How Yoga helped me during my pregnancy, labor and delivery

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I was introduced to yoga almost a decade ago at the Sri Sri Yoga course by the Art of Living Foundation. The 15 day intensive yoga training helped me realize that this ancient old practice has the power to make the body agile and strong,  the mind relaxed and free and the spirit connected to the source. I also noticed subtle changes in my life like my intuition got stronger and I was happy most of the times for no reason at all. It was one of my most life altering moments.

However, the biggest challenge I faced over the years with my yoga practice has been consistency. I tried taking some classes once I moved to the US with the hope of being more consistent, but didn’t enjoy the classes much as I always compared them to my Sri Sri Yoga course and nothing came close to that experience. I wasn’t disciplined enough to practice at home, so for the last decade or so, my yoga practice has been very “on and off”

I recently gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. I was very keen to get my yoga practice restarted during the pregnancy, but had too much going on in my life so only got serious about two months before my due date.

By regularly practicing yoga 3 to 5 times a week, the last few weeks of my pregnancy felt effortless. Some of the benefits included:

More Energy – For the first two weeks of starting yoga in my last trimester, I was always exhausted. On the days I practiced, I didn’t want to do much, just wanted to sit and relax at every opportunity. But then, after the first two weeks, something shifted. On the days I practiced yoga, I was far more energetic and alive. Usually, for most pregnant women, the last few weeks are the more tiring part of the pregnancy, but I was less tired and achieved more every day than I did compared to the earlier stages of my pregnancy.

More centered, calm and happy – There were days especially in the beginning of my pregnancy where I was overwhelmed and anxious thinking how I would handle things once the baby arrives. It was probably just hormonal, but I was second guessing myself and questioning my abilities. Things were just beginning to settle and get easy with my first daughter, and I was worried to go back to the “baby phase” and handling two kids. With my regular practice of yoga, I felt those fears and self-doubts disappearing and I found myself surrendering and trusting to the divine force. I found myself calm and joyful from within.

Created a special bond with my daughter – There are many ways to bond with a child, but for me, chanting OM, taking a few deep breaths and introducing my toddler to yoga has indeed been a very special part of my pregnancy. Seeing her imitate my practice just brings a special warmth to my heart. My 2.5 year old daughter got creative and came up with her range of frog yoga, butterfly yoga, elephant yoga etc

The practice mostly helped me during the labor and delivery. Some of the benefits included –

Removed the fear of going through labor and delivery – The first thought that I had when I got to know I am pregnant was, how am I going to go through labor again. Even though women on this planet has gone through labor for thousands of years, it really terrified me. With every practice, I kept the intention of letting go of the fear one step at a time. On the D-day while I was at the hospital, I felt strong, confident and believe it or not, I felt no fear.

Short and quick labor – I was blessed to have a short labor compared to many .I reached the hospital at 11:30 am and had my baby in my hands at 3.04pm. I definitely do believe that all the regular cat/cow stretches, butterfly etc had a big role to play to ensure a smooth and quick labor.

Ease through contractions – During the early stages, every time I had a contraction, I distracted myself by doing some body rotations or other yoga stretches. Towards the latter part of my labor, during contractions, I was focusing on my breath. My daily practice allowed me to practice these asanas (stretches) and breathing techniques to ease the pain of contractions during labor.

 Epidural-free delivery – Yoga not only makes the body strong, but the mind as well. I always thought that my capacity to handle physical pain is limited. However, I didn’t want to take any epidural, but wasn’t sure if I had it in me to go through labor without any pain management. With my yoga practice, I was able to become strong mentally which helped me avoid the pain medication. During my practice during the pregnancy, I also held the intention to go epidural free and that helped attract support that helped me through the process. I was blessed to not only have a my husband who was a huge support but also to have a nurse who held my hand, helped me chant my Sanskrit mantras, kept encouraging me and reminding me to breathe through my contractions.

If there was one thing I could change in my pregnancy or do differently, it would be to have started my practice in the beginning of the pregnancy. I believe I would have ended up having a more easier and joyful 40 weeks as opposed to just the last few weeks.

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“You are exactly where you are supposed to be” and other lessons

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Photo: Courtesy Armosa Studios 

Last weekend I had the honor and privilege of being a part of the World Domination Summit in Portland, Oregon, USA. It was my first time being a part of this conference with over 2500 attendees, many of whom were veterans, coming every year for their dose of inspiration, meeting like-minded people and just being themselves.

