Crossroads and New Beginnings

Dear Yoga Birth and Womb Room families,

We all experience times in our lives where we stand at a crossroads between what was and what is yet to be. Pregnancy and birth is such an intersection – a place of in-between where you aren’t quite fully a parent yet, but you are also no longer your old self. Perhaps there is no other experience in life where there is so clearly a BEFORE and an AFTER. Before – a self-centeredness – as you rightly spend your time and attention figuring out who you are and how you want to be in the world. After – an awakening selflessness as your time and energy and attention becomes devoted to carving a path of health and happiness for your child. Once you are a parent, you are never NOT a parent, and this informs your worldview, your state of mind and your every decision.

Awakening 1 Web

Giving birth to my daughters remains the most profound, transformative and impactful experiences of my life. As a result of these moments, the entire trajectory of my life shifted to place motherhood at the center. Over the course of one (then two, then three) precipitous labor(s), everything I thought I was and everything I thought I wanted shifted, and I became consumed with using my skills and passion to support others in their journey through pregnancy, birth and mothering. As a yogi, a student and teacher of the sacred, I could think of nothing more impactful to devote myself to than uplifting other women going through this dramatic reorganization of body, mind, soul and self. Over time, it became clear that my drive and singular devotion to supporting others in their mothering was also motivated by an unconscious desire to heal and re-parent the un-mothered parts of myself. Serving moms gave me an outlet to heal the mother wound within myself as I contributed directly and significantly to raising consciousness around the profound impact we have as mothers on our children’s development and future well-being through our quality of presence (or lack thereof). 

As I approached 40, I began to feel a stirring in my soul to break out of what was once a burning passion, but had become a comfort zone, and dive into new intellectual and energetic territory in the spirit of growth and evolution. It has taken me three years, and a lot of active soul searching, to find the clarity and courage and trust necessary to take the leap of change. But that time has finally arrived. Though I know the work of healing the inner child lasts a lifetime, my heart feels as though much deep and necessary healing has been accomplished and we – my heart, body, soul and family – are ready to take a leap into a new adventure and a new way of being of service in the world. I’m being called to change, to create, to sing, to play, to learn, to grow, to trust and to serve in a new way. So today, I relinquish the person I was and the space I created to a new team, ready to carry the torch forward with their own passion, energy and dedication. 

As I reflect on a over a decade spent in the service of mothers and mothering, as part of the process of creating closure around this deeply significant time in my life, I asked my deep well of experience what I’d want to say to other moms as the essence of what I have learned over the years. These are my parting words…

  • You do you. The poet Rumi says “there are a thousand ways to kneel and kiss the ground.” Indeed there are infinite numbers of ways to experience motherhood. While we look to those who have gone before us, to books, to experts, to the Internet, your most important guiding force as a mother should be your own intuition, your own inner compass. Listen to those instincts that arise from deep within you, trust your own inner wisdom. 
  • Take care of yourself. Before everything. While parenthood of course requires sacrifice, it should not equal martyrdom. There’s a reason they tell you to put your OWN oxygen mask on first. You cannot take care of your children and your family if you are chronically depleted. The nature of the universe requires a balance between giving and receiving. Modern motherhood sets us up to heavy on the giving and light on the receiving. You do a service to yourself, your children and the village when you make yourself a priority in your own life. What that means will look different throughout different stages of motherhood, but find ways large and small to live into that priority. 
  • Get support. A chat with a friend. A trusted therapist. A regular playdate with other moms. A postpartum doula. A visit from your parents. Wherever and from whomever you can get it. We are not meant to shoulder the monumental task of child rearing alone. It will break you. Allow yourself support. Seek it. Pay for it if you have to. Do not allow yourself to become isolated and to drown in a river of your own stubborn independence. INTERDEPENDENCE is the way of the natural world and it is meant to be the way of human culture and child rearing. 
  • Practice presence. The ability to be truly present in the here and now is the most impactful spiritual practice a person can have. The VAST majority of our mental stress and anxiety comes from worrying about something that happened in the past or projecting a thousand possibilities on some future event – neither of which we have ANY control over. The only moment we can ever truly inhabit is the one at hand, and in that space, you can savor more of the awe and wonder and joy of your own life and your relationship to your children. You stress less, enjoy more and feel a greater sense of ease in your days. 
  • The struggle is the point. Perhaps the most important life lesson I’ve learned – the obstacles we face in our lives are not something that get in the way of our path, the obstacles ARE the path. The challenges we encounter in our lives are the very substance that forms our character, the fuel that pushes us to grow and the motivation to make meaning and generate healing within our body minds. So embrace, rather than avoid or deny, your difficulties and hold the intention to mold them into your beauty and strength. 

As I close one door, I eagerly open another, and I invite you, if you are interested, to continue the journey with me as I birth a new vision into being. While the exact form and shape of this vision is still emerging, I will be offering private Therapeutic Yoga & Somatic Healing, as well as Transformative Coaching Services. I aim to work with those who:

  • Seek support to reintegrate body, mind and spirit to heal from
    physical or emotional trauma
  • Seek a greater connection to and expression of their intuition
    and personal creative power
  • Seek to align their reality with their deepest desires and make
    big changes in how they are living.
  • Seek to reject the cultural narrative about what you “should” be
    and create a life you truly and deeply desire.
  • Seek to raise consciousness and align state of mind to live with
    greater joy, ease, freedom, creativity, courage and trust.

