A baby comes into your life and changes you: you’re exhausted, enchanted, filled with love and bewilderment. You’re suddenly mesmerized by this little creature who was born after 10 months of growing inside you (if your male and reading this, disregard). Your body becomes like a shell that has been shed after its purpose was served. So not only are there emotional changes there are definite physical ones. Uh huh.
Women come to me postpartum and want their body “back.” This is somewhat possible. I understand feeling robbed of your youthful figure which was taken hostage by your little bean. Maybe your clothes still don’t fit, you don’t feel like “you” anymore. Getting into a regular movement practice even a few times a week can help you reclaim your physique. There are even classes for moms where you can bring your baby with you: mommy and baby yoga, stroller strides etc. Taking time to feel your muscles stretching and becoming active can help you find your rhythm once again. If possible, you may want to actually take time away from your babe in order have a moment to breathe and connect to yourself (hint, come to pilates class!).
There is also something to appreciate in our changed body. I’ve seen a few articles recently with images of women postpartum: soft bellies, hips, sagging boobs. Amazing. There is something in our shell-like body that is also a reminder of what we have accomplished: creating life! WTF?! When I was dancing if you developed varicose veins in your legs it was pretty awesome because it represented hard work and intensity. It wasn’t a flaw, it was an accomplishment. There is something to be appreciated and honored in the postpartum body. Why would we want our bodies to get “back” when we have come so far forward?
Move your body, exercise, get those muscles going to help you lift those heavy babies. Find time to do something active that you love. Your body will feel normal again. But also remember your bod may be a bit changed. Let’s find the beauty (and peace) in that. xo, M
Here I am pregnant in Palm Springs
At 10 months!
In bed together on the day she was born
Ahhh… love her
In all her chub
So, I have a baby. Henrietta J Ulloa was born March 8th, 2014 at 3:55am after a 29 hours… well, 10 months and 29 hours. She’s a handful and a lover. She’s taking all of my time. Even now I’m debating between showering and finishing this post because I know I only have a short window until my little one wakes. It’s interesting but I actually love that she’s taking all of my time. I get to just “sit” with her and enjoy the moment. Babies really get you to stop and tune into the present moment. It’s sort of liberating… like yoga.
It’s been an interesting year. Being pregnant, creating a life and nourishing that little life has been a journey. All I can say is that my body is pretty amazing. The fact that it can do all that. The fact that I did all that…. makes me honored and thrilled to be a woman.
Her birth was, well… long. And exhausting. It was more of an athletic feat than a spiritual awakening. Also, more like a marathon than a sprint. It started on Thursday at 9pm and ended on Saturday at 3:55am. Two days without sleep, little food (mostly because of the nausea), and tons of pain. The pain I could endure… sort of, but the fatigue was really hard. It was like participating in the biggest athletic competition of my life without proper rest and nourishment. When I began to push at 27 hours in my whole body was engaged in a way that I’ve never really felt (at least to that extent). It was like every cell in my body had a mission: to get that baby out! Did I mention that she was born at home?… In the hallway, on a birthing stool to be exact. When that little (big) baby popped out all I could think was – damn, women are amazing. I don’t think it would have been easier to have been in the hospital with medication (well, maybe) or to have had a c-seciton. Here is what I am left with: any way that a life is brought into the world, whether with the help of pain relievers, cesearan, or without intervention is incredible and harrowing. It’s looking life in the face, straight on. It brings an appreciation for life that I haven’t felt before. My body did that. My body brought me Henri.
I’ve been back that studio moving around again, sleeping when able, and taking my vitamins. I’m still 10 lbs heavier than pre-Henri. My belly is round, my breast engorged and my hair is well, falling out. However, I’m OK with all of it. My body has given me so much. I am proud of its enduring strength and ability. It’s incredible.
(Judie and Bolero)
I’d like to introduce a new interview series to Mind & Motion this week. In this series I will interview women from all walks of life about their movement practice and how it has effected them. I find how women connect with their body through movement, exercise and somatic practices very inspiring. I’m very excited!
I couldn’t imagine a better way to begin this series than starting with my mother. My mother, Judie, has had a major influence over my history as a mover and seeker of all things kinesthetic. She provoked my interest in exercise by taking me along with her to Jane Fonda’s aerobics studio at the young age of five. I was told to sit quietly in the back, set up with my coloring books. However, I couldn’t stop myself from getting up and trying the steps. That lead to dance classes, intensive ballet and well, you know the rest…
Since then my mom has become an equestrian and a lover of danger! Ha! Please continue to read about her exciting journey into all things horses at the ripened age of 58.
M & M: What do you do for exercise?
