But I’m not a Thief!

Were the words my ego muttered as my Yoga Teacher Bronnie introduced us to the concept of “Asteya – Non-stealing”.  Asteya is one of the five Yamas, or restraints that were outlined in the 8-fold Path in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali written about 400 CE.  “Thou shall not steal” also happens to be the eighth commandment in the Christian faith. Just like the 10 Commandments, the Yamas (restraints) and Niyamas (observances) of yoga were written as guidelines to help us to live a happy and joyful life.

To me, “thou shall not steal” always meant that I should never take anything that didn’t belong to me, but growing up, I had only ever thought about material goods.  As I came to learn more fully, the concept of Asteya (and also the eighth commandment) goes deeper than this.  Of course, it’s important not to take material things that don’t belong to you, but have you ever thought of all the other things that you take from others without thinking?

The first thing to consider is other peoples’ time.  Are you a time thief?  Do you always arrive late to appointments or meetings?  Do you book an appointment or meeting and then cancel at the last minute, or worse yet, don’t show up and not let the person know, regardless of the reason?  Time is our most precious resource.  Once time has passed, we cannot get it back regardless of how wealthy we are.  Stealing other people’s time is a serious deal.  When you disrespect somebody’s time it indicates to that person that you valued something else over their precious and finite time.

Secondly, do you steal from the Earth?  Do you steal from the future of your children and grandchildren by not being mindful about the resources you are exponentially consuming and the rubbish you are leaving behind?

Thirdly, do you steal from yourself?  Do you over commit, become exhausted and leave yourself depleted so that you are never giving anyone your best self?  Do you self-sabotage by not believing in yourself, constantly talk yourself out of things because you believe you’re not good enough, and hence rob the world of your unique human essence and the gifts you should be sharing with the world?  Consider the following really awesome quote:

“The world needs the fully alive, well rested you, not the exhausted you.  Imagine a world where women make rest and rhythm a priority and operate more from their full power.” – Karen Brody, Daring to Rest.

The next thing to consider is where you give people permission to steal from you, especially in regards to your energy and your time.  You wouldn’t leave your house or your car unlocked or leave your wallet unattended in plain sight, so consider ways you can ensure your valuable energy and time are safe.  Have a read of my blog post about managing energy vampires if you haven’t already.  In regards to keeping your time safe, place a high value on your time and be strict about it, just like a you place a high value on the money you work hard to earn.  When you place a high value on your time, others will learn to value it also.  An example of this might be placing a do not disturb sign on your office door at certain times of the day so that you can work without distraction, or it might mean saying no to somebody you usually say yes to regardless of how put-out it makes you (Devil Wears Prada style).

The moral of the story is, after considering all these things about Asteya that I was introduced to by my yoga teacher, I became very aware that I was a MASSIVE THIEF, even if I’d never stolen any material good in my life!  Fortunately, only awareness can bring the winds of change, so with that awareness I am committed to being mindful of all these things.  I started with acknowledging the value of other people’s time.  I do my very best to ensure I am on time for appointments and meetings and if I know I’m going to be late due to things I cannot control, I do my best to alert the person and apologise, acknowledging that I value their time.  I’m working on avoiding stealing from myself and from the Earth, but both of those elements are proving to be a work in progress.  Small steps, day by day.

Where can you commit to stealing less?

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

© Written by Amy Vaccaro for Chill Mama Wellness, 24th September, 2018.

Energy Vampires and how to Manage Them (and it’s not necessarily your toddler!)

Check out this video (3:38mins) by Dandapani called How to Spot and Energy Vampire and then lets chat energy…

As I’ve become older, especially after my children were born, I have become very aware of energy, probably because after I had my babies, my energy levels were always SUPER low.  When they were small I ran on very little sleep for a long period of time owing to  Dom’s Autism.  I was completely depleted and life was HARD.  I also had a lot of trouble saying “no” to things.  That’s where defining my values in life became important (check out my last blog post for more info on values).

