Nikki Bergen

Belle Talk

The Three R’s of Postpartum Recovery: What Every New Mom Needs to Know

By: Nikki  


The following is a piece by Janette Yee. Janette is a massage and athletic therapist who specializes in prenatal and postpartum rehabilitation. The quote she lives by is, “We have a secret in our culture, and it’s not that birth is painful. It’s that women are strong.” Love this so much!

You’ve recently given birth, and at your six-week follow up appointment, your obstetrician clears you for exercise. They don’t say much more on the topic, and you wonder:

Should I get a gym membership? My stomach looks and feels like mush — should I get back to crunches right away? Can I do sit ups after a c-section? Can I run my first half marathon in five months? These are just a few of the questions that might cross your mind, with the biggest one being: where do I even start?

With 15+ years of answering these types of questions, I’ve boiled it all down to a simple framework. To maximize postpartum healing and return to physical activity with minimal risk of injury, you must respect the Three R’s.

#1. Reactivate

Definition: learn to contract weak and overstretched muscles again.

At 40 weeks of pregnancy, your four abdominal muscles are stretched maximally. Immediately after delivery, it’s important to learn how to reactivate the two down the middle, as they have been stretched the most: the transverse abdominus (TVA), followed by the rectus abdominus (RA, known commonly as the “six pack”). Because 100% of pregnancies result in diastasis rectus abdominus (also incorrectly called “split abs”), TVA’s are needed to create tone between the middle edges of the RA, and therefore allow your diastasis to recover. Learn to activate your TVA’s by gently drawing your navel in and up and wrapping your abdominals without puffing up your chest or changing the shape of your spine.

It is also important to learn to reactivate your pelvic floor, regardless of whether you’ve had a vaginal birth or c-section. It is possible to experience urinary incontinence for weeks or months following childbirth, and/or painful sex. Despite anecdotal advice, this isn’t considered normal and should be addressed early on.

Finally, you will never spend more time sitting in your life than during the first few months postpartum. Along with deceased physical activity, the end result are sleepy gluteus maximus (buttocks) muscles. Because these muscles are incredibly important in posture, sports and preventing low back pain, I teach every new mom to properly contract their glutes and supporting musculature.


Strengthening doesn’t have to happen in a gym exclusively. You can do your core strengthening using your couch while your baby plays next to you.

#2. Repattern

Definition: learn to move weak and overstretched muscles correctly.

Muscles don’t contract in isolation — to accomplish a movement, your muscles contract in groups and in a particular sequence. However with pregnancy, your body changes the sequencing (or muscle patterning) to accommodate a growing fetus. In other words, your baby gets in the way of moving normally.

Pregnancy compensations occur with many movements including breathing, sitting up, and spinal alignment/posture.  Since these incorrect movement patterns can remain long after childbirth, teaching the body to move correctly will greatly reduce the chance of injury when returning to physical activity/sports.

In my practice, I have seen women skip this Repatterning stage of healing and return to physical activity/sport. This is premature and will cause chronic pain and injuries of seemingly unknown origin — it is only a matter of time. Common examples include low back pain, knee pain and rotator cuff strains. Don’t be a statistic: do your repatterning homework and do it well!

A diastasis that is not controlled will dome when the rectus abdominis (6 pack muscle) is contracted (first photo). Learning to activate your TVA will eliminate this doming (second photo).

#3. Restrengthen

Definition: loading of movement patterns with correct form.

Only when the first and second R’s are completed does Restrengthening make sense. And nailing the correct form always matters.  

I see this frequently: people at the gym squatting, deadlifting and bench pressing impressive weights…but they’re doing it wrong, resulting in chronic pain and, eventually, inevitable injury.


The same applies to new moms. In the postpartum phase of restrengthening, we must rethink what “getting strong” looks like. It doesn’t have to mean a sweaty, hour-long workout at the gym; loading can be accomplished in infinite ways. Sure, you can do it with dumbbells and barbells. But you can also increase load by doing one extra rep of an exercise, or exercising one extra day, or exercising one extra minute, or running just a bit faster than the last time. When load is progressively increased, you get stronger. It’s that simple.

Overall, my Three R’s apply to recovery from just about any injury, not just childbirth. And yes, childbirth is considered an injury — despite being natural, the symptoms and path to recovery are similar — the only difference is that this injury is totally worth it. ☺

****

Janette Yee is an athletic therapist and massage therapist in Toronto offering in-home pregnancy and postpartum rehabilitation. Over her 15-year career she has worked with amateur to elite athletes from every sport, specializing in running and rugby injuries. The toughest athletes by far are her moms. She fills her days with mandatory play time with her two kids aged 1 and 4, and is currently training for her return to competitive 5 km running.

Connect with Janette at @askjanette and www.janetteyee.com

Email: info@janetteyee.com

Thank you so much Janette! I love connecting with other professionals who are as passionate about helping moms as I am! There is such a great need for better knowledge around pre and postpartum care. Here’s to spreading the word and supporting each other! xox

Debunking Collagen: Is there Science Behind Collagen and Skin Health?

By: Nikki   ,

The following is a guest blog post by Dr. Stephanie Zelembaba, ND and co-owner of Abaton Integrative Medicine. I reached out to Stephanie for some clarification on the benefits of collagen. #collagen is trending on IG lately, and I wanted to know if I should be hopping on the bandwagon! She explains it all so well!

There has been a big focus in the media and among health consumers about collagen and its benefit for skin health recently. This blog post is to break down the science behind collagen so that YOU the consumer can decide if it’s the right choice! We get bombarded by the next “great thing” for our health on a daily basis and it can be overwhelming to separate what is worth it from what is just marketing.

