Finding that balance with yoga – Interview with Micheline Ferreira

Well, we are already one month into the new year and I am sure (hoping, rather) that I am not the only one whose resolutions have gone out the window.

At the beginning of the year, I boldly made the proclamation that this will be the year for a fitter, leaner and sexier me.

Then the reality of motherhood set in and finding the time to exercise seemed almost impossible, especially when all you want to do at the start of the day is to squeeze in a few more minutes of sleep. And, all you want to do at the end of the day is to go to sleep. Let’s not even mention the middle of the day.

I love exercising, really I do, but I still struggle to find that motivation to get up and exercise when there is so much else going on. However, I know that it is not impossible.

I recently interviewed an amazing mummy, Micheline Ferreira, who seems to have found her groove when it comes to taking care of her body. Not only is she the mother of two boys but she is a practising yogi and conducts yoga classes for soon to be mummies and experienced mummies in Cornwall, England.

Here, she talks about some of the benefits of practising yoga and shares her tips for balancing motherhood and taking care of your body.

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TMJ: How long have you been practising yoga? What encouraged or motivated you to start practising yoga?

MF: I have been practising yoga on and off since I was about 16, but seriously and more consistently since about 2011 when I had the opportunity to study under a teacher and subsequently do my teacher training. I can’t really say what encouraged me to start, I just always considered myself a yogi, even before I practised it. Maybe in a past life?

TMJ: As a mother, how has yoga changed your life?

MF: Yoga changed my life way before I became a mother. I believe that it prepared me to become a mother. It prepared my body and mind after years of abuse and, now that I am a mother, I believe that it has helped me to find a reserve of patience and acceptance that I didn’t even know that I had.

It doesn’t mean that I don’t struggle and get stressed out, I just find myself more accepting of my situation and more forgiving of myself even when I am not the “perfect ” mother that I strive to be (if that exists).

TMJ: Some people think that yoga is just about spirituality, meditation and repeating mantras. What are some of the physical benefits of yoga?

MF: The aim of yoga is to create harmony within the body and beyond the body and so the physical benefits of a consistent yoga practice are countless.

You will find that once you start to enjoy one benefit, your general health and demeanour will keep improving. It’s like a snowball effect. Remember, every system in the body is connected, so, by improving the health of one we do service to all.

For example, as you learn to stand evenly on your two feet, many ankle, knee and even hip complaints will simply disappear. As your posture improves, your mood improves. The spine aligns and decompresses itself, releasing built up tension and stress. You create space in the body so that the digestive system function improves and the endocrine system begins to balance.

The breath is also a key element of yoga practice allowing us to activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which decreases stress and anxiety and allows us to be more present.

TMJ: As mothers, finding time to exercise is always a challenge. How often do you practice yoga and how do you balance that with all of your other responsibilities?

MF: It is definitely a massive challenge and with a 2-year-old and a 6-month-old, my time on the mat has decreased significantly. However, I find the nature of my practice has changed. An uninterrupted practice is simply impossible for me at the moment. Studying philosophy feels like a distant dream!

Now, it has become about having fun with my kids, making them a part of my practice and teaching them.

My 2-year-old thinks that it’s a great laugh and follows the moves, rolls around on his head and sings OM. He’s actually getting pretty good. And with the baby, it’s the same.

I lift him in the air, put him on the mat, go up and down give him lots of kisses and he giggles and giggles. This is my yoga at the moment. Being present with myself, my children and my circumstance.

Often, it is simply a breathing practice while I sit next to the crib putting one child to sleep. As simple as this is, it allows me to do something for myself even though it feels as though I have no time for myself.

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TMJ: What are some simple moves/positions that mothers could do at home, in between all of the chaos, that would be effective? 

MF: First and foremost, just breathe. Consciously slow down your breathing.

Stop, count 5 even slow breaths, on one hand, focusing on long exhalations. You can do this anytime, anywhere, during a toddler tantrum or while dealing with a colicky baby.(in fact, DURING the chaos is probably the best time to do it to allow yourself to become less reactive when dealing with kids!)

Once you have gotten your breathing down, you can try any or all of these simple moves.

Cat/Cow

This move lets you work on all fours, facing your baby, while he or she lies on the mat. Being on all fours will allow you to work on the spine, hips and your balance amongst other things, all while looking down at your baby, encouraging smiles and laughs.

