Tag Archives: yoga

Mastering self love

{Photo of me at my most recent yoga training. Photo sent to my family at the time :).}

Hi gorgeous! I hope that you are taking care of yourself. I know it can be challenging sometimes. Modern life demands so much of us, doesn’t it? It can really feel like we are being pulled in a hundred directions.

Often, when we make a decision to slow down and start doing more for ourselves, we end up causing ourselves more anxiety. Living in a way that is more attuned to the cycles of nature and in alignment with our true nature is not an over night achievement. Often, we are up against years and years of unhealthy habits. Years of putting ourselves last that may have built up as resentment, anger, tiredness, pain in the body and even depression.

If you are wanting to heal your life, my advice to you is to take is slow. Make one change at a time.

Ayurveda does not advise making lots of changes at once. Yoga is taught in stages. We don’t just walk into a yoga class and stand on our heads in the first lesson!

We learn about our bodies, start building a relationship with our breath and each time we step on to the mat, we peel away another layer. I like to think of it as an artichoke. There are many layers that need to be peeled away to reveal that delicious heart.

And how many of us do not want to cook artichokes because it is so damn hard to get to that heart?

We are so accustomed to living in an instant society that when we decide to make changes for ourselves, we are surprised when things don’t work out  immediately. We get discouraged when we take a perceived step backwards.

Today, I would like to encourage you to reflect on your life up until this time. Sometimes, when we look at how far we have come, we can relax into our journey.

Ask yourself: What do I know now that I did not know 10 years ago? How am I living more in alignment with my true nature than I have ever been? What am I really proud of?

Marvel at the progress you have made in your own self development. Perhaps you eat healthier than you have ever eaten. Perhaps you value your sleep now and you didn’t before. Perhaps you are more patient and kind with your children and your family.

Remember, we are not looking for perfection here. We are looking for perspective. We are always, always growing. Nothing is ever complete. Just embrace where you are in your journey right now.

Now, think of one thing, just one thing that you would like to focus on improving for a while.

Perhaps you would like to start going to a yoga class. Did you know that the cost of a yoga class is less than the cost of a movie? Yoga teachers have so much wisdom to impart. We don’t think twice about going to watch a movie, but we have to budget for our own self care in the form of a yoga class.

Really think about how much you value yourself. Don’t your children deserve to receive the best of you?

Perhaps you can make a commitment to be in bed by 10pm. Did you know that Pitta dosha is active between the hours of 10 and 2? If we are still awake after 10pm, we have entered the element of fire, which is why we have a renewed burst of energy at 10 o’clock. Lots of fun at 10, but not so fun in the morning when our family needs our attention.

I would love to know about your journey. Have you made positive changes in your life that deserve to be celebrated?

Mastering self love is a daily practice. There is no destination. There is only the journey.

What can you do today, that can bring you more peace and joy?

Blessings to you.

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The one thing you need to do to be a better mother

I have just spent a whole day at a women’s yoga and meditation workshop. A whole day to come home to myself. I have a wonderful husband who made dinner and spent the whole day with my children. I came back to a happy home and I put the children to bed with a full tummy and a happy heart.

It wasn’t always so easy. When I first started going to yoga on a Saturday morning (for an hour and a half), Annie would cry at the door while I was leaving. Sohail was supportive of me going, but didn’t really “get” why I had to go and do something on my own. The yoga brought up so many things that had been accumulating in my body for years, that, for the first year, I would come home and sleep for the rest of the day. I would feel very tender, I hated relaxation. I didn’t notice a difference in my life for a while, but I kept going –  because I felt better after each class, and that was enough.

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This morning, when I was getting ready to go, Xavier (4 years old) was upset that I was going. “Please don’t go mommy, I will miss you!” As he was hanging onto my leg.

Me: “But Xavier, doesn’t mommy always come back much happier when she goes to yoga?”

Xavier: “Yes.”

Me: “And don’t you want mommy to be happy?”

Xavier: “Yes.”

Me: “So I will see you later. Maybe you can send me a rainbow while I am there and I will send one back to you.”

Xavier: “I don’t know how to send you a rainbow, but I can draw one. Bye Mommy, I am going to go and draw you a rainbow!!”

Often, our children just need someone, or something to help them with the transition of us leaving. That, along with us knowing that we are actually serving our children by us taking some time to do something that brings us deep pleasure.

Sometimes we need to take a leap of faith. Even though it may be hard to stand in front of our family and say that our needs are important, we do it anyway. We don’t know how it will make our lives better, but we intuitively know that it will make a difference. We brace ourselves for a bit of an uncomfortable ride as we change the rules about how available we are. Our partners and children start to juggle their expectations and home responsibilities.