If this resonates with you and you would like to keep in touch with me in a professional capacity, you can find me on Facebook at Awakening with Heather Brown

Awakening 3 WebIt has been an honor and a privilege to educate, enlighten and support thousands of families over the years and I am beyond grateful for every person I have met, every life I have touched and every imprint left in my heart by all the beautiful people who have been part of my circle. Thank you for trusting me with your pregnancy, your birth, your mind, your heart and your family. Keeping doing the good work of raising consciousness for future generations through mindful parenting. 

I truly believe that “peace on earth begins with birth.” Or rather, with enlightened parents who understand the factors that create a healthy, balanced, creative, happy, productive human being and want to give their children that foundation freely. I am beyond thrilled to pass the baton of that work day to day to my friend and colleague Karen Kindig, who will assume leadership of The Womb Room and keep the community thriving for years to come as I focus my attention and energy in a new way. 

With deep gratitude – Heather Brown 


REBIRTH: A Woman’s Return to Self


Welcome to your rebirth.

REBIRTH is an invitation to women at every stage to devote time, space and energy to cultivating a profound sense well-being within a supportive community of sisters.

REBIRTH is a radical collaboration between women at all stages of life/motherhood coming together with intention and authenticity to do the soul work of integration, healing and fulfillment of our potential. It is the taking of time to dive deep into what we really want for our lives and to reclaim our right to have it. It is demanding the space to discover and craft the life we most want to live!

Becoming a mother is one of the most magical and transformative experiences life can offer. It can also challenge you to the core and initiate a total reorganization of your time, values, priorities and life. In the demands of motherhood & family, work and life, our connection to our deepest Self can become muted or even lost and we can become lost or disconnected from the well-being that is our birthright.  Claim your right to be a top priority in your own life.


The heart of REBIRTH is the monthly gathering. For 9 months (not coincidentally the period of gestation), facilitated by Heather Brown, we commit to show up for each other’s truth, struggles, dreams, visions, needs, fears, goals and triumphs one evening per month. We will experience exercises in reflection, connection, sharing, meditation, journaling, and transformational coaching on a different theme each month – but always designed to lead you toward insight, intention and profound well being.

Dates are Friday Nights, 7-10 PM
2018: October 5 • November 16 • December 7
2019: January 4 • February 1 • March 1 • April 5 • May 3 • June 7


Between sessions, we will stay connected and inspired in a private Facebook group.
For the duration of the program, yoga classes at The Womb Room are included.
One private coaching session with Heather Brown.
Additional private coaching at 50% off.


The most important investment is YOUR COMMITMENT. This will only work if we all agree to show up for each other, consistently, without excuse. Of course things happen, but to the degree that this will be a safe and healing space for us all, we must ALL commit showing up to every session to the fullest degree possible. So the first investment is 3 hours of your time, one evening a month, for 9 months. There are two financial investment options.

$75 per session for 9 months OR $585 one time investment ($65 per session)

I have learned many lessons over the past ten years of creating community and healing through Yoga Birth and The Womb Room, including

1) the value of women coming together to lift each other up
2) the importance of investing time, energy and resources into our own well-being & growth
3) how committing to others with both our time and money helps us level up our lives through motivation and accountability.

It’s going to be magic and I hope you will be there!


PS: If you know an AMAZING, POWERFUL, COMMITTED WOMAN who would benefit from the offering of this group , please feel free to invite her privately.


Sweet Abigail Mae

Some people just have the most enviable demeanor – able to keep a smile on their face and positivity and love in their hearts no matter what. Allyson is one of those people. Even though her sweet bub took her precious time and waited until 42 weeks to be born, Ally waited patiently with a smile. Even though the sun rose on her last day of eligibility for the birth center, she smiled as she hopped in the car and transferred to the hospital. Even as she realized a previously unwanted epidural was exactly the thing she needed (and boy did it do the trick!) to bring her baby earth side, she never wavered, took each step with grace and in the end welcomed a much-loved, much-wanted sweet baby girl. It was an honor to witness her strength and grace and to continue to see her handling new motherhood with every bit as much love and positive energy as she did labor & birth! I always feel privileged to capture these once-in-a-lifetime moments and thank Ally for allowing me to share these images with the world.



Introduction to Ashtanga Yoga

“I have been a seeker and I still am, but I stopped asking the books and the stars. I started listening to the teaching of my soul.”  -Rumi

Traditional (philosophical) Ashtanga Yoga is an eight-limbed system which gives the seeker a blueprint for living a life of vibrant health, strength of mind, Self-understanding, Self-realization, spiritual insight and union with the divine. Together, the eight limbs of this philosophy direct the practitioner toward the goal of yoga –  yoga citta vritti nirodaha – the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind – and a sense of peace, equanimity and happiness that results.

