Wednesday, 8 May 2013

'Beating the blues... naturally.'


Birth and parenthood are two of life's major transitions.

More couples are turning to birthing classes and natural therapies to create easier, more natural birth experiences because birth is after all, an emotional journey reflecting how we feel about our bodies, our parents and our relationships with each other.  It is integral to our emotional, mental and physical wellbeing. If we feel good about ourselves, connected to our own inner power and focused on creating positive intentions around birthing, then post natal depression or symptoms of post-natal depression can be reduced.

Post natal depression or post partum depression (ppd) is a form of depression that affects a high percentage of new mums and if left undiagnosed and untreated, can pose a serious health risk for families.
Many of the causes remain a mystery but there are some contributing factors that have been linked to ppd, namely women who feel unsupported by their relationships and partners, those who are burdened with financial or emotional stress and women who may have a past history of psychological problems. 

Some symptoms to look out for in first year:
1 feelings of low self esteem, lowered body confidence in particular
2 feelings of guilt and unworthiness
3 regrets around the birthing experience, particularly if it was traumatic
4 sadness at having to release your 'old' life - resentment and reluctance to let go
5 and inability to be happy or positive or plan for future celebrations
6 socially withdrawing from friends & family
7 exhaustion and consequential irritability and foggy mind
8 sleep deprivation (considered amongst all mums to be a 'form of torture'!)
9 returning to work too early, not giving yourself enough time to recover from birthing.

Personally I believe how a woman approaches her pregnancy and how well she supports herself before conceiving and during pregnancy, with food, exercise, (particularly yoga) and regular body treatments, will make a big difference to how well she will adjust after birthing her baby. Good birthing experiences will help reduce the instances of postnatal depression.

Some other elements that have been connected to ppd susceptibility include:
1 formula feeding over breastfeeding (can give rise to feelings of inadequacy, failure)
2 traumatic birth experiences
3 smoking/drinking/drug abuse
4 inadequate or spasmodic diets
5 minimal or decreased vitamin and mineral intake. 

Ppd is manageable, starting with regular exercise, supplementation and whole food support. Yoga practice has proven to elevate levels of Serotonin, the feel-good hormone, to stimulate all body systems such as the circulatory, respiratory and endocrine systems   (particularly the thyroid and parathyroid glands), as well increase your digestive capacity so you can effectively absorb and eliminate. The beauty of Yoga, prenatal and post natal yoga in particular, is that it helps us to connect deeply with ourselves and our babies and after birth, re-connects us to our pelvic floor, the figure-eight shaped muscle sling that supports the entire uro-genital area.  Pelvic floor health is essential not only to re-establish physical strength but also to rebuild our confidence, sexual integrity and energetic connection to the earth.  If we are weak in our foundations then we will feel as if there is nothing keeping us together, we will feel unsupported, ungrounded and under nourished, which again, can contribute to feelings of depression, anxiety and overwhelming sadness.  Focusing on the breath during yoga is known as Pranayama, and studies have now directly linked brain function, mental clarity, lung strength, emotional balance and overall vitality, with this remarkable ancient practice. Bringing ourselves into a meditative state can help resolve many issues or disturbances, not just ppd, but it is the particular practice of Pranayama that unifies body, mind and spirit. Depression is often described in natural medicine circles as a dis-connection to self, an intense state of introversion and feeling alone.  Yoga is so much more than just physical postures, it is about establishing that connection and unifying it with the Divine, or universal connection.  We are no longer alone. 
There are many ways to treat pnd and natural medicine aims to treat the root causes as well as how they are manifesting as symptoms.  Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) regards pnd as a Qi (energy) deficiency, in particular a deficiency of the Heart element as a result of unbalanced Heart Fire.  The Heart meridian is governed by the Fire element and is all about connection, communication and love.  Often along the journey of pregnancy and childbirth, the emotional and energetic Heart has weakened.  Instead of feeling elated, joyous and completely connected, we feel lethargic, weepy and generally despondent.  The Heart is our Emperor, the organ that keeps us in touch with everyone, everything and ourselves.  If we lose this then of course we will feel emotionally isolated and exhausted. 
A chemical imbalance can occur when the brain doesn't receive the right amount of hormones, blood and feedback from the rest of the body.  When internal communication breaks down, the mind becomes susceptible and over-sensitive, affecting behavior, rationale and emotional stability.  This hormonal imbalance also often contributes to incontinence, constipation and post-natal depressive feelings.  It is in this instance when everything seems just too hard to deal with and either mother or baby is in immediate danger, that drug-therapy is the best solution.  Ppd can and has, driven many women to acts of regrettable acts of violence, just because they have lost touch with their normal coping mechanisms.  Compounding stresses leave them feeling like there is no other alternative, their sense of perspective and consequence lost in the moment. 
Blood quality plays a big role in regaining postnatal health and vitality.  During pregnancy your body produces about an extra one third of your total blood quantity to nourish the   placenta and fetus.  During birthing we lose quite a lot of blood, which would be increased in the instance of tearing, hemorrhage or other trauma.  We also bleed up to 2-4 weeks after birthing where the uterus expels residual tissues and blood and sometimes this blood loss can lead to anemia, particularly if iron and B12 intake is inadequate.  Blood is our life force; it feeds every cell of the body and keeps our brains functioning properly.  If it lacks strength and quality then of course we will feel depleted.
Naturopath Nicola Lowe specialises in Women’s' Health and suggests getting yourself primed properly with all the essential omega 3 fatty acids, good oils and supplements before getting pregnant, so your blood and hormones are as strong and as healthy as possible.  "This will go a long way to supporting your emotional and physical well being during your pregnancy", she says, "and help reduce the risk of experiencing symptoms of post natal depression after birth."