With the wrists below the shoulders and the knees below the hips, find a neutral spine, (your natural curve). To do this you can arch the back slightly and then round the back and find somewhere in between.

On an exhale, begin to completely round the back, initiating the movement with the pelvis. Visualise moving the vertebra one by one. By the end of the exhale you should be looking toward your navel.

As you inhale, press into the mat with your hands and allow the chest to begin moving forward and up as the shoulders draw back towards the hips. By the end of the inhalation you should be looking up,

Repeat several times, coordinating movement with breath.

Downward Dog – facing baby (or with toddler running under the”mummy bridge”)

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Downward dog is such a great pose to regain your strength postnatally. It strengthens the shoulders, arms, legs, stretches the back of the legs and relieves compression in the spine. It’s also considered an inversion, so it calms the brain as it energises the body.

Begin on all fours, facing baby.

Ground yourself evenly through spread fingers, curl the toes under, lift the hips up and then back, pushing the inner thighs back.

Press the heels back and down towards the ground.

Ensure that the spine is long and the shoulders are drawn away from your ears.

Press into the thumb and index finger to keep the wrists level.

Dolphin Pose

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From Downward Dog, lower the forearms into Dolphin Pose.

Keep the elbows in and press down with even pressure along the forearms and palms.

Lift the hips and walk the feet in slightly, keeping the legs straight.

This is amazing to tone the shoulders, and sneak a cheeky kiss on your baby’s forehead!

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It’s an amazing feeling to finally be able to lie on your belly after pregnancy. Backbends and chest openers are so important for our posture, especially when it can feel like we are constantly slouching forward picking babies up, breastfeeding and picking toys off the floor, among other things.

The Cobra/Baby Cobra is an energising backbend which increases the flexibility of the spine.

To do this move, press the tops of the feet into the ground and bring the hands beside the ribs with your elbows pointed back.

Use the traction of your hands pulling down on the mat to allow your chest to emerge forward and up.

Pull the shoulders back and focus on lengthening the spine and opening the heart.

Knee to Chest (Apanasana)

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Laying on your back is another one of those simple pleasures that we miss during the latter stages of pregnancy, and pulling the knees into the chest and breathing deeply can do wonders for a tight lower back.

Focus on lengthening the lumbar spine (the lower back where the spine curves inward toward the abdomen) and breathing into the lower back. You can roll around to create a mini massage on your mat and to find tight areas in the back that need attention.

Placing baby, tummy down in between the shin bones is a great added weight to make the pose even more fun and effective.

Supine Spinal Twist

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This is another pose to release tension in the back in addition to toning the abdominal muscles and organs. It is also great for the digestive system.

Practising this pose with one leg straight will also give you a good stretch for the hamstrings and gluts.

To do this pose, lay on your back with arms out to the side. Straighten the left leg and bend the right knee, rolling it over to the left.

Roll the head gently over to the right.

Repeat on the opposite side.

Baby crawling, climbing or leaning onto the outer thigh of the bent leg also acts as an effective weight to deepen the stretch!

TMJ: What are your recommendations/advice for anyone thinking of starting yoga?

MF: Just start! It can be overwhelming trying to choose between all the many “styles” of yoga and different teachers. You can have completely contrasting experiences depending on which class you attend or what video you watch on YouTube, or book you read, or wherever you find your information.

Yoga is a journey of self and starting a practice is a very personal thing, depending on what you want to get out of it. You might want to try a few classes and teachers, or just find one and stick with it.

The profound benefits that people talk about are not necessarily instantaneous (although you can feel great after just one class) but come after consistent practice.

You can follow Micheline on Facebook at Yoga by Micheline and if you are in the Cornwall area check out some of her classes.

If you liked this post let me know in the comments section below and remember to follow The Mummyhood Journals on Facebook and Instagram.

 

I lost both of my parents and time doesn’t always heal

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Unlike a lot of people my age, I do not have to worry about my parents getting weaker or stress over taking care of an ill mother or father. Nor do I have to stand face to face with the reality of their mortality… because I already did.

For me, my life timeline was inverted and the stresses of dealing with sick parents came early on. At the age of 15 my father was diagnosed with cancer and for two years I watched a giant of a man waste away to practically nothing. I helped my mother take care of him, clean him, feed him and everything else that came with caring for a loved one, all while I was still in school. When he took his last breath, I was holding his hand.