Now they’re older and I have my sleep back (hooray!), my energy levels have returned.  But they’re different, more fragile somehow.  Owing to the fact that I had to learn to be so conservative with my energy when the children were small, I now have a vast appreciation of where it is going most of the time (I still get caught out from time to time though and given it’s getting to the end of the NSW school term, those reserve levels are getting lower and lower…).

So where does our energy come from?  In the yogic sense, we use the term prana to describe energy coming in to the body.  Prana comes from the oxygen we breath and the food we eat.  Therefore, the better quality our breathing is, the more nutrient dense and sun kissed our food is, and the healthier the body is to enable the absorption of oxygen and nutrients, the more prana we take in.  Daily meditation and yoga help us to become more aware of our individual levels of prana on a daily basis so we can know just how much we have to “spend” so to speak.

And so we come back to the words Dandapani speaks in the video about Inherent Energy Vampires – those who have been like this their whole life.  I really don’t like the term “vampire”, although it is an apt description.  There’s little compassion in that term based on our cultural notion of vampires as being blood thirsty killing machines.  I prefer the term “energy vortex” instead.  The problem with inherent energy vortexes is that they are usually completely unaware of their action and are so desperate for love and positivity in their life that they steal it from others like a small, hungry child stealing a loaf of bread to feed themselves.  So knowing that “where attention goes, energy flows”, and that energy doesn’t discriminate, just like water in the garden, it will grow both a weed and a flower, using our core values we need to choose where we “spend” our finite amount of energy each day.

 

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I vant to suck your energy!! Inherent energy vortexes can be deceiving, at first they might look all cute and friendly, but then out comes the fangs..

Actively choose to practice your energy spend, just like choosing what to spend your money on.  Become aware of those inherent energy vortexes and their suffering.  Give them whatever amount of energy you choose to based on what you can afford and then move on in peace.  Now this might be painful at first.  You might notice sensations of guilt or overwhelm or the inherent energy vortex might use words and actions just like a toddler having a “Mr Stampy” (fists screwed up and legs stomping up and down) moment to try and manipulate you into giving them what they want – your delicious positive energy.  But just like not giving in to your toddler wanting a chocolate at the supermarket checkout because you VALUE their good health and behaviour, do your best to not give in to the inherent energy vortex because you VALUE your own energy and want to spend it in other more productive ways.  Just like a toddler will eventually calm down and move onto something else, so will the inherent energy vortex.

Happy energy spending Chill Mamas and remember: “Pursue a lifestyle where the by-product is happiness” – Dandapani.

© Written by Amy Vaccaro for Chill Mama Wellness, 17th September, 2018.

6 Ways to Ditch “Living on the Edge” due to Stress and Anxiety.

I read an article in the Sydney Morning Herald recently with incredibly alarming statistics.  It stated that almost half of Australian women were anxious or depressed and that 67 per cent (yes that’s two thirds) of women report feeling nervous, anxious or on edge EVERY SINGLE DAY!

The study found that contributing factors for this are women not getting time to themselves whilst struggling to keep all the balls up in the air – family, work, parents, and other stuff that inevitably throws a spanner in the works.

So what on Earth are we going to do about this conundrum?  It’s completely unsustainable for women to continue living on the edge like this and for half of Australia’s population to keep the smoke in and not spontaneously combust!

Here’s a list of some of the things I’ve incorporated into my life in response to the same crippling “living on the edge” womanly life sensations that have helped me (with time and practice):

1) Make a list of the top values in your life and make decisions based on these values.  Not sure what your values are?  Never thought about your values before?  Neither had I til my psychologist suggested I work that shit out.  I made a list, stuck it up on the fridge and every time I was confronted with a difficult choice, instead of immediately saying yes like I always had, I checked my values list to see if there was a conflict.  If there was, I said no to that choice if I could.  If I couldn’t, I acknowledged the values conflict, acknowledged my feelings about it and worked out whether there was a way to avoid that conflict of values in the future.  Here’s a website that can get you started on the path to values creation.  It might be interesting (but you might need wine) to check your partners’ list of values too…

2) Be Ok with saying NO.  It’s like a muscle, the more you practice saying it, the easier it will be.  Use your values as a reference point. Be like Amy in Bad Moms.