Before going for the conference, many people asked me what kind of a conference was I going to? I,myself, didn’t know what to expect and explained it is a conference based on the themes of entrepreneurship, adventure, service and community. After the conference I can gladly say there was way more to it; It was about generosity, love, inspiration to live your best life, making a difference to our world, believing in our limitless potential and as Chris Guillebeau, founder of WDS puts it – “How to live a remarkable life in a conventional world”.

In this blog, I would like to share my learnings from WDS on an experiential level.
1) You are exactly where you are meant to be 
It was a little overwhelming looking at the schedule of WDS because there were so many activities/events that I really wanted to be a part of. Some of the attendee-led-meet ups were overlapping with each other and it was difficult to decide which ones to go for.
At the registration counter, a very helpful volunteer who gave me my badge  told me “Just know, that you are exactly where you are supposed to be, don’t try to do everything.” I took this valuable advice seriously, and it helped me throughout the weekend. When I was having an enjoyable conversation with someone at dinner, but knew the opening party was starting, I told myself, this is exactly where I am supposed to be, and decided not to rush to the party.  I am glad I did that, as I didn’t enjoy the party as much as I enjoyed the conversation at dinner.

I learnt that believing we are exactly where we are meant to be brings a sense of peace and freedom within us.

2) Follow your intuition
Due to the extensive list of activities/events, I found myself RSVPing for everything I found interesting, thus double booking myself a couple of times. So before every event that I was double booked for, I took a few moments to center myself, and see how I felt about each event. What did I feel for the dance meetup vs the newcomers lunch meetup? When I followed my gut and decided to go for one event over the other, the one I didn’t go for was actually cancelled. It saved me time and I ended up meeting interesting people.
The only time that I didn’t follow my intuition because I was a intimidated to speak to a “famous online entrepreneur” who I follow, was the time I had the least amount of fun.

It was when I followed my intuition that I met exactly the right person I needed to meet either to have a fun conversation, learn something new or make a connection. 

I re-learnt that I have all the answers within me, and when I am confused, just think about all the options and go with the one that creates a spark or a feeling of lightness.

3) Go outside your comfort zone 
I am not an extrovert, put me in a room of 2500 people where I almost know no body, I am surely outside my comfort zone. I am good with one-on-one conversations, but not so great in a group of strangers. There were many times that I pushed myself outside my comfort zone and starting to talk to people, taking that first step was when I started having some great experiences.
I realized that growth happens when we push ourselves a little more than our comfort zone – whether it is taking the first step to talk to a stranger, or pushing myself a little longer in a yoga pose or putting myself out there with a blog post and exposing myself to the world. We open ourselves to opportunities that would never have come to us if we didn’t push ourselves beyond our comfort zone.

More to follow about what I learnt from the remarkable speakers in my next blog.

Sending out love to all,
Aarty

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How do you end your day?

I have always believed that the manner in which we begin our day,  sets the tone for the entire day. Starting the day rushing out of bed, skipping breakfast and running to work vs waking up relaxed, taking the time to meditate and workout truly makes a difference in the way the day turns out to be. Recently, I made a new revelation.

Early this year, I had been very down. My health was bad; I had a terrible flu that was nowhere near getting better for over a month which in turn affected all parts of my being. Initially I thought it was just my health being the reason I was feeling down, unmotivated and low in spirits, but soon I realized it was more than that.

My husband and I subscribed to netflix and therefore had immediate access to a ton of movies and TV shows at our disposal. We started watching Breaking Bad, one of the most popular TV shows of all time with 5 seasons and over 60 episodes. Each show left us with an excitement to watch the next show. Every night after getting our daughter to sleep, we would watch a couple of these thrilling episodes, and I was usually so tired by the end of it, that I would fall asleep right away. The last thought every night was that of the show and I got so tangled into it that I started having bad dreams about things in the show like drugs, murder etc. I would wake up unhappy and my entire day would be gloomy and blue.

The entire last year, I was very particular about spending some time every night reflecting, writing in my gratitude journal or reading something that inspires me right before sleeping. That in turn helped me to go to bed in a joyful and grateful state of mind, helped me sleep better, and I woke up feeling motivated, refreshed and ended up have a fruitful and happy day.

So the difference was very apparent – I now believe that its not just how we start our day but also how we end our day that is super important.

Some other quick suggestions on ending the day right include staying away from technology 30-60 minutes before bed time, falling asleep on instrumental or relaxing music, reading or listening to spiritual knowledge, meditation or chanting.

I would love to hear what you think in the comments below and if have enjoyed reading this please do share it.