 

So, what is collagen exactly?

Collagen is a protein made up of several amino acids (the building blocks of protein) – these are proline, hydroxyproline and glycine. These amino acids join to create our connective tissue – think skin, hair and bones to name a few. Collagen itself is a strong structure that is difficult to digest and is too large to be absorbed through our intestinal wall. Companies have found a solution around this by hydrolyzing the collagen to create collagen peptides, which are easier to absorb.

 

Does research support the benefit of collagen for skin health?

Overall, research does show that there is a benefit to skin health of consuming collagen, however, this benefit may be not be as significant as you think. You will see many companies or articles promoting that collagen can improve the barrier function of your skin, induce synthesis of new collagen, increase hydration, improve skin sagging and wrinkling, and so on. All of this is true! However, what is failed to mention is that while these changes occur they may not be as significant as you would think.

Here are some research highlights:

  • Women taking 10 grams of collagen peptides for 8 weeks had a 12-28% increase in skin hydration (1).
  • Women taking 10 grams for 12 weeks had a 9% increase in the thickness of the collagen layer of the skin (1).
  • Individuals taking a mixture of several vitamins and nutrients plus 5 grams of collagen for 8 weeks had a 20% increase in collagen density where crow’s feet develop and 37% increase in skin firmness (2). Similar effects were seen among eye wrinkles in women taking 2.5 grams (rather than 5 grams) (3).

To give you an idea of what a 20% change looks like, if you had $100 dollars, and somebody offered you a 20% increase, you would get an additional $20, to total $120.

Now, I am not saying that this is not a valid change or that these results aren’t meaningful, HOWEVER, it is important that individuals know the amount of impact their products can have.

What other factors should be considered for optimal skin health?

Whether you choose to take collagen or not, there are many other factors that can influence a person’s skin health to consider:

Diet: Increased intake of fruits and vegetables, especially those high in antioxidants (think the bright yellow or orange, or leafy green vegetables) is beneficial in reducing oxidative stress on the skin

Exercise: Allows for increased blood flow to the skin, PLUS has the added benefit of stress relief

Stress reduction: Stress can have BIG impacts on our skin – from causing dehydration contributing to wrinkles and fine lines, to the inflammation caused by our stress hormone (cortisol) that allows for increased breakdown of collagen

Your Skincare Routine: While there are so many fancy products on the market, sometimes simple is better! This could not be more true for your skincare routine. Too aggressive of products can make the skin too alkaline, damaging the skin’s ability to act as a barrier.

Smoking: Stopping smoking is likely THE best thing you can do for your skin (as well as so many other health benefits)! Smoking causes the skin to prematurely age, leading to increased wrinkles, as well as speeds the rate at which collagen breaks down in the skin

Sleep: You know how they say beauty sleep? Turns out it is true! During sleep your body produces growth hormone, which allows for repair of the skin, as well as melatonin, which is an antioxidant that protects the skin of oxidative stress

UV Exposure: While a tan may have your skin looking temporarily nice, UVA exposure contributes to DNA damage and causes premature aging of the skin

Hormone balance: As females age our estrogen naturally declines (with the biggest changes over 40 and at menopause) which results in our collagen synthesis declining and therefore thinner, drier skin. One of the ways this can be buffered in menopause is through bio-identical hormones.

Healthy Oils: GLA, evening primrose oil and fish oil all have benefits in improving skin health. Check with your Naturopathic Doctor or other healthcare provider to see if these treatments are right for you!

 

Author’s Note:

It is great to see that as a society we have shifted towards a focus of skin health originating from inside the body. I have seen too many times individual’s make changes to their skincare routine or topical treatments, without considering the affect their diet and lifestyle can be having on their skin health. However, I caution people to realize that each aspect of your health, skin included, is made up of so many factors; ONE supplement, such as collagen, will not make up for a poor diet, history of smoking and lack of sleep. It is important to consider ALL of these factors when optimizing your skin health!

Yours in Health,

Dr. Stephanie

Naturopathic Doctor and Co-Owner of Abaton Integrative Medicine

www.abatonim.com

 

REFERENCES

 

  1. The effect of oral collagen peptide supplementation on skin moisture and the dermal collagen network: evidence from an ex vivo model and randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trials. Asserin J, Lati E, Shioya T, Prawitt J. J Cosmet Dermatol. 2015 Dec;14(4):291-301. doi: 10.1111/jocd.12174. Epub 2015 Sep 12.

 

  1. Daily consumption of the collagen supplement Pure Gold Collagen® reduces visible signs of aging. Borumand, M, Sibilla, S. Clinical Interventions in Aging. 2014 Oct 13. doi: 10.2147/CIA.S65939

 

  1. Dietary Supplementation with Specific Collagen Peptides Has a Body Mass Index-Dependent Beneficial Effect on Cellulite Morphology. Schunck M, Zague V, Oesser S, Proksch E. J Med Food. 2015 Dec;18(12):1340-8. doi: 10.1089/jmf.2015.0022. Epub 2015 Nov 12.

 

Motherhood in the Age of Social Media

By: Nikki   , ,

The following is a powerful guest blog piece by Mom of 2, Natasha Philpott. Natasha shares with us her own vulnerable journey through postpartum anxiety. I’m so grateful to her for bravely sharing her story.  Motherhood can feel isolating at the best of times – especially when we only share the “good stuff” on social media. Hopefully Natasha’s courage in sharing helps other women know they are not alone. 

Pregnancy is hard. Labour is even harder. But parenting—that is hands down the hardest!