3) Triage your life.  People who are triaged in the Emergency Department by the nurse are given a category from one through to five based on the severity of their presentation.  Category one means that the person is virtually dead and needs immediate attention.  The immediacy of attention decreases right down to a category five which is a non-life threatening condition (like tonsillitis or an ear ache) that is uncomfortable but can wait a few hours or potentially be sent to another care provider like a GP.  So consider events in your day or week in this way based on what you value most.  For example, if (like me) you place a high value your mental health, it’s a category one.  If my mental health starts to slide, everything else goes with it.  So I make time for meditation, physical activity and good food I enjoy.  It means I get up 20 minutes earlier while the house is still quiet to meditate, and that I also decided to become a yoga teacher (kind of a big commitment, lol!), but you need to do anything to keep a Category One alive and breathing.

4) Consider whether you can live with less so you can decrease the amount of paid work you do.  This will depend on what you value.  If you place a high value money and material goods or you really value the work you do and it needs to be full-time, it is unlikely this will be something you want to do.  However, if you are happy to live in an average to minimal way, and/or your work role allows it, you may be able to work less hours so you have more time to spend on other things you value more highly.  If you want to know more about minimalism, check out The Minimalists.

5) Get help.  We all know we need to exercise, eat healthily and sleep well, but sometimes we wonder how the bloody hell we’re going to do that as well as everything else.  Consider areas of your life you can outsource (maybe it’s getting groceries online so you waste less time in the supermarket).  Consider professionals who can help as well, your GP can be a great place to start when it comes to your mental health and can guide you to other professional support like counseling as you require it.  Take time out for a massage or a yoga class or anything you know is going to be calming and relaxing for you.  Remember (or discover) how it feels to slip into the parasympathetic “rest and digest” side of your nervous system and give your body and mind a break.

6) Plan more fun.  Have a girls night out.  Go on a date with your partner.  Squirt the hose at the kids (if it’s summer time that is, not in general, cos, you know, loving mother and stuff).  Plan a getaway and then actually go on it.  Dream about what you would do if you won the lottery.  Send funny GIFs to your friends on messenger and laugh your head off. Go to free outdoor exercise or yoga class, Live Life Get Active offer them across Australia.  Eat a food you love every day.  Enjoy the sensation of your breath filling your lungs.  Find small moments of joy wherever you can as these small moments add up to large feelings of contentment over time.  If you want to know where joy hides out, watch this amazing TED talk.

At Chill Mama Wellness, I am on a mission to change this disastrous phenomenon by offering services to help women to find oasis of calm in their life through yoga, massage and education.  If I can help you in any way, please reach out, I want you to step into your fabulous femininity and thrive.

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© Written by Amy Vaccaro for Chill Mama Wellness, 10th September, 2018.

The Sound of the Singing Bowl

The great thing about running a business in 2018 is the fact that my clients can communicate with me at any time of the day or night by booking appointments, messaging or emailing me.  My challenge is to limit myself to the number of times I check my phone per day, so that my brain and eyes get some screen downtime.  I leave my phone in the kitchen when I go to bed and I try not to look at my phone prior to my daily morning meditation, so that my brain remains somewhat clear for that time.  However, this morning, I couldn’t help myself.  I checked my phone and found a wonderful message there from a beautiful client; a really radiant, smiley, I’m glad she’s in the world kinda girl.   She sent photos of her beautiful baby and described a little bit about how yoga had helped her through her recent labour:

“Thank you so much for being a part of my journey, yoga definitely got me through those last few weeks (of pregnancy) and helped with the amazing, incredible, extremely tough experience of labour. I was making noises that reminded me of the singing bowl (LOL!)…”

For those of you who haven’t participated in a Yoga class with me or experienced a massage, I always end those two experiences by playing one of my Tibetan Singing Bowls.  Here’s a link to a video so you can watch one being played if you haven’t seen it before.   Given this Chill Mama’s reaction to the singing bowl and how it helped her through her labour I thought I’d explain a little bit about what the bowl is and why I use it.

