimate practice on so many levels. It puts everything into perspective and demands a new level of presence. I used to think about being present in a more fleeting way. I’d focus on something for a set amount of time, and then it’d be done or I wouldn’t think about it. But for the first four weeks after my son, Walker, was born, I literally carried him 12 hours a day. It was all consuming. When you’re getting up at 3 a.m. to feed your child, that’s a whole different level of being in the moment with another person.

Olivia Hsu’s son Walker

I used to have this idea that things needed to be a certain way…

in order to practice yoga. I needed a clean and uncluttered room, fitted yoga clothes, and an empty stomach. I wouldn’t even go into the studio if I didn’t have a full two hours to practice. Now, I’ll do two or three Sun Salutations while Walker naps, then go upstairs to soothe him. If he falls back asleep, I’ll come back downstairs and continue. I now have this really disrupted practice, but it’s actually been liberating to no longer have all these parameters in place. Doing anything on my mat is a luxury, and it’s amazing. It doesn’t matter if I just ate. It doesn’t matter if I’m wearing pajamas. My practice is …

Upward Bow Pose


Here are helpful cues to practice Upward Bow Pose correctly and safely

  1. Begin on the back with the knees bent and the feet planted beneath the knees
  2. Place the feet hips distance apart and parallel, with the knees also hips distance apart
  3. Take the hands back and place them on either side of the ears with the fingers pointing towards the shoulders
  4. Without letting the feet or the knees splay apart, take an inhale, then use an exhale to lift up part way and lower on to the crown of the head
  5. On the crown of the head, pin the elbows into the midline, draw the upper arms into socket, and coil the thoracic spine to bring more movement into the upper back
  6. Maintaining all these actions, with the next inhale press down with the hands and feet and lift into the pose
  7. Work the arms as straight as possible, but keep at least a slight bend in the knees
  8. Make sure the feet have not turned out and root down with the big toe mounds
  9. Spin the inner thighs to the floor and direct the flesh of the buttocks towards the backs of the knees
  10. Let the head hang freely and lift the sternum in the direction you are facing while directing the tailbone towards the feet
  11. To deepen, walk the feet closer to the hands, keeping the forearms and shin perpendicular to the floor and parallel to each other
  12. Hold for 5-10 breaths, walk the feet out if they had moved in) then lower directly to the floor (without stopping on the crown

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Wide-Angle Seated Forward Bend Pose


Here are helpful cues to practice Wide-Angle Seated Forward Bend correctly and safely

  1. Begin facing the long side of the mat, arms stretched out to the sides with the feet parallel to each other and beneath the wrists
  2. Once the stance has been established, take the hands to the hips
  3. Press down with the big toe mounds while pulling up with the inner arches
  4. Engage the quadriceps without locking the knees
  5. Use an inhale to lengthen the spine, then on an exhale begin to hinge at the hips bringing the torso forward and down
  6. Initiate the forward fold by tilting the pelvis forward; the movement is in the hips and the spine remains straight in the early stages
  7. Place the hands on the floor between the feet; hands should be shoulder-distance apart and fingertips in line with the toes
  8. Inhale, reach the chest forward and up to lengthen the front body; exhale fold forward and direct the crown of the head towards the floor
  9. With the head hanging, adjust the hands back so the elbows stack over the wrists and draw the shoulders away from the floor
  10. Continue to engage the quadriceps to facilitate the lengthening of the hamstrings
  11. Keep the weight evenly distributed through the feet; the tendency is to be too far back in the heels so consider bringing more weight into the front foot so the hips stack over the heels
  12. Hold for 5-10 breaths, then use an inhale to come up part way; place the hands on the hips, root down firmly with the feet and use the strength of the legs to return to an upright position

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Firefly


Here are helpful cues to practice Firefly Pose correctly and safely

  1. Begin in Bhujapidasana, with the inner thighs as high on the outer upper arms as possible
  2. On an inhale, straighten the legs
  3. Press into the big toe mounds and draw the outer border of each foot back
  4. The pose can be practiced different ways, either with the pelvis low and the feet high or with the legs parallel to the floor
  5. In either variation, press down firmly through the whole of each hand
  6. Use the fingertips to pull the sternum away from the navel and broaden the collarbones so the chest is not collapsed
  7. Hold for 5-10 breaths and then either release to the floor or use and exhale to transition into Bakasana

