Start a Home Yoga Practice Today (with progress pictures! I am NOT naturally flexible!)

Dear Healthy,

After I posted the story and photos of my radical journey to health with the help of yoga, I received many e-mails from my beloved readers. Many were inspired to get a grip on their body and start a healthy practice of nurturing and physical fitness immediately – but where to begin?

Find a studio … My first and strongest recommendation is always find a wonderful studio close to home you can connect with – the community and support you will gain from this circle of trusted fellow practitioners cannot be underestimated! Also it is rare, but I am more and more frequently seeing studios that offer childcare for one or all classes.

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What if the studio can’t happen? For a military parent far from family babysitters, or somebody on a restricted budget with enough funds to visit the studio maybe once a week or once a month, or for some of my intrepid readers who live in fairly remote areas and have no studios within reasonable driving distance – what then? Just between us: If you are shy about practicing around other people or self-conscious about your weight and that is the only thing keeping you home, please do make an effort to go visit a studio anyway! Bring a friend who feels as inept as you, if that helps! We all start clumsy, awkward and confused, and we all “get it” when somebody walks in feeling the same way, and we’re all there to support you as you blossom into a confident practitioner. And there are a lot of fit people in yoga, yes, but that is going to be you, next – you can’t begin this healthy lifestyle for long without seeing some physical changes! 

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As a teacher who hears this excuse on an almost daily basis, this has got to be my favorite yoga meme of all time! If that fear, which can be paralyzing, had kept me from my first yoga class – then I would STILL be inflexible!

Backbend Progress: It doesn’t happen overnight, but it happens. The first picture is how my back-bend looked about 1.5 years in to practice in April 2011 – foolishly, I was too embarrassed to take progress pictures earlier, or you could have seen me standing straight up, staring at the ceiling!
Backbend April 2011

Backbend February 2012: There are periods of practice where change seems to leap forward exponentially! One year later, my back bend had advanced dramatically. This took continuous practice, not wishful thinking or natural flexibility. (For what it’s worth, I had also lost some extra pounds during this year. In the second photo, I am 20 weeks pregnant!)

Backbend Feb 2012

Crow Pose Progress: In March 2011, this was where my Crow Pose was. A few months later, I had wobbled on to my head without knees on elbows.

Andrea_Crow on head_March 2, 2011

Crow Progress April 2014, waiting at the pier for my husband’s Navy carrier to dock (OpLove photo by Sami Roy Photography).  I now find it very easy to slide gracefully up into a steady headstand, and easily come back down in to crow or, from headstand, shoot my legs back into chaturanga.

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Even in heeled boots, on a painful pebbly surface, and those exhaustingly tight size too-tiny jeans!

Just waiting at the gate for my plane to board!

Just waiting at the gate for my plane to board! I didn’t know it here, but I was already pregnant with #2.

Bird of Paradise, 2011: This is about how far I could get in Bird of Paradise, a gorgeous pose that I couldn’t believe the people around me were actually doing. Sometimes I could hop my one foot up off the floor a little! I kept working at it.

Set 3 Pics by Amanda mid to late Feb (9)

Bird of Paradise, August 2014: To work on my fluidity and sequencing as a teacher, I started recording my own practice on the cellphone camera. I had been practicing without a mirror for so long I had no idea what my Bird of Paradise looked like, and I was shocked when I saw what had happened to the pose over the years of work! Years of work, not days of magical potions – it took a lot of effort for me to get this far, and I still have so far to go.

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Upward Facing Bow Progress, Spring 2011: I loved this pose, sometimes called Wheel (it’s not really Wheel – in wheel, you actually roll! Yeah, that’s cray, too.).

Andrea_Wheel_aMarch 2, 2011

May 2012: My upward facing bow had undergone some serious work by the time professional Matt Palalay took this photo in my 38th week of pregnancy. In the winter of 2013 it reached a new level when I achieved smooth and unassisted drop-backs and recovery (entering the pose from a standing position, and returning to standing immediately). I had a really cool video of that on my cellphone, but the phone was stolen and I cannot share it with you now!

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All of my poses have worlds of expansion and improvement yet to go, but I hope you are encouraged by seeing how I started out – clueless, inflexible and as unsteady as a drunken sailor on leave!

Start your practice today with the home practice!

