Starting a Home Yoga Practice-Part 2

Ok, so you have your props, now it’s time to set up your space!

I fully acknowledge that this may be the most challenging part of having a home yoga practice. Not everyone has space. If you do, consider yourself very lucky and please use it! You only need space big enough for your yoga mat and some small amount of room around it. Living room, bedroom, maybe even dining area if you move the kitchen table aside, or if your hallway is big enough that will work too! Get creative if you need to, moving furniture around and then putting it back after you practice. The only place I wouldn’t recommend is your bathroom, unless you have a massive bathroom and the floor is nice, than go for it!

Speaking of flooring, this is another tricky area. If your home is fully carpeted, do you have a space that you can use that’s not carpet, like an outside deck? Weather pending of course. Wood floor is best and linoleum is better than carpet if possible. The thinner the carpet, the better, but most homes have plush carpet. I’m talking the industrial, office type carpet. If you have to practice on carpet, that’s the best kind if available. My yoga area is a really thin area rug on top of linoleum. It works pretty well. You can also put one of those grass beach mats on top of your carpet to create a more sturdy space, and then the yoga mat on top of that. The reason you want a stable, non squishy surface is to protect your wrists and to allow for an easier time to balance when you are standing.

Our above garage loft doubles as my yoga space and my husband’s hobby area. Living in a tiny house (not an actual tiny house, just a really small cottage) is challenging so we utilize this space as our zen den/man cave. I'm grateful to even have a space to practice at home! I prefer it out here where there are no distractions. No laundry, no food, no electronics, no to do lists nagging me, and although I love them, no cats crawling all over me!

To adorn your yoga space, you can use anything you want! If you have a dedicated space and it will not be used for anything else, take the time to set up a little altar if that suits you. Or you can just decorate your little space, even if it’s just a corner, in any way you like!

Here are some suggestions for fun items to bring in to your yoga space:

  • yoga props

  • yoga mat

  • blanket

  • incense

  • essential oils

  • palo santo or sage

  • bell, singing bowl or chime

  • crystals/gemstones

  • good luck charm

  • candles

  • angel cards/tarot cards

  • himalayan salt lamp

  • plants

  • framed pictures

  • items you’ve gathered from the earth, like sand, shells, sea glass, leaves, flowers

  • pillows

  • journal

  • anything else that suits you!!

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Some items I like to have in my yoga space. I’ll often meditate after I practice and then journal for a few minutes as well. Sometimes I’ll pull an angel card and meditate and journal on the cards I draw.

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One of my favorite oils to use when I practice! Primavera oils come from Germany and I get them from my holistic school in Montana. Use the code “ajwellness” at goddessofspring.com for 10% off!

Your practice is personal and your space is a personal reflection of you and your practice.

One thing to leave out of your yoga space … TECHNOLOGY! If you can, have your phone across the room or in another room. Leave your computer and tablet behind. Use an actual clock, analog or digital, to tell time if you need to keep track of the time. Another option, if you do not have a clock, is to set a soft chime on your phone as an alarm to notify you of when you should be wrapping up your practice. If you do that, leave your phone across the room. Insight Timer is a nice app that has a soft chime or bell you can use on a timer. Or your phone might make a soft alarm sound that is soothing and easy to listen to.

I can’t wait for you to set up your yoga space. Remember, all you REALLY need is a mat. And even then, if you have a nice floor that isn’t slippery, you don’t completely need a mat either. You can practice on whatever suits you. If it’s available, taking time to set up a small area where you can dedicate the space and your time in that space to your practice can be a really magical experience.

Next, I’ll share how to sequence your at home yoga practice!

Starting a Home Yoga Practice-Part 1

So, you want to do yoga at home, and you’re ready to get started! Having a home practice is awesome because it’s available almost anywhere, at any time. It can be so peaceful and freeing to get on your mat and move your body in a way that feels good to you in the moment. And it’s fun to just flow with your breath and see what happens. You are, after all, your own teacher. Even if you don’t know it yet :)

What You’ll Need To Get Started

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Technically, you don’t need anything to start a home yoga practice, except for you! If you are breathing with intention, connecting to your breath and moving your body in sequence with the breath, this is the start to yoga asana. You can do this in child’s pose, and there’s your home practice! But I’m guessing you probably want to do a little bit more than child’s pose. So if you’d like to support yourself and set your home practice up for success, prop it up!

Props are amazing, think of them as your yoga best friends. They can help you deepen your practice and help you approach postures in a new, safe, and effective way.

What kind of props will you need? Well like I said, you don’t need anything technically to start yoga. But a mat helps, a lot! A mat will provide a sticky, stable surface, as long as it is on flat ground. I recommend Jade, Manduka or PrAna mats. They are made of eco-friendly materials, are all ethical companies, and they will last you a LONG time. Plan to spend about $60-100 on a yoga mat, and make sure it’s a good one, because it will last you 5+ years. That’s not very much if you consider how often you will use it and how long it will last! Make sure to feel for the right stickiness, thickness of mat, and make sure it’s the right size! A standard mat will not work for someone who is 6’5”. Do your research, please don’t just blindly buy a mat online! Go to a store that has mats on display so that you can test them out. Again, try to go for Jade, Manduka or PrAna if you can!

You will also benefit from blocks. Blocks are great friends to have around when the floor does not want to come close to you! When you need to reach, place a block under your hand and you’ll feel secure and aligned. You can get yoga blocks just about anywhere. Make sure they are not too soft because this will hurt your wrist, as their is potential to overflex. Also, check the measurements. You want blocks that are 4 inches wide. There are 3 inch blocks out there and I have no idea why because they are not sturdy enough. You can plan to spend anywhere from $5-20 each on a block. If you really want steady, secure blocks, they will cost about $20 each. They are worth it! Your safety is worth it. You don’t want to be stingy when it comes to have comfortable yoga props that will last you for years to come.

These two stapes, a mat and 2 blocks, will really take you far. You can also get a few more props if you’d like to enhance your practice or if you will be practicing at home a lot.

A strap is a nice option for forward folds and for certain standing balances, as well as other creative ways you can use a strap once you figure it out! They usually come in 6’, 8’ and 10’ lengths. Most people can benefit from an 8’ long strap. Please don’t get a 6’ long strap if you are tall, it will be too short! Pay attention to measurements when you are buying a strap, especially if it’s online. If you are in doubt, get the longer strap. It won’t hurt to have extra length, but you’ll be sad if your strap is too short!

You can also get a bolster if you plan to do some restorative yoga at home, or if you really want to relax and chill out during savasana. Bolsters are usually universal in size, but you might want to get a small bolster if you are petite, or a larger bolster if you are tall. Again, pay attention to the dimensions if you buy one online. They aren’t small so you’ll need an area to store the bolster.

So there you have it, set up your props and you’ll be on your way to a home yoga practice.

Next I’ll share where to set up your practice and how to sequence your home practice!

Until then, happy prop finding!


How You Can Start Yoga

Yoga is for everybody and every BODY. Yes, it truly is. I’ll write more about yoga inclusivity, yoga accessibility, and more on other posts. But I want you to know this, if you want to start a yoga practice, you are entitled to that. No one has the permission to tell you that you can’t do yoga. You get to decide for yourself, because it is YOUR practice.

So, how can you get started? This post is speaking to a physical practice of yoga asana, meaning the postures of yoga. Sometimes they are called poses, but I don’t like using that term because it makes it feel like a performance. Most of us in the west are doing yoga as asana, even though there are seven other aspects of yoga that I will get in to later. Yoga asana is widely available in many, many forms, including public classes, online classes, books, and more. I’ll outline each one and you can decide what’s right for you!

Public Yoga Classes

You can find public yoga classes at gyms, yoga studios, community centers, recreation centers, and even parks and beaches. Usually the more casual a class is, like at a park or a beach, it might be free or donations based. Gyms will require an ongoing, monthly membership and studios are a pay-per-class kind of situation. The demographics of where you live will highly influence how much you pay for yoga. Which is sad, unfortunate, and another topic for another day. Some metropolitan areas offer donations based yoga, in an effort to have those who can pay help to offset the costs of those who cannot pay.

If you are attending yoga for the first time, I would consider finding a local studio that has beginning yoga classes. Or you can try yoga at the gym and let the instructor know that you are new to the practice. It might be intimidating, and vulnerable. Please know that no one is watching you or critiquing you. People come to yoga to get in to their bodies and mentally check out. If you have reservations, and it just feels terribly uncomfortable for you, walk away. No one is making you stay. You don’t owe the teacher anything. Listen to your body and do what is best for you.

I recommend trying out lots of classes at lots of places until you find a few key teachers that you really enjoy. And then attend their classes regularly. Mix it up, go to the teachers that you like at different times and on different days. Find a rhythm that works for your schedule and your routine.

At Home Yoga

You can get started at home with yoga with a variety of resources, including books, online streaming, dvds, and audio yoga. I would suggest doing some guided yoga first before you have a home practice. There are thousands of yoga classes to stream on YouTube. I WISH I could offer you all of my classes, but recording classes is hard work and I haven’t gotten there yet. I don’t have the space, literally, and haven’t really dedicated time to it yet. But I’ll get there one day!

There are also online streaming services like YogaGlo, OneoEight, Yoga Anytime, Gaia, Om Stars, and more. These are monthly memberships that you pay for and you have full access to all the classes. I like YogaGlo the best. They have my favorite teachers, and you can pick the duration of the class, the ability level, the type of class, what area of the body the class focuses on, etc. Most of them are between $14-20 a month, WAY less than a gym or studio!

You can also go to your library and check out some books and dvds on yoga, there should be a good amount at any large library. You will find some you love and some that you don’t like at all. It’s good to start paying attention to what resonates with you. so try a little bit of everything.

When it comes to having a home practice, I’ll do an entire post about this because I think it deserves that much attention. Or maybe a video. So stay tuned for that soon! A home practice means that you guide yourself through a yoga sequence, without a video or audio recording guiding you.

You can also hire your favorite local teacher to come in to your home and offer you personalized, one on one yoga! (*hint hint!!) :)

I hope these tips help you get started. It can be vulnerable and scary to start a yoga practice, so give it some time. Treat it carefully, like a new special thing you are excited about bringing in to your life. Be easy on yourself. Walk away from anything that makes you feel like you don’t belong or like you are “doing it wrong”. No one can tell you what your practice is like except for you. It’s your own personal journey. Have fun with it!

Let me know when you get started, I can’t wait to hear about it!

How I Started Yoga

I used to run, a lot. I started running because I had no idea how to cope with or live with my emotions surrounding infertility. I felt isolated and stifled. We didn’t really have any friends and in my late twenties, I certainly didn’t know how to talk about infertility. I did, kind of. But the conversations were not the norm. It’s not like I would meet someone and say to them “Oh hi, nice to meet you, can I dump my infertility baggage on you because it’s really hard to live with and I just need to talk to someone who will listen.”

I ran because staying inside to exercise was boring. I ran because it worked well with my schedule. And I ran because we lived in Southern California, where the weather was great for running, almost all of the time. I did run in the summer too, just later in the evening or early on the weekends. I didn’t sign up for any races. I just started to love running. I got a gps watch and would track my runs. I made epic playlists for my iPod and let the music motivate and carry me through my runs. It felt so freeing. Sometimes I still wish I ran. And I could. I still like it. But something else came along. Not to replace running. It didn’t replace anything really, it was just exactly what I was looking for when I didn’t think I was looking for anything.

I started yoga with the P90X videos. Anyone remember those, from the early 2000’s? Tony Horton, the goofball fitness instructor who was oddly entertaining and very cheerful and motivating, had this massive set of workout dvd’s that were on infomercial almost every single night. You watch enough of those and eventually you find yourself in a zombie like state, going to the computer with your eyes glazed over, chanting “must buy it”. So I did. I actually loved the workouts and I did them a lot when I wasn’t running. I never did the full 90 day thing, I just did them when I felt like it, and that worked for me. But they were LONG. Really long. I think most of them were at least an hour, so I’d skip the warm up and cool down and eventually I created my own modified versions. About once a week, or when I was actually lightly following the schedule, I did the yoga dvd. It was 90 minutes long, and that was tough! I remember feeling like a wobbling idiot, but I really liked it. I didn’t work out in front of a mirror, so I have no idea what I looked like. The first 45 minutes was more like a power yoga class, and then next 45 minutes had balancing, stretching, and savasana (the rest at the end). I got to the point where I summed it up to an hour. I did the power yoga, skipped the balancing (because I thought it was lame!), did some of the stretching and the rest at the end. And then I started just doing the first 45 minutes and called it good. I did not consider myself a yogi or as someone who “did yoga”. It was just a dvd I did from time to time, and it happened to be yoga.