“People who learn to control inner experience will be able to determine the quality of their lives, which is as close as any of us can come to being happy…The best moments usually occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile.”  – Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (author of Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience)

The eight limbs of Ashtanga Yoga are:

  1. Yama – moral restraints
    1. Ahimsa – non-harming
    2. Satya – truthfulness
    3. Asteya – non-stealing
    4. Brahmacharya – maintenance of vital energies
    5. Aparigraha – non-covetousness
  2. Niyama – moral observances
    1. Saucha – cleanliness
    2. Santosha – contentment
    3. Tapas – fire of transformation
    4. Svadhyaya – self-study
    5. Ishvara pranidhara – surrender
  3. Asana – yoga postures
  4. Pranayama – breath control
  5. Pratyahara – internal focus
  6. Dharana – concentration
  7. Dhyana – meditation
  8. Samadhi – ecstacy

Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga (the hatha yoga practice)  is a practical way that we can put into practice each of these limbs of yoga. For example, we endeavor to not harm ourselves in practice (ahimsa), to be content with what we can do (santosha), to make a sincere effort at understanding ourselves (svadhyaya) through the tools of hatha yoga (asana, pranayama). Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga is Tapas – the rigor and challenge of the practice generates the fire of transformation. We then take the lessons we learn about ourselves as we practice over time, and translate them into all aspects of our lives.
Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga

With foundations in the yamas and niyamas, the movement method of Ashtanga Yoga is meant to be a practice as integral to life as sleep and food – a vital nourishment for the body/mind/spirit that becomes a regular personal ritual of self-care and mindfulness. The method implores us to make a deep commitment to our highest selves and the pursuit of the Self-understanding and the mastery we gain from a consistent, committed relationship with the tools.

Physically, the practice of yoga asana takes our body through a complete range of motion – massaging, releasing, balancing, strengthening, awakening. The design of the asana sequences implores us toward a balance of strength and flexibility of body that translates to a strong & flexible mind. The system teaches us how to recognize and cultivate right effort within ourselves, even when the definition of “right effort” changes day to day and long term through the seasons of our lives. The practice teaches us to skillfully and harmoniously integrate the many aspects of our practice, and ultimately, our lives. Unbridled stretching and flexibility is NOT the goal.

Do not practice to have a “good” practice.
Practice to maintain steadiness within yourself.

-Sharath Jois

As physically challenging as the practice may be, it is mentally even more so. Ashtanga Yoga teaches us to hold the paradox of honoring where you are, respecting your limits and practicing with insight and wisdom while also pushing your boundaries, stretching your limits and discovering new potential within yourself. It teaches you to observe your mind/emotions as you encounter short term and long term challenges (on and off the mat) and to be compassionately aware of the many modes of resistance the mind generates (frustration, fear, self-doubt, anger, etc.) and to ride the waves of body, mind and life without attachment. As you come to understand the fluctuations of consciousness as the universal workings of a human mind, rather than a personal failing, you become more skilled at exercising mastery over your mind and therefore over your experience of this life. Ashtanga Yoga teaches us to diligently approach challenges and goals with patience and persistent effort over time, with presence, discipline, dedication, commitment and non-attachment.

Spiritually, Ashtanga Yoga provides us with a committed opportunity to “enter the flow.” It is a regular, personal ritual of not only physical health care but spiritual connection with source. God, the universe, nature – whatever name you wish to think of it by, we all need methods to connect with mystery, with creativity, with potentiality that elevate our every thought and action from the mundane to the sacred. Like plugging in your iPhone to recharge its batteries so it performs at peak levels, so is stepping on your mat to plug into a source of vitality, connection, awareness, compassion, peace, light love. The more you engage in deliberate cultivation of these qualities, the more you will embody them in all interactions.

Basics of the Ashtanga Vinyasa Method

The Method

  • Yoga Citta Vritti Nirodaha – Yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations of consciousness. Yoga = establishing the mind in the Self, directing the attention away from outside objects and to the indweller.
  • Ashtanga Yoga is a moving meditation within which one becomes absorbed in the union of breath and movement – going beyond the mind and into the mystery, the essence, the timeless truth of being.
  • Four principles make up the foundation of the the method: vinyasa, breath, bandha and drishti.
  • Vinyasa is the precise linking of movement to breath resulting in a rhythmic flowing style of movement that reflects the fundamental rhythms that underlie the intelligence of nature.
  • Ujayii Breathing = technique of breath that generates heat, sound, focus and internal pressure control.
  • Bandha = a connection to our deep physical and metaphorical center that generates focus, strength, support, lightness and control.
  • Drishti = looking place, a tool for concentration and meditation within the movement.
  • Taken together, these techniques make up the method of Ashtanga Yoga and have the effect of drawing one sharply into present moment awareness and out of the drama of the mind (the citta vritti – which is the source of suffering)
  • Our practice helps us to process toxic stress and introduce healthy stress. It is a safe haven, an inner retreat, a place for clearing body and mind. What we find there may not always be happy or easy. Our practice takes us through the full expression of human emotion – from elation to frustration, from happiness to anger, from joy to sadness, from determination to defeat. The practice is to face these fluctuations of emotion and mind with equanimity – to show up and carry on, with acceptance and compassion, regardless of the fluctuations of the mind.
  • The practice is designed to liberate us from the consequences of being us, to bring freedom from our mind-stuff and establish our attention in pure being, the essence that all living beings share – the life force, the prana, the creative intelligence, the universe, God – however your mind labels it.