Love always,

Aarty

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Chocolate Green Smoothie

I am always looking for ways to add greens into my family’s diet. And eating salads is not really something we enjoy that much… But I love green smoothies – it is something I quickly put together to cheer me up, when I am looking for an energy boost, or if I am craving something healthy or hearty. It is usually a breakfast replacement or an afternoon snack.  Even though I have been making smoothies for years now, I have never followed a recipe. No two smoothies of mine ever taste the same. I usually just blend whatever I have in my refrigerator and come up with something that satisfies me.

I also love chocolate 😉 and this recipe is just the drink to not make me feel guilty while I indulge.

Chocolate Green Smoothie Recipe

1 large handful of kale or spinach leaves

1 table spoon almond or peanut butter

2 cups almond milk (If you do not have almond milk, use 2 cups of filtered water and ½ cup of almonds instead)

1 banana (I use frozen to add to the creaminess and to skip the ice)

½ cup mixed berries

1 heaped table spoon raw cacao powder

A pinch cinnamon (optional)

Stevia, Honey, Coconut sugar or any healthy sweetener to taste.

 

Method – Place all ingredients in a high speed power blender. Blend until smooth and creamy.

 

Enjoy,

Loves,

Aarty

P. S – Tip – Every time I find bananas getting over-ripe, I peel and place them in a zip lock bag to freeze. They make a fantastic addition to the smoothies.

 

What is the deal with Forgiveness?

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Yesterday I watched an interview of David and Francine Wheeler on Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday. This couple has lost their 6 year old son, Ben, at the Sandy Hook Elementary school shootings close to a year ago where 26 people were shot dead by a gunman, including 20 children.  For a parent to experience the loss of a child in this horrific and ghastly manner can be the most tragic experience a human can suffer.  On watching their interview, I realized what an inspiration this couple is. The entire world can learn from the poise, graciousness and strength in which they conduct themselves and live their lives.

On the morning that Ben was shot, he asked his mom what “forgiveness” means and she had never spoken to him about it before.  I believe that it wasn’t a coincidence that this was one of their last conversations as he wanted to leave his parents with that message. This interview took me back to approximately 15 years ago. My mom had organized a picnic for children of an underprivileged school followed by a meal. Once we were done with everything, and were packing up to leave, my brother who was about 6-7 years old at that time, strayed to the middle of the small road that we were parked on and was hit by a car that was driving at full speed. It was a “hit and run” where the car owner didn’t bother to stop. My brother luckily was fine after a surgery and a few weeks of rest, but at that time, it was extremely scary and hurtful for all of us.

Although everyone insisted that we call the cops, my mom refused and decided not to hold any resentment. She decided to forgive. I am not sure if my mom did the right thing at that time, but we decided to support her wishes.  She was one of the strongest and most spiritual people that I have ever known. Every morning during her prayers and meditation time, she forgave this person who so brutally ran over her beloved son.

Oprah’s interview with David and Francine got me thinking about forgiveness.  Life throws all sorts of challenges to us, sometimes through situations and sometimes through other people. If we don’t forgive or let go, we end up holding a grudge. This grudge continues to grow as we continue to think of it. This in turn affects our mental well being and overtime can affect our physical health as well. Do we really want to waste our life with that negativity that affects our mind and body? Or instead do we choose to live freely and be an example for our children?

In the interview, David mentioned that he wants to live his life as a memorial to his son – that means living his life from the space of love and forgiveness as his son wouldn’t want him to live in any other way. My mom was that example of love and forgiveness to me and I hope someday I can exemplify these values for my daughter.

In conclusion I would like to share a quote by Louise Hay – “Forgiveness is a gift to myself, I forgive and I set myself free”.

What are your thoughts on forgiveness? Please do share them in the comments below.

Loves,

Aarty

P.S – Lets support the Sandy Hook Promise to encourage and support sensible solutions to prevent gun violence in our communities http://www2.sandyhookpromise.org/

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Why did I start a Gratitude Journal?

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Thanksgiving Day – an old and beautiful tradition of giving thanks and recognizing the things to be grateful in our lives.  I thought this would be a perfect opportunity to talk about my gratitude journal that I started earlier this year.

When I am spiritually uplifted, regular with my “sadhana” (daily yoga and meditation practice), my entire being automatically comes to state of gratitude, love and joy.  Being in the presence of the Master, wise men, happy and positive people, or reading the ancient scriptures or inspirational texts also brings me to that state.

However, life happens and not all days are as beautiful. There are many times I experience tough days where I find myself having no time for myself as my toddler keeps me on my toes, or I get busy and preoccupied with other things. It is so easy to get into the mundane and forget how blessed and grateful I am.