Tibetan singing bowls are said to have been in existence since 560-480 B.C and are part of the Buddhist tradition.  The bowls produce sounds which can invoke a deep state of relaxation, stress reduction, healing and balancing.  Playing the bowl can have a very immediate centering effect on whomever is listening, probably due to the body’s neural interpretation of the vibration.  When you think about it (cast your mind back to year 10 science), all the world and us within it are just matter; atoms with electrons and protons zooming around causing vibration at different frequencies.   The vibration of the bowl helps our body to tune into a more calming frequency that can be deeply relaxing.  It can be a great way to come out of meditation or massage.

What I find fascinating is that kids LOVE the bowls and the sounds they make.  When I’m teaching outdoor #freeyogafriday, the tiny people are often running around playing or crawling all over their Mums as they are attempting a calming savasana, but as soon as the bowl starts humming, they all stop dead in their tracks and look straight towards it, motionless until the hum is finished and then back to their playing they go.

Now, making sounds in labour that sound like a tibetan singing bowl is a whole new phenomenon for me, but it is not surprising.  When women are supported to find (rather than instructed to do) their most comfortable and comforting positions and things for labour, they will always revert back to past experiences that made them feel relaxed and comfortable.  This is why music and aromatherapy can be such powerful allies in the birthing room and why the PRACTICING of yoga positions, breathing and meditation prior to birth, is important.  So for this Chill Mama, to her surprise, her body chose the comfort of the sound of vibration through vocalisation.  The great thing about this is that vocalising helps to loosen the mouth and throat – this has a direct impact on everything in “the downstairs region” or as the great Ina May Gaskin says “loose lips, loose hips”.  This loosening and relaxing is a wonderful way to assist baby to make her way out during birth and if the reaction of the kids at #freeyogafriday is anything to go by, this Mamas gentle vocal vibration would have been a welcoming calm for her baby on her difficult journey to the outside world.  As this Daddy so beautifully displays in this video babies respond to calming vibration, in this instance to what the ancient Yogi’s described as “the sound of the universe”: OM.

So if you are pregnant, take some time to practice how the sound of OM feels in your body.  It can be as quiet as whispering or loud enough to wake the neighbours, whatever floats your boat.  If you have a newborn, see if they respond to the sound of OM, particularly while they are lying on your chest.  Vocalising in this way is not for everybody, but for this Chill Mama, it was a surprising and welcome addition to her toolkit to help her and her baby to negotiate the waves of labour.

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© Amy Vaccaro for Chill Mama Wellness, 21st August, 2018.

Massage Therapy and Sexual Assault

I have just made the unfortunate discovery in the local paper today that a massage therapist I used to attend, has been accused of sexual assault and rape within his massage clinic and is currently going through the court system pleading as “not guilty”.  I’m feeling lots of mixed emotions about this.  When I was attending his clinic as a client, I perceived him as friendly and professional; a competent therapist, he helped my headaches and kept my body going through my first pregnancy.  To think that I or others may have potentially been exposed to sexual assault within that setting is horrendous.  His clinic room was isolated, he was the only practitioner there and having a massage leaves one’s body and mind very vulnerable.  This leads me to discuss my own professional stance on how I work to enable my clients to feel comfortable and not exposed within the massage setting.

Once you come into the clinic room, I check in with how you are and what you are requiring from your massage that day, I explain what items of clothing you can remove (for an hour long session it is usually everything except underpants so I can work on your legs as well, for sessions 30 – 45 minutes pants can usually be left on and top half of clothing is removed to work on the upper body), I explain how to lie on the table (either face down or side-lying), I explain to cover your body with the large towel once you are on the table and then I leave the room for you to undress.  After a few minutes, I come back, knock on the door and check that you are comfortable for me to come into the room, if you are ready, I come in, if you’re not, of course, I wait until you are.