In 2010 we moved and I kept running. I think I started running in 2008. I actually signed up for a half marathon. Running helped clear my head. It kept me sane. I was in good shape because of it. I also felt really empowered. I could push myself to run further or I could just run as long of a distance that felt good. Then I ran the half marathon, and that ruined running for me. It didn’t ruin it because I got injured, or because I didn’t like it. I knew, in order to keep running, I’d have to sign up for another race. And another race, and another race, and another race. And I just didn’t feel like paying to run! One of the great things I loved about running is that it didn’t cost anything. Just some minimal equipment ($80-100 shoes about every 4-6 months) and really that was it! So when I got addicted to wanting to race, I felt like it was time to stop. I did keep running for a little bit longer, maybe for a few more months, I can’t really remember.

After the race was over, I had some more time in my schedule. I wasn’t training rigorously, and I wasn’t sure how long I’d keep running for. Somehow it lost it’s spark, it’s magic, after I ran the race. I’m not sure why. I drove by a local yoga studio a lot. They had a banner out front for the first month unlimited for $30. Ok, that’s not free, but it’s less than a gym membership, so I gave it a try.

I had a really crappy yoga mat, but at least I had one. The only yoga I knew was what I had learned from Tony Horton on the P90X yoga dvd. I felt like I knew enough, and had good enough body awareness, to do yoga just fine. I was a little nervous, but I wasn’t a total novice so that helped. Plus I really wanted to try it. I had heard it was good for stress reduction, and a good way to exercise. Running had lost some of it’s appeal so it was time to give something else a try.

I don’t remember much about the first class I took. I don’t think it was a beginner’s class but it could have been. I don’t remember the teacher. I don’t remember what day it was, or what time of the day the class was. I know the studio I went to, but that’s all I remember. Well, almost all I remember. We probably did a bunch of traditional poses. My form was probably all over the place. I’m sure my sun salutations were cringe worthy to the seasoned practitioner. The room had no mirrors so I have no idea what I looked like, and I didn’t care.

What I DO remember about that class, is when I woke up from savasana, something had awakened inside of me. I had a profound experience, maybe spiritually, maybe with my higher self, maybe just because I was actually breathing intentionally. I KNEW without a doubt, that yoga was going to be a part of my life now. It’s like I was reminded of something I had always know. It was familiar to me even though I knew little to nothing about it. I sat up, and clearly had this thought “I am going to teach this one day”.

That was in 2010. It was another 6 years until I took my yoga teacher training. I still have a lifetime of learning ahead of me. Yoga is so vast, so expansive, such a massive topic, that everything I get on my mat or read one of my books or go to a workshop or lecture, I feel like I’m starting over and learning it again for the very first time. I hope it always feels that way.

Heavy Metal Detox Smoothie

Our bodies are up against toxins in our environment every day. It’s a miracle we’ve made it this far with how much we are polluting our world. It just shows our resiliency, and I truly believe that if we’ve gotten ourselves in to this mess, we can get ourselves out.

One of those toxins is heavy metals. They are everywhere, especially in our air because of all the ways heavy metals are released into the atmosphere (factories, smelting, mining, refineries, coal burning, petroleum combustion, and almost any kind of processing plant, plus so many more) and in our water system due to industrial and agricultural waste, polluted ground water and acid rain. This is a real issue, there are heavy metals everywhere and we are taking them in every day. Thankfully, there is a way to get them out!

So why do we want heavy metals out of our system? According to Medical Medium on his website:

“… toxic heavy metals can oxidize, causing damage to surrounding tissue and promoting inflammation. They literally poison our bodies, and can inflict damage on virtually every system and organ, including our brain, liver, digestive system, and other parts of our nervous system. Toxic heavy metals put an immense burden on our immune system, leaving us vulnerable to a variety of illnesses. 

While toxins of every kind are harmful, heavy metals pose a unique threat. Not only are they damaging in their own right, they are also a form of neurotoxin (a poison that disrupts nerve function and confuses your immune system). Heavy metal neurotoxins can inflame and irritate our central nervous system (especially our brain), causing multiple symptoms such as memory loss, brain fog, fatigue, and depression. Toxic heavy metals can also promote inflammation in the digestive tract, releasing poisons into our gut as well. As if this isn’t bad enough, heavy metals also serve as a source of food for viruses, bacteria, parasites, and other pathogens in our body. 

Source: http://www.medicalmedium.com/blog/heavy-metal-detox-smoothie


Ok, so let’s get them out!

The Heavy Metal Detox Smoothie is a quick to make, refreshing smoothie that contains the 5 key ingredients that help to remove heavy metals out of the system:

  • wild blueberries

  • spirulina

  • barley grass juice powder

  • cilantro

  • dulse

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There are other ingredients that Medical Medium recommends in specific amounts. For the full Medical Medium recipe for the Heavy Metal Detox Smoothie, click here.

For me personally, I feel that as long as I have the 5 key ingredients, my smoothie can have what I like in it! But I do think the orange juice is key, it helps with the green taste of the powders. I’ve made it with other juices and it’s just not the same!

I’ve created my own rendition that works well for me. I make about a 40 oz smoothie every morning and divide it in half for my husband and I. I usually drink it after my first morning yoga class that I’ve taught, which is around 10am. On morning that I don’t teach, I’ll have it about 2 hours after I’ve had some fruit for breakfast.

Heavy Metal Detox Smoothie

Ingredients: (makes 2 servings)

2 cups orange juice
1-2 cups frozen wild blueberries (sometimes I use a tsp of wild blueberry powder)
2 tsp Hawaiian spirulina
2 tsp Vimergy barley grass juice powder
1 small handful cilantro (usually about 1/4-1/2 cup)
1 tsp dulse flakes (if you have the dulse chunks, do a few pieces)
2 bananas
Frozen fruit to your liking. This is where I add in frozen mango, frozen pineapple, frozen strawberries, frozen raspberries, or frozen cherries. I usually do about 2-3 cups total.

Blend until smooth. This should make about 40 oz, for 2-20 oz smoothies. Drink daily!

Chickpea Salad Recipe, for sandwiches, salad, and more!

If you love chickpeas and want a delicious, quick, plant based option for lunch, dinner, or a snack, you will love this chickpea salad!

This recipe is from my amazing friend April Clark, the Happy Healin Vegan, and you can find it here on her website: https://happyhealinvegan.com/2018/09/10/chickpea-salad-sandwich/

I’ve made a few changes and I’ll share my version here! Either way, you can’t go wrong! This chickpea salad is reminiscent of chicken salad or tuna salad, without any animal products. You can make it with canned chickpeas or chickpeas you have cooked yourself. I’ll often cook a batch of chickpeas in my Instant Pot and then divide them up and freeze them. Then when I want to have chickpeas, I just take them out to defrost, and they’re ready to use for any recipe.

I like this chickpea salad in a sandwich with vegan, gluten free bread (I like Bread, SRSLY). It’s good with lettuce, tomatoes, and thinly sliced cucumber. I also make a big veggie salad and top it with the chickpea salad. Or, fill a bowl with the chickpea salad and use it as a dip with gluten free, vegan crackers. You can make a wrap with it too. It’s super versatile! We’ve had it for lunch and dinner. I will make a double batch sometimes so that I can throw together a quick sandwich during the weekend or any other busy time.


Chickpea Salad; for sandwiches, salad, and more!

Ingredients:

1 can of chickpeas (or 1.5 cups cooked chickpeas)
3 TB vegan mayo (I use Sir Kensington’s Fabanaise)
2 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
*optional 0.5-1 tsp pickle juice (I use Bubbies pickles)
1 tsp mustard
1-2 stalks celery
1/4 of an apple (red is best)
1/4 of red onion, thinly sliced (I skip this but it’s good with it!)
1 dill pickle (I use Bubbies!)
1.5 tsp dried dill (or use fresh, yum!)
1/4 tsp salt
black pepper to taste

Directions:

Drain the can of chickpeas and add to a bowl. Start to mash with a potato masher until they are somewhat mashed but not completely paste. Leave some chunks :)
In a small separate bowl, mix the mayo, lemon juice, pickle juice if using, dill, salt and pepper until it’s like a dressing. Drizzle over the chickpeas and alternate between mashing and mixing until the dressing is well mixed in.
Chop up the celery, apple, onion and pickle and add to the chickpea mixture. Mix until well combined.

Enjoy!!

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Holistic Remedies for Fall Immunity

The changes of the seasons often brings on shifts in our immune system. We spend less time outside, we eat more comfort foods and less fresh veggies and fruits, and even though our bodies want to slow down as the season slows to fall and winter, we often don’t follow these rhythms and we keep on going!

Over the years since I have adopted a holistic, plant based lifestyle, I have had very little sickness. I used to get strep throat and bronchitis ALL THE TIME! When I cut out mucous forming foods like dairy and gluten, and ate a more anti-inflammatory diet in the form of fresh fruits and veggies, gluten free whole grains, seeds, nuts, and legumes, I did not suffer from strep anymore, or bronchitis, or seasonal allergies. I was able to cut all medications and I don’t even take any over the counter meds. This might seem impossible, but let me assure you, I am a normal person who just took my health into my own hands! The body is amazing, so resilient, and we truly can heal.

Here are some of my favorite go to’s to keep my immune system highly functioning and thriving during the fall and winter months. Diet is just as important, as well as drinking enough clean water, exercising, and limiting or abstaining from caffeine and alcohol. I know you don’t want to hear it, but these do contribute to bringing down our health. So be smart about your choices. Want coffee? Balance it with some green juice. Going to have a glass of wine? Make sure you stay hydrated with water and drink some red clover tea to help support your liver. Don’t forget to get some sunshine too! Even 20 minutes of sun just on your arms and face in the months when the sun is not as strong is extremely beneficial to the entire body!

 
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Shown to be anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and anti-viral, Sovereign Silver is a great addition to the holistic medicine cabinet. I like this brand the most out of all silvers out there on the market.

Out of all my immunity supplements, these are my go to. I think Pure Encapsulations is a great brand and their Ester-C works well for me. Dr. Christopher’s Immune System is a synergistic blend or organic herbs that supports the immune system anytime.

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Ah my beloved essential oils! I have literally replaced my medicine cabinet with essential oils. My go to oils for immune support are eucalyptus globulus, thyme, ravinsara, Deliverance blend from Butterfly Express, and Thieves blend from Young Living. I use these brands plus a brand called Primavera that comes from Germany. You can find Primavera oils at goddessofspring.com. Use “ajwellness” to get 10% off your order!

 
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I LOVE Dr. Christopher’s products. I take this stuff by the hour when I’m feeling sniffles or a sore throat come on. It tasted kind of like a balsamic vinegar dressing that is VERY garlicky. It’s smelly but effective!

Can’t live without my zinc! We are all very, very zinc deficient. If I feel a sore throat come on, I do what’s called “zinc shock therapy” and this stuff takes it away every time. I like this brand because it does not upset my stomach.

Oil of oregano is a potent anti-viral and anti-bacterial remedy. I sometimes use oregano essential oil, but it is very strong and can burn, a lot! I put a few drops of this in water or juice just once or twice a day and it helps my immune system to stay strong and supportive to my overall health.



Salute the Sun with Surya Namaskar!

Although we are coming in to fall, it sure doesn’t feel like it! The sun is still warm and glowing, although it is not as high in the sky. Even on the shortest days, the sun still rises and sets. Sun salutations, called surya namaskar, are a foundation to vinyasa yoga asana. So why salute the sun?

Anciently, thousands of years ago, the yogis believed that yoga asana (the physical postures) connected us to the natural world. Our solar plexus, the chakra above the naval center, is said to be the seat of our intuition, where you can sometimes have a “gut feeling”. The ancient yogis believed that saluting the sun activated the solar plexus chakra, which can lead to heightened intuition and sharp mental clarity.

Sun salutations are best done in the early morning, and they can be a complete yoga practice if you’d like. Surya namaskar can be your new cup of coffee! Waking up to a yoga practice, even for 5 minutes, can be energizing and set the stage for a productive, enjoyable morning. You can do sun salutations anytime, there’s no hard and fast rule. Traditionally they are for the morning, but your practice is your’s, so make it your own!

Get your blood and lymphatic system circulating, boost your energy, stretch your muscles, strengthen your vitality and deepen your breath with a few rounds of surya namaskar!