And, all of a sudden, it just works. It is expected that mommy also has needs. I know it is hard to do. As mothers, we are wired to take care of everyone else. And when we start taking care of us, we sort of don’t know what to do. And our families sort of freak out in the beginning. One of the women at the workshop today is entering her menopause years. She was listening to me talking about the importance of self care, even when we have small children.

She looked at me and said that she wished that she had made herself more of a priority when her family was young.

So, I encourage you to take the step in the direction of your heart. What is your heart’s deepest yearning? What will give you the greatest pleasure? Start doing it. Our nature as women is to receive pleasure.

Look for pleasure in your life wherever you can find it. Start planning your day, based on how it can nourish you, instead of basing it on a to do list.

Watch your life transform overnight.

Blessings to you.

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The importance of back care

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I would like to write about something I think can make a big difference to your level of peace and joy as a mother. The state of your back.

Our spine is a dynamic, living being. It supports our whole body in that it houses the spinal column. The spinal column runs from the base of the spine, in the coccyx and runs all the way up to our brain. It has 31 pairs of nerve roots, which branch out and send messages from the brain to the different parts in the body, and back the other way. It also acts as a pillar to support our body weight evenly.

It’s amazing that we are born with these beautiful bodies that support us through our lives, but most of us spend our lives inside out heads and we don’t take the time to become intimately connected with the beautiful body that we have.

One thing that can really rock our stability in our body is when our core is not strong. This normally begins in pregnancy when our belly starts getting bigger and we start carrying more weight in the front of our bodies. Our pelvis starts pulling forward and this in turn pulls our spine out of its natural curve. It needs to compensate for the instability since our body is always trying to get itself into balance. If our core is not strong, our spine compensates in a way that pulls our back even more out of alignment.

Once our baby is born, we start carrying her and this, again puts pressure on our back. The time from 8 months up until the baby starts walking is the most difficult time for new mothers. This is because the baby gets heavier and heavier and the mother is still very physically tired. If her back is not in good condition, it just makes everything worse. She feels more tired, does less for her spine and this creates a downward spiral of unhealthy food and lifestyle choices, headaches, aches and pains, irritability and even depression. She feels so bad about herself because she puts on weight, is unhappy and sore and starts second guessing herself as a good mother and person, stops feeling any joy and wonders if it’s all worth it. Sound familiar? Hopefully not, but I am sure that we can all relate to being somewhere on that downward spiral.

Everything is energy. Every thought is energy. When we experience anything, we attach a thought to it. That thought creates a chemical reaction in our brain. The brain processes that chemical reaction and the nerves that are in our spine carry the messages from the brain into the parts of our body related to that thought. If we do not move that energy, it stays stuck in our joints. If it is in our joints and we do not shift it, it moves into our bones, tissues and into our organs. If we still do not shift it, it gets stuck in our organs. This then manifests as dis-ease.

Our spine is like a filing cabinet. The longer we hold onto things, the lower down into our spine they go. So, it is easier to shift neck and shoulder pain than lower back pain. That lower back pain has been there for quite some time.

I love yoga for it’s ability to move the stuck emotions in a gentle way. I love that I don’t need to analyse why the things are there, I can just move them out of my body. Yoga is very powerful because it does not only utilise the body, but also the breath, thoughts, intellect and our spirit to transform us.

Which is why I use yoga to help support my back. So that I do not have stuck energy manifesting as disease. I am always amazed at how quickly the energy gets stuck. Just this weekend, I went to a two hour restorative yoga class. It was bliss and my back felt incredibly flexible and I felt so light. I had an unexpectedly long drive home, which was a bit stressful and I ended up driving for 2 hours. I got home and I felt all that tension back in my back, amazing, isn’t it?

So, it is so so so important to take care of our backs.When our spine is fluid, our mind is fluid and we make better life choices. In the future, I will do some posts on yoga postures that you can do with your children to support your back. My yoga is very very practical and I incorporate it into my daily life as much as possible. Nothing compares to the bliss of a yoga class, or retreat, but the reality is that as mothers, we have little people at our feet all day long. We need to get creative if we want to get our yoga practice in. My children are part of my yoga practice and just tonight they were posing for photos of themselves meditating. It was very sweet and they know about things like meditation because they see me doing it. They see that I place value on it, so they place value on it as well.

For now, I will share two things with you.

