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Kids Yoga Class Two:

We are playing the yoga museum game. One person leaves the room while the rest of the group choose a yoga pose (usually an animal-themed yoga pose). The person who left the room is called back in and tries to guess the name of the pose.

I usher one child out, when I come back in all of the girls are lying on their mats with their arms above their heads. One boy is on his knees with his arms above his head, and another boy is in the same position as the girls.

Stan: What are you supposed to be?

Boy #1: Unicorns!

Stan: Oh, I get it.

Girls -in-Unison: We are dead unicorns!

Stan:  Oh dear. (to boy #2) Are you also a dead unicorn?

Boy #2: No! (indignant) I am just a sleeping unicorn.

Ok just wondering because last week we talked about the fine art of decapitation.

Apparently, unicorns are off limits.

Verinha from Ashtanga Yoga Cascais did a little interview with me because I am so very important  No, actually, because she is super lovely and generous. Tim Bermingham took the shot to the left and Rebecca Markey took the shot to the right. Yay!


I gave birth to a 10 pound baby boy, Friday June 18th at 3:27p. Holden Owl Byrne. There were complications during the birth and I ended up having an emergency c-section. He is beautiful and calm, and we are definitely going to keep him.

I’m not sure how vegan babies get to be 10 pounds. The doctors were a little shocked when they pulled him out. Diana thinks my uterus is made of candy, and Erin thinks he is 8 pounds of Indian food. I think either is entirely possible.

So far, life is pretty quiet. I am healing from my incision, and Holden Owl is eating an enormous amount, sleeping and watching the world cup with his dad. As I write this he is napping, strapped to my chest all hot and sweaty.

The night I gave birth, Holden’s breathing started to get progressively more shallow. Because I had a fever and he had pooped in utero during labour, the pediatrician was worried that he had an infection or pneumonia. That night they took him to the NICU.  I couldn’t get out of bed until the next morning, and the next three days were spent dragging my IV back and forth to his little incubator where he was hooked up to monitors, an antibiotics IV, and a respirator. The culture in the NICU is really weird, I’ll write about it more when I have a bit more perspective. It was the most difficult three days of my life, I cried a lot, I was in a lot of pain, and both David and I were sick with worry and frustration. Coming home was the greatest. I spent the first few hours just sniffing the air and listening to the birds. Home is the best place to heal.

So, you get the pregnancy and the baby you need, but I think you might also get the birth you need. Because I maintained my practice through my pregnancy, most people said the baby would just fly out of me. I was sort of hoping that would be true, but it ended up being the total opposite.

With my lower half numb and obscured, my arms stretched out to either side of me, an oxygen tube up my nose, the largest, brightest lights I have ever seen, and an anonymous team of 20 masked professionals who I will never see again in my life – it wasn’t exactly the hippy love-in birth I was expecting. But actually, despite the hospital’s best attempts, the experience is so spiritually intense – it defies description. I felt uplifted, high. At first I couldn’t see him, I could only hear him crying and his crying sounded beautiful and adorable to me. Instant, unbridled love, mixed with this new feeling of nervousness.  Over the past two weeks I have felt equal parts hugely important and just an embodied vessel carrying the baby into the future.

Although, I don’t know if I am strong enough to go through the NICU experience anytime soon, I would gladly go through my labour and delivery again. Strange. I mean, I felt my uterus – warm and wet – being pulled out of me and placed on my tummy as they sewed it up. The whole thing is nightmarish, but it doesn’t touch me.

I love him. Who is he? It is glorious and complicated over here.

Practice notes:

Haha! As if!

I cried last week when David lifted me out of bed because my abodmen hurt so much.

I have managed to do some sun salutations for the past three days. I have no arm strength, and upward dog is tricky. It is nice to move again and fold forward without having a large belly in the way. My goal is to slowly add on standing, with no twists for my healing uterus, by the time I get to 6 weeks. Slowly, slowly.

How is it going over there?