The Practice

  • The physical system of Ashtanga Yoga is consistent – the consistency of the sequence gives us a road map to follow, eliminating the need to think or decide what posture comes next. This repetition offers a steady and clear vantage point from which to watch yourself grow and change. You don’t have to think about what to do, so you are free to focus on the method – breath, bandha, drishti, vinyasa count, which takes you into that deeply meditative space.
  • Ashtanga Yoga is rigorous – though the amount of time and energy you invest in your practice varies from day to day and over the course of one’s lifetime, in general, the practice is meant to have a rigor to it that challenges our discipline, dedication and desire for self-understanding. Even just the showing up on consistent basis is rigorous. This rigor does not mean that the practice is never gentle, or slow, or restorative. But it IS designed to have you face your habits of mind that hold you back. If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you, so the overall energy of the practice is Tapas – the heat and fire of transformation.
  • Ashtanga Yoga is balanced – it aims to cultivate balance between strength and flexibility, between effort and ease (sthira sukha asanam), between poses that seem doable and poses that seem impossible, it takes the body through the full range of human motion (and sometimes beyond!). This beyond exists to teach us that we are far more limited by our minds, beliefs about ourselves and our habits than anything else.
  • Ashtanga is a practice of vairagya, or non-attachment. It is not for the sake of the asanas themselves that we engage in the yoga. We use the practice as a way to look inside ourselves and engage in a private, intimate relationship with our own body/mind. It is important to have no attachment to which postures one can do or not do. In fact, the postures that challenge and frustrate us the most are the ones where the real learning opportunity exists.

The Sequence

  • Primary Series (aka 1st Series, aka Yoga Chikitsa) focuses on establishing a solid foundation of strength, flexibility, stability, grace and control over both body and mind.
  • Primary Series is where students of Ashtanga begin. Mastering it can take years.
  • Physically, it begins with sun salutations and standing postures (to warm up, gather awareness and attention and create a base of grounding and stability), then transitions to a focus on the pelvic region of the body – forward bends and hip openers make the bulk of the primary series sequence.
  • Forward bends and twists create healthy digestion and a strong “agni” or digestive fire – strengthening our ability to process all that we take in – physically and mentally.
  • Hip openers put us in touch with our first and second chakras – the foundation of a healthy body, healthy emotions, healthy relationships and a solid base from which to expand our intention into the mental and spiritual realms.
  • We close the practice with a grounding set of inversions and meditative postures, along with savasana, for deep stillness.
  • As you gain mastery over primary series, there are other, more advanced sequences, waiting to challenge you. The speed at which this evolution takes place depends on the practitioner.

The Approach

  • Method (breath, bandha, drishti) over technique (sequence, alignment).
  • Regardless of the exact postures practiced, the breath is the key to unlocking the secrets of all yoga techniques. Breathe to look, listen and feel within. Find the place where the breath flows deeply and spontaneously with the least effort. Move from energy, not muscle. Fall in love with your breath and the lyrical way it directs the body in the dance of yoga.
  • Within any posture, attend to your foundation. Attune to the flow of your breath. Establish bandha and drishti. Energize and stabilize with your legs and feet, refine with your spine. Express and expand with your limbs.
  • Work to balance sthira (steadiness) and sukha (ease), or effort and relaxation. All of yoga (and life) is the exploration of the play of opposites (inhale/exhale, day/night, light/shadow, yin/yang, masculine/feminine). Ashtanga is an expression of this universal principle of balance and rhythms of nature.
  • The alignment contained within Samastithi (equal standing pose, aka mountain pose) can be translated to many yoga postures, especially the standing ones. The relationship of the head to the shoulders to the pelvis, the front body to the back body, the soles of the feet to the crown of the head. The balance of grounding and lifting forces. The use of bandhas, breath and drishti. All of yoga is contained within samastithi.

10 Practical Tips for Practice

  1. Start small – develop a short form practice and make it a habit. Then you can grow into the full primary series.
  2. Be consistent – the more you can practice on the same days, at the same time, in a routine, the easier it will be to make it a habit.
  3. Have a dedicated space – sometimes difficult with kids and/or pets, if you can keep a dedicated space that is clear and ready to go, it will enhance your ability to practice.
  4. Reduce distractions as much as possible. Prioritize and sanctify your practice.
  5. Early morning is ideal, but anytime works as long as you can commit and keep your promise to yourself.
  6. Just step on the mat – this is often the hardest part. Just get there. Breathe and move. Be less attached to how much you get done. Just begin. Fall in love with your breath.
  7. Practice on your own, but check in with a teacher and a community – Ashtanga is ultimately a practice of personal responsibility. You have to want what it offers. it helps tremendously to have a support system and is essential to have the guidance of an experienced teacher as you encounter difficulties and challenges or struggle with motivation.
  8. Lower your expectations and go slow. Take the long view. It is ok to learn and move through the sequences slowly. This is meant to be a personal practice for a lifetime. Keep a sense of humor!
  9. 99% Practice, 1% Theory.
  10. Take a spiritual, devotional approach, rather than a purely physical approach. This sustains you when things feel difficult or overwhelming.