Being retired I now have more time for exercise. I ride my horse 4-5 days a week and take a Pilates session one day a week. I was also taking a tennis lesson, but I have had some problems with my knee, so that is on hold for the moment.
Have you always considered yourself a “fit” person?
I guess in a way I have but not consciously. I certainly exercise more now than when I was young. I was probably in my late 30s to early 40s before I realized how important it was to my well being.
What does being fit mean to you?
Being fit means having your body perform at its best. That can vary from person to person. It also means testing your physical strength to see if it is at its upmost.
At what age did you become an equestrian?
I was 58 before I ever took a riding class. I am now 72. If I had started younger I would be a far better rider than I am, but considering half of my high school class is not walking around any more, I am proud of where I am.
Was it daunting to start riding horses at such a late age?
It was terribly daunting to start such a tough and dangerous sport so late. As a child I was always afraid of not doing well or getting hurt doing something. At age 7 I had an opportunity to take an elephant ride. I waited in line with my parents and when I was ready to go up the ladder to get on, I said I can’t and didn’t do it. I have always regretted that. I think it has taken courage to do this now.
How did the other women (and girls) at the barn perceive you then, what about now?
I don’t think anybody paid any attention to me when I started and it took a couple of years before I had time to devote much attention to riding. The important thing is I haven’t stopped. Have I had falls? Absolutely! Is it risky? You bet….but I feel so good about myself when I do well. That feeling carries over into other parts of my life. It is so nice to communicate with girls and women of all ages and we all relate to one another through horses. They don’t think of me as “this old lady”.
What is so gratifying about your sport?
I think the fact that you are always slowly improving. Working with a horse is so different than other forms of exercise because you are dealing with a large animal who can have a mind of his own! You constantly have to be aware of him, your surroundings, the weather, everything. This keeps all your senses working and your balance and muscles ready for anything. I had a very gratifying moment today when I was able to canter Bolero (who is very fast & big) without stirrups. The only thing holding you on are your legs. I achieved something today.
Has horse riding changed your self image, if so, how?
I have learned I can start a whole new area of my life and develop parts of myself yet unexplored. I think it has helped me be more positive about achieving things that seem very difficult. I am proud of what I am doing and only compete with myself. I am also my worst critic.
How did you stay in shape prior to horse back?
I was a dancer (not particularly good, but I enjoyed it). Then I did aerobics for many years especially during the Jane Fonda period. Even when I was working so much and traveling, I would try and find a place to take an aerobics class. I love the feeling of tired muscles. I sleep better when I am physically tired.
How has keeping a weekly movement practice (with any form of exercise) effected your life? has it effected it for the better?
Routine is important for me. I am not one who can exercise on her own. I need other people in a class, the right atmosphere and mind set and total focus on what I am doing. This has made me disciplined in other parts of my life and I think that is good. I hope I will be doing some form of structured exercise until my dying day. My goal is so get better at riding and have as much fun out of life that I can!!!
Thanks Mom!!!! I loved hearing about your movement practice! xo
Last weekend we had the pleasure of holding a workshop presented by my mentor, Carole Amend. We had a fantastic weekend looking at teaching styles and cues, new ways of thinking of the body and understanding process. On the practical side, we broke down movements found within the pilates repertoire to better understand how we can serve our clients. We even had a “virtual” colleague from Nova Scotia… ahhh technology. The weekend was both educational and inspiring. Thank you Carole!
After many months and after approaching my back from many different angles, I am finally pretty much pain free. YAY! My back pain has ebbed and flowed throughout my life but I never had such a bad bout of it as the last few years. Moving past a chronic condition is quite challenging so I feel some sense of pride with my accomplishments. Looking back here is what I learned from it all.
There was a moment when I thought that I could hand off my imbalances, aches and pains to another person to be fixed. I know this really isn’t true but I’d seen so many people who were “fixed” by chiropractic, or acupuncture or whatever the new body-work sensation might be. After seeing a few of these “specialists” myself I remembered that I cannot put my quest for health in the hands of anyone else. Actually, my husband reminded me (That’s why I keep him around). I did get support from several people who guided me toward stability but ultimately I was the one who figured out what I needed to kick out the pain.
The quest for healing was about me and finding out what works for me alone. What I figured out is that I’m best off with a regular movement practice- go figure! So, I joined a gym. Every other day I head over to do my 30 minutes of cycling, hand weights and mat work. I’m still working out at Mind & Motion but I find that actually going somewhere else (away from my workplace) is a breath of fresh air. A consistent exercise practice has given my body rapid and significant change. I’m up on my feet doing everyday activities without hesitation. I’m moving around easily at the pilates studio and am feeling strong! The gym and specifically the stationary bike has kicked in that lower feedback loop and gotten me out of my head (thank god!).
