I am sitting now at the house we rent for our Just Add Water retreats, resting and recovering after an action packed 4 days with 14 incredible women ranging in age from 21-70 and from all over the country. I consider myself a very energetic person, but these women definitely gave me a run for my money and as I sit here I am realizing how exhausted I am!

If you have never been to Rincon, located in the northwest corner of Puerto Rico, you really should. An easy flight from the states (no passport required) and you land in a place where one of the main roads is appropriately called the ‘Road to Happiness.’  Some of the most amazing surf in the world can be found here, as witnessed by the incredible surfers this place churns out, and with water temps averaging 85 degrees year round it is completely reasonable to spend hours in the ocean each day. Frequent whale sightings, sea turtles, and other magical sea life abound, and the Sunday farmers market is the place to go to stock up on organic greens and tropical fruit from the local CSA, fresh baked breads,  and other goodies to sustain the body for all that there is to do here.

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On this particular retreat, the main focus is yoga (of course) and stand up paddleboarding. Whether you are a total novice or a seasoned pro, there is something for everyone. We are incredibly lucky to be connected with who I jokingly call the Mayor of Rincon, Albert Lash. His business name (borrowed from the street), Rd2Happiness, does it all—surf lessons, stand up paddleboarding lessons and rentals, waterfall tours, trips to the bio-luminescent bay. Albert is an expert on all things Puerto Rico, and when he is especially proud of something (which is often), he is known to remark smilingly, “Welcome to my Island.”

Arriving to Rincon is often in the dark, on inconvenient flights to Aguadilla. However, as you de-board the plane and feel the beautiful tropical night air on your face, it’s all good.

Like Tulum, Rincon is in my heart. Maybe it’s because it’s where I learned to surf, in super clean glassy rights that seem to go on forever. Maybe it’s the paddling—I have paddled for hours here, in crystal clear water that beckons you to jump in over and over again, or maybe it’s the friendships that have formed, the friendly locals, the neighborhood dogs, the coquis who start singing when the sun goes down and again as it rises and the roosters who greet the morning as eagerly as I do when I am here.

My Favorite Moments

This trip, there was no shortage of highlights. But if I had to list 5, here goes:

1. The newest mascot at Rd2 HappinessThe tiniest puppy I have ever seen, provided my 9 year old with hours of entertainment when she wasn’t on the water with me.

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2. 70 year old Rickie Schuster, one of my students from home, on day 3, learning how to stand and paddle. She spent the first two days on her knees and butt, not so convinced that she would ever stand up and perfectly content to remain in a seated position. But with some encouragement, up she went, and the smile that spread across her face will stay with me for a long time and is one of the reasons why I love my job!

3. Sana Farms$10 for a half gallon of organic green juice. OMG. This gem of a farmstand also sells organic Chai coffee, delicious kale and other greens, cucumbers, tomatoes, coconuts and more. A daily visit here is part of the routine.

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in-my-happy place

4. The surf. Most of the women (and men) who attend these retreats do so for the yoga and the SUP. And of course, yoga and SUP are AMAZING!  However, Rincon is a surfer’s paradise and (yes I admit) is one of the reasons I host retreats here year after year. This last trip, the surf was perfect and soooo much fun!!!  Some bigger days where I got to feel the speed and power of Mother Ocean and some smaller days perfect for a longboard and perfect for our retreat attendees to get out there and take some lessons…  After one session, there were definitely a few converts!

5. SUP Yoga!  This was the first retreat in 6 years that we were able to practice sup yoga WITH anchors (Puerto Rican style of course). Albert and his team filled a bunch of jugs of water with sand to create anchors and we were in business!

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Retreat Reflections

Every mom knows that time is precious and there never seems to be enough of it. As a mom of three kids ages 13, 9 and 17 months, I often find myself wishing for more time, and especially time spent individually with each of my children, as their ages and interests are so varied. Staying active, whether it’s running, yoga or surfing helps me stay happy, sane and balanced while taking care of my kids and running my yoga studio. So whenever I can combine my practice with spending quality time with my kids, it’s a total bonus.

I’m excited to share this short mom and baby yoga sequence designed to be practiced with your baby or toddler, as it is especially those of us with young babes at home that are the shortest on time (and the most in need of yoga!). Try to choose a time when your child is happy, fed, and not tired. A younger babe will need to be able to tolerate lying on his or her back for short periods of time without needing to be in arms, and an older baby may just toddle around during this yoga time. Your older children can be involved by practicing the poses along with you as well, so roll out extra mats for them and invite them to join in the fun.

Enjoy, and Happy Mother’s Day!

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Baby Salutations: To honor this amazing new being in your life, this sequence takes a classical sun salutation and incorporates your baby!