Postpartum Yoga FAQ

Affectionately called “Mama Yoga” by the regulars, postpartum yoga started as a way to focus on healing the physical challenges of post-pregnancy, but quickly became so much more. More than “just” a yoga class – postpartum yoga has created a community of mothers who share joys and milestones and support each other through challenges and come together for a once or twice weekly opportunity space, rest, reflection, self-care and healing.

We’d love to have you join us! Check out the answers to these frequently answered questions and email us if you have others!

We have had moms return to postpartum yoga as soon as 2-3 weeks after giving birth. Many return to their practice within the 4-8 week range, after being cleared by their midwife or doctor for physical activity. As with all things, I encourage moms to listen to their own inner guide as to their readiness to get out of the house and away from the baby and back into a loving, attentive relationship with their bodies. In general, refrain from practice until you have stopped bleeding postpartum, and it may take a few weeks more if you had a cesarean section or difficult birth.

This class is devoted to self-care for mothers, so no babies in Postpartum/Mama Yoga! If you’d like to come practice with your baby, join us for Mommy/Baby Yoga on Thursdays at 10:30 AM.

Each session is tailored to the needs of those in attendance, so it varies from session to session. Some sessions will be quite restorative, some quite strong, depending on the energy and needs of the mamas on that day. In general, all classes will cultivate elements of posture & strength, eliminating back pain (a common pp complaint!), building core awareness and strength and deep rest! We often focus on reversing “breastfeeding posture” by opening up the chest and shoulders, and healing issues such as pelvic floor weakness and abdominal separation (Diastasis Recti). We can also refer those with serious issues to pelvic physiotherapy.

Absolutely – if you are mom, you enjoy community with other moms and like to practice yoga, you are welcome and will benefit, no matter how long ago you gave birth!

YES! Class cards are good for all regularly scheduled yoga classes (but not special workshops).


Tour de Baby

In teaching childbirth education, I often compare labor and birth to endurance athletic events – the ways in which body and mind are challenged, how to keep focused and plan for the long haul, staying in a healthy frame of mind and pace your energy. So many similarities. Baby Cadel took this comparison to new heights.

When I first met his parents, we bonded over a shared love of physical fitness in general and in particular, an affinity for bike racing and the Tour de France. I was first introduced to this sport in the heyday of Lance Armstrong, and find this event fascinating – the sheer endurance and mental strength required, the constant challenge, the beautiful scenery, the drama that plays out over three weeks of racing. It is quite captivating.

When I found out they were planning to name their little guy Cadel – a name I have only heard because of a famed professional Australian cyclist and Tour de France winner Cadel Evans, it all seemed so fitting. But got even better when Cadel decided to make his grand entrance on the first day of the 2017 Tour de France! And in the spirit of this grand event, Cadel’s parents displayed superhuman amounts of physical and mental endurance and were so happy to finally meet their baby. I was particularly struck by Dad’s empathetic and expressive nature during their labor. You could feel that HE could feel every ounce of her pain. It was as if he literally went through it with her and carried her so beautifully throughout the challenge. I will forever be awed and inspired by them both and in love with the serendipitous way Cadel made his entrance to the world! Check back in 20 years or so to see if he becomes a professional cyclist.

Baby “B”

This gorgeous family was signed up for the Yoga Birth Childbirth Education class. After attending the first session – SURPRISE! – this little guy decided he was going to make his appearance early. I was super psyched when his mom reached out months later – well after the experience of shepherding him through his early days of NICU life and all the extra special care that preemies require – and asked if we could do some photos in exchange for the Yoga Birth registration fee that they never really got to utilize. It was a pleasure to capture their bond and the extra special love that they have for their now very strong and healthy baby boy!

10 Reasons Ashtanga Yoga is the Perfect Practice for Parents

I began practicing Ashtanga Yoga at the tender age of 24. I instantly fell in love with this practice that is equal parts intense workout and deep meditation. As my own teacher describes, it felt like “coming home to my soul.” Over the years, my practice has seen every fluctuation imaginable, through times of strength and weakness, through three pregnancies, through a couple of injuries, through times of high motivation, through times of no motivation and rock bottom. My physical capabilities have waxed and waned over those years. But the one thing that has remained constant is my ability to rely on this presence in my life, to retreat to my practice to process the many ups and downs of my body/mind. Whether I feel uplifted or crushed, I can step to the top of my mat, raise my arms in that first sun salutation, take in that first deep breath and come home to my soul. When I feel strong, my practice helps me build on my capabilities. When I feel weak, my practice holds me like a loving embrace. When I feel scared, my practice helps me to remember my power and move beyond fear. When I feel confident, my practice helps me embody my limitlessness.