Only a few years later when I was 21 or 22 my mother was diagnosed with a brain tumor. For seven years I was in and out of hospitals and doctors’ offices with her. All of our money went into medication, treatment, doctors’ fees and hospital bills. I was there for her good days and her bad days until she passed away when I was 28 years old.

Fast forward eighteen years since my father’s death and almost eight years since my mother’s and it still has not healed. In fact, the older I get and the more of life I experience, the more I miss them. It is as though time, instead of healing, were reopening my wounds and making them as raw and as painful as the day that I got them.

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As I journey through the various stages of my life; getting married, having children, getting new jobs, losing jobs, moving to new places, or whatever it may be, good or bad; I find myself longing more and more to be able to share these moments with my parents. I long for their advice or to hear their stories of a time when something similar happened to them and how they got through it.

When we are younger, we often don’t appreciate fully what our parents have to offer. And when they are gone you find yourself wishing that you had paid more attention to what they were trying to share with you or teach you. More attention to that story that they always told or that you had asked them more questions about a particular period in their lives.

In a sense, the passage of time has made me want to turn back the clock so that, knowing what I know now, I could soak up every moment with my parents properly. I could take the time to understand them better and learn from their experiences.

Even though I am grateful for the time I had with my parents, sometimes I feel cheated. Cheated of the chance to really spend time with my parents and for my children to get to know them and for them to be the amazing grandparents to my children that I knew they would have been.

Whether or not these feelings will pass … only time can tell. But, for those of you who are lucky enough to still have your parents, listen to them, enjoy them, appreciate them and love them.

If you enjoyed this post let me know in the comments section below and remember to like and follow The Mummyhood Journals on Facebook and Instagram.

30 day declutter challenge fail

At the beginning of August, I boldly proclaimed that I was going to embark on a 30 day declutter challenge.

This was going to change my life. I was excited and completely fired up to get started. I was going to share my progress on Facebook and Instagram weekly so that I could inspire others. It was going to be awesome.

42 days later and my house seems to be more cluttered than when I started.

Day 1 went off without a hitch. I decluttered a junk drawer. I posted that picture on Instagram and Facebook. Things were looking good.

Day 2 to 30 – never happened.

Not for a lack of trying though. Life and my kids just did not want me to declutter my house. Between running around trying to get all my errands out of the way and being occupied with my kids, I was never able to (in the mood to) do any of the other things on the list.

Somewhere around day 15, while my kids were napping, I tried to accomplish the day-2 task of cleaning out my closet. As soon as I sat down to begin, those little, beady eyes popped open. So there went that plan.

For some reason, no matter how deep in sleep kids are, they can always sense when you are going to do something important and completely turn your plans upside down and inside out.

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So after my immense failure at this challenge, I decided that I will not be doing any more challenges. At least not related to decluttering, organising or cleaning my house. It just doesn’t make sense. The forces that be will not allow me to be that organised about being organised and I will be setting myself up for failure.

If you had a more positive experience with a similar challenge, you are my inspiration first of all and please let me know how you did it.

Also, don’t forget to follow The Mummyhood Journals on Facebook and Instagram.

 

 

30 Day De-Clutter Challenge

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I recently heard about the 30-day de-clutter challenge from Love and Marriage blog and I decided that I would give it a try.

I am always amazed at how quickly junk could pile up in our house and I absolutely hate it. Generally speaking, I am a very organised person, however, with two kids and a husband my house is always in disarray.

I don’t know about you, but for me living in a cluttered, disorganised house always affects my overall mood and, for the sake of my sanity, it is time for a change.

So, for the month of August I will be tackling my house day by day until, hopefully, by the end of the challenge, I would have reclaimed my space.

I will post updates on Facebook and Instagram, so follow me and if you are also going to give the challenge a try be sure to share your progress along the way.

 

Our dog the psychiatrist

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In a previous post I introduced you to our puppy Coby (my son corrected me on the spelling of the name from the last time).

Well Coby is still very much a part of our family, just as miserable and lovable as ever. But, apart from digging holes in the yard and chewing everything in sight (yes he still does that) I have come to realize that having Coby in our lives has completely added to my family’s well-being.

Although he causes stress every time I go outside and see a new hole in the grass and a pile of dirt in front of the door, he also relieves my stress when I come home after a long day with his wagging tail and hilariously clumsy ways. It is unbelievable the number of doors and walls he has run in to.

Even though he makes me or my son cry every time we find a chewed up shoe or favorite toy, he is also able to sense when we are sad or depressed or hurt and always comes over to lick our hands to try to make us feel better with a genuine look of concern on his face.

