Author: Sharon

Loose Chickens

My eyes adjusted quickly to the hazy light of early morning in my bedroom as I woke with a start at 6:23 am to the sound of wood splitting and the insistent sound of annoyed chickens coming from our chicken coop.  A chicken in danger makes an unmistakable scream that is both a plea for help and a likely final expression of life.  Like a mortar shell or banjo, by the time you hear this kind of chicken scream, it’s usually too late.  This is not the kind of chicken sound I was hearing.  Imagine if a chicken could yodel.  That’s what I heard.  I threw on my glasses and went running down the stairs and out the door onto the deck.  Clapping my hands and yelling “whoop! WHooooop!” I saw the bear run back into the woods and away from the coop.  I didn’t hear any chickens screaming or even irritated yodeling, so I figured they had either survived the bear visit or were all dead.  Either way, I was going back to sleep.  …

Mommy Belly: A Physical Therapist’s View

This is a guest post written by Dr. Kailee Venzin, Women’s Health Physical Therapist, specializing in pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum services.  She is based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Did you bounce back easily after your pregnancies? Or does your belly seem to just “bounce” instead? Many new and not-so-new moms find themselves tucking the soft mound that used to be their baby into their high-waisted yoga pants and still get asked at the grocery store if they’re pregnant. Many feel like their bellies are “unstable” or like “jello” and try countless ab exercises to try to feel more “pulled in” or get back their pre-pregnancy bodies, egged on by the various Instagram models and trainers. Many of these women, too, try exercise programs that claim to “heal your core” or “only do one exercise, 10 minutes a day”.  Most of these women eventually find their way to me. After 9 months of stretching to accommodate a growing baby, your abdominals have to quickly adapt to new tasks and skills of picking up your baby, breastfeeding, and …

Satya as a Form of Grace

Satya is one of the most complicated of the yogic ethical principles.  It is translated as “truth” in many texts, but truth is, in and of itself, a construct of culture.  For example, I may hold as “truth” in my Quaker faith that everyone has the light of God in them (no matter behavior or evidence that seems to prove otherwise), while others may have very different ways of looking at the concept of Holy Spirit or the concept of the divine.  Am I telling the truth when I pray in this way?  Are the other understandings of the relationship between humans and the divine the NOT-truth?  And, how can we relate this use of the word “truth” when describing a commitment of faith to asking a person we work with if they are the ones who ate our yogurt in the shared refrigerator?  In the case of the yogurt, it could be seen that this is completely different.  Our colleague either ate our yogurt or they didn’t.  But, maybe when they answer us it …

Embodied Childbirth Preparation

I am SO EXCITED and truly honored to have the opportunity to facilitate a Dynamic Childbirth workshop in Vermont at ZenBarn on June 24th.  And, how amazing was it for Shaina Levee of Birth Love Family to write such a wonderful blog post to introduce me to the community there?  Amazing! While everyone learns in different ways, labor and childbirth is most definitely a physical experience.  Therefore, I designed Dynamic Childbirth so that you could prepare your body-mind for labor and birth.  You can read about birth all you like, listen to lectures, watch videos, and look at pictures of a cervix dilating.  But, when it’s time to give birth, labor takes us deep inside and we act, breathe, visualize, and communicate from our bodies and not from our logic brain.  I’m not suggesting that a woman in labor isn’t logical.  Quite the opposite!  I’m saying that, in my experience, it is important to actually practice movements, breathing, sounding, and communication tools with your body before you need to draw upon this knowledge. Plus, the …

Online Matrika Prenatal Yoga Teacher Training and Certification

I’m so excited to have opened enrollment again in my online Matrika Prenatal Yoga Teacher Training and Certification course.  My course is unique in that it brings Tibetan Buddhist subtle body anatomy, meditation, and cultural anthropology into the training.  Included in the course is a section on yoga to promote optimum fertility for women, yoga during pregnancy, a teaching practicum, a unit on yoga and meditation for labor and birth, and an entire section on the postpartum period including yoga with mom and baby. While online courses aren’t for everyone, there are a lot of yoga teachers, doulas, and medical professionals who are dedicated to learning new techniques to support pregnant students and clients who simply don’t have the time or ability to travel for trainings.  In my experience, a lot of yoga instructors who are mothers and birth doulas would love to do this training and have this information.  But, mothers with young children and doulas have something in common…..they tend to work all night and have unpredictable changes and shifts in their schedules.  …