I also had to change my mindset (when there’s a motion, there is also a mind). I really had to face myself.. and face my fears. My back pain was so tied up with my anxiety. I’m not sure what came first (the chicken or the egg). Did I have anxiety about my back pain (was it going to go out, how would it go… where would it go?) or did my anxiety cause my back pain? Whatever is was (or is) treating my anxiety helped my back relax. Regular therapy and Deepok Chopra’s “The Soul of Healing” (you can download it from iTunes) helped me relax and let go of certain outcomes. It helped me to stop obsessing (something I’m telling clients all the time, of course) and helped me to realize that I’m safe.
Investigating the issues of dis-ease and healing with medical and alternative practitioners is key. But then take it in, see what makes sense to you. Become a part of the process. Approach your health from all angles. It may take a combination of therapies or a change of mindset. It may take a nutritional shift or meditative practice. Trust your doctor but also trust your insights and intuition. You will be the answer.
I’ve stayed away too long… I know, it’s tragic. After my wedding in September and subsequent health issues my focus was pulled between my health and my new husband. That coupled with an insanely busy pilates studio this year, has occupied me to no end. But do not fear, I hope to begin posting on a regular basis once again. Yippee!
SO, what’s new people? As I wrote about last October, Carlos and I postponed our Spanish honeymoon last year from which we have just returned. It was amazing- Spanish tapas, historic art, and the Basque countryside all laid the perfect groundwork for a romantic honeymoon. The highlight was reading our vows overlooking San Sebastian. I feel so…blessed.
The vacation also helped bring us to a place of deep relaxation. A feeling that is rarely experienced in day-to-day life unfortunately. That being said, our promise to one another is to stay SANE now that we are back in Los Angeles- to keep stress at bay and laugh at the trivial stress impostors (if I may) that seem magnanimous when piled atop one another. It’s all about perspective, right? The scrapbook fillings and photos are scattered over our dining table, the bed is unmade (something that would normally drive me a little nutso) and I am OK with it. I take a breath, relax my body and find the same soothing relaxation while writing this blog. Please enjoy some of the photos above!
About two weeks before my wedding I picked up Dr. Sarno’s “Healing Back Pain” off my bookshelf. I had read the book about 10 years ago from the perspective as the practitioner. Now, I was reading it as a student. I had just thrown my back out and was in a word, desperate.
Dr. Sarno’s theory involves the mind. Through his research at the Rusk Institute in New York, Dr. Sarno found that back pain was difficult to diagnose and treat. This was because causes and symptoms were not always aligning. Science and research are based on a cause and effect relationship. When patients were having a) symptoms with no structural abnormality or b) differing patient responses to the same diagnosis (i.e. some patients in extreme pain from a herniated disc and others completely asymptomatic), Dr. Sarno decided that the cause of pain may not be due to any structural abnormality. The commonality was stemming from something psychological. He diagnosed patients with TMS (Tension Myositis Syndrome) when the cause of pain or a chronic condition was actually induced from stress or surpressed emotions.
Now, I’m a tricky one. I’ve often had psycho-somatic aliments starting from intense stomach aches as a child. I’ve also struggled with other stress induced conditions. Although I do believe there was a huge structural component to my back pain, I also believe there was a huge psychological component as well. It’s not by chance that my back went out two weeks before one of the biggest days of my life. I had been planning my wedding for the past 6 months, running Mind & Motion (which is only a year old) and organizing our honeymoon. All of that was stressful enough, but I was also realizing the emotional implications that come along with committing to another person for life. I was stressed. Healing cannot begin if the body is in a sympathetic flux so relaxation was key. It was also important to remember that any additional tension caused by the pain itself would only perpetuate the condition. So, I tried to breathe, meditate, pray, and let go to the best of my ability. I’m also still in the process of learning how to recondition my brain so that my stress doesn’t manifest itself in physical ways. This is hard because I spend so much of my day focusing on the body.
Knowing that there is nothing seriously wrong with me and directing my focus toward my emotions has helped me get through this chronic pain. I have also found other resources by psychologists in Los Angeles. Alan Gordon is a clinical researcher of TMS in Los Angeles. For more information on TMS, you can read an article by him here.