Draping is a BIG deal.  Draping just means strategic placement of towels so that no private body parts are unnecessarily exposed. Generally in pregnancy massage in my clinic, clients will be in a side-lying position.  Enter what I have affectionately termed “the boob towel”.  This enables you to cover up your breasts while your back is exposed for massage, helping you to feel comfortable and somewhat clothed.  I never expose the buttocks during a treatment, I choose to massage them through the towel (butts get sore, especially during pregnancy, massage can really help to alleviate this).  Generally speaking, the bottom half of the body will remain draped while I work on the top half of the body and then when working on the bottom half of the body, the top half of the body is draped and then each individual leg is undraped to work on as required.

I encourage open dialogue as the massage proceeds – I’ll chat to you to make sure you’re OK and hope that you’ll trust me enough to verbally let me know if you’re not OK so I can amend the treatment accordingly, but I’ll also be looking for non-verbal cues that you are receiving the massage OK.  It’s a rare massage with me where there has been very little chat (unless it’s a postnatal, sleep deprived Mum who is often snoring by about 20 minutes in and that’s completely fine!).

Once the massage is finished, I cover your body completely with the towel and leave the room for you to get dressed and wobble your way back out to the waiting room where I will be waiting for you with a glass of water to then wish you well on your way.

There is no place for sexual assault in any setting,  especially where people openly and vulnerably entrust their semi-naked body to you for healing.  It is my deepest hope that healing is all you ever receive on anyone’s massage table.  Especially mine.

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The Chill Mama Wellness Massage table set up at Nurture Health Group, Wodonga.

©Amy Vaccaro for Chill Mama Wellness, 11th August, 2018.

 

Born En Caul – Pure Bliss!

After completing a Chill Mama Active & Mindful Birth Workshop, I am always on a fine balance between extreme high and complete exhaustion, this comes after the nervousness I experience prior to the beginning of the workshop.  Nervousness when I teach is unusual for me now, after all, I’ve been teaching in various settings from Post-Graduate University lectures to yoga classes and everything in between for over 10 years.  Upon reflection, I think the nervousness comes because the transfer of the knowledge within the workshop means so much to me.  Empowering women by teaching them about the process of birth and the various methods to work with and support the process (such as engaging the parasympathetic nervous system through breath work, mindfulness methods and movement (yoga); active birth positions and rebozo) and watching women leave the workshop with a sense of “oh, I feel a whole lot more calm about this now” is integral to the purpose of Chill Mama Wellness and more directly, linked to my purpose here in this lifetime.

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Participants enjoying a cuppa and a chuckle at the Chill Mama Active & Mindful Birth Workhop in Albury.

So as I found myself on an “exhausted natural high”, I get the most fabulous message from a client who attended a Chill Mama Active & Mindful Birth Workshop a couple of months ago that read something like this (amended for privacy and shared with permission):

Our baby arrived this morning at 6.17am, 47 minutes after arriving at the hospital.  I birthed him standing at the edge of the bed and he was en caul, no tears, nothing, just pure bliss!!  I’m still in shock.  The sac of fluid he was in was absolutely, positively awesome – he lifted his hand over his face and up above his head and it just steered off in a splash.  Two seconds later and with a squeal of shock my placenta landed on my feet.  Amy, it was AWESOME!  Prior to the birth I walked into the hospital and up the stairs thinking yes, keep moving, keep up-right in case he’s posterior – I had nowhere near the pain of my first labour, so it worked a bloody treat!  Thank you for your class, it complimented the CalmBirth breathing mindset perfectly.

So, you may be asking yourself, what the heck does born en caul actually mean?  Well, it means that baby is born still fully contained within the amniotic sac.  It doesn’t happen very often (approximately 1 in 80,000 births according to some sources) and is more likely to occur in labours where there has been no intervention or vaginal examinations which can increase the chance of the membranes rupturing (waters breaking).  Once baby is born, we can assist the membranes to rupture (or as in this case, the baby did it himself) and once baby’s face and is exposed to the air, the drive to breathe is initiated. In this video you can see the baby still intact within the membranes blissfully unaware it has been born (via caesarean section).  If you’re still intrigued, there are some more pics of babies born en caul in this article.