By including some of these natural supplements & foods in your diet, you can strengthen your blood & help reduce ppd symptoms:
1 folic acid
2 St Johns Wort - a natural anti-depressant herb, although not suggested if breast feeding
3 catnip - a safe sedative herb for mums, full of helpful minerals. (Safe when pregnant too)
4 valerian - a natural sedative particularly useful for insomnia
5 omega-3 fatty acids to support brain and hormone function
6 S-adenosinemethionine (SAMe) - a natural anti-depressant that assists in the production    of many 'happy brain' chemicals, namely Serotonin.
7 Thenylaolanine & Tyrosine - amino acids that assist in the production of 'happy brain' chemicals.
8 Flaxseed oil
9 Zinc, iron, selenium, Vitamins C, A and E, B12
10 TCM suggests feeding the Spleen, Liver, Kidney and Heart meridians with yellow and orange vegetables, beans and lentils and seaweeds in the form of warm, easily digestible foods, and avoiding cold, raw foods, alcohol, fried/greasy foods or curries, which will     aggravate and deplete further. 
11 Oat and brown rice porridges cooked with seaweeds, are also excellent for calming nerves and easing stress, as kelp is jam packed with vital trace elements and minerals.

Resting for as long as you need to after giving birth is an absolute necessity, not a luxury, as many think it is.  I know I only got out of my pajamas to wash them during the first eight weeks!  Some cultures even insist that new mothers remain housebound until they have not only stopped bleeding, but also until other family members deem them recovered enough to engage in activities again. For example, in Greece new mums stay house bound for 40 days with their babes, allowing plenty of time for physical healing as well as bonding, not to mention preparing newborns with strong energetic protection before they engage with the outside world.  This delayed contact with the environment would allow infant immune systems to be as strong as possible, as well as giving mum the chance to regain her sense of self without pressure or expectation from others.  Our modern lives don't often allow for 40 days but still, I feel we often rush back into work without really considering & digesting the effects that may have on our relationships with our children and ourselves, later on in life.
Yoga guru Swami Saraswati even suggests that "Motherhood is the ultimate yoga practice" and as one of the main principles of yoga is 'Ahimsa' or non-violence, to self or anyone else, it is so important to recognize symptoms in yourself or a loved one, to get help and to talk about it.  Discuss options with your GP or Naturopath, keep connected to other new mums for support, even try a class in Mums'n'Bubs yoga as it's a great way to balance and rebuild your sense of self whilst deepening your bond and respect for each other. 