What I Wish I Would Have Said

This is a hard one, because I teeter between not wanting to have regrets and let things be what they are, and really wishing I would have said something, anything, to help the conversation be more empathetic and educational for the person who was speaking to me.

What do I mean by this? Almost my whole adult life, I have been experiencing the ups and downs of grief and loss due to infertility and pregnancy loss. I didn’t realize how much grief I have been carrying for all my hopes and dreams that have yet to come to fruition. Infertility is incredibly isolating and often ostracizing. People can say the most hurtful things, in the spirit of “meaning well”. I’m calling this out. I do believe they mean well, and I don’t believe they take the time to actually express empathy from a loving place. This is something that takes work, practice, more work, more work, and even more work. Doing inner work is not fun. It’s a pain and can take you to some places you’d rather not be in, mentally and emotionally. And yet, it is so important. If we are going to truly be able to communicate with one another in a loving and empathetic way, doing some inner work to check your own issues and what makes you uncomfortable, is necessary.

I have learned so much, and I still have so much more to learn. No one prepares you for infertility. I didn’t even think to see a counselor for a long time. And there are no crash courses in being able to cope or how to talk to people about it. There is learning, every single day. There is growth, and it’s painful. There are setbacks, and it’s painful. There is understanding and clarity along the way as well. And you are able to peer in to a side of the human condition that not many others see.

So what do I mean when I say that I wish I would have said things differently? I wish I would have had some tools, some communication skills, to be able to respond to the comments that were so NOT helpful. I wish I could go back and help people see that their meaning well needs to shift and come from a place of love, instead of wherever else it’s coming from. Blanket statements do not work. They are hollow and void of meaning. Platitudes just being thrown at someone display emotional carelessness. Intrusive comments do not help. They are jarring and disrespectful. Just because you are “curious” about something, does not give you the right to blurt it out and ask someone. How about asking their name first? Oh yeah, I have tons of experiences like that. If you are “meaning well” because you care about the person, show it! Don’t ask some off the cuff, intrusive question that just makes you sound nosy and careless. Yep, I’m calling it out, because that’s what it sounds and feels like.

I’m not sure I can remember all of them, but I will pick some of my favorite, most awful comments people have said to me, and to us as a couple, over the years as we have journeyed through the ups and downs of trying to build our family and make meaning out of these years of childlessness. And I will share what, after having had some experience, gaining emotional maturity, and years of doing inner, introspective work, I would have liked to say to them. It might be thought provoking, educational, or downright snarky and sassy ;)


Scene: We are living in Idaho, in a very small, religiously conservative community, where everyone gets married young and has tons of kids. We had been married for about 3 years.

Comment: (the neighbors are gathered outside in someone’s yard, as all the kids around running around playing, a neighbor decided to announce her pregnancy of a 2nd child to all the neighbors and everyone congratulates them with delight) The husband then turns to us and says “So, when are you two going to join the club?”

What I wish I would have said: “I’m sorry, I didn’t realize there was a club to join, I thought everyone belonged here” or, what I REALLY wish I would have said: “I’m sorry, what club are you referring to? The judgmental club you are all in, where you marginalize and shame people who aren’t over populating the planet like you are? Yeah, no thanks, I want nothing to do with it”.


Comment: “Well, you can always adopt” or, “Have you thought about adoption” or, “Maybe it’s better because you can just adopt, there are so many babies who need loving parents”.

What I wish I would have said: “Adoption is not a solution to infertility, and infertility is not a problem that needs solving. If a family chooses to bring a child in to their home through adoption, it is HOW they are building their family. It’s not because anything else “failed” them, it is how they are becoming a family. It is not a plan B for not getting pregnant. And by the way, it’s interesting that you feel so strongly that we should adopt when you have absolutely no say as to what happens within our private life or our family life. Next time you feel that you want to say this to someone, consider the fact as to whether you are actually going to assist them with the adoption. Why is it so important that you assert your opinion on to us about such a personal matter? It doesn’t send a very good message when a seemingly stranger has such a strong opinion about how a random couple should become parents.”


Comment: “Well, you’ve been such a great teacher to all of these students over the years. Surely you can see that you have been a mother to them, so in a way you have been a mother.”

What I wish I would have said: “I have been their teacher and educator, yes, and as times caretaker as well. That is how I see myself in the work I have done with these children. Why is it so important that I be identified as a mother? Is that important to you in some way? This actually feels demeaning to me. I am their teacher and it’s important to me that I be their teacher. I don’t feel the need to be their mother. And I don’t feel that you get to decide when and how I define myself as a mother. That’s very personal and it feels intrusive that you would just define this for me without any regard to how I feel about it.”


Comment: “Everything happens for a reason”

What I wish I would have said: “It sounds like this is something you believe. Is that the case? Do you truly believe this for ALL experiences in life, even the random and incomprehensible events that can potentially occur? I would appreciate it if you didn’t assume that I believe the same thing that you do. To me this statement is more of an expression of belief and it does not help me feel better about my situation.”


This one is more of a situation where I REALLY wish I would have spoken up. I think I was around 24 years old at the time and we had been trying to have a baby for about a year. What does a 24 year old know when they are surrounded by older adults who are in “authority”, and when you give them that authority, how are you supposed to speak up for yourself when things feel awkward?

Ok, here’s the scenario. Like I have mentioned before, I used to be part of a religious organization and not only that, I lived in a very small town that was dominated by the culture of this religion. We were attending college here, and lived in a home in a neighborhood that was full of young families. We went to church 2 minutes away from our house. This place was baby central. Women were pregnant, all the time. They took time to announce their pregnancies in church, during the womens’ meeting. Every week there were a handful of women announcing their pregnancies. And the women’s organization at church took to ministering to these young mothers, bringing them meals when they returned home from the hospital with the new baby. It’s a lovely aspect of the community, unless you don’t get to take part. Unless you are left out, and then it feels isolating, lonely, and downright shaming. So week after week, this kept happening. And then one week, one of the leaders in the womens’ organization decided that there were going to pass around the “Baby Binder”. I AM NOT JOKING. This binder was to go to each woman, row by row. If you were pregnant, you indicated on the spreadsheet when you were due, and if you wanted meals brought to you. If you were not pregnant, it was your job to indicate that you could bring meals to women in need, and write what meals you could bring and what day of the week worked best for you. The expectation was that everyone would have something to contribute to the binder.

Well, NOT ME! I wanted to throw that dreadful thing across the room and smack the woman in the face who had stood up and said “And now sisters, we will pass around the Baby Binder.” Are you kidding me? This is so insulting, so painful … so INTRUSIVE! Week after week I just passed that thing by, wanting to rip it apart, or use it at target practice, or throw it through the window. I hated that binder.

What I wish I would have done: After church, privately approach the leaders in the womens’ organization and explain my feelings about the binder. It is painful for me to see and hear, it is hard for me to watch, week after week, countless amounts of women write their names down that they are expecting a baby and week after week I continue to be left out. It’s isolating and I don’t feel like it builds community. It doesn’t only leave me out, what about the women who are not married, or other women who are suffering from infertility silently. This is not inclusive and not representative of what true sisterhood is. Can you please leave the binder on a table in the back of the room, so that women can fill it out before or after the womens’ meeting if they want to? And that way, no one who consents to filling it out even has to see it. Would that be a possible solution? Thank you for listening.”


We can all do better. We can all check our privilege, our judgments, and our biases at the door, and come to a conversation with empathy. All you have to do is listen, listen some more, and commit to learning. Being there for someone doesn’t mean you throw a meaningless platitude at them because you were “meaning well”. Being there for someone means you look at them and say “I don’t know what to say, and I’m here for you.” And that’s it. Truly, that’s it.





I can't do yoga ... because I can't touch my toes!

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If you’re worried about being able to touch your toes in order to do yoga, then yoga may not be for you. And I say this with all the love in my heart.

What? Am I serious? Well, kind of. If you’re worried about touching your toes, then you may not be aware of what yoga is and why one would do yoga. What we have in the west is a lot of asana, the physical postures that make yoga (sometimes) look very aesthetically pleasing. What we don’t have, is a lot of the seven other components of yoga, because they are more internal and can’t be seen or put on display. Yes, there are eight parts of yoga, eight limbs to be exact. And physical asana is only one of the limbs. So although it can be intimidating, and all we can see is the physical side of yoga, there is so much more, enough for a journey of a lifetime! Maybe even several lifetimes!

If you think yoga is just asana, then you have not been introduced to what yoga truly is. And that is OK! I repeat, that is OK! You can start with asana, you can start with meditation, you can start with breathwork, called pranayama. There is no hard and fast rule on what you have to do first or what has to be mastered. Yoga is an individual journey as unique as each person on this planet. I started with asana and have barely scratched the surface of meditation, pranayama, and some of the other limbs, like the yamas and niyamas (a sort of universal code of ethics).

Yoga means union, union between your physical, earthly self and your higher, infinite self. Union to all energy around you. There is no separation, we are all connected and yoga helps to bridge this union. It’s a long journey, a journey of a lifetime, and it can be a painful, arduous, even isolating journey. It reveals things to you you’d rather not know. But it also opens you up to a whole new world that you had no idea was possible. This does not just happen by moving your body through asana. It can start there, absolutely. You might find that over time, you are ready for more, and that is when yoga really appears.

I like this explanation, given on the website of Ananda, a spiritual movement, on their section titled Yogic Encyclopedia:

Yoga literally means “union”. This union can be understood on different levels: philosophically, as that of the relative, limited self with the absolute Self; religiously, as that of the individual soul with the Infinite Spirit; psychologically, as the integration of the personality – a state wherein a person no longer lives at cross-purposes with himself; emotionally, as the stilling of the waves of likes and dislikes, permitting one to remain in all circumstances complete in himself. 

According to the ancient sage Patanjali, yoga is the neutralization of ego-directed feelings, because once these become stilled, the yogi realizes that he is, and that he has always been, one with the Infinite – that his awareness of this reality was limited only by his infatuation with limitation. 

So, if you’re worried about touching your toes, can you do yoga? YES OF COURSE! I am only trying to make a point. It is easy to focus on the physical aspect of yoga because, not only is it everywhere, it’s really the only yoga that we can see. And it looks intimidating. There are a lot of really flexible, beautiful bodies doing yoga. They are not more worthy of yoga. They do not have more of a right to be in a yoga class than anyone else. Yoga belongs to everyone, and yoga is for everyone! Yoga does not discriminate. It is here for all of us, ALL OF US. Find a teacher who you feel like you can trust, who uses inclusivity and welcoming languaging when they teach. Who offers adaptations for all ages and stages. I hesitate to even use the word modification. I don’t like that word, because it assumes there is a hierarchy in yoga. It assumes that one pose is more valuable and worthy than another. And that is simply not true.

You don’t have to do yoga anywhere you don’t feel welcome and included. There are many places to do yoga besides studios. You might even find you like doing it better at home with YouTube videos, or reading out of a book that explains the postures. You can find yoga in the park, donations based yoga classes, and some businesses or workplaces even offer free yoga. The yoga world in the west has a long way to go, and I think we are starting to do better at making yoga more inclusive and available to all.

I will leave you with this quote from Krishnamacharya, who is often known as the grandfather of modern yoga.

“If you can breath, you can do yoga.”


On Sharing Pregnancy

“Let’s shed the stigma all the more by bidding farewell to the notion of waiting to share pregnancy news until we are ‘out of the woods’”
-Dr. Jessica Zucker, creator of #ihadamiscarriage

As a woman who has been acutely aware of social media pregnancy announcements for as long as I have had social media (maybe 10 years?), there is a trend that prevails these announcements. A trend of shame, of stigma, of oppression. DO NOT share until you are in the second trimester. It’s an unspoken rule, but you see the evidence of it everywhere. Those who do share run the risk of humiliation and indignity. What happens if you lose the pregnancy? You don’t want to tell anyone you had a miscarriage, that’s shameful! I am here to say that is all false, and this trend is hurting women and hurting our culture’s view of pregnancy. It’s time we dismantle it.

I experienced this with my own pregnancy. I started showing, EARLY. I was in maternity clothes by 8 weeks, and even before then I was already out of jeans and wearing everything stretchy and loose. It took us some time to make the rounds and tell everyone we wanted to tell personally, and then at 9 weeks I started bleeding and we had no idea what was going on. We didn’t know if the pregnancy was aborting or what each day would bring. We wanted to share with the world, desperately. I had come in to contact with so many women over the years in the social media sphere who had experienced years of pain due to infertility, and also infertility coupled with pregnancy loss. I wanted to share that hope was possible. That we didn’t give up and look at where we were, pregnant with twins! We talked about it for weeks, and Ryan was very supportive about us sharing as soon as possible. We both agreed that we had nothing to be ashamed of, and with 1 in 4 pregnancies ending in loss, this was a natural part of parenthood.