Let me rephrase that—parenting in today’s day and age is the hardest. I can’t speak for generations before me, but being a parent in the age of social media is an added stress all on its own.

Before becoming a mother, I vowed to never be “that mom.” You know, the mom who obsessed over her child’s development and compared her kid to everyone else’s or the mom who forgot who she was and got lost in her children.  No, that was not going to be me!  I was going to be a cool mom. The mom who didn’t care about what people thought and who didn’t constantly compare her kids at playdates. I was going to be easy going and let my kid grow and develop on his own timeline all while maintaining my social life and hobbies.

And then in 2015, my first son, Chase came along and everything I promised myself went out the window. As a naturally anxious person, being a mother amplified my anxiety tenfold.

It started with a horrifying labour, I must admit, I didn’t have that instant mother-baby bond that everyone talks about when their child is born. I struggled to breast feed and I had an episiotomy that left me in severe pain for 6 weeks. I could hardly care for myself, let alone a baby. Why wasn’t this a happy time like everyone seemed to describe on social media and in the movies?

I guess you could say the first few months with Chase I experienced postpartum blues. Being sleep deprived and in pain, combined with wacky hormone levels, I was feeling anything but happy. I was also paranoid that because of Chase’s rough start into the world (he came out not breathing) that he would be a victim of SIDS. So I slept on the floor beside his crib for the whole first year of his life. The doctors warn you about postpartum blues, but they don’t emphasize how common it is and how bad it can get.

After the first few months, I started to develop my bond with Chase.  The pain was slowly going away and I was getting used to my new mom routine. Life was getting better, at least for the time being.

As a new mom, I joined lots of Mommy Groups both online and in person. It seemed like the right thing to do, but for someone with anxiety like me, this was probably one of the worst things I could do for myself.

The worst were the social media posts. I could not scroll through my Facebook or Instagram feed without seeing other mom’s posting about all their kids milestones and achievements. I was slowly becoming depressed and anxious when looking at other people’s lives. When I saw other kids advancing quicker than Chase, I became paranoid about his development. I truly believed something was wrong with my perfect, sweet little boy and no one could convince me otherwise, all because I was doing the one thing I never said I would do-compare him to others.

The Internet also didn’t help me at all. My doctor even warned me not to trust “Dr. Google” but I couldn’t help myself. I would google one issue and would fall down a rabbit hole of paranoia. Everything seemed to be a “sign” or “symptom” of some sort of development delay or problem. It was a vicious cycle and I just couldn’t escape. All the while, I became resentful of motherhood.  It became my hobby to diagnose my child with a problem, when there never even was one to begin with. This was all stemming from my imagination and my impression of other people’s children on the internet.

This anxiety carried on in the back of my mind constantly. I learned to live with it, like a shadow following me around. I just went through the motions, and sort of abandoned who I was all together, putting all my time and energy into my anxiety.

It wasn’t until I had my second son, Chad, in April 2018 that I finally broke down. This time, my postpartum blues were worse than the first time, putting me in a very depressive state. My family worried for me, and 6 weeks postpartum they brought me to the hospital for help.

I was instantly put on anti-anxiety medication and was told things would get better. I felt like a loser sitting in the psych ward of the hospital. When the doctor came in to finally assess me, I told him all my worries and fears and acknowledged that they were silly but that I couldn’t seem to shake them.

The doctor then told me that with social media and mom groups, he sees a lot of mothers coming in for the same reasons. I felt slightly relieved after hearing I wasn’t alone in this. The constant comparing was literally making me sick. He gave me some pamphlets for parenting help and a prescription for anti-anxiety medication.

It was shortly after this episode that I realized how silly I was being and how much time I was wasting. I decided I needed some time to focus on myself and my health. I needed some balance. So I began dancing again which I hadn’t done in years, I began to write and go back to the gym religiously, all with the support of my husband and family. Maybe it was the medication or the exercise, or probably a mix of both, but I was starting to feel good again.

I am here to tell other mothers that it’s okay to not feel okay, but it is super important to reach out and get help. In retrospect, I should have sought help a few years earlier, but due to my shame and guilt, I held back. And somewhere along the lines I had lost myself.

Fast forward 7 months after my breakdown and I am feeling 100% better. This journey into Motherhood has taught me the importance of balance. Balance for yourself and balance with technology and social media.

If you can’t fill your own bucket, how are you supposed to fill those of your children or anyone else for that matter? It almost seems shameful and selfish to put yourself above anyone else, but sometimes it is necessary. Take a deep breath, go for a walk, go get a manicure…do something for yourself, because by doing something for you, you are also doing something for your children-giving them the best version of yourself-happy, healthy and open minded.

In terms of social media, I have become more level headed about what I see in my feeds. You don’t realize how much time you waste on there, and the false impressions you get that make you feel bad about yourself. It’s just a highlight reel, and sometimes people forget that.  It is easy to get caught up in the world of social media and mommy blogs, especially when you are a new mom and are looking for answers. Just take everything with a grain of salt and know that not everything is always as it seems. You got this mama and you aren’t alone!

Thank you so much Natasha. We are so very grateful for you. 

 

A Different Way to Treat Baby Eczema

By: Nikki  

The following is a guest post by my new friend Henrieta, mama and owner/creator of Charlotte’s Bum Butter.   My own daughter Gabrielle started suffering from eczema this Fall, when she was 5 months old.  It was heart breaking to see her so uncomfortable. We went to the paediatrician and were prescribed steroid cream, but she had a reaction and actually started vomiting after a few applications (we learned later that can be a side effect).