I know that the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy for gay people in the US military is really regressive, but unfortunately I’m going to have to institute the same policy re: pregnancy over here in Miss Stan blog world. Happily, unlike gaydar – which can be hit or miss – you can tell I haven’t given birth because I’m still blogging. I promise to post pictures very soon after the policy gets revoked!

I switched last week to a home practice after a bout of contractions on Sunday kept me housebound. I cut out my closing inversions this week. The baby’s head is fixed and is too far into my pelvis to be moved or turned around, but I felt like I didn’t want to give the baby any funny ideas about staying in here longer. This Friday, David told me to do standing so I wasn’t pushing too much energy up with all the primary vinyasa. I did standing and then a whole round of backbends. Really, all I want to be doing is backbending, forward bends are getting uncomfortable – even with my legs really far apart. I’m still practicing everyday, and I still really need it. Practice lifts my mood and works out all the kinks and sore spots from the night before.

I made a terrarium this week, inspired by my sister’s link on my last blog post.

I got the bowl at the dollar store, the cacti from a local flower shop for $4, and the rocks, soil and toys I found around the house. Making terrariums is actually a lot of fun, and they are so low maintenance. This one is a little boreal forest, but a gorilla has escaped from the zoo and he is scaring the oversized birds (made from fimo).

Mercedes made one too, with more of a wild west theme.

I want to do more. They make great housewarming gifts.

I went out on a date last night to a fancy vegan restaurant. I curled my hair, wore a mini skirt (Ok not so different from the usual) and everything. It was fun to be out even if the food was just OK. David said the food was like going to a really amazing huge party but there are only 1 or 2 interesting people to talk to. I ordered (gasp!) a glass of wine. I think this was the very first glass of wine I have had all pregnancy. I could tell because I started going on about which soccer teams had the best looking players (ie. who I plan on rooting for in the World Cup).

In good news, David and I saw my tattoo artist on the street and he told me I look like a python. Later, David told me my bum looks better just a bit fatter like it is now. I know in normal non-pregnant lady world, being told your bum is fat and you look like a scary reptile digesting a large animal would be cause to shut yourself in your room and seek revenge on all your friends for letting you out in the world looking like that. But I was totally pleased. Anyone who doesn’t say you look “Huge!” or “Ready to give birth!” within five minutes might as well be telling you that you are the next Helen of Troy.

Digesting python with fat bum, so hot right now!

David and I made a little video on Monday of my pregnant dropbacks.  My second one is a bit jumpy but I’m too lazy and pregnant to get it perfect – so you are stuck with the honest (OK sloppy!) version of how I dropback everyday. The real reason to watch this is for the belly.

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My belly dropped this week. I can see it started happening on Monday because my shirt is riding up in that video. I’ve been trying to coax baby out by walking around the garden and bragging about all the flowers, shaking rattles by my belly, and raving about how soft and nice the baby’s bed is. So far, I’ve just had some new cramping feelings – but the baby hasn’t come out while I am sleeping or anything.

Mary, the midwife, told the baby on Thursday that it was time to come out. She told me that I should start eating lots of Indian food, have lots of sex, and lie horizontally to reduce the swelling in my feet when I watch television. David says I have the best life ever. But then, it seems to work out for him pretty well too.

Actually, David is the best husband ever. When I came home today there was a package waiting for me from David that he bought all stealth-like online.

So great! I’m not opening it until the baby comes and I have to lie in bed for 2 weeks. David says we can glean good child rearing tips from the show. I hope there are lots of extras on Daddy, the world’s best pitbull.

I have almost two weeks to go until my due date, and I am having a little moment of gratitude towards my Ashtanga practice for carrying me so safely and happily to this point. Right around the time I conceived, I felt incredibly vital. The daily practice had really softened and opened up my body. I felt equal parts strong and flexible, and I was up to any yoga challenge the practice could throw at me. I guess in some ways, I got my biggest yoga challenge yet. So far, I haven’t missed a practice. I hope I can continue to practice up to the day I give birth

When I was about 8 weeks pregnant, Joanne Darby told me, “Pregnancy is an intuitive time, just listen to your intuition and you will be fine.” That statement has been my guiding light for the past 8 months. I do think my practice has helped me immeasurably during the pregnancy. I don’t feel ill or really that tired. I never got crazy hungry. And unless I am in 38 degree weather, my ankles are a fairly recognizable part of  my legs. My only craving so far has been for lemonade, which doesn’t seem all that bad. I also know I have been very blessed with an easy pregnancy thus far, but I’m aware that the regulating properties of the Ashtanga system, the dailyness and vinyasa krama, have given my body and my baby an anchor.