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Holding your baby in your arms, Inhale and Stretch your arms and baby up overhead, looking up to make eye contact with your baby. Stretch your arms fully and support the slight backbend in your upper chest by drawing your abdominals in, keeping your legs strong, and dropping (but not tucking) the tailbone.

As you exhale, bend your arms and bring your baby to your chest.

On the inhale, still holding baby, step your right leg back into a lunge and stay here a few breaths. Scissor your legs towards each other to engage the leg muscles on all sides.

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As you exhale, gently tip forward and place your baby on the blanket or sheepskin, place both of your hands on the floor and slide your front leg back to a plank pose, looking down at your baby.

From your plank pose, exhale and slowly lower down to your belly, with your baby just in front of you.

Inhale slide your heart through your arms into Cobra, and then Exhale press back into Downward Facing Dog. Here you may want to slide your baby back so she is between your hands and feet, as if you are a tent or canopy over your baby. Older babies and kids love playing under your downward facing dog as if they are traveling through a tunnel. Take about 5 breaths in downward dog.

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On the inhale step your right foot forward into a lunge, and reach down and gather up babe. Stabilizing your legs and using your core, inhale come to a standing lunge with your baby in your arms. From there, push strongly off your back foot and come to stand at the front of your mat. Inhale and extend your arms and baby up over your head, and exhale return to starting position.

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Repeat this sequence again, stepping the OPPOSITE foot back into the lunge.

Warrior Child– Open your legs wide apart and turn your left foot in 10 degrees and your right foot out 90 degrees, lining up your right heel with the instep of your left foot. Holding your baby, bend your right knee to a 90 degree angle, into warrior 2 position. Allow your front leg thigh to create a seat for your baby or toddler. Keeping your back leg strong and straight, you can also lift and spread the toes of both feet to engage the legs and create stability and strength. Hold for up to one minute and then switch sides. For older kids, do this pose back to back (you will be doing opposite legs. Feel the support of your child’s back against your back and the connection that that creates.

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Relax and Snuggle– Lying on your back, stretch out your legs and lay your baby face down on your belly. Support him or her as necessary, but allow your own body to drop deeply into the support of the earth as well. If baby is fussy in this position, try a side lying position instead, or some other position that allows both you and your baby to take a few moments of rest. With an older baby or child, allow them to also take their own savasana next to you, perhaps holding hands. Toddlers and younger children can also be taught to follow their breath by placing their favorite stuffed animal on their chest.

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How Your Baby Can Make the Perfect Yoga Partner // JB Yoga

I first traveled to Tulum way back in 1998, before I had kids, before I owned a house, before I really had many responsibilities to speak of, and not for a yoga retreat, but for a vacation. My boyfriend at the time (who later became my husband and then my ex-husband) booked a flight from New York to Cancun, with a return flight about three weeks later. We knew we didn’t want to stay in Cancun, with its high rise hotels and a Señor Frogs on every corner, but we didn’t have much of a plan in mind. We rented a car at the airport, and started driving. Stopping along the way, we explored Akumal, Playa del Carmen, and other smaller, less developed towns, staying for a night here and a night there. When, about a week later, we pulled into what was once the sleepy village of Tulum, we found a hotel room for $30/night right on the beach and stayed a week.

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I was completely enamored with this town, with the stretch of fine white sand on which I could take long morning runs, then strip off all my clothes and plunge into an ocean that seemed to instantly heal me and absolve me of all of my worries, all of my anxiety, just like that. We explored the oceanfront ruins, drove down into the Sian K’aan biosphere, snorkeled in cenotes (underground caves) and ate fish plucked out of the ocean moments earlier. I knew then that it was a place I would return to over and over again.

Fast forward almost 20 years and I have since led about 20 Yoga retreats to Tulum. There was a time about 10 years ago that I almost stopped, right around the time that Tulum was starting to turn into what it is now—hipper and trendier, with a food scene that rivals NYC, and prices to match. But, when I did return, and drove down that skinny strip of road just past Zamas, with its colorful chairs and yummy cappuccino, the same feeling of well being, peacefulness, and happiness overcame me once again, and I knew then that I would never stop coming here.

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So, year after year, with whatever other wonderful locations or commitment I put on my calendar, there is always a yoga retreat in Tulum! Held at the eco-chic Amansala resort, with close to four hours of yoga a day, Mayan clay treatments, a Temazcal (sweat lodge), guacamole, great shopping, and the constant sound of the ocean right outside your door. My life now is so much different than when I first traveled to Tulum—a mortgage, three kids (including one teenager and one highly energetic baby), a yoga studio and retreat business to run. But Tulum for me still has the power to drop me into the center of my being, settle me into stillness, and put a smile on my face that lasts for weeks after my last run and jump in the ocean.

This past trip turned out to be one of my favorites yet. With 23 awesome individuals we laughed and yoga-ed our way through 6 days in paradise.