We were desperate. I connected with Henrieta and found her information on eczema so very helpful.  Her bum butter has made a huge difference, as has cutting out eggs from our daughter’s diet – even though we were told by the doctor that diet has no impact on eczema. It seemed like a good time to learn more about this common issue! Thanks so much Henrieta for sharing your knowledge! 

 

Skin is the largest organ of the human body. And despite us often thinking that it separates us from the world, the opposite is true. Our skin connects us to our environment, to other people, to life outside of our bodies. It’s a complex, intelligent organ that is made up of multiple layers. And it does a lot more than just wrapping itself around our bodies.

Being uncomfortable in your skin can feel like a torture, and all of us have at some point experienced the pain of having skin that is not happy.

I started a cosmetic business after learning that my baby girl was not so unique in having multiple skin issues within days of birth. The skin of babies is delicate and different in structure from the skin of adults. It’s 5x more permeable than adult skin. Baby acne, cradle cap, eczema are some of the most common issues we see. I was one of the stressed-out moms looking at my baby, doing whatever I could to help and failing miserably. When the doctor put a prescription for steroid cream in my hand and I picked it up from the pharmacy and read the ingredients in it, I drew a line.

 

There hasn’t been enough research done in the field of eczema. Our bodies are blamed, and we are told it’s an autoimmune issue. The space age treatment of applying mineral oil-based product with powerful steroids on a few month-old’s baby seemed like a very lazy way of covering up a real problem. I started looking for other solutions, none of which brought any results and so I searched and learned and experimented in my kitchen until I had a product that was finally making a difference.

Most babies get eczema around 3-4 months after birth or as the indoor heating season approaches. For many it is a temporary issue that over time improves and does not return. In my opinion, this is the skin learning how much oil to produce and dealing with new environmental challenges.  The best solution is to bathe without soaps and apply emollient moisturizer at least once a day. My motto is “Keep calm and Butter up!”

Avoid creams that list water as the first ingredient, because despite labels of dermatologist recommended claims, they contain synthetic polymers and powerful preservatives that are known skin irritants and sensitizers.

For some babies the problem persists and even gets worse. In that case I recommend you pick up the Liver Rescue by Anthony William, or the Medical Medium as he is known on social media. Anthony’s theory is that skin issues like eczema are a result of a struggling liver.

Eczema, he believes, is a reaction of the liver to copper and mercury stored there, that interacts with a dormant virus, most likely one of the strains of EBV. The virus produces a derma toxin which then causes a reaction like eczema. Our skin purges dermatoxins to take the burden off the liver and the result is dry, itchy skin or weeping painful skin. Your baby probably inherited the heavy metals from you. Copper can come from water pipes, pesticides and mercury, which was commonly used as an ingredient in dental fillings. You may have inherited these from your mother too and your liver never got the opportunity to eliminate it.

There are a few ways to deal with this issue, or more accurately help to alleviate the symptoms.

  1. Eliminate environmental toxins. This can be quite a challenge, since a lot of clothing is infused with fire retardants and fabric brighteners. Organic cotton and bamboo may be the best way to go. Emma Rohman right here in Toronto has a great little business called Green at Home.  Her blog and FB group “the Green Product Forum” gives tips on making our homes greener and cleaner.

 

  1. Topical support for the skin. Coming from someone who tried everything under the Sun and ended up creating my own butter: petrolatum or mineral oil based products are not the answer. Our bodies were not designed to handle this kind of oil. Besides, mineral oil is a suspected endocrine disruptor – it causes more allergic reactions and dries the skin with long term use. Healthy baby skin is 5x more absorbent to begin with and inflamed and broken skin is even more permeable. Our bodies have no solution for the elimination of mineral oil, which has to pass through the liver to get eliminated. Unlike adult skin, baby skin is structured from saturated fatty acids. Using the right moisturizer is key. Unlike olive oil and beeswax for example, cocoa butter has small enough molecules to penetrate baby skin and nourish it from the deepest layers. That’s why we use 40% of crude organic Cocoa Butter in our formulas.

 

  1. Clean up your diet. Formula fed babies are given limited choices, but the amazing book “Super Nutrition for babies” written by a nutritionist and paediatrician has an entire chapter on different types of home-made formulas. Breast fed babies rely on their mom’s nutrition, and by avoiding foods that feed the viruses, such as dairy and eggs, we can improve the situation. Anthony William has a long catalogue of nutritional recipes that support the liver, including a heavy metal detox smoothie to help eliminate the trouble makers from our bodies.

 

  1. Reduce your stress. Eating healthy foods, regular exercise and meditation is a huge help. Try to reduce your consumption of coffee as it is a stressor for your body. Coffee forces our adrenal glands to produce stress hormones which get processed and neutralized by the liver, putting further burden on it. This not only translates in the quality of your breast milk, but in your own anxiety level. I don’t know if you have noticed yet, but babies are so in tune with their mothers; they basically feel everything we feel. Your stress becomes your baby’s stress. It’s not only the toxins from unhealthy food their livers have to process from your milk, but also your stress hormones too. We think babies don’t deal with stress! Not true! The process of development is a stressful one. New functions of the body kick in and surprise them with their intensity. Pain of growing teeth and digestion is extremely stressful for a baby, as well as your distress. Uncomfortable skin is yet another one. So take care of yourself first mama, to take care of your baby!

Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge Henrieta! Check out Charlotte’s Bum Butter here! 