Today, with my children out of the intensely demanding baby/toddler stage, I am enjoying a renewal as practice feels more consistent and stronger than ever. But the more important change over these years is the realization that this very physical practice – it’s not about the physical! The postures are simply a gateway into the realm of your highest self. The postures call you to connect to your source, to your infinite potential, to yourself as time transcendent presence. The real work is to get to know your mind, the way you approach challenges and failures, how you judge and tell stories and get stuck in the small self and to grow beyond the limitations of the conditioned mind. The asanas are kinetic keys that open you up to the limitlessness within and connect you to your infinite self. At a time of life when so much of your time and energy is devoted to others, to spend time each day nurturing your self is priceless.

Here are 10 reasons why Ashtanga Yoga is an ideal practice for parents.

  1. The practice encourages a daily commitment to self-care, however small or large. As parents, we often put our own well being last on the list. But you can’t give from an empty cup. A consistent commitment to practice fills that cup regularly so you have more to give freely and joyfully.

  2. The practice can be expanded or contracted to fit the amount of time you have on any given day. Do 10 minutes or two hours.

  3. The practice cultivates a steady physical and mental strength – qualities you certainly need for the rigors of parenting.

  4. The practice is centered on cultivating a powerful, conscious breath, a tool that helps one develop patience, presence and calm abiding in stressful situations.

  5. Primary Series – the first sequence you learn – is focused on the abdomen, cultivating digestive fire, or “agni” to promote optimum health, eliminating the “bad fat around the waist” as it says in Yoga Mala, strengthening core muscles, and cultivating your hara – a deeply powerful physical and energetic center.

  6. The structure of Ashtanga gives you a road map, a direction, that enables home practice and encourages you to take personal responsibility for your experience.

  7. Mysore style Ashtanga (as we teach at The Womb Room) creates the space for individualized learning. It is not a one sized fits all yoga “class”, but a true partnership between teacher and practitioner that supports you, wherever you are, throughout the changing circumstances of your body and your life.

  8. A deep sense of community exists between people who share a love for this practice. Those who practice together become extended family, supporting and uplifting one another through the trials of practice and life.

  9. The practice is a method of connecting to source to recharge – it is rejuvenating and invigorating –  clearing you of your physical and mental burdens and filling you with the vitality and energy that animates all of life.

  10. The practice is an inner sanctuary –  giving you time and space away from the incessant demands placed on parents. Your time on the mat is a regular opportunity to retreat from responsibilities and just BE.

If you would like to learn more about this powerful practice, consider joining us for the Introduction to Ashtanga 4 week series at The Womb Room, beginning January 15, 2017.  This class will give you the foundation you need to join in the ongoing, weekly Mysore practice sessions (registration for the workshop includes a FREE MONTH of Mysore) and you’ll be entered into a drawing to win a copy of David Swenson’s Ashtanga Yoga Practice Manual, an excellent guide to learning Ashtanga. If you sign up before the end of 2016, you can use the promo code BLOG to take $20 off the registration price. Register here and begin your journey to learn this deeply transformational practice, make a commitment to regular self-care and join a tight-knit yoga community.

Metta Loving Kindness Meditation for Election Frustrations

Today, I learned that I live in a leftist bubble. My illusions that most of my fellow Americans share my values of inclusiveness and equality was shattered. I have spent much of the day in despair, and I can feel the hard-heartedness wanting to take over. Fellow yoga teachers are all on Facebook like “come to class and let’s be the light” and I’m all over here like “I want to kick every person who voted for this hate-monger in the teeth.”  I have been wondering all day how I’m going to get it together in time to teach my evening yoga class tonight when I feel so disheartened and sad.

And then I remembered it is exactly because I feel disheartened and sad that I turn to yoga. Yoga is not just a “feel-good, happiness-inducing practice”, it is a “comfort me when I’m sad and broken practice” and a “sometimes the truth hurts practice” and a “I’m going to keep showing up anyway no matter how many times I am left sobbing in the dirt practice.”  So it hit me, the only theme that there could possibly be for tonight’s sadhana: Metta, a practice of loving-kindness.

Loving-kindness, or metta, is unconditional, inclusive love, a love with wisdom. It has no conditions; it does not depend on whether one “deserves” it or not; it is not restricted to friends and family; it extends out from personal categories to include all living beings. There are no expectations of anything in return. This is the ideal, pure love, which everyone has in potential. We begin with loving ourselves, for unless we have a measure of this unconditional love and acceptance for ourselves, it is difficult to extend it to others. Then we include others who are special to us, those who challenge us (ahem!)  ultimately, all living things. Gradually, both the visualization and the meditation phrases blend into the actual experience, the feeling of loving kindness. (

So even if you can’t join us at The Womb Room tonight, perhaps you could take a few moments to do a Metta meditation of your own. Here’s how. 

heart-chakraSit or lie comfortably and become attuned to your breathing. Make your posture relaxed and breathe in and out through the center of your chest. Try to release the desire to change, control or manage what is happening. Slow down the flow and watch the breath as it rises and falls – as all things do – a coming and a going, without attachment to either. Begin by generating a kind feeling toward yourself. Feel any areas of mental blockage or numbness, self-judgment, self-hatred. Then drop beneath that to the place where we care for ourselves, where we want strength and health and safety for ourselves. Continuing to breathe in and out, then say or think the following phrases several times.