  • Firstly, work on building up a strong core. Not so strong that you end up with a prolapse, but strong enough to support your womb in a loving and gentle way. The strength in our core needs to be strong in a subtle way, the same way that we as women navigate in this world. Owning our power and not needing to force in on anyone.
  • Secondly, make sure that you move your spine every single day. Make sure that you move it in all directions. Touch your toes, bend to the side, lie on your back with a big cushion under your lower back so that you can have a gentle back bend and you also open your heart. Make sure to twist from side to side. Raise your arms above your head and elongate your spine.

Do these movements with the awareness that your spine is a living being and try to feel into each vertebrae – we have 24 in total. Love your spine as you move it, thank it for supporting your body. Listen to what it wants to tell you. Any pain or discomfort you feel is a gift, it is your spine’s way of telling you where it needs more love and attention.

How is your back? Do you have any tips on taking care of it? How is your life impacted when your spine is fluid and how is it affected when your spine is not working as well as you would like it to?

I would love to know. Sharing is healing and your words could inspire someone else. Your words are important, please do not keep them to yourself.

Blessings to you.

Would you like to subscribe to the Peaceful Mothering newsletter? Join the Peaceful Mothering tribe and get Olga’s updates. Click here.

How I overcame postnatal depression

Did you know that an estimated 13% of mothers experience post natal depression? That is quite a high amount and I think that there is still quite a stigma about depression in our society. I am not sure if my depression could be called post natal depression, as I only started dealing with the effects a couple of months after the birth. Nonetheless, I will share my story of how I overcame post natal depression, or just depression.

I am wondering where to start, because normally, the beginning is actually the middle. My story is much older than the symptom of the depression, but I will tell the story from the point at which seems relevant at this moment.

I had always wanted to be a mother. Always. I have a really big heart, I have a lot of love to share. My maternal urge was always very, very deep. It is not like that for all women, but for me, it was strong. As soon as I had finished my post graduate exams and passed my final exam as a Chartered Accountant, I was overjoyed. I was overjoyed because I knew that I was free to have a baby. I went off the pill immediately. I started reading books about how to prepare my body for conception. I loved Patrick Holford’s Optimum Nutrition Before, During and After Pregnancy. It laid a big foundation for how I eat to this day. I didn’t have to prepare my body very long, I fell pregnant in a month!

I was overjoyed. The pregnancy was beautiful. Easy. Blissful.

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The day that Annie was born was incredible. I had an elective caesarean because Annie was a breech baby. (A few years after she was born, I read that breech babies stay that way to stay close to their mother’s hearts. That resonated deeply with me.) To be honest, I was relieved that there was a reason for me to have an elective caesarean. I was so disconnected from my feminine essence. I thought that natural birth was disgusting and primitive. I was living a very glamorous life in the northern suburbs of Johannesburg, the city with the highest rate of caesarean sections in the world. There is a term for women like me at the time: “Too posh to push.” I had a friend who was in labour and the baby was almost out and yet they still performed a caesarean section. That is just the culture over there.

I recovered very quickly and brought my baby home on new years eve. I struggled to breastfeed her and she had colic. It was not easy. And yet, I was happier than I had ever been in my life. I was home with my baby and not at work, in the job that would drain the life out of me.

When she was four months old, I had to go back to work. For financial reasons, it was not possible for me to stay home and she went to an incredible day care centre where she was loved and cared for beautifully. I, on the hand did not feel loved, or cared for.

I hated my job. I did not get along with the people, my boss was really difficult. I was miserable. I had been miserable for years. I had chosen a career that my soul did not want. I had studied for seven years for something that I did not want. I had spent a huge part of my life pushing against my self. I struggled all the way through university. I struggled through my articles. I came home exhausted. I didn’t know how miserable I was until I was separated from my baby.

You see, my true desire in my life was to nurture life. To live in tune with my own inner rhythms. To connect with another human being on a truly intimate level. To be at home. To be in nature. To live creatively from my soul. I had spent years and years shutting that down.

And it all came crashing down when the contrast of the life I had had a glimpse of, was too big, compared to the life I had created for myself in my job. I ended up seeing a therapist and my doctor prescribed Prozac. I realised in the therapy that I had to get better for my daughter. It was the moment that I realised that if I was to be any kind of mother to my daughter, I had to take care of myself.

It was the beginning of this blog.

It was the beginning of Peaceful Mothering.

I was not peaceful. I was raging inside. I had a life I hated and I hated myself for it. You see, depression is just anger that gets pushed down. We would much rather deal with a sad mother, than a raging mother. We do not want to see mothers expressing emotions. We want to see mothers being calm, peaceful and loving. Never losing their cool. Always composed.

How many times have you heard negative statements being made about women being too emotional? We do not think it is acceptable to be anything other than “nice’.