http://dogdewormer.net

Mountain


Here are helpful cues to practice Mountain Pose correctly and safely

  1. Stand with the big toes touching and a small amount of space between the heels
  2. Root down with the big toe mounds and pull up with the inner arches
  3. Press the thigh bones back while gently releasing the tailbone down –OR —
  4. Spin the inner thighs back while gently releasing the flesh of the buttocks towards your heel
  5. Draw the shoulders back to align with the side body while softening the front ribs towards the frontal hipbones
  6. Stack the crown of the head above the pelvis with the chin level to the floor
  7. Press down through the four corners of each foot and lift up through the length of the body, ascending the crown of the head to the ceiling
  8. Tadasana can be held for anywhere from several breaths to several minutes

http://dogdewormer.net

Supine Hero Pose


Here are helpful cues to practice Supine Hero Pose correctly and safely

  1. Create a vertical support for the spine and head using a bolster and three blankets
  2. The blankets are folded vertically with two blankets placed in a graduated “staircase” along the bolster and the third placed across the top in a horizontal orientation to support the head
  3. Sit in front of the base of the bolster and bring the legs into Virasana
  4. Make sure that the thighs are parallel and the knees no wider than hip distance
  5. Lie back on the bolster set-up, making sure the front edge of the bolster is against the sacrum and the head is supported so that the chin is not higher than the forehead
  6. Direct the tailbone and the flesh of the buttocks towards the knees
  7. Soften the front ribs
  8. Place the arms by the sides and turn the palms to face the ceiling
  9. Hold for anywhere from 1-10 minute

http://dogdewormer.net

Rewilding: How to Return to Your Essential Nature

This moving meditation will help you reconnect with all that’s wild and free.

Adapted from REWILDING: Meditations, Practices, and Skills for Awakening in Nature, by Micah Mortali. Sounds True, December 2019. Reprinted with permission.

It wasn’t long ago that our ancestors were living according to the earth’s seasons and cycles. Today, most of us (myself included) are more familiar with corporate logos and social media companies than the wildlife and vegetation growing right outside our doors. We’ve alienated ourselves from the natural world. Our modern environment—think fluorescent lights, stale air, computer screens—is dulling our senses and contributing to major health concerns and the global environmental crisis. It’s about time we reassessed, recalibrated, and reset. It’s time we got back to our roots.

By stepping outdoors, lifting our noses to the sky, smelling the air, taking a long view, and becoming students of nature, we can learn to respond skillfully to real-life conditions on earth. We need to be aware and alert, and we need certain skills to help us discern the wisdom of nature and stay close to it.

With time, the following practice will transform how you enter the outdoors. Bring awareness to your rewilding (which is a return to our essential nature—an attempt to reclaim something of what we were before we used words like “civilized” to define ourselves)
to be mindful of your surroundings and how you show up. In time, you will grow into a comfort and
a belonging on the land.

See also Try This Calming Trend: Forest Bathing (Shinrin-yoku)

PRACTICE GETTING OUTSIDE

Before embarking on a hike through a forest, meadow, or other wild space, take a few moments to center yourself. Close your eyes. Take some slow, deep breaths. Allow your exhalation to be twice as long as your inhalation. Let …

The Conversation About Consent and Touch in Yoga

Here’s what the yoga community is saying about The New York Times article on adjustments, inappropriate touching, and consent in yoga.

Should you touch a student during class?

Last week The New York Times published a story by Katherine Rosman about the epidemic of inappropriate touching taking place in yoga spaces. Rosman’s story was a follow-up to a #MeToo-related effort Rachel Brathen (aka Yoga Girl) launched more than two years ago.

In October 2017, she asked her followers in an Instagram post to email her their stories of experiencing sexual harassment in the yoga world. The stories that poured in (and there were more than 300) ranged from out-of-line adjustments and being propositioned for sex to being aggressively or violently assaulted. Brathen shared (with consent) 31 experiences on her website, yogagirl.com, editing out only the names of the victims and perpetrators. 

See also #TimesUp: Ending Sexual Abuse in the Yoga Community

Common threads began to emerge. Multiple women were attributing their assaults to the same men, uncovering deeply-rooted power dynamics between gurus, teachers, and their students. People shared stories of how the environment created by yoga teachers and gurus discourages scrutiny from students, since those running the classes are expected to be trusted experts. Teacher Jonny Kest is quoted in Rosman’s article as saying, “no one’s objecting, no one’s complaining” to intimate adjustments that he and other teachers make. But people are speaking out and the conversation may finally be leading to change—From Sharath Jois, the grandson of Patthabi Jois and the lineage holder of the Ashtanga Yoga tradition, acknowledging the pain and suffering caused by his grandfather’s “improper adjustments” to Life Time athletic (which developed its yoga teacher training program with Kest) and now requires teachers to use consent cards — cards with icons indicating whether the practitioner is open to receiving …