Beautiful and Sensual

I have been using essential oils in my practice and for self-care for many years.  It all started when I participated in some classes and workshops taught by Amy Galper and Schuyler Grant around yoga, acupressure, and aromatherapy about sixteen or so years ago. A couple weeks ago, I received an offer from Utama Spice.  They very generously sent me a complimentary nebulizing essential oil diffuser with a bottle of their own Cajeput essential oil in exchange for my honest review of their products on my blog.  How could I say no?  Also, I very much appreciated the genuinely personal communication I received from Utama.  I made it clear that I would only write a completely honest review and they were in agreement with the conditions I presented to them.  As soon as I opened the package from Utama, I knew I was in for a treat.  The Danau Satu diffuser came in the most tasteful packaging with a floral decoration.  As soon as I pulled it out of the box I was amazed at …

Imaginary Tea Party

In my memory, a significant part of my childhood was spent in imaginary play.  From a quick review of photographs, I spent a lot of time in a leotard with a tutu.  I was either dressing for the job I wanted or I just liked the fancy feeling that comes along with wearing anything tulle.  Since it is also itchy, my guess is that I REALLY wanted to be a ballerina.  I also liked to have tea parties.  This week, for bibliotherapy Friday (if you read my blog regularly, you will soon realize that there is never just one day of the week to enjoy book therapy), I’d like to invoke both my imagination and the spirit of planning parties I will likely never host.  Will you be my guest?  Better yet, I highly recommend checking out these cookbooks and planning your own imaginary feast. The ultimate tea party cake is most definitely the Coconut Princess Birthday Cake with Almond Filling, a 3-layer cake that looks like something I’d LOVE for you to bring over …

Unicorn in the Sky and Other Magic

Hello there dear!  It’s Bibliotherapy Saturday  and I decided to start today’s exploration with a magazine I don’t usually read.  Ever.  I decided to start with February 2018 issue of Astronomy magazine.  Why you might ask?  Good question!  It’s because there was a hook on the cover that suggested that I could “TOUR Monoceros the Unicorn” on page 60.  I love unicorns.  How could I resist?  Monoceros the Unicorn is the 35th largest constellation out of the 88 constellations and the figure lies within the “Winter Triangle: the stars Sirius, Betelgeuse, and Procyon.”  The short article then has some pictures of and features of the area around the constellation and notes what is special that you can see either with the naked eye under a dark sky or what kind of telescopic enlargement is required.  This kind of night sky exploration is what I had been hoping for when I signed up for a basic astronomy class in college.  Instead, I got a whole lot of physics and math that I didn’t have the background …

Opening to Enchantment

“Do not weep, life is paradise, and we are all in paradise, but we do not want to know it, and if we did want to know it, tomorrow there would be paradise the world over.” ― Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov en·chant·ment inˈCHantmənt,enˈCHantmənt/ noun 1.a feeling of great pleasure; delight. “the enchantment of the mountains” synonyms: magic, witchcraft, sorcery, wizardry, necromancy 2.the state of being under a spell; magic. “a world of mystery and enchantment” Enchantment in Yoga and Meditation A few years ago, I purchased a copy of Rose Taylor Goldfield’s book, “Training the Wisdom Body: Buddhist Yogic Exercise”.  I’m delighted with the book, but the best part was that a card fell out of the book printed with the Foreward  by Khenpo Tsultrum Gyamtso Rinpoche in poem form and it starts like this: HA HA HA! HEE HEE HEE! HO HO HO! When you practice yogic exercise, Know your body is not solidly real— It is appearance-emptiness. Your body is like a dream body. Wow!  Think on this for a moment……the foreward to this …

Hiding in Public

It is only recently that I have learned that I am an introvert.  More precisely, I am an extroverted introvert.  I don’t not like being around other people and do not have trouble in crowds or social situations.  I can introduce myself to strangers and make friends with relative ease.  But, being with other people doesn’t nourish me the way that being alone is soothing and refreshing.  I don’t just LIKE being by myself……I NEED to be by myself, probably a lot more than many other people do.  I have no fear of loneliness as the idea of being all by myself is rather enticing.  But, as an extroverted introvert (or is it introverted extrovert?), my favorite place to be all by myself is the library.  It’s how I go and be all alone with others.  Perhaps it is because I grew up in an urban environment, but I like to have people “around”, but not engaging with them.  Combine being alone in public with unlimited access to books?  Heaven.  Perfection!  And so,  every Tuesday …

Happy (?) Holidaze!