At 6 weeks when I found out I was pregnant, I asked my doctor what was contraindicated for pregnancy particularly for the first 12 weeks when miscarriages are so common. I mentioned twists, backbends, jumping in vinyasas, and working up a sweat. My doctor, who isn’t usually nonchalant, brushed off my concerns. I went into further detail:

S: But we twist in half-lotus, against our knees! I drop backwards on to my hands! The room is a million degrees!

Dr.: You can stay in bed, or you can continue your regular activities. But either way, if nature intends you to keep this pregnancy, then you will keep it.

I thought that was a little granola for her regular bio-medical party line, but that has since been confirmed to me by other doctors and midwives. Miscarriages are natural and devastatingly common whether you do everything by the book or not. I can understand why people look for answers as to why miscarriages happen. All the reasons I have heard about why they occur from other people (she ran, she twisted, she jumped, she fell) seem to be trained on limiting the mother’s mobility and blaming her for whatever might go wrong. I decided to practice for the rest of my first trimester, but only because I felt like it.

David told me to stick to standing series for the remaining 6 weeks I had in my first trimester. In India, I don’t think Sharath would teach a pregnant woman for the first 3 months but that makes sense to me because he wouldn’t have a chance to have a regular and sustained teaching relationship with anyone because of his schedule. I did standing for a few days, but I wasn’t sick or nauseous and I felt better moving than sitting around. So after two days, I asked David in the car before Mysore if I could do the rest of primary. A week later, my backbends were still feeling good, and I asked if I could add on dropbacks, and that was OK too. The week after that I added on some intermediate, and David crouched down beside me in the room and said, “Umm. No. Just wait until 12 weeks.”

And the two of us just started a dialogue that went pretty much like that for the rest of the pregnancy. I get treated like any other student in the room, I get pulled up to the front, and my alignment is gently corrected. David has said no to me only one other time when I wanted to do kapotasana again in my 8th month. And he was right, both times.

Before I went to India in my second trimester, I practiced up to supta vajrasana. I wasn’t that big, so I rolled up two blankets and put one under my chest and the other under my pelvis for the intermediate backbends on the belly. In India, I practiced full primary. I wanted to be just another student in the room, not the pregnant lady who needs a lot of attention. I was so grateful that Sharath let me do what I could everyday. He told me to do trikonasana twice instead of twisting in the revolved version, but that was all. In retrospect, although it would terrify me when Sharath or Saraswathi would put me in some horrible spot in the room, they were treating me like any else – capable and strong. I think that says a lot about the two of them, considering the culture they live in – i didn’t see a single pregnant woman during my stay.

Now, I do primary, a non-twisty-more-squatting version of pasasana, krouchasana, ustrasana and then dropbacks. I do my full closing, because according to Saraswathi and the medical professionals I have talked to – the baby won’t turn around just because I am upside down. Although, the lovely midwife who practices at our studio told David that they recommend inversions when the baby is head up to try and move it head down, which is pretty cool.

Once you get pregnant, your body becomes everyone else’s business. You are relatively autonomous one day, and the next you are subject to a host of opinions – some kind, some a little mean but all well-intentioned. Certainly, most people have an opinion about Ashtanga and pregnancy and I have heard just about everything under the sun. While pregnancy is a condition, it isn’t disease or an illness. I think the misconceptions we spread about pregnancy and fitness are little off-shoots of misogyny. People would tell me not to do one pose or another, but then some people would also tell me that they thought I was having a boy because girls make you look fat and tired. Most of it is a big load of crap.