We were so close to sharing, and then we received the news that our sons had lost their amniotic fluid. And then I didn’t feel like sharing. But looking back, I wish I would have. Because I have never felt more alone or isolated in my life. Truly. I was home, on bed rest, taking care of myself and our precious boys for about 7 weeks and virtually no one knew. Only family and close friends. I spend hours bored on social media and did not share a thing. So even though we had agreed that there was nothing to be ashed of, and there was nothing that we had done to cause this, and if the pregnancy ended, it ended and that was out of our control, I still did not share. Weeks went by and Ryan kept trying to get me out of the house to take pictures. I was SO tired, ALL the time. I think my body was fighting to keep the babies alive, but also working so much harder because they did not have any amniotic fluid. So I was exhausted. Most days I was lucky enough to even shower. Getting ready to take cute photos was the last thing on my mind. But eventually we discussed that we did not want to have any regrets.

Five days before I went in to preterm labor, we asked one of Ryan’s coworkers to take some photos of us one day when Ryan was done with work. I got up the courage to get ready, put some makeup on, do my hair, and drive to his office. That next day was my birthday, so for my birthday present, I shared our miracle with the world. We were so hopeful. We were almost at 20 weeks. I felt like 20 weeks was going to be an important milestone. And we were so close. We both felt like maybe this was actually going to happen, that even if they were born super early and had to be in the NICU for the first months of their lives, they would be in our arms soon as our precious sons here on earth.

Five days later, after coming home from the hospital with empty arms and broken hearts, we were still receiving comments of congratulations and well wishes on that post. I think it had over 500 likes. These special boys were truly a miracle and already having their impact on the world. So we had to let everyone know that they had left their earthly existence. It was awful.

I’m so glad we shared our announcement while I was still pregnant. I’m so glad people got to know that Lucas and Nicholas were our sons and that they are part of our family, and they got to see my pregnant belly, even if that’s all they will ever see of our boys. I don’t have any regrets, but I do wished I would have shared sooner. I did share, in private groups and forums, but not to those who could have come to our comfort and to our sides sooner. Because we needed them. I needed them. I yearned to be surrounded by powerful, mama energy during my pregnancy. I wanted to commune and ritual with all of the warrior mamas I had imagined who have come before me, who have walked in my shoes and survived. I needed that so badly. But I didn’t know where to find it, and I had no idea who to reach out to. So I stayed quiet and the deafening silence of the isolation was, at times, almost unbearable. I just kept my hand on my belly and talked to our boys all day long. That was how I spent the last 11 weeks of my pregnancy, since I started bed rest at 9 weeks.

This is what our culture is doing by shaming women to not speak up about their pregnancy. It’s keeping us disconnected and isolated. So I’m calling it out. This practice needs to stop. A woman is free to express her pregnancy in any way that she and her partner chooses, or any way that she chooses if she is not with a partner. And she doesn’t owe an explanation or an apology to anyone. A woman’s body is hers, so don’t ask, let her tell you.

The Early Days of Grief

Grief is mysterious. Grief is complex. Grief does not discriminate and grief appears when it needs to. You have no control over it. I repeat, you have no control over it.

What does it feel like? That’s perplexing, because it depends on the situation, the person, the environment you are in, it depends on all of these things. There can be patterns and it can be chaotic. It can be elusive or feel extremely tangible.

In the early days in the week and months after our sons left their earthly bodies, I was wrecked. There was a hole in my chest. I lost my breath a lot and anxiety filled me at any given moment. I was completely out of control and the only way to cope is to ride the wave of emotions as they come. This is not easy, because no one teaches us how to do this. And we live in a society that tries to cover up emotions so that we can just “get over it”. Well, there is no getting over it. That’s not logical, reasonable or healthy. If you are in pain and people are telling you to get over it to move on, find new people to be around. Our culture needs to do a lot better when it comes to how we engage with mental health. And especially grief. No one wants to talk about loss, yet we have all experienced it. Even if this loss is not in the form of death, loss can take many other forms.

When the trauma or incident occurs, the early days are intense. You might feel like you are treading water, constantly trying to keep your head up. Or you might feel like you are stuck in this void, a limbo, with no where to go and you really have no idea who you are. This is just an example of how it can feel. The vastness of grief is just as wide as the spectrum of human experiences itself. Does anything help? Sometimes, and not always. And sometimes what you thought would not help, can help when you least expect it.

From my own experience, as someone who has experienced and is experiencing grief, with no educational background in psychology whatsoever, and having just my anecdotal journey to offer you, here are some activities and experiences that may help when the grief is extremely new and raw:

Talk about it

Talk as much as you need to. Talk to people who will genuinely listen and be there for you. Talk to people who will hold you and tell you they love you and expect nothing in return. Try to stay away from those who think they are helping by offering unsolicited advice or blanket statements that do not help. These statements often seem empathetic, but they are dripping with sympathy and veiled with emptiness, and no one needs sympathy when they are in the throes of grief. Talk to those who will listen and just be there for you.

Move your body

Go on a walk or a hike. Do yoga, maybe at home if you don’t feel like being around anyone in a public class setting. Or hire a yoga teacher privately so that you don’t have to be around crowds. Run. Ride your bike. If you feel up to it, take an fitness class or even consider working with a personal trainer. You’d be amazed at the healing benefits of just being present in your body can offer.

Get lost in a book or a movie

You might feel guilty for this one. You might feel like your mind needs to be on your loss every second. It doesn’t. So only go for this one when you actually feel like it. Read a book purely for entertainment if you’re up to it. Watch a movie that will make you laugh. Even binge watch if you want to. There are no rules here. Make it work for you. In the week or two after our sons’ delivery, we watched The Matrix trilogy. It was an awesome distraction. Just be aware of that. Are you doing it to distract yourself? That’s ok if so. Are you overconsuming to distract yourself too much? That’s something to watch out for.

Journal

This is either your thing or its not. No judgement there either way. If you want to write, write. If you don’t, no big deal. For some people, flushing their thoughts, feelings and experience out on to paper is incredibly cathartic.

Go out of town

Take a short little trip. You don’t have to go far. Maybe even just for the weekend. Stay close to home if you’d like. Set yourself up with some activities you have already planned, so that you make the best out of the experience. Or go somewhere where relaxation is encouraged, like a cabin in the woods or a beach house. You get to choose. This is your experience. If going out of town isn’t feasible, can you take a day off? Maybe book a spa day, or go to a restaurant you’ve never tried. Getting out of the house can feel really good. And if you start to leave and anxiety hits and you just can’t do it, that’s ok. Try again when you feel like you’ve built up some resilience. It’s not worth it if you need to just stay home and fall apart. I had many days like this, where I sat in the car and just couldn’t start it and I crumbled in to a mess. It is ok to fall apart. It is ok that you’re not ok. Take all the time you need.

See a mental health professional

I cannot overstate this enough. If you have the means, start seeing a grief counselor. As soon as possible. Ask for recommendations and go to someone who has expertise in your experience that you are grieving. This is really important. If it’s not possible for you because of where you live or your financial situation, see if there is a peer counseling group in your area. Often, there are free peer counseling/support groups that center around a specific loss experience (loss of pregnancy, loss of child, loss of spouse). These are led by peers who have been on a similar journey to what you are experiencing. They are not mental health professionals but they have been extensively trained. If you still can’t find anything in your area, get online and see what you can find. More and more there are forums and online groups for support. And I’ve even seen hotlines where you can call and a mental health professional is on the other line. Let yourself get help. You are not alone, you don’t have to go through this alone, nor should you.

Do what you need to do, unapologetically

You can say no. Give yourself that permission. Skip the family get together if you need to. Say no to well meaning friends if you are just not in the mood to go out. If you need something, ask. Get your meals delivered or ask friends for help if you just don’t feel like cooking. Ask someone to help you walk your dog if you just can’t seem to get out the door on a certain day. This is the hardest, asking for help. But let me tell you, people want to help, they just don’t know how. When you reach out and give them a task, they will jump on it. When they come to you and offer their help, they mean it, so be specific about what you need. And say no to what you need to. This is your journey. Be as true to yourself as you can be.

A Healing Yoga Sequence for a Sad Heart

Heart wrenching sadness, it happens. Pain that feels unbearable and indescribably. So heavy that your chest might cave in. I felt all of this and more in the days, weeks, months, and now even over a year since our twin sons left their bodies at 20 weeks along in my pregnancy. Grief does not discriminate, it shows up when it needs to, however it needs to. As I came back to my yoga practice, even after thinking I would never get on the mat again, these poses are the tried and true I kept coming back to. They felt nurturing. I felt like I was being held by a source greater than I could understand. When your heart just can’t take it, unroll your mat, and as you connect to your breath and allow yourself to move, let the feelings flow. Cry. Scream. Yell. Pound the floor. Sob. Wail. The practice will allow you to burn through the feelings, to release, yield, embrace, or let go.

Throughout this practice, maintain your breath. I will be writing the physical cues for each pose, so the breath is already a given. When you begin, establish a quiet, soft rhythm of the breath. Allow space for the inhale to be held in, and a pause after the exhale. Experiment, take a few short breath cycles and maybe a few long ones. Find a flow of breath that feels natural and effortless. Allow your breath to be the mover of your practice. Breath comes first, movement follows. If you lose your breath, come in to child’s pose or downward facing dog, or even seated easy pose, until you feel like you can establish a calm rhythm of the breath again.


 
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Come in to a child’s pose that feels good to you. Your arms can be extended or by your sides. Put a blanket under your knees if you need to for further support. Take as many breaths as you need here.

 

Find your way from child’s pose to standing. Roll up slowly, taking your time. Then send weight into your heel, shift your hips back and bring your hands to your heart or arms overhead. Keep the spine neutral and lift the toes if you can. On my really sad days, arms overhead exposes the heart too much and brings on the tears, so this might be a safer option. Keep breathing and move on when you are ready.

 
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Step your right foot forward in to runner’s lunge, perch up on your fingertips and lengthen the spine and then step the back foot about halfway in. Spin the back toes out about 10 degrees. Make sure the feet are on railroad tracks so your hips have enough space to square off. Fold over the front leg, letting the head and arms totally relax.

 

Bring your hands to your hips and turn to the direction away from the front foot. Parallel your feet and turn your toes slightly inward. Lengthen the spine and take your time to fold forward, sending the tailbone back and up and bringing the crown of the head forward and down. Let your arms hand, or hook your toes and bend your elbows to assist you in folding deeper.

 

After repeating the sequence on both sides, come to seated and extend the legs our long. Flex the ankles and sit tall. Extend the arms overhead and lengthen the sides of the body. Feel the front of the pelvic bone begin to tilt forward, as you come forward and down. Imagine the collarbones and chest lengthening towards the toes. Keep the low back long, tailbone extends behind you. Grab what you can, and soften the head and shoulders when you are ready. You can sit on a blanket to make this fold easier, or just sit up right if you feel you are too slouched over to fold with keeping the spine long.

 

Rise up from the forward fold, press your knees together, and roll on to your back. Hug your knees in and extend your arms out in line with the head of the shoulders. Shift your hips slightly to the right and exhale as you lower your knees to the left for a twist. Let your gaze fall where it feels comfortable.

 
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Bend the knees deeply to 90 degrees and hold the outside edges of the feet with the hands. Ankles are flexed and toes pull towards the knees. Elbows are inside the knees and the wrist wraps outside the ankle to hold the foot, if you can. You can rock side to side, extend one leg or both, or do any subtle, calming movements here that feel good.

 
 
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Brings your arms by your sides and cup your heels or hold your ankles lightly. Lift your hips and roll on to the crown of your head. Let the legs support you here in rabbit pose. Stay here for 4-6 breaths.

 
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Dive down from chair pose and place your hands on the mat next to your feet. Bend your knees and step back, one foot at a time, and then lift the hips to downward facing dog. Fingers should be open wide, strong straight arms push the floor away, and tailbone lengthens to the sky. Press the heels down for a back of the legs stretch. You can also pedal the feet here and move around a bit. Breathe deeply.

 
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Rise up from pyramid stretch and step the back foot about 12 inches back. Line up the front heel to the back arch and extend the arms out in line with the head of the arm bones. Press the front knee open over the pinky toe of the front foot. Gaze over your front fingertips or close your eyes. Feet are rooted and legs are strong.

