To kick off our Yoga Mama series of interviews is the lovely Diana Vitarelli. Diana is the founder & owner of the popular Dhyana Yoga studios located in Philadelphia & south Jersey. She is also the proud yoga mama to the one year old (tomorrow is her birthday!), Raine. I asked Diana questions relating her experiences in motherhood to her yoga, meditation & Ayurveda practices. Enjoy!1) When you started thinking about getting pregnant did your yoga, Ayurveda or meditation practice play a role? If so, explain.
I was 39 when John and I got married, so western medicine would say we were of pretty advanced age in terms of getting pregnant. Our healthy lifestyles and personal philosophies though told us otherwise! Our daily practices didn’t so much play a role in us actually getting pregnant, but I’d say that the 20+ years of taking good care of our minds, bodies, and spirits supported us, and especially me in the physical sense, when we were ready.
2) Were there any experiences leading up to or during your pregnancy where these practices helped?
Very often when a woman is trying to get pregnant and can’t, stress is the issue. Even though I lead a very busy life, have a lot of responsibilities, and run several yoga studios, my yoga and meditation practices help me keep stress, worry and anxiety to a minimum, and I am sure that helped!
3) During your pregnancy how did your yoga asana & meditation practice change (if applicable)?
In the beginning my asana practice didn’t change much, except that I would get short of breath during a vigorous practice. You just have to breathe more when you’re pregnant because every breath you take is a breath for the baby, and you can’t do any breath retention either. But I was really surprised at how much I could keep doing while pregnant and how enjoyable basic modifications that would keep me in the flow actually were (like doing push ups instead of low planks)! It wasn’t until the last 6 weeks that my belly really got gigantic and I had to slow down, and then not until the last 2 or so weeks that I would pretty much just stretch on the floor. It was all great and I would recommend every yogini mom-to-be to keep up with where she is in her practice (it’s not the time to try to advance, but it does feel empowering to keep up!). Meditation is amazing while pregnant, and it’s the one time when you are allowed to lay down to meditate. I felt very connected to my little one while she was in the womb and spent a lot of time meditating in her room so she would already feel a resonance there once she arrived. After she was born, I started meditating and doing pranayama (breathings) while I was feeding her and we still to this day have a little rhythm we fall into when she even sits in my lap, it’s beautiful!
4) How did your practices assist you leading up to & during labor & delivery?
I actually ended up having a last minute c-section because my baby was breech. We knew she was breech for some time, and tried absolutely everything to flip her over! I was hanging upside down for up to 40 minutes a day, burning moxybustion by my pinky toes twice a day, getting acupuncture an chiropractic special treatments, tried natropathic remedies from pellets to oils, and we even went to a doctor at the end who was known as “The Baby Flipper” for something called aversion, where the doctor does a maneuver to flip the baby over. That doctor did an ultrasound first, and found that our baby’s umbilical cord was around her neck and we had to make some pretty quick decisions at that moment. In the end, my delivery was nothing we had planned on, but it was beautiful in a way I could never have expected! We knew that it went the way the universe meant it to, and being able to accept the unexpected is a great practice for parenthood.
5) Looking at the so-called 4th trimester – how did yoga, meditation & Ayurveda affect your transition from pregnancy to motherhood?
I love the concept of the “Fourth Trimester!” It’s so true, neither mama or baby are quite “done” upon the birth day. We were both in sensitive states and the connection between us was still palpable. The main thing that I did that might be different that other new moms is that I followed a special Ayurvedic meal plan for the 30 days after having the baby. Basically I had a sweet rice every day for breakfast and a savory rice every day for dinner. In between those meals I ate only fresh fruits and veggies, and had lots of tea and coconut water. I think eating those recipes was very nurturing to my healing body and provided me with everything I needed, and didn’t overload me with carbs or anything to stunt the flow of energy. I never craved anything else and because I knew what every meal was going to be, it also simplified our days, which gave me more time to focus on the baby.
6) How have your practices shaped your parenting style?
We are very patient and present with Raine, and I think our practices give us the strength to be that way even when we are very tired, or frazzled, or overwhelmed. We also bring her to yoga with us when we can, we meditate with her around (even if she’s just asleep in the room), we sing and play harmonium with her which she loves, and we focus on giving her positive feedback. It’s also been very important to us to use natural products with Raine, feed her organic foods, and we have been committed to cloth diapering, which is not as difficult as you might think! She’ll be a year old on April 18th, so we are presently getting prepared for things to shift and change as she becomes more expressive and independent! We are sure all of our practices will be thoroughly tested over time.
7) Please share any other examples, tips, advice on being a Yoga Mama!
My advice is to actively talk to and listen to other moms, politely take in all the input from relatives and strangers, diligently read every book and blog… and at the end of the day, trust yourself! You’re the mom, you know instinctively what your baby needs, and you will be absolutely wonderful!
Thank you Diana for sharing your knowledge & experiences as a Yoga Mama!!!
More about Diana:
Diana (Dhyana) Vitarelli teaches Yoga, Meditation, and Ayurveda classes regularly at Dhyana Yoga and with her husband, John, on retreats around the world. Find out more about her and her studios, including DY’s new Charitable Foundation, “The Seva Center,” by logging onto www.dhyana-yoga.com