Pregnancy is crazy and amazing, and I think like parenting it defies expectations, fairness, and rules. It is nice to imagine that everyone will fit the same identifiable shape or follow the same developmental steps, but it seems to me that just like you get the kid you need, not the kid you think you want – you also get the pregnancy you need.

I do really hope that anyone reading my little blog will trust in themselves and the practice throughout pregnancy. I remember when I first got pregnant, and I read everything I could find about pregnancy and Ashtanga. Most of it was so incendiary, I remember one woman writing about how if you do headstand the baby’s arm will poke through the uterus. It made me so frightened to practice (Ok – not the baby’s hand thing – I have managed to retain a scrap of common sense throughout the past 9 months). To be honest, I’m not sure what the motivation is to scare women off practice. David has really helped me by letting me work, get sweaty and try every morning, but he has also helped by telling me when enough is enough and I need to soften and relax. Every morning, I don’t have to think or worry about what I should or shouldn’t be doing. My body and my baby are my guides. They surprise me everyday with what I can achieve.

I do less asana, but I think this pregnancy has made my practice much stronger.

(photos by Tim Bermingham)

Next post: I promise way more aliens and cockroach vampires and way less sycophantic yoga talk.

I’m officially full term now, so the baby could come at anytime. It doesn’t feel ready to come out though (READ: I’m not ready for it to come out).

Everything is pretty much the same: I am still a terrible mouth-breather, I still have to go to the bathroom about 40 times a day, and I can still bend backwards and do most of primary series – but I can’t seem to get my shoes on without collapsing in exhaustion. The only thing that is slightly different is my mind is 100% focused on how unprepared I am for the baby. When someone brings up a topic other than my baby (crazy!) I get slightly baffled. David had to remind me about the oil spill the other day.

The sad thing is I read the Globe cover to cover daily. Like, 11 people have died and the spill is an epic ecological disaster with countless sea creatures dying or suffering for years to come, BUT did you know that bassinet fitted sheets measure 18″ x 30″????

With brain function at an all time low, only small pieces of information can get through. David showed me this video last night, and because it didn’t involve any critical thinking it broke the baby fog. Don’t bother asking any questions, like “What is a slow loris?” or “What are they doing to that wild animal?”.  Just turn off your brain and press play.

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Personally, I like to rewind and watch on silent from the 0:37 mark. Over and over again. Sigh, it never gets old.

Last week at AYCT was pretty busy, we hit 91 people in morning Mysore. The rest of the week had over 80, even mother’s day. Actually, it was a little funny to see all the mothers that I don’t usually see on Sundays and all the young people rushing out, sweaty and red faced, to Sunday brunches.

AYCT is getting a little collection of videos. The adorable Nora made a fantastic short video about the tradition.

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Shanti and John’s nephew came in to make a video for a school project and thankfully, we didn’t scare him too much. David was actually about to eat an apple when they shot this but remembered the apple eating in Nora’s video and decided not to make it his thing.

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I love watching footage of the Mysore room. They should make a channel with Mysore rooms around the world. Ok – only me and some other geek would watch – but I find it very mesmerizing. Maybe, that channel could have a split screen with silly big-eyed monkey things and people practicing mysore-style.

24 hours of practicing and dum-dum animals. Sweet bliss! I might never have to turn on my brain again.

I’ve been working on a pregnancy and ashtanga project since I was in India. The idea was simmering in a little pot in my head for a few months. Today was such a satisfying day because I took a big step towards finishing it. I’ve seen some of the rough images, and I’m pretty excited to work on the next stage of the project. Mid to late June is my estimated launch date. Whee!

We transformed AYCT into a little photography studio, and poor Tim Bermingham lugged all of his equipment from his home. Tim’s work is very beautiful. You can check out some of his yoga and portrait photography on his Facebook group.

I was tired and hungry afterwards, but I had a lot of fun with Tim and David. Tim is so easy going and professional. He really understood my vision and I think improved on it. David was there to help me with alignment. It is dreamy to have a seasoned Mysore teacher at a photo shoot, because David is such direct communicator from working in a room filled with practioners. Plus we were crazy efficient: we set up, did the shoot, and packed everything back into Tim’s car in two hours.