 
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Walk your hands to the top of the mat, step back to downward facing dog, and come in to child’s pose. Stay here as long as you need to, and when you are ready, stand and repeat the sequence from chair pose on the other side. Keep the breath easy and light, and take a rest whenever you need to. This is a deep practice to take you inward, so take all the time you need.

 

Rise up from the forward fold, and bring the feet together while the knees splay out. Sit tall, hold on to the ankles or hold the feet like a book. You can even cup the fingers interlaced around the toes. Lengthen the spine more, feel the pelvic bone tilt forward as you fold. Think of the collarbones and chest reaching forward and down. Keep the chin neutral so the back of the neck is long and the cervical spine does not get compressed. Tailbone continues to lengthen behind you, as you soften the head and tops of the shoulders. Try not to overly round here, think low back long.

 
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On an inhale, lift the knees up to neutral, hovering over the hips, shifts the hips to the left, and exhale as you lower your knees to the right. Let your neck twist to where it feels comfortable. Another option is to take the hand that is above the knees and rest it on the top knee. Come up on an inhale.

 
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Slowly release the feet and extend the legs long the length of the mat. If you are cold or want to get cozy, put on a sweatshirt, cover up with a blanket, use a blanket as a pillow, etc. You can also put a bolster under your knees if you have one. Extend your limbs and get completely comfortable. Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths, inhaling longer than you normally do, and exhaling every last drop of air out. Stay here and rest for 5-10 minutes.

 

After savasana, slowly support yourself upright to seated. You might feel like spending a few minutes here in quiet seated meditation. Take it slowly for a little bit so that you don’t jolt your nervous system. You may even want to spend a few minutes journaling. This forward fold practice is not necessarily calming, but it can be. It can be reducing, so if you are feeling agitated, overwhelmed, or restless, it may provide some relief. It can also make you sleepy or bring you down further, so just notice how you feel afterwards. You can always modify the practice to suit your needs. Yoga is personal, so let it be personal! This is your practice, and ultimately you are the teacher, so take your practice on a journey that feels right to you.

If you have any questions about this practice, please let me know! I hope you enjoy it and give yourself the time and space to breath and move your body in a healing way.

Namaste!

Their Birth Story

I could write a lot about what I did, what we did, to save our sons. And that could be another five blog posts. I have a journal and wrote down a lot at the time. I can share some of the things that I did, and maybe in time I will write more in detail. Right now it’s really important that I share their birth story. I feel that this is what they want to be known. It’s amazing how much I am feeling them as I write about them. How much I feel like their mother, how much I feel we are their parents. Grief does funny things and can cause disconnect and feelings of illusion and detachment. I think part of the reason why they have nudged me so much to share their story is so that it can continue to be a part of my healing and to help us feel even closer to them.

So what I will say about what we did for their health and to improve their situation, was everything. It became a full time job. I consulted with my holistic healers in many arenas and followed all of their advice. None of it mattered, because I did not want to have any regrets. I can tell you that we did have real, measureable success that the doctors could not explain. One weeks after the first ultra sound with the high risk doctor, the blood clots that were very apparent in the first ultra sound, were completely gone. They had vanished. In one week they had completely dissolved and I did not have any bleeding. So I knew that what I was doing was doing something. And that was enough for me to keep going. Two more weeks later, the boys had fluid in their bodies, in their stomaches and in their bladders. Ryan asked where the fluid came from, and the nurse told us they swallow it, so they must have some fluid around their bodies. I was hopeful, that their amniotic fluid was building up and maybe they did have a fighting chance. But they lost their fluid so early, and I wasn’t sure. I read stories about babies at 16, 18, 20 weeks losing their fluid and making it to 24 or 26 weeks and they made it. But our boys lost their fluid around 12 weeks. That was pretty early, and as hopeful as we both were, we also feared the worst. Even when you fear the worst, when it actually happens, nothing can prepare you for it.

On Tuesday, May 30th, in the late afternoon, I began to have some cramps. They were really low in my abdomen and were slightly uncomfortable but not too bad. After about an hour they went away. Then a few hours after dinner they came back. And they were really intense. I could actually see my low abdomen contracting when they squeezed me. But still, I thought maybe I was dehydrated, or maybe had a bladder infection. We called the doctor and they told us to get to Stanford asap for an ultra sound to make sure everything was ok. But we were apprehensive and didn’t know what the right choice was. We both really thought that I just had a bladder infection gone bad. Around 11pm Ryan ran to the store to get me some cranberry juice, and I was going to guzzle the entire jar. While he was gone, and it was only about 15 minutes, the cramping stopped. I felt my heartbeat relax. I felt calm, and I actually felt really good. Everything was going to be ok. He got home, poured me a glass of juice, and I sat up in bed to drink it. A few minutes later, we were going to go to bed and of course, I wanted to make sure I went to the bathroom. I had felt some pressure on my bladder for the last 20 minutes or so, which confirmed my thinking that maybe I had a really bad bladder infection.

I went to the use the bathroom before bed, and that is when I delivered our first son, Nicholas. I called to Ryan because I was so afraid, I couldn’t look. I could feel something was coming out of me and I was so scared and shaking all over. Ryan took him in his hands and I finally was able to look down at him. He was so tiny, so so tiny. And he was moving. We both looked at each other in udder bewilderment. Here was our baby boy, way too early, but so so perfect. He was so precious beyond words. I looked at Ryan and told him to call 911. I held Nicholas in my hands, tiny, thin umbilical cord attached, and made my way in to the living room. I couldn’t believe what was happening. It felt so surreal, so strange, so foreign, like I was living in someone else’s life.

The paramedics, fire medics and police came almost immediately. They took me in to the ambulance and we raced away to Lucille Packard children’s hospital, maybe two miles away from our home. What we entered in to when we arrived was nothing I had ever seen before. They had cleared the emergency room completely for us. The room probably had 30-40 people, orderlies, students, nurses, doctors, my eyes glazed over and Ryan was across the room from me. He couldn’t even be next to me. And I was still holding Nicholas. They did an ultra sound to see our other son and said there was no amniotic fluid present but he was not down the birth canal yet. It took a few minutes and they rushed me up to labor and delivery. Things are kind of a blur from there. Doctors and nurses coming in, giving me an IV, maybe another ultra sound? I don’t remember. It was almost an hour later before I delivered again. I actually had to deliver this time. I was dilated to about a 4 or 5, which was enough considering they were not full term. After midnight, on May 31st, I delivered our second son Lucas. He was breech and he was again, moving yet barely alive. They did not detect a heart beat but Ryan knows he saw his chest move. We knew it didn’t matter, since they were too small to live outside of the womb. We spent a long time just holding our sons. I have never felt so much pain in my life, like my heart had been ripped out of my chest and was outside of my body and in these two little precious babies who I loved more than anything else I had ever laid eyes on. Nothing can even put in to words what we actually felt in those moments. Nothing.

Delivering the placentas was another story. Because I was early, they were still small and softer then when a baby is full term. The doctor was able to remove one, and the other just wasn’t making it’s way out. I was losing a lot of blood. A lot. A transfusion was discussed, and I was whisked away to the operating room for a d&c to remove the second placenta. Ryan was left in his own, they wouldn’t let him come in. I’m not sure why, and all I wanted was to feel him next to me. I was given a spinal block, some blood was drawn, and immediately once the numbness kicked in they went to work. I was shaking so badly. I didn’t want to have this done, but if my life depended on it, I didn’t have a choice. We had already lost so much that I didn’t want Ryan and I to lose each other as well. Not even two minutes in the second placenta came loose and was extracted. I didn’t even need to have the full procedure, I didn’t have any procedure at all except for the spinal block. I was grateful beyond measure. It was incomprehensible to me that in the course of a few hours I had had a home birth, a breech delivery, and I was in the OR for a procedure. Not in a million years could we have ever imagined that this was going to be the birth story of our first pregnancy. Nothing can prepare you. In the moment, you just go with it, because there is nothing else that you can do.

I returned to the room and continued to get numb, which was so, so weird. I think it was around 5 or 6am at this time. They were still monitoring me to make sure I didn’t bleed anymore. I was given something to help make sure all contractions and labor had stopped. I can’t really remember. There are a lot of details I remember that I’ll leave out. The hospital was quite boggled with us and our situation. A baby born at home before 20 weeks (which is the time which the birth goes from being classified as a miscarriage to a stillborn, which is a JOKE in my opinion because what we had happen was neither one, and I’m sure thousands of parents have the same experience of having neither one as well) and a baby born at the hospital at 20 weeks. There was lots of paperwork and things that are not necessary to get in to. But let me say, that is nothing that any parent wants to deal with after having their children born early and leaving this life too soon. It was very taxing and exhausting.

I can’t remember when we went home, maybe around 3pm the next day. Or the same day, since we arrived at the hospital after midnight. The feeling of leaving a hospital, no longer pregnant, and also no longer with our babies, is something I will never forget. It is heart wrenching beyond belief. It is the worst feeling I have ever felt in my life. I know I can speak for Ryan on that as well. We have never felt more anguish.

When we got home, I think we just stared at the wall for a little while. And then we realized we better start calling some people. We were both in shock and started having the same conversation over and over again, so it was actually kind of robotic in a way. It felt so surreal, so out of character, so bizarre. Food started arriving on our doorstep. I realized for the first time in almost 24 hours that I was hungry. We had been up for 36 hours. That night I think we both slept a dreamless night. I slept well, surprisingly, but it was numb.

The next day visitors came, flowers arrived, more food arrived, it was more than we ever expected. People who we had no idea cared so much showered us with love. It was incredible and amazing to see this side of the human condition. Never had we been in such need before, and those who came through for us just astounded me. I am and always will be, we both will be, immensely grateful for all of the selfless acts of those who came forward to care for us in our time of need. We were deeply touched and I still feel so much love when I think of it. Humanity, in it’s fragility, is really beautiful.

A gesture of genuine kindness that touched us both, maybe the most, although that’s hard to say because they were all thoughtful and incredible, was when the fire medic stopped by our home the next day. He was off duty, and he brought us flowers from the fire station, from all who had come to our aid less than 48 hours before. We were all choked up, when he shared that they were so impressed by us, and our situation was so unique and also incredible, that he couldn’t let it go unnoticed. He was so impressed at our level of calmness that we displayed, and the commitment we had to each other, and the love that we shared. It was one of the most beautiful gestures of kindness and I am still in shock and gratitude to the grace and love that he displayed to us. It showed us both how special our boys are, how much of an impact they have had on the world, even in the short amount of time they lived their tiny lives.

Our sons continue to impact us daily. They inform the choices we make, they inform how we see the world, and they have forever marked our hearts with their presence and existence. We miss them terribly, every day. We would have much rather had them stay with us. And they needed to go. For whatever reason, that sometimes seems very clear and is sometimes shrouded in doubt and mystery, they needed to go. We love them forever, our precious boys Nicholas and Lucas.

Thank you for reading abut our sons, and for letting us share it with you. May their short lives have a positive ripple effect on this world to all those who come in to contact with their story.

Love, The Johnsons

Ryan, Adrienne, Nicholas and Lucas

The Story of Our Sons-Part 4

My body started changing immediately when I was pregnant. I was sick around 5 weeks, and before I was even 8 weeks along, I was in maternity clothes. I have a small frame, and with twins who were growing fast and right on schedule, space was tight!

We went to our appointments at UCSF just before 6 weeks along, and I think about 1.5 weeks later. I was nervous about having so many ultra sounds, but part of me also didn’t care. I loved hearing their heart’s beat and it felt so good to see that everything was ok. Things were changing fast and I started letting people know soon, because I was already showing, getting sick, and got light headed a lot. At this point I was teaching about 12 yoga and fitness classes a week. I think I told my classes when I was around 7 weeks along, just because I was already starting to have to modify and do way less. I was out of breath too, so often! I never wore a mic when I taught yoga, but I started wearing the mic because I was so out of breath all the time. That was a huge giveaway that something was going on, so I figured I’d better let everyone know. And we both thought of really creative ways to tell our parents. Ryan actually took a video our first ultra sound, where we found out we had two little sesame seeds growing. We uploaded that video to YouTube privately and sent it to our parents and had them watch it, while we were face timing with them, once we sent them the link. For the two of us not being too creative when it comes to announcements and things like that, I thought it was pretty clever and thoughtful!