5 Birthing Tips for Pregnant Women

By: Nikki   ,

It has been a big year filled with many firsts – the biggest of all was the birth of my daughter Gabrielle this past April 2018. She is now 8 and a half months old!
As a Prenatal and Postnatal Pilates teacher, it was truly amazing to finally be able to practice what I have been preaching for close to a decade. Pregnancy and birth is such an important topic – especially as it relates to pelvic health. Pelvic health is my passion and something I wish more women discussed.
We have all heard the jokes about sneeze leaks after child birth and the importance of “doing your kegels” for pregnant and postpartum women.  But newsflash, there is SO much more to exercising your pelvic floor than just “doing your kegels.” (Hint, some women shouldn’t be doing kegels at all!)
Child birth is one of the most incredible feats a woman’s body can accomplish. The more a woman is physically and mentally prepared, the stronger and more empowered she will feel during this life changing event.
Here are our top 5 tips for a smooth birth. We teach these in our Bump Method Prenatal Pilates classes. That being said, not everyone is able to have a safe vaginal birth. Circumstances are sometimes beyond our control and we are so grateful to have medical interventions when needed. C-sections save lives everyday. And some people may simply choose to elect a caesarian birth for personal reasons.

There’s absolutely NO birth agenda here, simply tips that I (and many students before me) found helpful in preparing for a vaginal birth.

  1. Open Glottis. Always try to push with an open mouth (called open glottis). This also helps you dilate more quickly when in contractions. Try exhaling and letting your lips flutter – much like a horse. It sounds crazy, but it’s proven to reduce pelvic floor damage. This links to the next point.
  2.  Sphincter Law. Read up on “Sphincter Law”, a term coined by Ina May Gaskin. She has some great books also and a great TED Talk. Ina is a famous midwife with A LOT to say about birth, and her work is very empowering. I read her books during pregnancy and found her stories helped quell any anxiety.
  3. Spontaneous pushing is best for your pelvic floor. This means that pushing is non directed – you push when you feel the urge and not before.
  4.  Find your core and release your pelvic floor. Try to push at the end of your inhale when your pelvic floor is most open. The more open you can make your pelvic floor and the more connected you can stay to your deep core muscles – specifically your transverse abdominis – the stronger you will feel when it comes time to push. I had a pretty hard time figuring out how to push until my doula finally said “use your abs Nikki!”. Baby G arrived 3 pushes later. Stay connected to your deep core muscles during pregnancy by performing “hug the baby” core breaths. We have tons of video examples on instagram under #thebumpmethod and in our online prenatal video programs.
  5. Push side lying. If you have the epidural or are with an OB who won’t deliver you on hands and knees, try lying on your side with your top leg on a squat bar during pushing instead of on your back. This way your pelvic floor is 30% more open and studies show it is actually easier to get baby out with less tearing.
I sincerely hope these tips are helpful to any pregnant women who may be reading this. Here’s to you and your magical bodies! My favourite quote from midwife Ina May Gaskin is: “Your body is not a lemon.” You got this mamas. Your strength will surprise you.
With so much love.xo

La Patria: Female Entrepreneurs Making a Difference

By: Nikki   , ,

I recently met the amazing women behind La Patria, Permpreet Soomal and Fernanda Sequeira.  I immediately fell in love with their bags (had to have one!) and their inspirational story of entrepreneurship making a difference around the world. Two local Toronto women are really having an impact! In fact, I was so inspired that I asked to interview them for the blog. Read on! 

 

1. What inspired you to start this business? 

Our love of tradition and travel inspired us to set out in search of uniquely crafted everyday objects from distinct places. As two young women and conscious consumers ourselves, we appreciate handmade goods with a story and sense of belonging to the people and places where they originate. This is what led us to create the label La Patria – meaning homeland in Latin. Our goal is to provide quality everyday lifestyle goods that are distinct, ethically sourced and enable economic and social change in the communities where they are made.

Our goal strongly aligns with our slogan “Handmade for Life” because our products are meant for everyday use, are high quality and meant to last a lifetime. And most importantly, our products empower and inject life into local communities through employment, education, and entrepreneurship.

 

2. What is the story behind each bag?  How long does it take to make them, the materials, etc?

The Bolsa Collection is our first line of totes and baskets originating from the rural highlands of Guatemala. Traditionally made to serve as carryall bags from the local markets, villagers would stack the totes one within another and fill them as needed. The lightweight and sturdy design was perfect for carrying all their markets essentials on foot. Today the totes are commonly used by Chapines (local Guatemalans) in cities and villages alike, keeping their tradition alive and useful!

Each tote begins with a wooden box frame mould built to a custom size and shape. Our skilled artisans carefully hand weave strands of recycled plastic through the frame to create a sturdy base that will stand the test of time. The straps are woven separately and fed through the body of the bag. This process not only requires skill, but also patience as each bag takes about 4 hours to complete. We are proud to say our totes are made with 100% recycled plastic. Even the seams are expertly fused together using only an open flame to melt  the two ends together, creating an unbreakable bond. The finishing touches of our label are also applied by hand, making each tote truly one of a kind works of art!

 

3. Your company is all about social entrepreneurship.  Can you tell us more about the impact you are making in the local community?

One of the most rewarding parts of launching this business has been discovering shared values with our artisan team. In getting to know their local community, we found ourselves sharing in a common language of beliefs, passions, dreams and values. This led us to discover an emotional connection and realize no matter where you live in the world, as human beings we are almost always motivated by the same thing – family. As such, it’s incredibly important that La Patria makes a positive impact on the families and communities of our artisans.