I practice daily at home, and supplement that practice by taking group classes at my local studio. At home, I sometimes practice my own routines, testing out new playlists, new sequences, trying on new poses. And sometimes – and this seems to be more true during pregnancy – I just want to follow the words of an experienced teacher and not have to think! That is when yoga classes online come in handy.

Online yoga classes – where to find them? To start your home practice immediately, there are a number of options! You can find some of my favorite DVDs (see the list at the end of the post), or subscribe to YogaGlo or another online yoga studio for a minimal cost. I love YogaGlo for their simple layout, the way you can track and save your favorite classes or set a weekly practice goal, and all the master yoga teachers they have on their roster – Tiffany Cruikshank, Dice Iida-Klein, AmyIppoliti and many other names that are well-known in the yoga, sports, therapy and Instagram worlds.

Or, you can find some favorite videos on YouTube! There are a lot of yoga classes available on YouTube, and some of them are insanely annoying while others are delightful treasures. Here are a few of my favorites.

Prenatal Yoga with Lara Dutta


You don’t have to be pregnant to practice prenatal yoga, and in fact, if you are just a beginner, they are perfect for you: the poses are fluid and languid, and the pace will be even and usually more slow than a normal class. I find it very pleasant at the end that she doesn’t take you out of savasana – you can stay as long as you like as the movie fades out! Lara Dutta is an Indian actress and supermodel, and the Miss Universe of 2000. She and her teacher Tonia Clark put together this sequence for prenatal practice, which they made into a DVD for all pregnancy practitioners at home. Here, they wear very elegant designer clothes and have glasses of berry-infused water close at hand, as they discuss the advantages and reasons for practicing during prenatal yoga. If you are pregnant, I strongly recommend watching the video before embarking in a prenatal practice, especially if you don’t currently practice yoga.

Yoga Routine with Lara Dutta

This is a non-prenatal routine! You’ll notice that I prefer dubbed classes, where the teacher is not narrating the class while doing the classes. Sometimes the mic rubbing on t-shirt or hair, wind breezing by, panting and gasping all get a little annoying. I also get bothered by fuzzy audio and garbled music in the background – when you watch a video over and over and over (and I recommend doing the same favorite class over and over again as it will grow natural for you, and you’ll improve, just like with a dance), you really start to notice every annoying quirk!

Ashtanga Primary Series for Beginners 

This class is led by a man, and also dubbed with a crisp, clean audio. There’s no extraneous chatter, and I like that he uses the blocks. Achievable and challenging, this is a a great class, and at one hour it is the longest on my playlist.

Soothing Background Music


If you have your own routine or you’re following one from a book or magazine, this two-and-a-half-hour set of background music is a nice set to have streaming while you go through poses. It’s geared towards more of a relaxing, soothing class.

Best of luck on your yoga journey, and if you know of any great yoga videos or have one of your own, please share it in the comments so we can all benefit!

Mrs H
Facely yours
Not your Gram’s Insta

Yoga DVDs as promised

You can find so many great DVDs on Amazon or at the bookstore, and I usually check them out from the library first or watch the teacher on YouTube to see if I enjoy their style. These are my favorites!

Candlelight Yoga: Excellent for beginners, and I enjoy doing this class in the morning to wake up. There’s a reason Sarah Ivanhoe has gone on to become a master yoga teacher, and well-known in the community.

Prenatal Yoga with Lara Dutta: You are now familiar with Lara, and this is her DVD.

Journey into Power: Power Vinyasa Yoga, Level 1: Appropriate for beginners and advanced students; there is a Level 2 DVD as well, but to be honest, you could spend a lifetime on this one and still have years to go.

Best Gifts for New and Expecting Mamas: Stocking Stuffers and Beyond

Note: Since this is a post with recommendations for pregnancy care,
there will be the occasional usage of anatomical terms referring to areas involved in pregnancy.

Dear Wondering What to Buy When She’s Expecting,

We’re joyfully expecting our second child, and while having two children by birth does not by any means make me an expert on childbirth, I am also privileged to be a doula and prenatal yoga teacher with a thick network of birth professionals and mamas that I communicate with constantly. Sometimes, the same issues come up over and over again in conversation, and the same favorite products win the prize every time … There are a few things that every mom deserves to have when she’s pregnant or newly delivered, and they aren’t the usual gadgets you might be thinking of (note that the hallowed boppy, treasured as those funnily-shaped pillows are, didn’t even make this list – we’re talking crucial crucial things here, the stuff that never makes the registry list!).