We started looking at the calendar and planning for life ahead with two babies. I checked out tons of books on twins at the library and read all that I could. I started reading in forums and in mother’s groups online. I joined Facebook groups for multiples. We even joined the local group for parents of multiples and went to their informational meeting. We were shocked, nervous, and apprehensive, but more importantly, completely overjoyed and excited. We knew nothing could get us completely ready, and that was ok. We’d cross every bridge as we came to it, and we’d be by each other’s side doing the best we possibly could for our babies.

Nowadays when you are pregnant, you can take a blood test around 10 weeks and they can tell you the gender of the baby. I didn’t really want to know, but Ryan did, so we went ahead and did it. The tricky thing is, with twins, there is no guarantee unless you are having two girls. See, they detect the presence of the chromosomes. So if you are having two girls, they will only detect x chromosomes. But if even one of the twins is a boy, they will detect x and y chromosomes. So you can be sure you’re having at least one boy, maybe two, if at least one is detected. Ok, does that make sense? Hope so! We went ahead and did the test and I asked them to tell Ryan the results. Once Ryan knew, he created a whole scheme to have me do this little chemistry test to find out. He has a salt water fish tank, and he tests the levels in the tank often to find out what he needs to add to it. These tests show different colors when you add the chemical to the fish tank water in a small test tube. So, he devised this whole creative task where I had to take this bottle, put two drops in, then take that one, etc. It was honestly just so sweet and fun. We were so excited. So he had me do the little tasks and a few minutes later I got to the end and the test tube turned pink. Oh my goodness, two girls!! And then, all of a sudden, it went from pink to blue. We were having at least one boy!! We both cried and hugged. It was so such a precious moment we had been waiting for, for so long. It makes me sad that we didn’t share a lot of this with family. Well, almost any of it. Most family members didn’t even see me when I was pregnant, We have geographically distant family members on both sides and we didn’t talk to to them about a lot of this. I’m not sure why. I think it’s because the infertility journey had become so much our thing, that this felt like it was our thing too. It’s weird in a way, because you’d think we’d want to share it with family. And you’d think they’d want to share it with us. I still can’t make sense of all of this. I guess we all get really wrapped up in our own lives. And when it comes to loss, people get really weird. Grief brings out a strangeness in a lot of us that we didn’t even know was there. That’s because grief is uncomfortable, and grief shows us our own losses as well. But I’ll get more to grief in the next few posts.

I was really tired, and had started cutting back some of my classes when I was around 8 weeks pregnant already. I went from about 12 to about 7 classes a week. And I thought I could manage until I just couldn’t manage anymore. I barely had enough energy to go around the block on a walk. I remember talking to someone and they said to me “But why are you so tired, I was never this tired when I was pregnant”. Well, I was growing two babies. And I was sick. And it was taking a lot out of me. Every mother’s body responds differently to her pregnancy, and every pregnancy is different. There is no need to compare or analyze because we are all so different. And when it comes to nausea, what works for one pregnancy may most definitely not work for another one! So yeah, the unsolicited advice continued, but I wasn’t out and about too much, so it was only here and there. And I tried to use it as an opportunity to educate, instead of just play along and answer because I didn’t know what else to do. I’d try to actually have a conversation with the person about it in a more meaningful way. It wasn’t easy. Humans are weird, we almost like to do those hit and run comments and hide away. But again, it’s ok to get uncomfortable.

Things were going along ok, but again, I was tired, and sick. And I was going to bed at like 7pm every night. One Saturday morning I woke up and went to the bathroom and there was blood. I was around 9 weeks along, and already showing quite a bit. It was the scariest thing I had ever seen. We rushed to the doctor’s and found out I had a subchorionic clot, which are actually fairly normal in pregnancy. I was ordered to immediate bed rest. The babies were doing really well and the clot wasn’t too large so my doctor was optimist that it would start to shrink. And after a week of bedrest, it did start to shrink! I remember going in about 1.5 weeks later (the bleeding stopped after about 3 days) and the clot had shrunk to about 70% of the original size. We were both so relieved and amazed. What an amazing thing the human body is, to grow these babies, to take care of the clot, and everything was going to be ok. I stayed on bed rest because I was really tired, and I wanted to make sure the clot was completely gone. I did not have any intention to go back to teaching my classes if I didn’t need too. These two little precious bundles growing in my womb were so much more important. They were everything, and they were worth the sacrifice.

Another two weeks later, I was around 13 weeks, we went to our next appointment. We were both ready to see that the clot had completely shrunk, since I had had no bleeding, and couldn’t wait to see how our little ones had grown. And of course, hearing their hearts always brought me so much joy, comfort and excitement. This appointment turned out to be very, very different.

The doctor, not mine but another doctor at the practice, was very matter of fact. She said she did not see any amniotic fluid and my uterus was full of clots, clots larger than the sacs the babies were in.

She had to be wrong. These machines aren’t always accurate. Maybe there was interference. Maybe something in the machine was broken. Maybe it was off and there was just no explanation for it. No amniotic fluid? How could that have been? They looked perfect just 1.5 weeks before, absolutely perfect. In fact, baby A was actually doing somersaults in his sac! This had to be wrong, it had to be. We were both shaken beyond comprehension. Our perfect babies, our perfect family that we had waited for, for so long, had just had a major crisis and we had no idea what to do. It was a Friday, and we had to wait until Monday to go see the specialist at the high risk clinic. I could barely breathe. What the hell was going on with our babies, and what were we supposed to do?

Monday confirmed our greatest fears and had me sobbing uncontrollably on the examination table with the doctor as I was receiving an ultra sound. Our boys had no amniotic fluid. And it was completely a mystery, as they were fraternal twins and they could not hypothesize how they could have both lost their fluid. I was on bed rest, and I didn’t have any rush of fluid come out. On top of this, my uterus was full of clots, clots larger than the babies sacs. There were at least 6 of them. The doctors only way to make sense of this was to guess that the clots had put so much pressure on the sacs that they had ruptured.

Then she held my hand and told me, told us, something that no parent ever, EVER, wants to hear about their children. You can choose to let this go on naturally, or you can choose to end the pregnancy. I was sobbing and in complete and utter shock. I can’t even write this right now without tears streaming down my face. Their hearts were beating. They were ALIVE. How were we supposed to take them away from us when they were ALIVE and we wanted them so so so so so badly. That was not an option. I didn’t allow myself to think of it for even a second. I would carry them to full term and even if they were stillborn, so be it. I couldn’t even think of having to make such an awful decision. And then I realized, parents probably have to do this every day. Their baby’s brain isn’t developed, or their heart is outside of their body, or they don’t have all of their organs. My eyes were opened to a whole new world that I had never even acknowledged or knew that it existed. We were both in utter shock and complete disbelief.

We walked out of that office with a resolve, that we would do everything we possibly could, absolutely everything and more, to save our babies. There was no other choice. As their parents, it was the only thing we knew how to do.

The Story of Our Sons-Part 3

Hi Folks, thanks for coming back. You might be here for a while. I was expecting to have this story posted in three installments. Now I’m thinking it might take five, or even a week. And I’m ok with that. It can take as long as it needs to.

If you’re just coming in, please start at Part 1 here, and move on to Part 2 here.

Tonight I’d like to share with you how I became pregnant, after all the years of being childless and wanting to have children join our family so desperately. After all the years of unexplained infertility. After all of the heartache, feeling left out and isolated, feeling like there was something incredibly broken about me and us. When you hear about these miraculous stories of pregnancies coming after years of being wanted, often you’ll hear (usually the mother declare) “Don’t give up, keep the hope, have faith”. Well, I’m not going to tell you that. Because honestly, I kind of gave up. I did. I really did. I was done. I was sick of my heart hurting. I was sick of feeling the monthly ups and downs of excitement, anticipation, let down and grief, over and over again. No one wants to live with that month after month, year after year. So I was done.

The research study actually pinged to my phone. I know, strange and serendipitous, as it was, I trusted it. We went through the preliminary testing at UCSF and qualified. Three months of a supplement, not a medication, but a supplement. I was floored. This was healthy! This was promising! A vitamin supplement was being tested for it’s effectiveness on helping couples achieve pregnancy. And they accepted us! After three months, if I was not pregnant, we could have up to three IUI treatments as part of the research study. And guess what, I didn’t even have to take the supplement, it was for male fertility. It all seemed too good to be true. The least invasive possible, in my opinion. I think my blood was drawn once during the preliminary testing to see if we qualified, and that was it.

We started in October 2016. I can’t believe that was two years ago. This all seems like it was yesterday and at the same time, a lifetime ago. The three months went by and I did not get pregnant. The next step was to move on to the first IUI treatment. That’s when it started to get real, and I was full of anxiety and apprehension. Everyone at UCSF was so lovely, they really were. Nothing like our experience with the reproductive endocrinologist in LA. They were positive, kind, and so down to earth. They truly wanted the best for us, even though we were not paying patients. My faith in humanity was restored quite a bit through this experience. No doctor yelled at me or pushed me to make the decision to do IVF. And they were so laid back about everything. Besides the anticipation of going through an IUI procedure again and my own mental ups and downs, it was a very stress free and easy going process. I’m not sure I can say for certain if this helped me to get pregnant, but it sure made me feel a lot better about the whole experience. And that is a success to me, pregnancy or no pregnancy, to have peace of mind and to be able to reconcile my terrible experience with Western medicine 8 years prior.

I also went through regular acupuncture treatments and really cleaned up my diet. I was eating whole foods, plant based, high raw, low fat and mostly grain free. I took fertility friendly supplements and tried to do all that I could without it feeling too invasive or like a full time job. After so many years of putting myself through endless weeks and months of slaving away over taking care of my health, it got to a point where it was unsustainable for my well being. I didn’t want to spend all of my waking hours completely devoted to my health. In that place and time, it wasn’t mentally healthy for me. I fully acknowledge that there are times and places in life when full devotion and attention to your health and well being is absolutely necessary. I was trying my best, and also trying to keep my stress levels down and keep my expectations low. Really, I was! Lowered expectations are so helpful. When you don’t expect anything or you expect the worst, and something miraculous happens, it completely shifts your perspective and allows for true gratitude.

It was a Wednesday towards the end of January in 2017 when our IUI appointment took place. I had taken the preparatory medications (only 2 of them, so easy!) the week before and when we went in for the ultrasound, we were told to come back tomorrow for the procedure. We had to drive to the doctor’s office separately because of our work schedules. I think I taught a class in the morning and took the rest of the day off. I also went to an acupuncture appointment the day before the IUI, and the day after. We met before the appointment for lunch and got some tacos, I remember so clearly. We kept it chill and easy, and I felt pretty good about everything. I honestly did not have the expectation of getting pregnant. My mind was in a place thinking “We’ve been here before, and nothing has helped us, so I’m not expecting it to happen.” When we talked out of the appointment, the nurse told us “Good luck”. I just laughed because I didn’t know what to think! It was so kind of her and I was certainly not thinking that luck was on our side.

On February 4th, five days before I was supposed to, I took a pregnancy test. I took it because I felt a cold coming on, and I had started to kick back some of my herbal remedies. The next day, I thought “Oh, what if I’m pregnant, I shouldn’t be taking this stuff!” but again, I laughed at myself because I honestly did not think it was possible. Ryan was out of town on a snowboarding trip with some of his co-workers. I felt kind of guilty, but I wanted to kick the cold I was feeling and I needed to know for sure that I could keep taking my herbal remedies.

Two pink lines. They were there. One was a little more faint, but there were two lines. I waited a few hours and tested again. It was a Saturday and I was binge watching movies and nursing a cold, so what else was I going to do. Two pink lines. I took one the next morning, darker lines. I took one that afternoon, two lines again. Oh my goodness, I was pregnant. To say I was in shock is the understatement of the year. I had been waiting for over 10 YEARS to see these two pink lines. And there they were, and it was so easy! It had been such a smooth, stress free experience. I could not even cry because I was so astounded, so shocked, so in awe!

Ryan came home Sunday night. I was trying to think of a creative way to reveal to him. I felt bad for testing without him there, but I had to know! Of course I stopped taking the herbal remedies and just kicked back more vitamin c and other pregnancy friendly things. I had no idea what to do. Neither one of us is very creative in the tricking or pranking each other. So I put the tests in a small gift bag and tied the gift back around our cat Zoey’s neck. She walked over to him and he looked at me and said “What the heck!”. I told him to look in the bag because Zoey had a present for him. His reaction was … skeptical I’d say. We were both excited of course, and he said he wanted to wait and see if I was actually pregnant because it was so early. It felt pretty unbelievable, so out of character for our lives together. Nothing like this had ever happened to us. We have wanted it and talked about it and tried so many ways to make it happen, and up until this moment, it just hadn’t happened. So you can see that it was hard for us to accept and fully embrace.