We are strong believers that much can be achieved for families through the value of education.  In fact, mostly every artisan on our team will tell you the same thing: They work to ensure better educational opportunities for their children. This common desire made it easy for us to decide which area of the community we would focus on supporting.  With every purchase of a La Patria product, a portion of proceeds go to support local schools with much needed resources.  Currently, we are working directly with the Principal of the local school where the young children of our artisan team attend in order to support their much needed breakfast program.

Thanks so much Ladies! You can learn more about La Patria on their website, or on instagram. 

My Experience with Pelvic Physiotherapy

By: Nikki   , , ,

The following is a guest post by our incredible teacher Brittany Brie. BB is our first ever licensee and will be starting her own Bump Method classes for pregnant and postpartum women in the Newmarket/Keswick/Aurora area of Ontario. Thank you for sharing your story BB! You’re an amazing teacher and beautiful person inside and out! Check out the Keswick Bump Method classes Brittany Brie has in store for Fall 2018! Wednesdays 12 pm Postnatal  for Mom & Baby and Saturdays 1 pm Prenatal!

Today I went for my first Pelvic Floor Physiotherapy assessment.
I think the physiotherapist was a little curious as to why I was there. Usually she treats women who are pregnant, postpartum, having some sort of pelvic pain or a prolapse. I let her know that I had no children and was simply there to learn more about my pelvic health. I told her I was willing to bet that I had hypertonic or “tense” pelvic floor muscles because I’m always holding in my stomach muscles.

Here’s a little bit of background on myself. I grew up around artists. My parents are both singers and very creative individuals. Growing up I watched my dad sing on stage and my mom lead the soprano section in her choir. Seeing my parents perform instilled the performer in me, and for as long as I can remember I’ve been moving my body and speaking in front of crowds.

In high school I started to teach fitness classes, dance classes and off ice training to figure skaters for the Town of Georgina. I took this leadership/teaching role very seriously and thought (at 16 years old) if I didn’t “look the part”, nobody would want to learn from me. Insert my slight obsession with fitness and negative thoughts towards my body. This was the beginning of what I like to call my TIGHT TORSO PROBLEM.  Having a “tight” and trim body is usually thought of as a fabulous thing. Turns out that’s not necessarily the case.

FUN FACT: I used to perform 1000 crunches before bed because I thought that having rock hard abs was the most important thing on earth. (I was inspired to do this because Usher did it while he went on tour, to keep fit.) Crazy, right?

Fast forward…to when I was accepted to York University’s BFA Dance program. It was during these 4 years that my “tight torso problems” got worse.

In an effort to “look good” in dance class, I’d pull my stomach in to hold myself together. I started to notice that breathing became a challenge – both in and outside of the studio.
My breathing felt limited, as if it was stuck and I could never understand why I couldn’t take a FULL breath.  During class I could perform multiple pirouettes, do the splits, balance on one foot and have so much control over my body, yet I couldn’t figure out my damn breathing.

I felt restricted, as if I was trapped in a box and couldn’t get out.
Every day left me feeling frustrated, dizzy and constipated.

It wasn’t until I became a Pilates instructor that I really understood the mechanics of breathing.

When you inhale, your diaphragm should expand, dropping down towards the pelvic floor allowing air to fill your entire rib cage, and as you exhale the diaphragm should lift back to its resting position.  If you constantly “suck in” your tight torso, these breathing mechanics can’t work properly.

Today my pelvic physiotherapist explained the importance of having a functional pelvic floor and asked me to breathe for her.  This instantly triggered tension and anxiety in my body, as breathing has always been a very hard task.

She encouraged me to lift a raisin from my urethra, then a golf ball into my vagina and lastly a marble into my rectum (all common cues for contracting the pelvic floor muscles).  We discovered that my PF muscles were working optimally, not too tight and not too weak (yay!) but my problem stemmed from the constant tightening, and ‘holding in’ of my abdominal muscles. I needed to learn how to let go. Tight doesn’t mean functional.

As I was laying on the exam table in my Pelvic Physiotherapist’s office, it hit me: The reason I’ve found it so hard to breathe all these years is because I’ve been pulling IN my abdominal muscles too much.  Could it really be something as simple as this?

Was holding in my stomach, trying to “look the part” stopping me from getting a full breath?

YES.

I was tightening my abs so much that my diaphragm and pelvic floor couldn’t work together properly.  I was squishing my internal organs, not giving them the room they need to function. Because of this I’ve had lower back pain, problems with constipation, mental issues, body issues and bloating.

Here’s what I learned from that pelvic physiotherapy assessment:

  • You can’t fully contract a muscle, unless you can fully relax a muscle.
  • You should be able to contract your pelvic floor without the help of your abdominal muscles.
  • Sucking in, and wearing your pants too tight can do more damage than you think.
  • Pelvic health means something different for everybody. Some women need to engage more, whereas I needed learn how to release the tension.

Pelvic floor physiotherapists are SO knowledgeable and I would highly recommend seeing one if you’d like to get to know your body and want to get serious about strengthening your core from the inside, out.

I left my appointment with some homework…(for my body and life)

LET GO

(of my stomach, and the things that don’t matter)

 

Can we get an amen! Thank you Brittany Brie! Visit our calendar to see the Keswick Bump Method classes Brittany Brie has in store for Fall 2018! Wednesdays 12 pm Postnatal for Mom & Baby and Saturdays 1 pm Prenatal!

Making Friends with Fear: My SVT Heart Ablation Surgery

By: Nikki   , , ,

Six years ago today in August of 2012, I did Tough Mudder for the first time. It’s a pretty wicked 18 km obstacle course designed by British Special Forces meant to “test the limits of endurance, strength and heart.”  You literally heave your up way up and down a massive ski hill ten times. It’s pretty much the worst (or the best, depending on how you look at these things) obstacle course you can imagine. There’s mud, ice, barbed wire and paramedics with stretchers at the ready.