My Favorite Moments

  1. The first yoga class. The welcome circle, at which everyone gives a brief intro about why they are here. Injuries are shared, intentions are set, and I can already see people visibly softening.
  2. Sharing the magic that is Posada Margherita. Whether it is for afternoon cappuccino or gelato, or fish in sea water for dinner, this place is always a treat.
  3. SUP Yoga with Nancy Kyd of Sup Yoga Tulum in the most beautiful lagoon I have ever seen. Nancy is a fellow Boga Yoga Ambassador, and what she has created is beyond special. And, she treated us with organic homemade juice and energy balls afterwards!
  4. Daily ocean swims. Two of my favorite people that come on this retreat year after year are Peter Turino and Ana del Castillo. Ana is a big open water swimmer and is always ready to go.  Every day of the retreat, we throw on our goggles and take the most amazing swim, about a mile total.
  5. The stars. There seem to be more stars here than I have ever seen anywhere, glittering over the ocean and the sand, making me believe in a world in which magic is everywhere and anything is possible.

Tulum - The Love Affair Continues // JB Yoga

Retreat Reflections

Yoga for the cold! Brrrr. As the temperature in New York and elsewhere refuses to creep above 21 today (and feels like 10F with windchill), many of us are housebound, cold, and perhaps a bit grumpy. While warm tea and soup certainly helps, I find there is nothing like movement to really take the chill off. I generally do force myself to stay active outside, even on the coldest days, but I have been cleansing as well as fighting off a cold, making me feel more cold and less willing to brave the great outdoors. I practiced this yoga sequence today and felt thoroughly stretched, strengthened, and toasty warm!

Stand at the front of your mat with your eyes closed in mountain pose. Begin breathing with ujjayi breath. This breath not only helps to concentrate the mind but it also creates and stokes the internal fire. If you are unfamiliar with this breath, inhale and then as you exhale open your mouth and make a whispered “ha” sound. Feel the breath at the back of your throat. Then close your mouth and try to create this sound on both inhalation and exhalation.

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Surya Namaskar

Saluting the sun (and again, creates internal heat!)

  • Inhale. Raise your arms over your head and look up to your hands.
  • Exhale. Fold forward over your legs and touch the floor. (It’s a good idea, especially in colder weather, to soften your knees if you are tight and/or use blocks under your hands.)
  • Inhale. Lengthen your spine and gaze forward
  • Exhale. Step your right leg back to a lunge
  • Inhale. Step your left leg to meet your right in plank pose
  • Exhale. Lower down to a hovering Chatarunga, or to your belly if need be
  • Inhale. Draw the chest through the arms into Upward Facing Dog or Cobra
  • Exhale. Press back to Downward Facing Dog. Stay here for five long, slow, smooth, ujjayi breaths. Don’t rush this part. Feel the body in stillness, and make the breath as smooth and even as possible. At the end of the fifth exhalation, step the right foot forward into a lunge.
  • Inhale. Step the left foot forward and lengthen your spine
  • Exhale. Fold into Uttanasana (standing forward bend)
  • Inhale. Sweep the arms up over the head and come up to stand
  • Exhale. Return to Mountain Pose at the the front of your mat.

Repeat this 3 more times, alternating which leg you step forward and back with. You can also choose to jump back the 3rd and 4th time if you are familiar and comfortable with that, although I always like to start with the step back and step forward versions first (especially when the body is not as warm).

Now open sideways on your mat and take a wide stride. Turn your right foot 90 degrees out and turn your left foot 10 degrees in (or not at all). Line up your right heel with the instep of your left foot and then stretch your arms out from the center of your chest. Bend your right knee tracking over your second and third toe and come into Warrior 2. Lots of work to be done here. Keep the front leg externally rotating and the back leg slightly internally rotating. As the left thigh internally rotates and moves back, scoop your tailbone and your right buttocks flesh under. Feel a subtle twisting of your abdomen from right to left and tone your left waistline back as you gaze past the middle finger of your right hand. Hold up to one minute. Lift all ten toes off the floor and feel the power in your legs… Phew!!

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Now start to slide your left hand down your left leg into a REVERSE WARRIOR. This lateral pose will open up the breath in each nostril, evening out the sun and moon channels, regulating your body temperature and more. Hold for 5 breaths and then come all the way up to two straight legs. Pivot your feet and switch sides. Repeat on the second side.

Come again now to the top of your mat in mountain pose.   Take the arms straight up over the head and make the arms sharp, reaching through the fingers and hugging skin to muscle and muscle to bone all along the arms. Bend the knees and sit back in an imaginary chair for UTKATASANA. Stay 8 breaths.

Exhale and fold over your legs into a standing forward bend. Inhale and look up, as you exhale bend you knees and place your palms flat on the floor, jumping back to Plank or Chatarunga as gracefully as possible. Inhale through upward dog and exhale into downward dog.