The next day I went to the doctor’s for a blood test. Actually it was super early in the morning. They said the test would take about 4-6 hours to get the results. LONGEST DAY EVER. The two week wait was actually fine for me. I had been through so many two week waits that it didn’t even feel like a thing anymore. But this, waiting for the blood test, was grueling! I checked my email about every 5 minutes! And once it came, we were not together so I didn’t open it. It was so tough!! The minute Ryan got home we opened the email together. The hCG results were in, over 100, in fact, somewhere around 120 if I can remember right. I was pregnant, we were pregnant, we were going to have a baby! We both cried and held each other for a while. It was so incredibly unbelievable and magical and spectacular.

I went back every other day that week to get my blood tested. By the end of the week I believe my hCG was over 500. It was definitely doubling every 48 hours. When I went to acupuncture, the acupuncturist said those numbers were pretty high and she checked my pulse. She asked me if my doctor thought I was having twins and I just laughed. Yeah right, I thought. There’s no way, they gave us like a 3-5% chance of having twins. There is definitely only one baby in there.

On February 22, 2017, across the screen showing the ultrasound were two distinct embryonic sacs and two teeny tiny sesame seeds with beating hearts. We were pregnant with twins, and they were the most beautiful thing I had ever seen.

The Story of Our Sons-Part 2

Hi again, thanks for coming back to hear more about our story.

If you missed part 1, please go back and start there first.

Ok, now to pick back up where we left off. 2010 brought us back to our hometown in the Bay Area, California, living with family (5 adults in one house!! we actually had a lot of fun) and searching for jobs. Strangely enough, we both jumped back in to where we were working before we got married. What a gracious and kind act for both of our previous employers to welcome us back. It can be tough out there, and job hunting is no joke. Immediately some of the stress washed away and we knew we’d be ok. Eventually we found more permanent jobs and moved out in to our own place. Living with family after being married for 7 years is a humbling experience! We stayed in the same town for another year until a new job and a new move took us to where we are now.

During this time, I dove head in learning all about holistic health. I actually found a mentor who was learning an energy healing modality and I couldn’t get enough of it. I started using essential oils and cleaned up my diet even more. My health improved so much that I was able to stop taking medications for allergies and asthma that I took for 18 years. I think it’s been 7 or 8 years since then, and I still have not had any symptoms. If you suffer from seasonal allergies, take a look at your diet! Ok, that’s for another time as well.

I started to gain so much trust in holistic health and in my body’s innate ability to heal. Again, these are posts for another time, but I was baffled by the fact that I was living proof that our body can truly heal, that it is meant to heal. Sickness is not our true nature, health is. And diet and lifestyle have everything to do with health and well being. I still stand by that 100%. I also think that we are not taught how to listen to our bodies, so sometimes interventions are needed as a starting point, until we can begin to tune in and hear what our heart is trying to express. Like today, I had an organic/vegan peanut butter chocolate cup. Did that do anything for my health? No. Did my body need it? No. Could I have not eaten it? Of course. But I ate it anyway, and now I totally regret it because I don’t FEEL great after consuming it. It has nothing to do with the calories or sugar and I’m not beating myself up. My stomach is kind of flipping around a bit. Our body will tell us what we need, and my body did not need that. It was an emotional craving. Again, more on that later. I’m digressing big time.

Point it, I began to see proof that our bodies can heal. And that was really exciting to me. REALLY exciting. It gave me hope that we would be able to conceive naturally. I dove head in to learn all about natural conception. What nutrients the body needs, what foods to stay away from. I used healing modalities, read countless blogs and books, and became obsessed all over again with wanting to get pregnant. I wanted to defy the odds. To prove that we didn’t need any harsh interventions and that our body’s could do what they were created to do. And yes, I was still living in an archaic way of thinking because of the community I was a part of from my teens to early 30’s. I believed that yeah, I could do good things in the world, but the reason that I am here, is to be a mother. I can’t really express how much weight that put on the whole situation, but it was everything. I was allowing an outside source and system of beliefs put so much pressure on me. I had to do everything right, and then I would get this reward of having a baby and being a mother. It kind of sounds twisted to some of you, I’m sure. Although these feelings were exacerbated by the religious community I was in, I do believe that our society puts these pressures on women as a whole. Women’s bodies are not their own. People ask left and right “Are you trying? Will you have another one? Oh my cousin’s doctor gave them this treatment and it worked, you should try that! Do you think maybe there’s something wrong? Will you have a c-section or vaginal delivery?” Seriously people, NONE OF YOUR DAMN BUSINESS!! A woman’s body is her own. A woman is not more worthy of womanhood if she is a mother. We do not treat men like this, and it’s absolutely disgusting that we do this to women. So yes, it’s out there as a whole in our society. And then it’s kicked in to high gear in religious communities, where a woman is told that motherhood is her calling in life and why she is here. This just creates stress, emotional upheaval, and lots of and lots of baggage.

After a couple years of living holistically and still, no pregnancy is sight, I lost it all over again. I had a really big hitting bottom moment. I want to protect the identity of friends and family as I share this, so I’m not really going to say what happened. But there was a time when, after speaking with someone about their life situation, I fell to my knees and sobbed for a good half an hour. I sobbed out of sadness, out of frustration, our of resentment, out of anger, out of downright rage, out of deep, deep pain that could only be truly accessed by a gut wrenching ugly cry. More like ugly sob fest. It felt good. I needed it. Because even after all this time (by now I had discovered yoga years before), I still didn’t feel like I had tools to cope with the pain of all the years of childlessness. No one’s advice helps. Let me repeat this, NO ONE’S ADVICE HELPS. If you have a loved one experiencing the pain of wanting to be a parent and they don’t have any children, just be there for them. Don’t say anything except “I love you and I’m here for you.” That’s it. Don’t give them any advice. They don’t want to hear it. It will just piss them off and push them away from you. We were given so much advice and “Why don’t you just … This helped so and so … If I was you I would spend all the money in the world to have my kids now”. If you take one thing away from reading this, please know that no one going through infertility wants your advice. So just hug them, love them, and leave it at that. And if you can’t keep your mouth shut and you just can’t help yourself, you need to take a long hard look at why you can’t let someone just be. Ok, I’m off my soapbox.

We started to look at life and talk about the possibility of not having kids. I have to say this here because you are probably thinking it. There is no way either one of us is going to compromise our relationship by making a choice in regards to building our family that the other person is not 110% congruent with. What do I mean by that? We would only move forward with IVF if we were both 110% on board and feeling really good about it. And guess what, one of us does not feel good about it so that’s not an option. And yes, we’ve had people judge us for that. Guess what? It’s not your life or your experience, so you don’t get to judge. What two people decide is between them and only them, and you don’t get to have a say. IVF does not feel right for us, end of story. You might think I’m coming off harsh. Well, if you heard all the judgmental things we have been told over the years, you’d have a strong stance about it as well. We have to do better with how we treat each other!!!! What a couple decides is no one else’s business. It is also like that with adoption. It does not feel 110% congruent for both of us equally. And please know, these are not plan B options. How someone builds their family is how they are a family, end of story. It’s not “oh you couldn’t get pregnant so you adopted”. Nope, doesn’t work that way. Again, just love and support them and it will all be good. So no IVF or adoption on the table for us. Not right now. In the future? I have no idea. It’s a lot easier to take this experience a day at a time right now.

We spent about 2 years really letting go of the idea that we were going to have kids. We really did. I started exploring the idea of leaving my job. And I did. I left teaching school to start teaching yoga and fitness. I also dabbled in holistic health coaching and some energy works. Hustling to make a career in your mid-30’s from scratch is really hard. So I dove in to that and let that be the creation that I was desiring. And it was going good for quite a while. We were pretty happy and content with our choice to let go. Of course, part of me always died a little inside at a baby announcement (especially family or close friends), at seeing little baby clothes that I’d never get to buy, at the ooh’s and ahh’s of baby showers (bleh, not an infertile’s favorite activity but I started to go to them and I was ok with it), yeah there was some sadness there. But it was more mild than it used to be. It was manageable. I didn’t feel like I was going to die of heart ache anymore.

And then the opportunity for the fertility research study came. Which brings us to the fall of 2016, where we decided to go for it.

And on January 25th, 2017, I became pregnant with twin boys through an IUI procedure.

Two hearts were beating inside my womb, and our lives were changed forever.

The Story of Our Sons-Part 1

Right now I’m sitting here at my computer, watching a light rain fall on this early October afternoon. The rain is reminding me that any minute, my eyes will be flowing just as much water, as I don’t believe I can tell this story with dry eyes. And yet it’s been over a year, and it’s time the story is told. In however many parts it takes me.

Last year this time we were approaching the due date of our sons who did not make it past 20 weeks in utero. Had they been born full term, they would have been born around the beginning of October 2017. I fought for them as hard as I could, and I know they did too. They were born at 20 weeks, actually 19 weeks and 6 days and 20 weeks and zero days. They have their own birthdays, May 30th and 31st. But we’ll get to that. First, how it all started …

My husband and I have been married for 15 years. Throughout our entire marriage, we have been dealing with “unexplained infertility”. Which basically means, you can’t get pregnant and there’s no medical explanation for it. This is not easy. Not only is it not easy, a lot of times wanting to be a mother and a family so desperately, and not having it happen, is excruciatingly painful, isolating, debilitating, and downright depressing. And this cycle continues, EVERY SINGLE MONTH. Pain, loss, grieving what never was but what you wanted, then some faith kicks in, excitement, hope, anticipation, only to be met with the pain of loss and the grief that fills your heart for the baby that is not there. EVERY SINGLE MONTH for about 13 years now. How I can even get out of bed in the morning and face life, I have no idea! Infertility is not for the faint of heart. No matter what, I keep showing up in life, showing up to my relationship, my family, my yoga students (my elementary school students in my pre-yoga life) … I just keep going. I believe I keep going because life is worth living, and I’ll be damned to have something bring me down that is literally 100% out of my control.

I wanted a family right away. I guess he did too, or he wanted me to have what I wanted, so we decided to see what would happen if we “tried” (UGH ok I won’t use that word again because it’s absolutely awful, it just means timed sex around ovulation without protection, and it’s about as robotic and mundane as it sounds-ha!). Six months went by and I wasn’t pregnant. No big deal, I figured. We were 23 years old (holy shit, I know!) and it could take up to a year, right?? Then a year went by, and some of my friends started to get pregnant or even have babies. Yes, at 24, or even 22, they were having babies. Where was this strange land we lived in where children were not only married, but having children? That’s for another time, and trust me, that time will come. But not for this post.

I think about 2 years had gone by when we decided to see a doctor. Blood was drawn and they may have done a semen analysis, I really can’t remember, I was probably 25 or 26 years old at this point and we’d been married for a few years. Everything looked “fine” but we didn’t have a fertility specialist in our area. And we were both students, on student insurance, and didn’t have thousands of dollars to put in to fertility treatments. But still, I chalked it up to being young, and maybe it was ok that we were still in school and hadn’t had kids yet. It was probably the stress of busy life, and they would come soon after we graduated and started paying off our loans. That seemed to be reasonable, adult behavior and a good time to have kids. Even though I rationalized, A LOT, my heart was already broken. All around me babies were being born, pregnant bellies were everywhere, NO ONE was talking about infertility, and I only knew one couple who talked about their first baby who was still born. Other than that, I never even heard of anyone having a miscarriage. What was in the water that wasn’t working for me? What was everyone doing and why was I missing out?

What seemed like an answered prayer came soon after graduation. My husband was offered a job with not only amazing health insurance, but infertility coverage. WHAT? This exists?? We can use our insurance to help us pay for infertility treatments to have a baby? It was a no brainer. He said yes to the job and after a cold, long winter apart, I left at the end of the school year and moved to where he was in Southern California. I didn’t hesitate. I jumped on the forums and checked with insurance and found a doctor, completely covered by our insurance. I was, I think, 27 years old at the time. I was so young and naive, and had just moved out of a very patriarchal society where I fully trusted men and looked to them as an authority figure. Not once did I stop and ask myself “What kind of doctor do I want? Do I want a female doctor who has had her own struggles with infertility? Do I want a compassionate doctor who will do whatever it takes to help us have a baby?” It sounds INSANE, I know, that none of those thoughts crossed my mind. Let me paint this picture for you. I was 27 and had been living in a very conservative, religious, patriarchal community for the past 7 years. Although I had pieces of my identity, I was not truly whole knowing who I was. I also completely trusted Western medicine. I had no reason to believe that doctors were nothing but kind, helpful and altruistic. I had never had an experience where I was assaulted by a man. I moved from a bubble to about an hour outside of LA, and I continued to live in a bubble there as well. My intention was to get pregnant and become a stay at home mom as FAST as I could. I wanted to fit in, because that’s what everyone else around me in my community was doing. I was an outcast, lonely in my childlessness. No one knew what it was like to experience infertility. I didn’t have anyone to talk to. I needed a baby, fast. Because I was 27 and the clock was ticking.