I know we're all expected to bend over backwards for pregnant mamas ... Photo by Matt Palalay

I know we’re all expected to bend over backwards for pregnant mamas but really … Photo by Matt Palalay

These are some hardcore “thank-you-thank-you-forever-how-did-you-know” gifts that will really make the transition into I Just Had a Baby-hood so much easier, gracefuler (??) and more pleasant. I’ve sorted them by price, so if you’re stuffing a stocking for the little one or mama, putting together a basket of sweet treasures, or going all out and blowing the big Gs on somebody special, you can find something that fits your budget!

Sometimes you feel like glowing, sometimes you don't!

Sometimes you feel like glowing, sometimes you don’t!

Under $10 – little things can make a big difference, dontcha know!

Witch Hazel Oil Towelettes $3.99

After birth, everything downstairs needs to heal and stay clean and fresh. For the first few weeks, a mister bottle with witch hazel and purified water (see below), spritzed on the areas in question after every restroom use, will do the trick of keeping the area so fresh and so clean clean. For on-the-go convenience, after maybe the first week (because really, who is going anywhere that first week, anyway?), the towelettes are very handy.

Unscented Witch Hazel $7.25

(See above) Witch hazel is an astringent, a toner (it tightens and shrinks pores!), and great for wound care (or stretched and sore tissue care!). It may or may not sting with stitches (I didn’t experience any stinging), and is recommended by birth professionals for after-birth lower-area care.

Candlelight Yoga $7.62   Favorite-Favorite

This yoga DVD isn’t prenatal or post-natal, it’s just a soothing and restorative class that can easily be done by mama, whether it be in the first trimester to combat morning sickness, or in the month after baby is born when she’s moving back into physical fitness. There’s a 15-minute class that is more energizing and active and might need to wait until a while after birth, and the main class is 45-minutes long (she can do that during the baby’s nap!), that is relaxing and rejuvenating. Sarah Ivanhoe, the featured talent and instructor, is a renowned yoga master now (this is one of her early works!). Her style is calming and easeful, with no “yoga weirdness”.

Multi-Use Spray Bottle $9.19

(See above) I really like this mister bottle for the witch-hazel and water, because instead of a finger pump it has a trigger pump, so I can hook it on the toilet paper dispenser in my bathroom. It makes it pretty hard to forget to use it during those first, fragile restroom visits! I continued to use the witch hazel and mister for several weeks, in tandem with the bottom balm (keep reading!).

Earth Mama Angel Baby Bottom Balm $8.71   Ultra-Favorite

I wouldn’t dare go past the 37th week without having this stashed in my top drawer, and even that’s pushing it (that pun was totally unplanned!). After having a baby vaginally, some things can sort of, well, be a little itchy for a while. It’s really nice, and really refreshing, and a real hair-pulling teeth-gnashing life-saver, to have something that can immediately, I say immediately soothe and appease the inflamed or angry areas of your body that so recently went through the greatest transformation of their life! I swear by this balm, and I buy it for every pregnant woman I know – it’s a gift that is always gratefully received. Yes, it is also safe for baby’s bottom, even with cloth diapers. Note that mama cannot use it until a few days or a week after birth, so if you have it on order, you have time to go drop it off after the baby is born!

Earth Mama Angel Baby Natural Nipple Butter $8.99  Ultra-Favorite

Let’s get real for a minute here. All that new-baby suckling, or pump-machine-pumping, can leave our poor breasts a little chafed. This butter is another one of those gotta-have-it life savers that she’ll silently thank you for at three A.M., when she’s burning, sore and chapped, and this butter is the only thing that heals and soothes! Paired with some chilly ice packs and the coolness of fresh air (yes, leave those knockers out in the air for maximum healing effect!), the experience of nursing a newborn can be so much more pleasant and enjoyable.