Whether you feel like this is the most wonderful time of year or you’d prefer to go into hiding until it’s all over, I’m offering some services unique to the season that can help you find some relief or just create more time and space for you to truly enjoy all that this magic season has to offer. Guided Relaxation I am offering a package of twelve recorded audio guided relaxations that can be downloaded through this online course that also includes three 45-minute online workshops (webinars) that you can watch live or at your convenience that will include breathing, meditation, and gentle movement that can be practiced while sitting in a chair.  The cost for this package of twelve relaxation sessions is: $35.  If you wish to give one as a gift, please contact me and I can easily arrange for this. If you are in Pittsburgh, I am offering a special holiday package of three private relaxation sessions for  $180 (this is a $45 discount on my regular private session rate).  Each relaxation …

Tibetan Yoga Classes

Tibetan Yoga on Wednesday Mornings 10:00 am In my personal practice of yoga, in the past five-years, I have started to bring more and more of my meditation into my yoga and more of my yoga into my meditation.  Essentially, it is now one practice.  This is possible because the type of somatic meditation that I practice (somatic meaning “of the body”) is rooted in Vajrayana Buddhism.  This is one of the major schools of Buddhist practice and thought that is based on the idea that we all already possess Buddha-nature in ourselves and that enlightenment is just the recognition of our true nature.  The practice has more to do with learning techniques that access much more than the physical body and bring us into a state of open awareness to things as they are.  It is in this “space” where all potential and opportunity exists.  We don’t need to make anything, improve on anything, get more flexible or strong or change anything.  Rather, we use our tools of somatic awareness to enter into an …

Professional Development for Yoga Teachers

In April 2013, I closed my brick and mortar yoga studio, Yoga Matrika, located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and pioneered yoga and meditation studies through distance learning.  In the process, I tried a number of different platforms for holding classes and teleseminars and worked with hundreds of very patient yoga teachers who agreed to work with me to provide constructive feedback while also getting high quality continuing education. I am really delighted that Yoga Alliance has recognized the potential of distance learning for professional continuing education for Yoga Teachers. They permit up to 25 of your 30 required CEU credits to maintain registration to be earned with non-contact hours.  I am honored to be a YACEP (Yoga Alliance Continuing Education Provider) and have a number of online courses just for yoga instructors.  These courses allow teachers all over the world to learn more about Buddhist philosophy, Tibetan yoga practices, meditation skills, subtle body anatomy, women’s health and yoga, and prenatal yoga and meditation. I have put over 25-years of practice, teaching, and research into all of …

Rejected Miracles

I’m a doula—a woman who nurtures other women during pregnancy, pregnancy loss, labor, delivery, and all the transformations after birth that sometimes feel like magic, but other times just feel like poop.  A lot of poop.  So, it seems appropriate to me that I feel very drawn this time of year to the idea of Mary, in labor, looking for a safe place to give birth to baby Jesus.  Except, there were no ultrasounds, so we didn’t know it was Jesus and she was rather adamant that the father was God.  Let’s be honest here, there was a lot of Mary’s story that was unlikely to be believed by most.  I imagine that Mary was making some noise and no one wanted her in their hotel—this single Mom in labor accompanied by some guy who wasn’t even the father and likely to be releasing all kinds of mucus, blood, and groans long into the night.  Let’s face it, Mary was a hot mess.  She was going to keep other guests awake and it’s not like …

Attitude of Gratitude? Not so much.