Spoiler alert: Turns out I needed one of those stretchers. I completed the entire barf-inducing course, including the grand finale obstacle called the Electric Eel. It features hanging 10,000-volt live wires that you must run through in order to cross the finish line. There was a sign saying “not recommended if you have a heart condition” or something like that. Whatever. No biggie.

Right after the “Arctic Enema”, a pool of ice water, mud and barb wire!

Of course, in my infinite 30-year old wisdom – despite having a heart condition – I ignored it.

Thirty minutes later, I found myself barely conscious lying in some ski hut with an IV in my muddy arm, surrounded by shouting paramedics.  I was in SVT or supraventricular tachycardia. I’d had these episodes of severely fast heart beat of 200 beats per minute since I was 14, but I’d always been able to make them go away on their own. Not this time. This time I needed a drug called adenosine to essentially restart my heart to reset the normal electrical rhythm.

Back in the ski hut I heard “you’ll feel some pressure!” and it felt like an elephant was crushing my chest. I lurched, Pulp Fiction style. My friend Kyra was with me. I remember her bawling hysterically watching me. Adenosine sucks. It feels like you’re about to die for about 10 seconds – like the grim reaper is hovering. Drama drama drama.

Then it’s all over and your heart beats normal. Relief floods you.

Needless to say, I was pretty freaked out by it all. I saw a cardiologist. My options were 1) Do nothing  2) Take beta blocker drugs everyday and feel like garbage 3) Have an ablation surgery to burn out the extra electrical pathway I have in my heart.

I chose the first option. Do nothing and hope for the best.  I started living my life trying to avoid having another SVT episode. This is hard when you make a living as a Pilates instructor. I stopped running, I stopped pushing myself in class and cut out caffeine, but every few months I’d experience that horrifying rapid heart rate. Sometimes I’d end up in the ER in an ambulance, sometimes it would pass.

To date, I’ve needed adenosine 5 times.  It’s gotten worse, which happens as your heart ages. But I still did nothing. Beta blockers would rob me of my energy, and ablation surgery was petrifying.

Then I got pregnant. Shit got even crazier. I could barely walk up the stairs at home without feeling like my heart was going to pop out of my chest. Pregnancy makes this condition worse because your heart has to work harder from the extra blood volume.

I reached a breaking point when I needed adenosine in my 3rd trimester of pregnancy.  All of a sudden it was no longer about me anymore. I wrote about that pregnancy experience here. 

I gave birth to a healthy baby girl this past April 2018.  I’m beyond grateful that my hospital labour and delivery went smoothly. 12 hours of labour, no epidural, not even an IV – despite what I was told by doctors that I’d “likely need”.  Funny how motivation works. I was bound and determined to experience something natural after using IVF to conceive and all the heart issues in pregnancy. Kind of felt like I had something to prove. My body is not a lemon. 

I freaking did it. It was a combination of luck (baby’s head was down, my heart stayed in normal rhythm, no other surprise medical issues), an amazing doula, the hospital bathtub, prenatal pilates (shameless plug, but it’s true!) and fierce fierce stubbornness.

My birth experience is what finally gave me the courage to do the heart ablation surgery. It’s now August 2018, and it’s been a week since the surgery. Waiting in anticipation for this heart surgery – a procedure where I’d have to be awake, and one that could leave me with a pacemaker at 36 years old – was the scariest thing I’ve ever experienced.

(Listening to music so I don’t have to hear the surgeons talking during the surgery.)

But I did the surgery despite the raging fear. And it’s over. And I’m ok. Here’s what I learned.

Becoming a mother has taught me to make space for fear to exist in my life. Every time I feel it, it reminds me that I am alive. I have been blessed with so much to lose. With that comes fear, but also so much love. Feeling fear is the epitome of being human – of being a mother. Surrendering to that fear and acknowledging its importance means I am no longer controlled by it. I am stronger than my fear.

And my body is not a lemon. Neither is yours. Fear is normal. We are all stronger than we think.

(Wires in my heart during the ablation)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Healthy Homemade Banana Protein Bars

By: Nikki   ,

As a new mom, I’m all about fast, convenient and satisfying food! I discovered this insanely delicious recipe while very pregnant in full on “nesting mode”, experimenting in the kitchen in the days leading up to my delivery.

Baby girl was over a week late, so there was a lot of time spent distracting myself and making food to fill up our new chest freezer in the garage. Baking healthy delicious treats that were freezer-friendly became somewhat of an obsession! This one is a winning recipe I’m excited to share! High in protein and healthy fats, it will satisfy your hunger AND your sweet tooth – without a sugar crash later.  It’s vegan and gluten free. Make it! You will be happy you did.

Ingredients:

  • 3 ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1 cup gluten free rolled oats, ground into a flour
  • 1/2 cup almond flour
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • pinch sea salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp coconut oil
  • 2 scoops vanilla protein powder ( I use Vega or Genuine Health)
  • 1/2 cup almond butter
  • 1/4 cup almond milk
  • 2 Tbsp chia seeds
  • 6 Tbsp water
  • 3/4 cup chocolate chips

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 9×9 baking tin.
  2. Combine chia seeds with 6 Tbsp water and stir. Set aside and allow it to form a gel-like “chia egg.”
  3. Place rolled oats in a small Magic Bullet or blender and process into a flour.
  4. Now combine the chia egg, oat flour and all remaining ingredients in a large mixing bowl.  Mix well. The dough batter will feel thicker than a traditional banana bread dough, closer to a cookie dough consistency.
  5. Spread batter into the greased pan and bake at 350 F for approx 25 minutes until edges start to pull away from the sides.
  6. Allow to cool before cutting into squares! This will take willpower 🙂  Store in a tupperware container in the fridge or freeze in freezer bags for a rainy day!