As some you may already know even though I’m a professional body worker and teacher… I am also human (strange, I know). This means that I also deal with a host of body-related issues. I was diagnosed with scoliosis at a young age and since then I’ve had flare ups with my back throughout the years. Ballet helped tremendously as a teen (I was sans back pain for around 5 years straight while dancing). Pilates saved me again in my 20s. I’ve also found a few body-workers who have eased the pain throughout the years. For the past year my right hip and low back have not quite been right and 2 weeks before my wedding I went for a light jog and my back went out. It actually wasn’t sooo bad at first and usually when such an event occurs it takes about a week and then I’m back on my feet. This time was different. I went to the osteopath who I had been seeing for the past few months. Twice. I went the chiropractor. I went to the PT. Nothing was easing my stiff, sore back and I was approaching one of the biggest days in my life. F*&%!
The wedding came after 2 advils and I was OK for the celebration. It was an amazing experience to have all of your friends and family in one place. That I will always cherish. I ate, drank, laughed and danced. It was a truly remarkable day.
The wedding was Saturday and Monday Carlos and I were to fly off to Spain for 2 weeks, a honeymoon we had been planning for months. Sunday I realized that I just didn’t have it in me. My body was sore and I was exhausted. I had been planning the wedding and honeymoon for nearly 6 months, running a new business and dealing with a huge transition in my life. Sometimes it’s important to know our limitations and I had just hit the wall.
One of the most amazing qualities about my husband is that he really believes in me. He believes strongly that the human body has the ability to heal itself and that I have the power to get better. I know this as well but it sure is helpful to have a partner reflect that back to me. The first part on my journey toward healing was to relax. We decided to post-pone Spain and head up to Ojai for a mini-moon. :)
Ojai was just what I needed; pure relaxation. The first day I indulged in a foot reflexology massage. This definitely calmed my sympathetic nervous system. The body cannot begin the healing process when under distress which is why my back was not getting better before the wedding. Sad, I know. I wish I could have been a zen bride, if there is such a thing. The second day I indulged in an ayruvedic wrap. This was definitely worth the hefty price tag. I became so relaxed that I started day dreaming. It was a bit of bliss. My appetite came back and my back started easing up slowly.
On the second part of our mini-moon Carlos and I ventured to San Francisco so that I could work with Carole, my mentor. Carole is one of the only practitioners who really corrects my alignment and movement patterns. I couldn’t do “pilates” per se but she did have me lean into the leg spring with my foot, finding assistance from the apparatus in order to help organize my hip. After seeing Carole I could finally sit without back pain. This was extremely helpful for the plane ride home.
I’m still in the process of crawling out of this hole. My alignment has finally gone back to a more balanced place. I’ve been investing myself in the healing process from a variety of angles. In the coming weeks I will continue to document my experience and observations about chronic back pain. I will leave you with this. If you are reading this and you are in chronic muscular skeletal pain I believe there is a way to feel better. Hopefully my journey can offer some insight. To be continued…
I’m so sorry for my absence these last few months. I’ve had my hands full, to say the least, with running Mind & Motion and planning my wedding (another career within itself). I’ve also been dealing with some health issues which I’ll delve into in another post. Amongst all of this insanity, I’ve been hearing from those older and wiser, to “Enjoy this time. You will only plan your wedding once.” My response is simply, “Thank God.” I mean the pressure is just a little high at the moment and I’m hoping to not end up like a ringing kettle. I’m supposed to be glowing. Isn’t that what they say when you are in love? Instead I feel a little dry and exhausted. So, how am I getting “Bride Beautiful?” I figured I should be dieting, exercising like a maniac, buffing, scrubbing and facial-ing in order to get ready for the big day. But alas, none of this has happened. Instead I’m trying Quigong.
Quigong is a practice of aligning breath, body and mind in order to move energy. It’s a centering and healing practice. When I’m practicing I feel open and connected to my body, breath and the universe. My goal is to have more “me” time. I’m taking long walks, sleeping at least 8 hours a night, eating healthy meals (with the help of the amazing chef Carlos). I’m also trying to find ways to let go. The apartment doesn’t always have to be perfect and ordered. A little messiness is healthy. I lost my wallet this week and have kept calm, knowing that it would return…and it did! (This is very out of character for me. I usually would have every card canceled and replaced by now). I know that by incorporating a laid back attitude will help also help me to relax on the wedding day. The wedding will proceed in the manner that it’s supposed to and it will perfect in it’s own perfect way.
This is a photo of my morning latte! (You can tell I’m running out of material, huh?) I received a Nespresso pod coffee maker (Carlos says it’s cheating) for Christmas. Every other morning I pop in a pod, froth a half cup of whole mike, add a touch of maple syrup (delicious) and have an amazing latte. I try to alternate between coffee and green tea. Studies have shown that a bit of caffeine before exercising will help burn fat. I’m sure that’s helpful for all of us. So, enjoy a latte before your morning workout.