While we all know that cultivating an attitude of gratitude is a part of living our most joyful life, how can we authentically do this when we are less than grateful?  Feeling ashamed or guilty about the “real” nature of our feelings, or pretending to be thankful for what we would have very much preferred to say “NO thank you” to in our lives gets in the way of happiness and creativity.  What if your heart is broken?  What if you are in terrible pain without relief in sight?  What if you have received terrifying news that has changed your life in an even more awful way?  Even with all the joyful self-help gurus and happy, shiny, advanced yogi specialists beaming at you from their glossy magazines promising peace and abundance for all your expressions of gratitude, and even as much as you wish to crawl into their tie-dyed yoga pants and bask in the bliss of all that they proclaim and stand for, the truth is that when your life is going to Hades in a …

Forward Folds and Bending Over Backwards in Nature

The number one thing that adults say when I tell them that I am a yoga teacher is: “Oh, I can’t do yoga!  I’m so inflexible and I can’t even get close to touching my toes.” For about twenty-years now, I have tried every socially acceptable way possible at these moments to try to explain that yoga isn’t about being flexible, that anyone and everyone can benefit, that one may or may not become more flexible through yoga, that flexibility is, truly….besides the point entirely.  As soon as I start talking, I see the recipient’s eyes glaze over.  They are no longer paying attention to me, mostly because they only asked what I did for a living as a social pleasantry in the first place. Now, they are filled with regret for having ever made eye contact in the first place.  I can almost see the thoughts of escape to the cheese platter or, even better, the bar, cross their mind. A couple weeks ago I was on a walk with a friend when t …

The Truth About Parenting and Sleep

When I was pregnant with my first child, who is now ten years old, I was unable to sleep well through most of my pregnancy for a variety of reasons from nausea, insomnia, heartburn, a painfully itchy rash, and other reasons.  Complete strangers, friends, and relatives would say things to me like, “You better sleep now, because you are never going to sleep again once that baby is born!”.  This caused me a lot of anxiety because, if this was true, then I was blowing my last chance at sleep.  Also, this is simply a terrifying thing to hear.  Why does anyone say this to pregnant women?  While I have some ideas on why people say scary things to pregnant women, it seems most important here to share the realities of parenting and sleep. The Truth The truth is that, as a parent, you are a parent all day and all night.   This reality changes your relationship to the type of activities you engage in both during the day and night.  This may seem obvious, but it …

Geography of Awareness

Do you see these “markings” on the back of the fern’s leaves?  In fact, these patterns are spores.  Each one is a potential fern.  The ferns carry their fertility in each and every leaf.  If you are interested in joining a spore exchange group (not kidding), then you might want to look into membership in the Hardy Fern Foundation.  The American Fern Society is over 100 years old and has more than 900 members all over the world. Not only that, but each type of fern has spores that organize in a different pattern. Recently, I have gone on retreat for a few hours a week to the Fern Room at Phipp’s Conservatory in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  Each pilgrimage to this sacred space has brought me to a deeper place of respect for this amazing plant type.  I am also grateful to the amazing Theresa who cares for these plants and seems to have a well of patience for all my questions as well as some of the other horticulturists and care takers who work without …

Monkey Legs

I remember the day that I learned there was something ugly and wrong with me like it happened yesterday. The summer after third grade, when I was nine, I was invited for a day trip to the beach in Brooklyn, NY.  It wasn’t hot enough for a bathing suit, but we were all in shorts and t-shirts.  It was such a beautiful day and I remember being joyful in body and mind.  We ran up and down the beach chasing waves and I can still feel the quality of light as it danced on the water and reflected back up to my face from the sand.  I have always had thick and beautiful hair and it was pulled back into a braid so the end of it rhythmically thumped on my back between my shoulders as I ran. We finally stopped for a moment to take a break and all of us girls sat in a circle and chatted about the things that nine year old girls chat about.  There was laughing.  After a rest …

How to Claim Your Mammauthority

Many of my clients have experiences where their authority as a mother to make decisions for their infants and parenting, or lifestyle around parenting are not only questioned, but threatened.  No matter how many children you have, the time when you have a newborn and for their first year of life seems to be when mothers are most vulnerable to the opinions of others.  How to find good sources of information for decision-making around parenting is a whole other topic for consideration.  This post is about ways to claim your authority without alienating members of your community, friends, and family when offered unsolicited advice or your ability to care for your child is questioned. Here is my tried and true method for claiming your “Mammauthority” in all situations.  Please comment below with your experiences and let me know how this has worked or not worked for you. Foundations of the Method #1: The underlying principle in this method is that you are the mother and you have the right and responsibility to care for your …