The following is a guest sponsored post by Jessica Jennings from Ma Yoga
When I became a mom, I was pretty sure of myself. I’d been teaching prenatal yoga for years, I felt strong from my yoga classes, and I was fine with not being able to take a weekend trip to Vegas.
Cut to: Me, barely able to find time for a shower, exhausted, depleted, and completely core-less. I am blissed out in love with my baby, but the one thing that has always helped me ground myself and feel calm and clear – my yoga – just does not seem to fit anymore, like my skinny jeans. I don’t have an hour and a half of serene quiet time at home; and I don’t want to pay for 3 hours of childcare to go to a class.
So what to do? Eventually, after returning to grad school and finishing my MS in Exercise Science, I created Ma Yoga, which focuses on the needs of new moms through what I call “Anchor Practices”: short, effective, simple meditation, strengthening yoga and food & wellness habits we can do in between feeds and while baby naps.
Most important of all the Anchor Practices for me is the morning practice. If I skip it, it feels like nothing works – I lose my keys, my computer breaks, I’m kind of a mess. Even a 2-minute practice in the morning (pick one or two items from the list below) can help life feel much easier to handle (I probably still lose my keys, it just doesn’t bug me as much), and seems to wake up my more intelligent cravings and desires for the whole day so I take better care of myself.
Here are the basics of my Ma Morning practice – again, if it feels way too long, then it is. Just pick a couple from the list and start from there.
(Ma is Sanskrit for the divine flow of nurturing energy):
1.) Grab a notebook and sit on a blanket or cushion, in a place in your house that feels special to you. Over time – put some things nearby – rocks, shells, candles, whatever makes you feel good and calm to look at.
2.) Do a breath practice. Start with this easy grounding breath: close your eyes and exhale to the count of 6 through your mouth. If you’re not pregnant, use your abs to draw ribs and belly in and back on the exhale, connecting to your core. Either way, make a “ha” sound like you’re misting up a window in winter.
Then breathe in through your nose to the count of 6, lifting your chest and sitting up tall. With each inhale, sit taller. With each exhale, softly rest your shoulders and ribs back and allow yourself to be held, as if there were a soft chair you were sitting in, and leaning onto the tall back.
Do these breaths a bunch of times, as long as you’re feeling like you’re becoming more tall and spacious.
For many of us – especially those with anxiety and a lot of stress – we are in fight-or-flight mode all the time. Our adrenals are overworking and getting tired out, and never getting a break.
Focusing on a long exhale slows down the heart rate and blood pressure, like pressing the reset button for our nervous system.
3.) Close your eyes and sit in meditation for 2 minutes, which means let go of everything – even judgement about how well you’re letting go. Let your thoughts float by without attaching to them (no, they won’t stop coming – we are not that in control). If you’ve never learned to meditate, try this super easy visualization to get you started.
4.) Then, pick up your notebook and write a list of what was hard about yesterday. Then, write a list of what was really pretty cool about yesterday. You’ll be surprised at how much there was. It’s so important to acknowledge the gifts that come and start to look for them all day long!
Then, ask your Future Self for advice. This is crazy, but I have gotten SO much information from doing this I didn’t know I had. She is just our wise inner voice. She says things like “slow down today” or “one thing at a time, it will all get done” – things I would tell a good friend, but I forget to tell myself. If you do this practice long enough, her voice becomes the one leading the way forward in your life.
5.) Get on hands and knees on a rug or yoga mat, and simply do cat/cow with your breath. This connects your movement to your innate rhythm for the day, so you’ll be able to find it again easier. If you don’t know cat/cow – or for more poses to add into your home practice – check out the Ma Yoga Living Room.
That’s it! This is the essential morning practices for mamas.
Whatever movement you do first thing, keep your exhales long and you will align with a deeper, slower rhythm so when things get nutty, it’s easier to find throughout the day. You will be able to access your inner gps easier, and your life will begin to reflect more of your authentic desires. Focusing on the full exhale will also teach your nervous system to stay calm, focused, energized and strong – no matter what waves come and knock you off your feet!
Grab more quick and effective practices for moms from Jessica Jennings, MS, by going to the Ma Yoga Living Room Project, her Indiegogo campaign running through March, and picking an incentive. Choose from video programs that include meditation and breathing, core strengthening for moms who hate bicycles, and low back pain relief – all made to squeeze into your busy day, in your own living room.