Tim and David are super heroes!

It was the perfect spring rain today. The kind you purposefully go for a walk in. The city had that slightly sooty smell when water hits concrete, but my backyard smells like fresh dirt.

May 5th was Dolly’s birthday. I thought I might scatter her ashes in the backyard on her birthday, but now I don’t really want to. I think I will carry her with me a little longer.

On Monday,  I went to Eynat’s house to take photos of my big belly. Eynat has a big belly of her own. Her baby girl is due a week before Mystery Baby. Eynat is lovely and so talented and relaxed. I had lots of fun rolling around on her floor for a few hours.

Photos: Eynat Don Photography

Practice is going pretty well, considering I just have 4 weeks to go. Since dropping my feeble attempts at Supta Kurmasana in favour making a diamond with my legs, hands reaching slightly towards my bum, and a positively Quasimodo-shaped back, I haven’t had to let anything else go. There have been some changes though: I noticed in led primary that during the week I am holding Halasana and Karna Pidasana for about about half the usual count to avoid being crushed by the enormous weight of my belly. Uth pluthi is the fastest 10 breaths in history and there are some face-wiping/shirt-fixing escape tactics cropping up in between Navasanas.

On the plus side, I am still doing my dropbacks with less dancing around my mat than last month. The first time I come up from standing, I am so winded, I behave like I just ran a marathon and pant with my head between my knees for a few minutes but I can still do the three on kinda the correct vinyasa. I love backbends right now.

We saw the midwife today at the clinic. There was a crazy/grumpy pregnant lady waiting with us. Sometimes crazy/grumpy people make me feel nervous, and sometimes their grumpyness makes me feel extremely sunny, which is maybe a little mean. Today, I felt really sunny and happy in the presence of big crustiness. The baby’s head is in a great position, the heartbeat was good, and Mary the midwife said “Nice, Really REALLY nice.” about 15 times. Then she told me she has no worries about me or the baby.

Maybe the dour pregnant lady in the waiting room was doing all the worrying for us.

If you have a problem that is keeping you up at night, just visualize the crabby pregnant woman in the waiting room huffing, puffing and pulling pieces of paper out of her wallet in fustrated attempt to organize.

Let the  unbalanced pregnant person take the weight of  your problems. She already has loads – what’s a few more?

And don’t feel bad – we’ve been doing it for centuries!

I’m currently going down a spiral of shame over my horrendous neglect of this precious blog. Tonight , I ventured into the dusty comment section and cleared out about 1500 spam comments from the pharmaceutical robots.

It is weird to think a human wrote those comments for other humans to read: “This is a great site! I’ve found more great info at prednisonefordogsandsmallchildren.com!” or “viagra, ambien, lexapro, prozac.”

I read in the Globe the other day, that 16% of Canadians think that we are living amongst aliens cleverly disguised as humans. Maybe those comments are directed at aliens who enjoy reading lists of pharmaceuticals.

My friend E and I used to think a co-worker of ours was an alien who was gathering information to take back to the mothership. A typical lunchroom conversation would go something like this:

Possible-alien-disguised-as-teacher: What is that you are eating?

Stan: Umm, a carrot-stick.

PADAT: How did you make it?

S: Ughh, well they sell them in this little baby carrot shape and I just put a few in tupperware.

PADAT: Hmmm.

I wish I was exaggerating.

Anyway, I got rid of all the comments directed towards the PADATs and Tiger Woods of this world, and nestled in between all the drug lists were two comments – one from a friend we met in Mysore, India and the other from a new friend at AYCT. It made me feel warm and fuzzy, like there was lots of goodness supporting my little website while I was sleeping. Thank you for reading my blog, even when I am very bad at updating.

Last week, I pushed myself too hard and on Friday night David found me in the closet sobbing into my clothes about some ridiculously small baby shower details. I’ve been trying to better about getting my 8 hours and not running around when I come home from work. I abandoned my push to do all the intermediate series backbends, and I’ve been focusing on just dealing with the heat, sweat and rigor of my existing practice. With the extra rest and less crying in the closet, I’ve noticed some pretty neat things happening in my own backyard.

