Thursday, August 16, 2018

Yoga Mom Toolbox, A Guest Post from Jenny Ravikumar


I am so happy to welcome Jenny Ravikumar back to the blog for a very special guest post. If you don't know Jenny, she's a North Shore yogi with a beautiful spirit and stories to tell. I am happy to lend her Prim and Propah for the day, to bring some of new writing to life so please let's show her a little love!



As a single mom I often find myself trying to split my personality in two. On the one hand, I am myself: a spiritual badass who owns two businesses, rocks the crap out of having fun at life and has a hugely compassionate and empathetic heart. On side number two, I need to keep this little soul safe for the rest of his life and at times it requires this mama to do things she dislikes.

No matter if you’re one half of a parenting duo or doing this on your own, being the bad cop isn’t typically fun. When I’ve asked him to pick up his toys for the 100th time that morning, I often wish I had what my friend Rachel calls “the enforcer.” I wish I had a strong father figure who was able to swoop in after his 9-5 job and take over for a few hours so I could go to yoga.

Don’t get my wrong, I have incredible support. I call my brother, at times Rachel acts like an enforcer on the phone and we live with Papa and Mimi, so my son and I have most of the support we could need. But there are days.

And on those days, I use every tool in my box.

Yoga

I would live in an ashram if I didn’t need my son, our dog or my divinely comfortable queen sized bed. Yoga is what brings me back to me, it’s the light of my soul and the practice that keeps on giving. As a practitioner for over a decade and a teacher for most of that time, yoga is there for me even when I’m not in the yoga studio.

Breathing is my go-to. This sounds ridiculous as that’s the very thing keeping us alive, but it’s the practice of breath that keeps me vibrant and alive rather than existing.

When my nugget is throwing a fit, screaming at mama and trying his best to find words that fit his frustration, I breathe. I take a moment before approaching him and use ujjai breathing to calm my body, my mind and my heart. In ujjai, you breathe in through the nose and exhale deeply through the nose. As you exhale, your mouth is closed and you’re activating the whisper muscles at the back of the throat. This produces a Darth Vadar kind of sound. Ujjai quickly calms the nervous system and brings you back to the present moment. Breathing through the screaming moments makes me instantly calmer.

Ziggy is almost three and if I take a step back while we’re in the middle of an argument or upset, I realize that a grown adult and a toddler are screaming over a few trucks left on the floor. In other words; it’s not a big deal and I need to take a deep breath as much as he does.

This is where yoga comes in for him. Once I’m calm(er); it’s his turn. A few weeks ago, while we were enjoying a quiet car ride, I suggested breathing together and he said “Mama, I’m not upset, I don’t need to breathe.” It stopped me dead in my tracks and made me realize that I also need to use breathing practices when we’re calm to show him the balance of why and when we breathe.

Aside from the breathing, the movement of the practice makes me a better mom. Personally, I’m a better mama when I move my body, have healthy food nearby, am in any body of water or if a good book is within reach.

Find what it is that lifts your soul and makes you a better mama. And then lean into it.

Choice

I have the worlds best pediatrician. I may be biased, but he is amazing. At our second birthday appointment he said; “Toddlers can be challenging. It’s not this year, it’s next that will be a bigger attitude adjustment. Give him CHOICES. Always. And it’ll be a bit easier.”

As usual, he was correct. The closer we get to three, the more I’m realizing that the terrible twos are not actually a concept anymore. My son has a loud, vibrant personality (gee, I wonder where he gets it from) and he needs to be heard. Often our bits of tension revolve around me not giving him a choice. “We are going here” doesn’t sit well with my little. However, “we are running errands today, do you want a donut or would you like apples?” We are still arriving at our destination, nothing has changed. However, it gives him the feeling of having some kind of control in his environment.

As a former educator, I often remember the staggering statistic that our children understand around 500 words by the age of two but can only speak approximately 50 of them. How frustrating must that be! He knows exactly what he needs, why and likely even how to obtain it, but cannot explain to me any of this using the limited language he has.

In our house we have choices as often as possible. Red shirt, shark shirt or happy face? Apples or strawberries? Waffles or eggs? Tub or shower?

It makes our lives a bit easier to navigate, gives him a voice and often takes the guess work out of my day.


Conversation

Every fiber in my being wants to be able to create logic in his mind. I want to help him connect the dots and help me to understand his emotions, his body and his day to day thinking. As such, we try and talk as much as possible. I ask him about his emotions, we talk about feelings as much as we talk about shapes, colors and the world around us. I’ve spoken to him this way since before he could communicate back to me. I am constantly talking in order to help him understand his world and continue to express himself and his wants/needs.