Remember you are never alone and that there is lots of support available if you feel you may be at risk.  Contact for more information or Gidget Foundation info.

About Denby: When Denby discovered yoga in 2000, she felt the universe had finally revealed her true purpose in this lifetime. She felt blessed and inspired and left behind a successful career in the Film and Television industry to be in service to others as a yogi and teacher.

She started her yoga journey by completing an intensive 2 year Ki Yoga Diploma teacher training course in 2002 with Master teachers Jack Marshall and Richard Paton and simultaneously began studying a variety of natural therapies at Nature Care College, including Energetic and Spiritual Healing, Kinergetics, Bowen Therapy and Massage. Since then she has completed Pre natal and Mother and Baby Yoga training with Suzanne Swann, (inspired by the teachings of Active Birth pioneer Janet Balaskas); the Hatha/Purna Yoga Diploma with John Ogilvie at Byron Bay Yoga; advanced workshops with Donna Farhi, Tara Judelle, Kathryn Budrig, Lisa Masters, Simon Borg-Olivier and Duncan Peak and birthed a beautiful son, Max, who is her greatest teacher and friend.

She continues to hone her skills as a therapist specialising in pre and post natal yoga; is a certified and registered Level 3/Senior teacher (Hatha and Ki) with YA, a Reiki Master and an Alumni Ambassador with lululemon athletica. Ever the perpetual student, Denby is inspired by leading yogis including Shiva Rea, Donna Farhi, John Ogilvie, Simon Borg-Olivier, Tara Judelle and Francesco Garri Garripoli and guided by the teachings of Gangaji, her husband Eli and the luminosity of healer Caterina Pellegrino-Estrich. Denby is currently studying Cranio-sacral therapy and distributes the incredible DoTERRA organic essential oils through the studio.
Denby is now one of the most sought after yoga therapists on the Northern Beaches, well known for her insightful, compassionate and natural affinity with teaching and healing.
All of Denby’s classes incorporate remedial yoga sequences and seasonal insights that build physical structure, emotional foundation & energetic integrity. The more subtle and energetic aspects of Ki and Hatha yoga are woven within these sequences designed to open the heart and encourage a deep exploration of habits, behaviours and memories. Shifting weakness into strength through this system of corrective yoga helps restore balance on all levels and helps awaken the complete Self.
With over a decade of teaching experience and exploring this relationship between the seasonal cycles, the five element theory and body/mind/spirit, Denby has founded the innovative vinyasa-style practice that she calls ‘Ki FUSION Yoga’, a unique style that reflects her own personal journey with yoga, energy and motherhood.

She encourages students to let go of the physical and mental struggle connected with trying to find the ‘perfect pose’ and instead, to find and feel the energies within each pose, with ease, attention and a sense of adventure. Their practice then follows the path of self-inquiry and self-expression, rather than just being a physical activity. Students come away from classes feeling that they have been ‘held’, opened up and safely challenged, at their own level.

“I am humbled to witness the amazing commitments my students make to themselves, each time they step onto their mats. They are all my brave yogi warriors!”
Denby’s other calling in life is writing and she is currently working on two pioneering books, “AWAKENING SHAKTI: HEALING THE WOUNDED FEMININE THROUGH YOGA, RITUAL & SEASONAL WISDOMS”, and “KI FUSION YOGA: DISCOVERING YOUR YOGANATURE”, both to be published and available as ebooks in the new year. (*Both titles/concepts subject to copyright and trademarked.)
Her popular Ki Yoga Active Birth poster, the first of its kind, is now available for sale and the 5 seasonal Ki FUSION posters and DVD’s will be released later in 2012.

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