The story goes, back in the days of pirates and sailors heading off to conquer foreign lands, due to the rare occurrence of en caul births, midwives would save the membranes from babies who were born en caul, dry them and sell them to sailors as a lucky charm against drowning at sea.  I’m not sure if this Chill Mama kept the membranes for any such trade, but one can not dispute the incredible joy and power of this rare, blissful, positive birth.

 

©Written by Amy Vaccaro, for Chill Mama Wellness, 30th July, 2018.

Induction Massage

I had a client ask me recently whether I offer induction massage.  Now, I didn’t actually know this was a thing, so of course, I googled it and YES, massage clinics all over the country are offering induction massages at premium rates.  So, in answer to her question, do I offer induction massages?  Well, yes and no.  I offer therapeutic relaxation massage to women in all stages of pregnancy.  Some women choose to come for a massage if they are “overdue” and some women are in the very early stages of labour when they see me and often labour and birth will follow in the day/s after their treatment.  Am I solely responsible for this outcome?  No.  Does massage help to stimulate labour in women who are probably going to go into labour anyway?  Probably.  Can I then call it an induction massage? No.  Do women enjoy therapeutic relaxation massage and find it useful in the late stages of pregnancy?  Absolutely!

Labour physiology is complex, so complex that we still don’t know exactly how it happens (if we did, artificial induction would be successful 100% of the time).  What we do know is that there are hormones that are key players in the labour process – oxytocin is one of these key players.  The great thing about massage, especially therapeutic relaxation massage, is that it helps to stimulate oxytocin production.  This is why in a trusted massage situation, the person feels happy and content after a massage (so does the person giving the massage. Yes, I’m a midwife and a massage therapist – a complete oxytocin addict!).  In labour, oxytocin works in a positive feedback loop – the more oxytocin, the more uterine contractions, as the contractions and oxytocin flow increase, the baby is eventually born.  So in the very late stages of pregnancy and early stages of labour, oxytocin production can be enhanced using therapeutic relaxation massage, but only if the woman is comfortable and relaxed.  Which brings me to another key player in the labour hormone dance – adrenalin.  Adrenalin is a labour rescue hormone – when present, it actively tells the cervix not to open, even if the uterus is contracting.  This causes painful, incoordinate contractions that will often end in labour slowing and/or stopping completely, often leading to a diagnosis of “failure to progress” (patriarchal language) and induction/augmentation of labour or caesarean section.  Adrenalin is released as part of the sympathetic nervous system response of “fight or flight”, a common response to the stress associated with having a baby in a foreign environment with strangers.  The great thing about therapeutic relaxation massage (and yoga techniques for that matter) is that it can help to balance adrenalin production and activate the parasympathetic nervous system, the “rest and digest” branch of the nervous system, essential for oxytocin to be easily released and labour to progress.  Massage is great prior to labour and during labour for that reason.

So what can you expect from a pregnancy massage at Chill Mama Wellness if you are in the very late stages of pregnancy?  The same as a normal pregnancy massage really.  I will tailor the experience to your needs based on how your body is feeling on the day.   I use swedish massage techniques to help loosen tight muscles, especially in the neck, shoulders, low back and hips. Women will often want to talk about their fears or their anticipation of the birthing and mothering experience, this is fantastic and encouraged.  I use a relaxing and uplifting blend of essential oils suitable for pregnancy based on your smell preferences and magnesium oil to help with the relaxation response.  Sometimes I will incorporate rebozo into the session based on your preferences.  The whole purpose of the massage session is to leave you feeling relaxed in your mind and in your body as I believe this will assist your normal body physiology to do what it does best and get on with the job of growing and birthing your baby.

Therapeutic relaxation massage is available on a Wednesday at Nurture Health Group, 208 Beechworth Road, Wodonga.  For online bookings click here

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