When my husband or I aren’t able to go out side to play with my elder son, guess who is there ready, willing and able to be his playmate. Coby.

Having a dog or a pet in general has been claimed to be extremely beneficial to your physical and mental well-being and Coby continues to be a testament of this theory.

Amidst the chaos of the day, in a strange way, Coby provides a sense of calm and stability for all of us. He is a friend to my sons, he provides comic relief when needed, he makes sure that we get our exercise and out door time and is an expert boo boo fixer, apart from mummy of course.

If you have been toying with the idea of getting a Coby of your own for your family I would highly recommend that you go for it. If you live in the US, websites such as PuppySpot make the search extremely easy, with hundreds of adorable puppies for sale, all looking for a loving home.

Looking through the puppy photos almost made me feel like adding to our family … ALMOST.

If you do decide to take the plunge and get a four legged psychiatrist for your family, here is one piece of advice that I will share – hide your shoes!

 

 

 

 

Before we were mothers

I had the pleasure of being a guest blogger for the amazing mom blog ispeakmom.com. The topic of this post was rediscovering the passions, hobbies or interests that we enjoyed before we became mothers and laundry, poopy diapers and homework consumed our every being.

 

This weekend I attended a dance production for the first time in a few years.  The fact that I had not been to a production in a few years is very strange for me as I have always been passionate about the arts, dance in particular. This made me think about how mothers, myself included, often tend to push our passions and interests to the background to make room for the many other priorities that take the forefront in our new lives.

I was raised in a very artistic home and developed an appreciation for the arts from an early age. My mother was an artist/art teacher and a member of a local choir in Trinidad. I did ballet and modern dance from the age of 4 and also sang in various choirs and my aunts and uncles played a myriad of musical instruments and performed in theatre productions internationally, among other things. My mother and I always attended every dance production or art exhibition that was in town and my love for the arts grew as I got older.

I continued dancing all through university as a member of my school’s Modern Dance Ensemble and all the way up until I was 29. Then I got pregnant.

To read more of my guest post for I Speak Mom click here and follow I Speak Mom on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

Death and the memories we leave behind

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This weekend was a tough one. On Saturday morning, bright and early, my husband and I found out that a close friend of ours had died. She was more than a friend, she was a godmother to our two sons and a part of our family.

What made this death even more difficult to accept was how sudden it was, how young she was (she was only 35 years old) and the fact that this was the first time that someone who my sons loved immensely had died.

Along with us as adults having to come to terms with her not being here, we had to watch our son’s face quiver as we told him that he would never see his Aunty “Shammy” any more. Completely broke my heart.

As the weekend went on and the reality started to sink in, I started to realize just how much of a part of our family she really was. It was one of those things you don’t really pay that much attention to until the person is gone, but every important part of lives included her.

My first son’s first steps were towards her. He was trying to get whatever it was that she was eating at the time because he loves to eat. She made his first birthday cake. She used to control his unruly hair when he was younger, before he got his first hair cut and when I had no idea what I was doing. So all of those pictures of him when he was a baby and looked presentable, all because of her.

She was one of 14 people at our very intimate wedding. When the hubby and I wanted to get away for a weekend or a date night, she would jump in to babysit, without any hesitation. The miserable puppy that I wrote about in a previous post, she was the one who brought him into our lives.

So many aspects of our lives, so many memories included her and it is difficult to think that all of our new memories will be without her.

My son, I have to say, has been stronger than I imagined. Every now and then he may ask some questions or make some statements that melt your heart such as “I thought Aunty “Shammy” would be here forever” or “I’m ok, at least I still have you and my other Aunties”. He even asked if her mom could live with us now that she was gone.

But the thing with death, and innocent statements like those, is that it makes you very aware of your own mortality and it is scary. It forces you to realign your priorities and to see the bigger picture in life. The worldly possessions that we stress about and give our all to achieve, in the grand scheme of things, are not as important as we make them. These are not the things that people will remember when we take our last breath.

Worldly possessions make life more comfortable, I admit,  but they have no value and serve no purpose when we die. No one knows how long we have on this earth and it is more important to spend that time creating memories and experiences for and with your loved ones.

Our friend may not have had many worldly possessions but she lived, she laughed and she loved and her memory will live on.

“To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die”

Thomas Campbell, “Hallowed Ground”