I found a fancy reproductive endocrinology office in Beverly Hills. We saw a doctor and got the work up right away. Nothing looked out of the ordinary. No diagnosis. We got the drugs and all the instructions needed to get started with IUI (intra-uterine insemination). I became a crazy woman, completely obsessed with my desire to become pregnant and completely psychotic from all of the hormonal medication. And I didn’t have any tools to help me cope. No friends in the area, no one to talk to, I had never considered therapy (because I was young and we just needed to have babies!) and no one suggested it to me, I didn’t have a way to handle the ups and downs of being a complete mess all the time. Those days are honestly a blur. I’m not sure how we survived our marriage. Three months of treatments and no pregnancy. I was exhausted. I needed a break, and we had sucked our insurance benefits dry. I got on the phone with my doctor and he pushed me towards IVF. I had never even considered that we’d need IVF. I didn’t want to do that. If the IUI’s were bad, and on IVF you take even more meds and stronger doses of them, I didn’t want to get near any of that. I was emotionally spent. My resilience was gone. So I told the doctor off and hung up on him, never calling them back.

What was I supposed to do with all of my pent up emotions? I felt, on a daily basis, sadness, anguish, bitterness, resentment, anger, rage and intense pain. How I didn’t find yoga at that time is beyond me. But I did find, sort of, my yoga. I started running. And I ran, a lot. And it helped. A lot. Even still, I was lonely, even more so. We were supposed to move here and take this job so that we could use the insurance benefits to get pregnant, right? And I was going to make friends with other mommies while we got together and played with our babies. And I was angry, so angry, at Western medicine. I went from completely trusting doctors to feeling like they were good for absolutely nothing. This all led to me going on a rampage.

It has to be something I’m eating! Or something I’m putting on my body! Or something I’m not doing that I’m missing! Seemingly overnight, I cleared our cabinets of toxins. I started using toxin free cleaners, soaps, body products, make up, skin care, etc. I started changing my diet, rapidly. I bought kale at Whole Foods for the first time (hey this was in 2008 so that was a while ago!) and made green smoothies. I cut out dairy and meat. I had my first Meatless Monday and loved it! And I kept running, hoping that all of these changes would result in a natural pregnancy.

Suddenly, wanting to be pregnant, wanting a baby and wanting a family with children, all got put on the back burner when my husband was let go from his job in 2010. Everything we had worked so hard in college for, everything we sacrificed by moving away from the community we loved, moving where we didn’t know anyone and didn’t feel like we fit in but still dealt with it, and all of the anguish that came with the fertility treatments that did not result in pregnancy, all felt like it had been in vain. We looked at each other and said “Let’s get out of here”, so we did. And we started over, moving back in with family to get our feet back on the ground.

Oh, did I mention he was let go two weeks before Christmas? Yeah, that sucked. It was so hard. So you can imagine, having a baby was the last thing on my mind for a little while. And actually, not having a little mouth to feed while we were unemployed and living with family, was a really big relief.

Part 2 comes tomorrow …

How Plant Based Eating Heals the Heart

One of the first things I noticed after engaging in a plant based way of eating was the shift in my mood. I'm sure my digestion and energy improved, but these things come and go and are influenced by more than just what we ingest. But my mood, I felt lighter, happier, more even, less mood swings, less pms, less cranky, more easy going, and I'd like to think I was nicer, because I was definitely less bitchy!! This was an interesting observation, because I was expecting things like more energy, weight loss, etc. Well, expectation leads to suffering, and usually what we expect is not at all what we get. So I went with these noticeable changes, as I really enjoyed what was shifting in my life because I was eating more plants and less animal products.

That was about 7 years ago, and since then I have become completely plant based/animal free, eating as many whole foods as possible, and staying away from processed grains, mock meats and other highly fabricated food items. Of course in the last few years I really noticed the difference in digestion, energy, sleep, as well as my ability to be motivated and just get through the day. And I can confidently say that the early changes I noticed in my mood have held strong, and are probably even stronger now. Yes the mind and body are powerful drivers to influence the current mood state as well, yet it's been amazing to see just the positive changes that eating clean, whole plant foods have brought to my mood, emotions and well being. 

Not to say that my emotions are always even. They are most definitely not. I don't think I'd be human if they were smooth and steady! What I feel is more resilience, more softening, easier to come to compassion, less judgement, less harshness. Yes I can get stressed out and need to scream into a pillow. Yes I can get really down and sad and mopey. It's the resilience that I notice the most. I could throw down a ton of links to point you to studies and other articles that give evidence to a plant based diet helping with depression, anxiety, mood swings, and more. But you have access to google as easily as I go, so you can GTS any time. I'm more interested in sharing my experience, because I believe that to be more powerful than charts, graphs and statistics. 

Our body is a complex machine that most of science and research still does not understand. Even my doctor, who has been a practicing OB for decades, admits that the more he learns about the human body, the less he feels he knows and the more mystified he is. I believe we are physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. I believe what happens in our body when we eat is a lot more spiritual than we realize, and exchanges take place that, at this time, cannot be seen or measured by science. 

With that as my disclaimer, I do believe that something happens in our body when we eat meat or other animal products vs when we eat plants. I don't think it's outlandish to speculate that when our body takes on the DNA of another animal, changes can happen that are not so favorable. Not just the physiological occurrences of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol that have all been linked to eating a diet of animal products, but also mental, emotional and spiritual shifts can take place that can't be detected.

What do I mean? Quite frankly, that we take on the energy of the animal when we eat it. For example, eggs are a product of a hen's menstrual cycle. And when eggs are consumed, they carry the energetic vibration of reproduction and life, for a hen. And when a human consumes that, we take it on in our body. It can throw off our own system in countless ways through the endocrine and digestive system. What about cow milk, you know, meant for a baby cow, that is consumed by millions of people worldwide? What do the hormones and building blocks, for a baby cow, do to us mentally, emotionally and spiritually when it's consumed? And then the meat, cow meat, pig meat, poultry meat, how can that affect the body, mind and spirit? Animals taken to slaughter are in a state of fear, panic and distress. Their body holds on to that vibration and energy when they are killed. I firmly believe that's implanted into the meat, and we take that on ourselves when it's consumed. And please don't think that animals are not aware of what's happening to them when they are slaughtered. They are acutely aware and show all the signs of fear and panic. 

In my early 20's I was in Moscow, Russia, volunteering with a program teaching English to Russian students. Our large group of very loud, unaccustomed to Russian culture, American girls were riding the escalator down to the metro. We were giggly, boisterous and probably incredibly annoying!! Standing in front of us was a man with a black leather jacket and a ponytail, probably in his 30's. He turned around and said to us loudly in English, "American girls sound like chickens!!" and then turned his back to us again. We all shut up, giggling silently through pressed lips, and didn't say another word. I don't think it's just because we were young, excitable girls that we were talking like that. You are what you eat. You eat chicken, you sound like chickens. 

It's almost been a year since I gave birth to our twin sons at 20 weeks. They were born too early to survive so we said hello and goodbye to them in a manner of hours. It is still to this day the most heart-wrenching experience of my life. Not a moment goes by where I don't think of them. I still see myself holding them in the hospital, my husband leaning over me, as we said our final goodbyes. My heart is etched with these memories that can never be erased. It has almost been a year, and although I'm still sad and I miss them like crazy, I'm ok. We're ok. We really are. It's not that life goes on. Life is just different and I can think of them without being overcome with sadness and grief. I can think of them with feelings of joy and gratitude that because of them, I am a mother. I can marvel in the miracle of their short lives. 

I believe I am able to do this because of my commitment to a plant based diet and holistic way of living. Sure meditation and yoga can be amazing tools of healing as well. But I'm not very disciplined about meditation and I don't do yoga every day either. What can, and absolutely does, make a difference, is what I chose to put on my plate, in my bowl, in my glass, every single day. You truly are what you eat. The food you eat becomes your cells, your blood, your organs, even your thoughts, your moods and your actions. Yes, you are what you eat. And by choosing compassion every day, by choosing to save animals lives and to not contribute to their suffering, I am choosing what aligns with my morals and values. And this not only feels good, it helps me live a better life. Helps me be my best self. I don't believe I'd be this far into my healing from grief, loss, and anxiety if it wasn't for my plant based diet. Our cells become what we eat.

How could I be a grieving mother, suffering and in pain, and contribute to another's suffering and pain, and expect to heal?

Animals suffer in pain and agony when they die. There is no humane way to kill a sentient being who wants to live. And by choosing to let the animals live, by choosing to eat only a whole foods, plant based diet, I have contributed to my healing. My mind, body and spirit are free because I allow animals to live. I don't take in the energy of their suffering and pain, and in turn, my body is able to heal in it's own way, without the disruptions of the cells and DNA of another living being. 

I thank our sons every day for helping me to live a life that shows compassion to all beings. I try my best. I believe my plant based, vegan lifestyle is a huge step in this directions. By practicing the values I believe in, I have a stronger connection to myself, to animals, to the planet, to other human beings, and to the etheric realm as well. 

lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu

“May all beings everywhere be happy and free, and may the thoughts, words, and actions of my own life contribute in some way to that happiness and to that freedom for all.”

 

Forging My Own Path

Fish out of water. Odd one out. Outsider. Lone wolf. 

Yep, that's me. I might prefer "Bohemian Non-Conformist". Or just no label at all because feeling this way is part of being human. There is something about each and every one of us that is so beautifully unique, but for some reason being uniquely amazing can make us feel alone, isolated, and like an outsider, weirdo or freak. The attributes that make us and our life's journey unique can also lead us to feeling isolated and like we don't belong. 

For 10 years I have been on a path, a quest, a search, a journey, to seek reproductive health in order to have a successful pregnancy and birth a beautiful baby or two to grow our family. Each step along the path has been forged by foot, through the thick brush, through the thorns and fog, through the gnarly branches and swarms of insects. Each step has been my own that has never been taken before. And it has left me feeling, at times, incredibly alone. But if I look back, I can see the massive winding path that has been cleared because of my persistence, my determination, my motivation, my hope and faith to never give up.

And I have finally entered the clearing. And up ahead is a beautiful open meadow with a clear path moving forward. 

I finally found the last puzzle piece to my mystery after all these years. So now, I can truly say that I am just beginning. Because even though everything that has happened throughout my experience has been a stepping stone that has led me to where I am now, I needed to walk into the clearing and bask in the light to finally have clarity, understanding, and grace. And this clearing is the new, fresh place I need to be in order to start. This is the clearing that opens up to a new path of truth that is laid out ahead for me.

Instead of looking back at the long path and lamenting about how long it took me to get to where I am now, I am choosing to see the gift in the moment. And this gift is that I am now in a new place and starting an entirely new journey, and it has just begun. I have the fine tuned protocol that my body actually needs. I have the tools and knowledge to support my body. I have the truth. And this is my first time embarking forward with the full truth and all the pieces so divinely put into place. 

It doesn't matter to me anymore what anyone else things about my choices, or if I'm the only one on the planet who's choosing this for myself. I know I am not alone. I have had divine help in the form of earthly angels who have come to my aid. They may not be many, but they are all that I need. This is my experience for a reason. This experience is a gift and I have a feeling that over time, life will show me just how much of a gift this is, over and over.

We all have unique gifts that make us special and stand out. I no longer see my being an "outsider" as a burden. I am meant to do this. Just as you are meant to go along your own journey. And eventually, those who have similar, parallel paths, will keep going until the paths converge. In our differences we are all more similar than we realize. We are all fighting a fight and forging on with an experience that feels like it's never been done before. So I will continue to share mine with you, in hopes that if we end up on the same path one day, we will recognize, honor, and support each other. 

Until then, I am moving forward on my path of truth and light that has so recently been revealed to me. It calls to me so deeply that my soul knows there is no other way.