Your Best Birth: Know All Your Options, Discover the Natural Choices, and Take Back the Birth Experience  $9.99    Ultra-Favorite

So much better than the What to Expect-type books that leave many moms fearful and heading to the pharmacy with every sneeze! Rather than victimizing and terrifying the new mom, this book empowers, uplifts, makes her chuckle and inspires. It addresses – in non-judgmental or snotty terms – c-section, vaginal birth, epidurals, drugs, hospital protocol and home birth. No matter what kind of birth mama may be planning – or not planning, since sometimes nature takes things on a new course! – this book will gently and reassuringly provide factual information. So many chunks of the book made me laugh out loud, and I had to read passages to my husband and sisters or anybody who happened to be nearby – you have questions, this book has answers! A fun, enjoyable read that leaves mama feeling refreshed, informed and happy.

Set 1 Pics by Brian Andrea_Wheel_February2 (3)

It’s wheely nice to practice yoga during pregnancy! Photo by Brian Pittman

$10 – 25 – for all you big spenders out there

Earth Mama Angel Baby Organic Milkmaid Tea $10.47

or  Traditional Medicinals Organic Mother’s Milk $19.60

Especially useful for the mama who wants to produce more milk, these relaxing and milk-encouraging teas are a delight. Note that in the links I’ve provided, the Traditional Medicinals has twice as many tea bags. I consider both to be equally good, and leave it up to your preference!

Morton Epsom Salt, Plain  $11.99

After baby is born (as far as concerns vaginal births – I am not sure with c-sections), a sitz bath is a strong recommendation or even requirement for the new mama. Fill the tub with warm water about up to the hips (when sitting!), and dissolve a few cups of Epsom salts into the water. When mama is more stable (blood levels returning to normal!), she can take a deeper Epsom salt bath and this will help detox out any chemicals left from birth, if drugs were used, retained water, reduce her stress, and it will certainly help with muscle soreness. If the bath is any deeper than just the hips within the first month or two, or if mama is having any trouble whatsoever after birth, I would recommend a friend or partner sitting in the bathroom to keep her company. You can find Epsom salts in most grocery or drug stores, and I would suggest unscented (plain) for the beginning.

Earth Mama Angel Baby Booby Tubes $12.30

Those same milk-maid jugs can get hot and sore as new milk ducts are forced full of milk for the first time, and the situation can be a little painful at moments! Cool ice packs help soothe, but sometimes their poky plastic edges are just torture. These booby tubes (ain’t that name the cutest?), are soft, cloth-covered and shaped like little Cs, so they can rest oh-so-comfortably right there.

American Health Original Papaya Enzyme $12.58     Favorite-Favorite

When you’re pregnant, organs get a little smooshed and pushed out of the way like the arbitrary blobs of cells that they are – but wait, hey, that stomach? I was using that! I was planning on using those digestive tube thingies, too – urggh – now I can’t breathe, or digest my food, and it seems like I’m hiccuping, burping and, well, belching … Spare mama the pain of all that internal pressure with these relief-bearing, yummy chewables. Hey, I eat them for a snack, when nobody is looking, if you really want to know the truth.

Bella B Body Buzz Post-Pregnancy Cream $12.99

This delightful, nasty-ingredient-free lotion has a gentle fresh scent and is so soothing to the belly, butt and everywhere else that feels a little squooshy during and after pregnancy. I use it during pregnancy as well as after, because sometimes you just need to hear the word “firming” in your life at that time!

Right now mama is mostly folding diapers, not cooking ... but funny, people still want to eat!

Right now mama is mostly folding diapers, not cooking … but funny, people still want to eat!

$25 – 50 – A gift basket of edible goodies

Make mama a big basket for post-partum! Sometimes, preparing food can just be too much of an effort. A few ideas of things you can include are: pre-sliced cheeses (Trader Joe’s has a great cheese tray for only $5), and a variety of healthful crackers. Canned tuna (our favorite is the Tuna Guys, hands down, nets up!), fresh fruit and vegetables or even organic bagged salads, canned healthy soups, sparkling drink snacks such as Izze that don’t have corn syrup or sugar, and bottled kombucha (home-made, if you make it yourself!). Fermented foods such as jars of raw, refrigerated kimchi or kraut, kefir or yogurt will help her recovering gut bacteria (especially if she had a hospital birth and experienced any use of antibiotics or medication, or exposure to hospital equipment!), as well as help her milk to boost baby’s system. Some rich, organic chocolate will never be remiss, I am sure. Gift cards to grocery stores near to her such as Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s that have healthy deli options will probably be joyfully received.