This morning was a prime example. He didn’t want to put the blanket away. I put away all our toys, helped him get dressed, made breakfast and cleaned his plate. Some of that is generally his responsibility. I told him that because mama took some of his jobs, it was now his responsibility to pick up the blanket. He flipped out: for an hour.

Eventually, I sat down on the floor and stared into his teary eyes. I got him to slowly begin to explain that he didn’t want to put it away because he didn’t want to leave the house. It was painstaking and exhausting, but after we took some breaths together, I realized he just wanted to be heard. By me continuing to scream “put the blanket away” - he was further enraged. All he needed in that moment was to be heard.

Knowing Their Love Language 


These little beams of light we brought into the world are a bucket of feelings. They have wants, needs, desires and questions just the same as all of us. And it is our job to listen.

One of my favorite things to do with him is when we both take an essential oil and place it over our belly or our hearts. And then we cuddle.

Each child has a love language, just the same as any adult. I know his is quality time and physical touch. He would love nothing more than to sit next to me and watch TV as we talk about the episode or simply breathe together.

Being in yoga makes me a better mom, but it doesn’t mean that’s where your strength lies. Perhaps it’s reading, working out, a single glass of red wine, a good book, dark chocolate, alone time, time alone with your spouse or time spent in nature. Find what it is that fills your cup and continue to rely on those tools.

Lean into them and then remember : You are already an amazing mama; don’t ever forget that.

~

Jenny Ravikumar is an e-500 hour RYT with yoga alliance. She is a single mama, studio owner and non-profit founder who runs multiple yoga teacher trainings and mentorships each year. Join her online at www.jennyravikumar.com or in person at Barefoot Yoga Shala in Middleton, MA.



Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Our Choices Matter, Plan Against Pain

*This post was created in partnership with Moms Meet and Plan Against Pain. All opinions are my own.

Our choices matter. Of course they do. As a Mom, what I do day in and day out, affects both my life and the lives of my family, the people that I support in my role as “household manager”. As a daughter of nurses, I have always been keenly aware of how important it is to take our health into our own hands and be proactive. I have strived to instill that in my husband as well as take my young children for the checkups, explaining the importance of being healthy. Something that I had not thought about up until recently, was the best way to manage pain for myself or how to appropriately encourage others to do the same. I was just introduced to Plan Against Pain and boy, I wish I had created a pain management plan before both of my births because truly, we were just winging it. In retrospect, I am extremely fortunate that my pain management solutions worked for me and my growing family. Moving forward, I will have a plan in place.


Every human experiences pain differently. We are all genetically different, have different cultural beliefs as well as different perspectives of pain in our minds-- simply put, we’re different. When we think about pain control, it’s important to note that it’s not just for your comfort but also to speed up healing, avoid complications and  to keep any post-op pain from becoming a more serious, long-term issue. With the seriousness of the opioid epidemic across the country, I find the Plan Against Pain site to be a valuable tool in being prepared for pain and then perhaps not taking as many opioid pills to manage it if possible. I have had multiple surgeries in my day (I played a lot of rugby in college and broke almost as many bones) and with each one, I didn’t discuss pain management, I just sort of let my doctor decide what was best. I think it’s important to empower ourselves and others to be active in our healthcare choices, right down to what we’re being prescribed (or not prescribed) for proper management of postsurgical pain or any pain for that matter.

As a woman, it is especially important to me that we encourage one another to speak to medical professionals without guilt and to ask the questions that we have, whether we view them as stupid or worry about being judged. Did you know that 44% of mothers who had C-sections were not satisfied with how their pain was managed after childbirth? That’s a pretty high percentage and, having been a new mom, pain and caring for a newborn are not the best mix. Imagine if while giving advice to our pregnant friends and family about which bottles and strollers are the best, we also offer advice on the best way to approach the topic of pain management after a planned or emergency C-section? I’m pretty sure that I could most certainly bring it up at a girls brunch out!


Pain shouldn’t just be “here’s a pill”- there should be a plan and per Plan Against Pain, pain management should be multimodal, using different types of treatments to alleviate pain. Of course, treatment plans are going to be different for everyone but just starting the conversation with your doctor is a super important step. I think the most important thing I want to convey is that asking your doctor questions is not a waste of their time. Asking your doctor to explain things in more detail is not a waste of their time. Your health and well being are of the utmost importance. Having a plan to keep you well is always a good choice.

Find great information on pain management, tool kits, statistics and more on Plan Against Pain.