Life Lessons from a Pregnant Fitness Teacher

By: Nikki   , ,

I hate running. I’m that person who buys overpriced loungewear that says “Shopping is my Cardio” across the front in block letters.

But it wasn’t always that way. The truth is, I’ve come to convince myself that I hate anything my body can’t do. Call it sour grapes rationalization (a term I recall fondly from that Psych 101 undergrad course back in ‘99), call it a defense mechanism – my utter distain for running is actually a highly useful psychological tool, especially for a girl who has chosen a career in the fitness industry.

I have a congenital heart condition called Supraventricular Tachycardia, or SVT. SVT is an electrical issue. Most people have one electrical pathway in their heart. I have two – a good one and a bad one.  This condition often affects young, athletic healthy people. I was first diagnosed at the age of 14 while competing on my high school swim team.

It’s not painful and you don’t die from it, but it’s a pain in the ass – and somewhat dangerous. Your heart beats crazy fast, sometimes up to 220 bpm and your blood pressure takes a nose dive until it feels like you may pass out, and you might.  It happens whenever my heart skips a beat. Everyone’s heart skips a beat now and then, often during sustained aerobic exercise (read: running) and sudden high impact movement.  However, a skipped heartbeat for me can trigger my bad electrical pathway and the heart rhythm gets confused. It basically becomes an electric disco party in my ventricles.

Many times I can convert out of the arrhythmia through certain vagal maneuvers (bearing down, massaging the carotid artery in my neck, lying on my back with legs in the air), BUT sometimes that doesn’t work, and then there’s a 911 ambulance trip to the ER to get an intravenous drug called adenosine to basically stop and restart my heart, Pulp Fiction style.  The drug makes you feel like an elephant is crushing your chest. In fact, a paramedic in training once told me his text book read “…patients will feel an impending sense of doom following adenosine treatment.” It’s a pretty accurate description. Luckily the feeling only lasts about 10-20 seconds before your heart resets.

I’ve had this drug 4 times in my life.  Once after finishing Tough Mudder (should not have ignored the “DO NOT PROCEED IF YOU HAVE A HEART CONDITION” note at that electric shock obstacle), once while half naked on an exam table in a fertility clinic, once while teaching an intense fitness class and most recently at 6.5 months pregnant while attending a friend’s baby shower.

Getting pumped up for Tough Mudder.

Taken after receiving adenosine for the first time after completing the Tough Mudder course back in 2012.

The most recent episode at the baby shower was incredibly dramatic.  I had been sitting on the couch reaching for some fruit salad when boom, enter SVT.  I quietly excused myself and tried to get out of the arrhythmia in the powder room, but no such luck.  My friend’s baby shower was completely ruined once two teams of paramedics showed up.  I still feel horrible about it, and definitely traumatized several guests in the process. No one likes to see a massive pregnant woman lurching around on the bathroom floor while getting shot up with drugs. It was a memorable baby shower for all!

 

Celebrating my amazing friend at her shower (she’s on the right). Taken 20 minutes before SVT episode.

Less than an hour later. She left her OWN baby shower and came to the ER with me. Love this woman.

Now at the ripe age of 36, I’ve been dealing with this condition for well over half my life.  As a self-proclaimed A-type personality, living with SVT has taught me so much about learning to let go of control.  Sometimes the best thing you can do is surrender to your body, without fear or judgement. It’s hard to describe the sensation of trying to calmly breathe through a racing heartbeat, not knowing if you’ll be ok in 2 minutes, or if you need to call 911.

If it wasn’t for western medicine, I’m doubtful I’d still be here. That’s a bold statement, but a true one.

I’m now 8 months pregnant and have had to stop teaching group classes much earlier than I’d hoped. The risk for triggering another SVT episode is too great. Pregnancy makes the condition worse because your heart has to work harder to pump 50% extra blood volume. Yet to be honest, there’s a certain amount of  ‘fitness instructor ego’ I had carried with me into this pregnancy.

I planned to teach until 39 weeks pregnant, gain no more than 20 lbs., and basically stay ripped. That has not happened.  I also wanted a glorious drug-free water birth with midwives, but now need to be at a level 3 hospital with an OB, Cardiologist and epidural to regulate my heart rhythm.

I wryly chuckle to myself as I write this. The lessons keep coming.  We had to do IVF to conceive this baby (NOT part of the plan), and now I must again relinquish control over my body and learn to release judgement over myself. I’ve decided to get an ablation surgery this summer that will hopefully fix this heart condition once and for all. I was too scared to do it in the past, but becoming a mother is bringing out the bravery in me.

There’s so much insidious pressure on women surrounding their bodies and surrounding birth – particularly to “go natural.” There’s a sense that natural conception and birth is a choice, and many traumatized new moms have confided in me their dark feelings of guilt and shame in not having been able to stick to their plan.

We need to celebrate ALL births and women, regardless of how or where they happen.

I’ve come to realize that the people who suffer most from self judgement and fear are the ones most likely to pass judgement over others. The mommy world is rife with guilt, shame and judgement. If we could just learn to be easier on ourselves, we would be easier on others.

But perhaps the greatest lesson in this whole journey is this:  It is through learning how to release self-judgement that we become truly free and empowered, and can then empower and support others.