Quite a big ask, if you ask me. When I say that we want “nice” mothers, I mean me, too. I did not want to face myself. I was so disconnected from myself, that I did not even know what I wanted. It has been a process of many years to know what I want. It is an ever evolving process.

My own mother died in the midst of my healing from post natal depression. Luckily I was seeing my therapist when she died. I was not ready to be the matriarch of the family and yet it brought even more freedom to my life.

With my own mother no longer physically with me, I was forced to use my inner compass even more. Three months after she died, I left my job. I found a much better company. It was still not my dream job and I was still not at home with my baby, but, it was progress. It’s always one step at a time.

Somewhere along the path, I stopped with the Prozac. I always turn to natural therapies first. And yet, I have a great appreciation for western medicine. The drugs cleared my mind enough to deal with what was underlying. The drugs did not fix me. I fixed me. The drugs were there to support me. I was brave enough to look at what was underneath.

So great was my love for my daughter.

I did not want her growing up with an unhappy mother. It was then that I realised that unhappy mothers create unhappy children. It was then that I realised that I was teaching my daughter through my actions. It was then that I realised how incredibly intuitive children are. It was then that I realised that by not fixing myself, I was not only hurting myself, but, I was also hurting my daughter.

It was then that I realised that I am the only one who is responsible for what I manifest in my life. The depression came on because I was unhappy in the life that I had created. It was not put on me by genetics or any other external condition.

It could only heal if I owned it as mine. If I took full responsibility for it. I could spend my life blaming my boss, the company, my parents for the career I hated; or I could take my power back and own my life.

The depression was the greatest gift I ever gave myself. Without that darkness, I would not have cried out for the light.

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I now live in another country. I don’t have a corporate job anymore. I have my babies at home with me. I am studying to be a yoga teacher. I live my life according to my feminine rhythms. I have a beautiful home. I have an incredible relationship with my husband.

I love my life.

And I am not depressed.

I overcame my depression by deciding to be happy. I overcame my depression by deciding that I mattered. I overcame my depression by putting myself first.

I have heard that post natal depression affects certain types of women. Women who want to be in control. Perfectionists. That was me.

Did you know that those are masculine qualities? Feminine qualities are qualities of allowing and receiving. Women are natural creators, it is our true essence. Life literally flows through us.

I was not letting my life flow. I would not even let my baby flow through my vagina. I was so scared to face myself as a woman that I lived my life as a man. I see now, that the more I let my life flow, the happier I become.

Life does not happen to us. We make our life happen. I am so happy to be consciously creating my life.

I wonder if you have had any challenging times in your life that have turned out to be a great blessing? I wonder if you have considered how powerful you are in that you create your own life?

I would love to hear from you in the comments below.

Blessings to you.

Autumn is the season of letting go: reflections from my journal

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The school holidays are here. Two weeks at home with my little ones. We have put up our Autumn table. I am sitting here watching the rain coming down. One more week of daylight savings to go. The wool underlays have been put on the beds. The summer vegetable patch is looking tired. I am going to start planning my winter vegetable garden now.

We didn’t perform our autumn equinox ceremony as planned. Both the children and Sohail have been sick for almost a week now. Temperatures and phlegmy coughs. So, we have just been relaxing at home, drinking lots of freshly squeezed juice.

I did spend some time contemplating this season on the actual equinox and I thought that I would share some reflections from my journal with you.

Autumn is really the time to think about what we have learned since spring. Thinking about which of our learnings will take us into the darkness of winter. And also deciding what no longer serves us, and letting it go. Winter is a lean time, so we only need to take the bare minimum with us.

I have done some amazing things in the last six months. My whole view of the world has changed. I was quite narrow minded a few months ago. I am more open, more receptive to receiving the abundance that the universe has to offer than I have ever been.

I have learned that when I try to force something, the energy stops flowing. When I don’t allow things to naturally unfold, I deal with unpleasant situations and people. When I don’t listen to my own compass, I become tired and stressed out.

And I stop the abundance from flowing in.

I will let go of forcing.

I will take the energy of allowing with me.

I will listen to my own guidance. I will work with the energy of my own internal rhythms, not those that I put on myself by an external source.

I will rest. Deeply.

I will do lots of yoga. It will nourish me.
I will take yoga with me.

I will take rest with me.

It’s time to rest. Deeply.

I will spend this time connecting back to my home. Connecting back to my cycles. Connecting back to my family. I will take that with me.

When we sit in the stillness of our soul, we can hear it’s voice. We can connect back to it’s longings. We need to mirror nature if we want to get the best out of ourselves.

What are you taking with you into the next season?

Blessings to you.