 

Seedling Products $11 – 25 or more, if you buy them all

Young Living has an entire line of non-toxic care products for sweet little babies called Seedlings (with THE cutest logo of ALL TIME), and you can buy one or all for the new mama. My babies love an evening massage with essential oil-infused baby oil, and the wipes are my favorite – finally a non-toxic wipe with a yummy aroma!!

Love happens

Love happens

$150 + for the mama you just love SO much and who deserves the BEST 

Young Living Essential Oils Starter Kit + Lifetime Membership Discounts $160.00 Ultra-Favorite 

It’s hard to resist something that literally changed my own life during my pregnancy, and changed the trajectory of my life ever since! The gift of a starter kit comes with a lifetime of wholesale discounts and access to free oil gifts from the company, as well as a membership number she can share with other moms to get referral bonuses from Young Living. I’ve become so passionate about sharing these oils that they are now my favorite hobby, full-time income and educational platform! All the new mamas that get a starter kit through my referral link are gifted with welcome packets, educational information and access to secret educational groups.

kit oils

$400 and up – the big dollars for all that extra money burning a hole in your pocket

Kuvings Whole Slow Juicer $429.99    Ultra-Favorite

What’s the most important thing for a succesful, balanced pregnancy and the whole, natural recovery of mom after the birth? What is going to play a huge role in her risk of post-partum depression? What will be the number one factor in losing the baby weight and nursing with super-powered milk? Nutrition, of course. And juicing is an easy, one-handed way to accomplish that during pregnancy or during the hectic time after birth. You can drop whole pieces of fruit in this juicer, and it slow-masticates them – the way to get the most nutrition out of each piece of produce! Leaves, stems, kale and herbs can all go in. Add some ginger if her tummy is upset … throw in some cilantro and celery for detoxing after the epidural, and boost the oranges and lamb’s quarters to fend off illness, gain some Vitamin K for wound healing, and bolster the immune system.

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smoothie

Vitamix 5200 Series Blender $459.95    Ultra-Favorite

And what would this list be without a Vitamix on it? Honestly, you can make an entire dinner with one hand using the Vitamix – trust me, I’ve done it. I compiled a list of 70 awesome things you can do with your Vitamix because I am so in love with mine. I love making smoothies in it, grinding coffee, blending soup for dinner, and churning up cold, healthy ice cream (especially when I’m saying bye-bye to baby fat!). Any mama would be lucky to receive this as a gift. I recommend the 5200 Series Blender (see link above) because I find it the easiest to use; I’ve used most of the models of Vitamix (even the old, 1980s ones!), and this one is a snap. The only thing the modern blender cups are missing are the old spigots the blenders used to have – do you think they’ll ever bring those back?

 Cute Ideas for the Baby Book (and other recording-type books)

I’ve kept journals and diaries for just about my entire life, since I learned how to write. I have a box of them in the shed at Mom’s house – they’re a chuckle to go through! At first, I tried to keep my diaries secret and wrote them in a code I developed for just that purpose, but they were eventually discovered and decoded by my merciless siblings. I switched to a new tactic, where I wrote detailed accounts of everyday life and left the journals out for anyone to read, and everybody enjoyed seeing themselves in the stories I captured. These fun and unique books are some of the ways I like to continue that journal-keeping tradition – even though my time is significantly more limited now!

These three adorable books are by a Seattle artist, Nikki McClure.

The First 1000 Days: A Baby Journal  $12.08

The Next 1000 Days: A Journal of Ages Two to Six  $12.93

Embrace: A Pregnancy Journal  $13.43

Even more fun reading and writing …

The Belly Book: A Nine-Month Journal for You and Your Growing Belly (Potter Style) $10.13

And for all you Moleskine addicts, yes, there’s even one for you!

Moleskine Passion Journal – Baby, Large, Hard Cover (5 x 8.25) (Passion Book Series) $16.55

Whatever you choose for the mamas and mamas-to-be in your life, your gestures of kindness and love will be deeply appreciated by the whole family – even if you don’t get a thank you card for a long time, or ever!  I hope this list has proved useful to you – and if you have additional ideas, let me know in the comments section!

Blessings,

Mrs H
Bountifully posting on Facebook
Reproducing images on Instagram

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In the kitchen looking for food, just a few hours after the [planned] home birth of our first baby.