After having my baby, there have been many times I did not find the time for my daily practice, and of course many times I am not motivated enough to wake up early.  So a few months ago, I started a gratitude journal. I believe that whatever we focus our attention on multiplies in our life and when we focus on abundance and our blessings, it multiplies. I began cultivating the habit of taking a few moments every night, breathe, and think about my day and life. I began acknowledging all the blessings in my life, and began jotting them down in my gratitude journal. Sometimes I could think of many things to write about, and other times, especially on tough days, I would have to think really hard to come up with things.  On such days I would write down things that I take for granted – like food and water, my family and a bed to sleep on.  This little habit takes me a little bit to the space of love, joy and makes me feel lucky, blessed and truly makes me feel like I have it all. To be honest, in the beginning, it just felt rhetorical but over a period of time, I have realized the benefit of this simple exercise. Now, I really value this time to myself before bedtime, it has become my nightly ritual that I look forward to after a long day.

Being Present, Being Happy – A lesson from my daughter

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Hi everyone, sharing a post that I had written in May 2013.

I recently returned from India after a long vacation with my baby girl, Aarya. Leaving Mumbai after a truly lovely trip with my family to return to my new home in Los Angeles was the toughest part of my stay. Being in a joint family with a multitude of cousins, friends and neighbors visiting, my daughter became accustomed to having many loving people around. Family members always came and played with Aarya immediately after work before they attended to their personal things. She was constantly the center of attention, especially since she is the first baby of the family after 22 years. She loved being around people and she adored all the attention.

I became worried that my daughter might be getting spoiled and too accustomed to all of the special attention and love. How was she going to manage back in Los Angeles when she is alone all day with no one to pamper and dote on her besides her mommy and daddy, with daddy being at work all day?

Once we got back, Aarya truly surprised me and taught me a valuable lesson.

She taught me to be at home wherever you are in the world. After reaching our house in Los Angeles, she has been as happy and as joyful as she was in Mumbai. Her mind doesn’t seem to be wandering to other places or thinking about other people. She remains completely present,100% in this moment, and completely happy and joyful as though nothing has changed. When she was at her grandfather’s house with everyone around, it was as though she completely belonged there, and now that she is here alone at home with her parents, it’s like she thoroughly belongs here.

Aarya is able to be cheerful and content in nearly every circumstance, no matter where she is or who she is with.

When will we learn to follow a baby’s authentic and innocent example to be happy, joyful, content wherever we are and in every situation?

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Focusing on what matters to me

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Last week, I experienced one of those days where I felt “agitated,” as described in a text to my husband.  I had to get my house cleaned and ready for Diwali * and catch up with some time-sensitive issues online, all while managing constant interruptions from my 1-year old daughter. She refused to play with her toys unless I was her playmate. If I tried to do any work, she would interrupt me or demand to be carried.  I was on a deadline, it was Halloween and we were scheduled to go trick or treating at 6 pm. With constant interruptions from my toddler, I was frustrated and felt like I am unable to accomplish anything.

Finally she took her nap. I paid the bills, extended my library book, dealt with my rewards cards for expiring points, sent out a couple of emails, and she was still asleep. So I took advantage of those precious extra few minutes, to focus on something that mattered to me. I decided to work on the “about me” section of this blog. I only got to spend 10 or 15 minutes on it until she woke up but that time of focusing on my writing changed the trajectory of my entire evening. My evening was not the same and I no longer felt agitated. In fact, I felt uplifted and happy, and the rest of the day was a breeze.

That entire experience gave me an “aha moment” (very Oprah of me, I know). The little time that I spent on what mattered to me shifted something inside of me for the better.  I realized that no matter how busy I am and no matter how much I have going on, “Focusing even for a little time on what matters to me is essential for my emotional well-being”.

I have been toying with this blog idea for a really long time, hoping for it to be a creative outlet for me as well as hoping to be of service. With my new realization, I hope to spend at least a few minutes on it every day.

I take this opportunity to invite you to think about the things you want to do, the projects you have been hoping to undertake, or even just doing the things that make you happy. Are you letting life pass you by, or are you finding even a little time to do the things that make you happy?

Loves,

Aarty

*Diwali is the biggest Hindu festival of the year, also known as the festival of lights. It is believed that Goddess Laxmi, the Goddess of wealth and prosperity visits our home on this auspicious day. Usually, all Hindu’s believe in a thorough cleaning of their homes to welcome the Goddess on this day and be blessed with good fortune.