May I be safe and protected.
May I be free from inner and outer harm and danger.
May I be free of physical and mental suffering or distress.
May I be happy, healthy and strong.
May I be able to live in this world happily, peacefully, joyfully, with ease.

After you have repeated these phrases in reference to yourself, repeat the phrases as an offering to: someone you love very much, someone you feel neutral toward, someone who challenges you or makes you angry (ahem!) and then to all living beings.

I don’t know what will become of us individually or collectively, but I know that in times of celebration and times of despair, yoga gives me tools to understand, to process and to continue to live from a place of love and pure intention.

Want more? Consider coming to Yoga Nidra Friday night. The practice of Yoga Nidra is excellent for releasing negative emotions, frustrations and hopelessness and the desire to kick people in the teeth.

What is a Bandha and what does it have to do with my postpartum body?

In the practice of yoga asana, there are fundamental principles of intelligent movement that can be applied to all postures and transitions. Understanding these principles and applying them mindfully creates a support system from within that allows the body to function optimally. Structures like your spine are designed to seek this homeostasis and, given the proper support, will more effortlessly find this place of center where the entire body functions in health, strength and comfort.

One of these principles is the practice of bandha (bon-da). The word bandha is a Sanskrit term that means “lock.” When we apply these locks in our asana practice and our daily posture, we are able to harness forces of healing, protection, support, stability and strength. Bandhas are multi-dimensional forces that provide “core” support as well as perform more subtle actions such as directing one’s energy and attention. For this post, however, we are going to focus on the physical attributes of bandhas and how this can support a mom who may be experiencing weakness, poor posture, incontinence, prolapse, abdominal separation or other challenges post-pregnancy and childbirth. To be clear, this DOES NOT APPLY to anyone known to have an overly tight or tense pelvic floor. There are two types of “locks” within the pelvic bowl: Mula and Uddiyana Bandha.

Mula Bandha
Mula, another Sanskrit term, means “root” therefore Mula Bandha is called the “root lock.” In physical terms, it is the pelvic floor – literally the root of your spine (the central axis of your body). The deep pelvic floor, consisting of several muscles grouped together (called the Levator Ani) within the interior of the pelvis, has a trampoline type tension to it, in that it should be strong enough to provide support (for your pelvic organs, including during pregnancy the added weight and pressure of your baby, placenta and amniotic fluid) while still being soft and pliable (to let a baby pass with ease). Like all things in yoga and in life – the healthiest expression is found in balance. Too strong a pelvic floor can cause back pain, pelvic misalignment and difficulties in childbirth, among other issues. Too weak, and you experience incontinence, prolapse, back pain or even neck and shoulder pain (as all structures in the body are ultimately connected to the central axis – the spine – and something that affects the base of this axis affects the interrelationships of all bodily structures).

Essentially, when someone asks you to do a Kegel they are asking you to practice contracting and releasing your pelvic floor. I am not a fan of “doing your kegels” as the pelvic floor does not function in isolation and is more effectively strengthened in the context of the entire system of “core” support. I keep placing “core” in quotation marks because what most people mean by “core” is ABS, and there is much more to the “core” than your abdominal muscles, starting with your pelvic floor.

The first step is creating awareness through the breath. Sit or lie down, observe your natural breath and firmly anchor your attention to the inhale and exhale. When your attention is established in the breath, begin to feel the pelvic floor  deep in the bowl of your pelvis. When you can tune into movement, pulsation in this place, you’ll notice that as you inhale, the pelvic floor lowers and as you exhale, the pelvic floor naturally lifts. Begin by observing these movements and see if one feels dominant. Before engaging, we want to be sure you aren’t already working with TOO MUCH pelvic floor tension, but since you just had a baby, we’ll assume the opposite is the case – weakness! Then, we need to ENGAGE.

bridge pose.jpegTo engage Mula Bandha, you can use the North-South-East-West technique. This technique can be done sitting or standing, but a reclining bridge position is an ideal posture in which to feel these four points. North is your pubic bone. South is your tailbone. East and West are your two sitting bones. Try to mentally isolate each of these four points, visualize them, and then work to physically and energetically draw them together in different combinations. Draw North to South  (pubic bone to tailbone). Draw East to West (two sitting bones). Draw North, South, East and West together. Become intimately familiar with creating this base of support for your spine and torso and apply it to all yoga asana (except restorative yoga or savasana, which is a time to let go of everything!) and to daily movement habits, especially those that increase intra-pelvic pressure or create a straining feeling.