The black cherry tree David and I planted two years ago is blossoming.

I can’t remember the name of this ground cover, but every spring I wish I could make it into a pillow. Wouldn’t it make the best pillow ever?

David and I had our last pre-natal class. There were no more scary stuffed animals, but we did practice breastfeeding (clothed) and swaddling the creepy plastic baby. The next day, I practiced swaddling one of the baby’s stuffed toys. I think the Zookie doll really liked it!

Then Mercedes wanted to learn, so we practiced on the cat. He liked it for about 5 seconds.

Look at his face. You can just tell I will make the greatest mother evah.

While I was busy perfecting the art of swaddling, David made a video of himself doing the intermediate backbends. I really try to stay on the vinyasa count, but my pre-pregnancy vinyasa from laghuvajrasana into kapotasana goes something like this: inhale – jump forward on my knees, exhale – collapse forward, hold for five breaths, inhale – pretend to start kapotasana, exhale – collapse again, inhale – wipe my face, exhale, inhale – pretend to start kapotasana by bringing my hands to my waist and bending slightly back – repeat this action 10 times before David notices and I am forced to inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale into the pose.

David can actually go in and out on the correct vinyasa. Of course, he makes it look easy.

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Stay tuned for my swaddling video – 7th series.

Waiting for the light to change at Eglinton and Bayview last Thursday, we were talking about scheduling at AYCT when David suddenly yelled, “Noooo!” and leapt out of the car.

A small brown head was poking out from underneath the mini-van in front of us. David’s movement caused it to run under the mini-van beside us. As the light turned green, the van moved. Positioned perfectly in between the wheels, the receding bumper revealed a large fuzzy groundhog, looking anxiously around. He darted back towards the Metro parking lot. David got attitude for stopping traffic from a man driving a big white pick-up.

The city hotline robot for animal control directed me to call for a private company to remove the wildlife pest that might be destroying my property, or to call the Toronto Wildlife Centre or the Toronto Humane Society. The THS has been defunct for several months now, I mean you only have to be barely conscious to know that. I’m surprised the hotline robot hasn’t been informed.

So, I called the Toronto Wildlife Centre. The answering machine promised that someone would call me back in an hour.

TWC: So, was the groundhog injured?

S: No, not really. Confused, maybe. But it was just hanging out in a Metro parking lot.

TWC: Well, I see there is a park at that intersection.

S: Yes, diagonally across from the parking lot there is a school football field.

TWC: We only have one staff member, so we can’t really send anyone out to check.

S: OK. I understand. I just thought I should call.

TWC: Please do call if you see a SICK or INJURED animal.

OK. I am a little animal crazy, but I do understand that there isn’t a charity devoted to escorting animals back and forth across the street. However, it does seem to me that waiting an hour to return an emergency call about an injured wild animal or a wild animal that is about to harm you, might not be terribly effective. I guess you would really only need one staff member to clean up the mess.

Eglinton and Bayview is such a hideous intersection – an enormous McDonald’s on one corner right across from a little strip mall and kitty corner to a large parking lot. We pass by these ugly spaces everyday in our ugly little car. I’m not sure why our culture is so bent on making everything look awful and grey. I know it is his home too, but the groundhog looked so beautiful, so strange and out of place under the dirty light blue mini-van.

The next day we looked for signs of the groundhog as we drove by in our dusty little car, and we talked about him spending the night in the Metro parking lot. But there was no trace of him, just the parking lot, the McDonald’s, the strip mall, and all the cars big and small carrying people to work. And we kept on driving too.

Today’s practice:

Today I added on Laghu vajrasana again. David practically needed a forklift to haul me up again.

D: I think it has been too long. You might have waited a little too long to start this again.

S: …yeah…

D: What do you want to do? Stretch your front, or strengthen your legs?

S: I want to do Kapotasana.

D: (choking slightly) Umm. Well. I think that might be an intense stretch for you right now. I mean, just because you are almost due and you haven’t really done it in a few months.

S: …yeah…

My mom always says I was born sarcastic. But I think I was born stubborn.