Uddiyana Bandha


Uddiyana Bandha = Transversus Abdominis

Uddiyana means “flying upward” and the practical application of this lock involves a very important postural support muscle called the transversus abdominus (TA). The TA is the deepest and innermost layer of your abdominal muscles. This muscle wraps around from your back on either side of your spine, to the front of the abdomen. Imagine the shape and function of a corset. You basically have your own natural, built in corset, which is why pregnancy, which stretches these tissues to an extreme, can leave one post-birth feeling flabby, unsupported and weak. After birth, many moms experience a Diastasis (separation of the rectus abdominus, the surface muscles). While this is important, a strong TA is a key part of healing, as it provides a deeper layer of structural support. Learning to engage Mula and Uddiyana Bandha set the stage for healing.

Like Mula Bandha, we start by feeling. Find your breath and notice how as you inhale it pushes your belly outward. As you exhale, the belly naturally falls in. To find the TA, emphasize the exhale. As you breathe out, focus on drawing the navel in toward the spine, drawing the lower abdomen (space between naval and pubic bone) in and slightly up, hence the name, “flying upward.” If you apply this in your asana practice, it creates a feeling of strength, stability, protection and lightness and can bring stability and support to the daily physical demands of parenting.
good posture.png

When you engage Mula and Uddiyana Bandha together, it creates an immediate effect of improved posture, which creates the conditions for post-birth healing. As the pelvic floor and TA draw in and up, the sternum (center of the chest) lifts, assisted by the now-engaged muscles of the upper back. These actions together counteract “postpartum posture” or “parenting posture” – the hunched shoulders, collapsed chest, weak abdominals and outward forces of intra-abdominal pressure that make issues like Diastasis or weak pelvic floor worse. Learning to resist these outward forces of intra-abdominal pressure using the bandhas is a key to healing the postpartum body. The ability to resist the outward forces of this abdominal pressure is how you know you are ready to return to more vigorous activity.

Standing up tall also lengthens the Linea Alba, the line of connective tissues between the “six pack” rectus abdominals that weakens during pregnancy to create the separation of Diastasis. Lengthening the Linea Alba draws the two halves of the rectus abdominus together, applying the corset effect to strengthen and rejoin connective tissue to support your spine, narrow your waist, heal Diastasis and eliminate back pain.

The application of Mula and Uddiyana Bandha together create a cascade of conditions within all bodies, but especially recently pregnant bodies, that promote healing and create strength from deep within that supports all movement – both the activities of daily living as well as all forms of exercise (apply these techniques while you run or bike or play sports – you’ll pee yourself less and watch your performance increase!). The key is becoming intimately familiar with this form of muscular activation and then putting it into practice both in your mindful moments of yoga and exercise AND in your daily movement habits. Breastfeeding? Sit up straight and tall (support behind your lower back with a pillow if you need help lifting), engage your root and bring baby to the breast (breastfeeding pillows are great for this!). Picking up your child? Engage your bandhas first. Having back pain? Learn to apply these techniques anytime you find yourself slumping into bad posture or whenever you are going to make a big movement (such as transitions in yoga, picking up something heavy, bending over, or even rolling over in bed).

Two more important considerations for actively healing the de-stabilization that pregnancy and birth can cause. One is timing. When should you begin to focus on applying these techniques? The answer depends a lot on your pregnancy and birth. The more unstable your body becomes in pregnancy (all the more reason to stay strong and active during!) and the more difficult birth was on your body, the longer you may need that other vital component of postpartum healing – REST! If you had a fairly easy vaginal delivery, I typically recommend waiting at least until your postpartum bleeding stops and then easing into VERY gentle movement to feel out your body and progress from there. If you had a traumatic vaginal birth or a cesarean, you may need to wait longer – at least the typical 6 weeks. Heal your soft tissues before you start to focus on healing your deep core. This sensitive timing and careful reintroduction of movement is the reason I offer postpartum yoga – so moms have a safe space to ask questions of a knowledgable teacher who can guide their specific body. Unless you have a LOT of experience with yoga, it is best to ease into a targeted practice after birth rather than jump back into vinyasa or other fast-moving styles. Once you feel out your body, your ability to activate and sustain these support structures, you can return to more vigorous practice.

Also of vital importance in healing is nutrition. Connective tissue needs vitamins and minerals to perform the many enzymatic reactions involved in rebuilding. Zinc (wound healing), collagen (main component of connective tissue)  protein and amino acids (tissue growth), as well as copper, manganese, bioflavanoid and  Vitamins C & E,  are some of the essential nutritional building blocks of postpartum repair. Add to this list anti-inflammatory components, such as turmeric and ginger and avoidance of inflammatory foods, such as sugar & alcohol. Nutritionist (and return student!) Claire Cohen, of Rooted Integrative Nutrition recommends these foods to support your body/mind in healing post-birth:

Zinc: Oysters, pumpkin seeds, chickpeas, grass-fed & organic lamb
Vitamin C: Strawberries, Red peppers, Cruciferous veggies and Citrus
Vitamin E: Almonds, Spinach, Sweet potatoes
Copper: Grass-fed organic Liver, sesame seeds, cocoa
Manganese: Mussels, Hazelnuts, pumpkin seeds

One last key ingredient in supporting your postpartum body/mind in healing is PATIENCE. Give yourself time, have compassion for your body, love it just as it is for the amazing gift it gave you – your precious child and the gift of motherhood.