Step or jump! Through to sit down and bend your knees into your chest. Hold the backs of your thighs and begin to take the feet off the ground for the beginning stages of NAVASANA (boat pose). If you are feeling strong here, straighten your legs. Hold for 5 breaths and then hug the knees into the chest, rest, and then repeat 2-4 more times.

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Lie on your back. Bring your legs into HAPPY BABY and pause. Feel the heat created in the body, and notice the effect of even a short yoga practice, physically and otherwise. Take a moment to simply observe the breath moving in and out. Allow a feeling of peace and gratitude to wash over you. The temperature will rise, this too shall pass. Honor the seasons as we also honor the natural cycles of our bodies.

Namaste.

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Yoga for the Coldest Days // JB Yoga

Vitarka badhane pratipaksha bhavanam.
“When disturbed by negative thoughts, opposite [positive]
ones should be thought of. This is pratipaksha bhavana.”
–Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra 2.33

Pratipaksha means opposite and Bhavanam means contemplation or meditation. My friend and amazing yoga teacher Erika Halweil used to chant this sutra often years ago in class. It always resonated with me. How simple, I would think. And yet, 15 years later, I continue to allow myself to be disturbed by the words and actions of others, affecting my own peace of mind. As we enter into a new year, it seems like the perfect time to work on this sutra. Nothing is more precious than a quiet mind, my Sanskrit teacher Manorama used to say (and probably still does :)) It is not the world’s fault that we are annoyed, angry, or irritated. It is not the slow cashier, the Sunday driver, the arrogant ex-spouse, the needy older parent, the willful child, the person with body odor and too-loud breath next to you in Yoga class. It is you, or me, allowing ourselves to be disturbed, allowing our minds to be distracted and pulled out and identified with the small self. ‘Be the change you wish to see in the world,’ said Gandhi. “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that,” said Martin Luther King Jr (and the Buddha). A perfect example of Pratipaksha Bhavanam right there. I wonder if Mr. King was familiar with the Yoga Sutras?

It comes down, again and again and again to practice. We can read these quotes, we can agree that the sutra sounds like a good idea, but without putting this idea into practice, we will inevitably find ourselves cursing the yoga student with the too-loud breath for disturbing our peace of mind. The Sanskrit word for Practice is Abhyasa. Patanjali has another sutra which tells us the following:

Sutra 1.12: Abhyasa-vairagyabyam tan-nirodhah
—Consistent practice with nonattachment will stop the mind from fluctuating

So we now have a way to practice. It cannot be just one day, one time, one situation. As with our asana practice, it must be consistent to have some real and lasting affect.

This month, when you come to your mat, sit well, close your eyes, what comes up? What negative or disturbing thought pops up, for you, again and again? Catch it. Notice it. Take a breath in and smile. Now take a breath out as you think the opposite. Try it. Put it into practice. Now try this. Come to the wall and find downward facing dog with your hands about 4-6 inches away from the wall. Step in with one leg about ½ way and pause. Soften your skin and open to the abundance and beauty all around you. Now, spread your fingers well and claw at the floor with your hands, pulling your arms and hands isometrically towards each other and engaging the muscles of the arms. Commit yourself and imagine that your arms are like your legs, your hands like your feet. Soften your upper back ever so slightly so that you feel a connection of your hands to your shoulder blades, plugging your arm bones into their sockets. Lift the leg that you did not step in and pause. Bend the bottom leg as you keep the top leg straight and strong. Now, start hopping. Open to that bigger energy and float up into Handstand (Adho Mukha Vrksasana- downward facing Tree pose!). Find the wall with your feet. Yippee! You are upside down.

Think the opposite. Shift your perspective from small self to higher self. From limiting thoughts that keep us separate to beautiful positive thoughts that connect us to everyone around us and this beautiful world. Pratipaksha Bhavanam in action. Breathe. Feel. Transform.

Come down slowly and rest in child’s pose. Let your forehead make contact with the ground and feel the delicious stimulation of the third eye center (Ajna Chakra).

Maybe that’s all it takes. A handstand a day keeps the doctor away!? 🙂

With love and gratitude,
Jessica

Everybody Upside Down // JB Yoga

I love my life.  I love waking up at 6am, preparing breakfast and lunches for my 2 older kids, drinking my green juice (followed by ample amounts of coffee), breastfeeding the baby, heading off to school (7:25am start time for my 8th grader…OY), heading to my Yoga studio, KamaDeva Yoga to teach a class, answer emails, re-stock the toilet paper…  I love the daily routine and the feeling of accomplishment and fulfillment I get from taking care of my kids, my business, spending some quality time with my boyfriend, making the beds, straightening up the house.  But, I think I am able to love it even more because of the balance I am able to create by also getting away.  I have been teaching Yoga for over 20 years now, and I have been teaching Yoga, SUP, Surf, and Fitness Retreats for almost as long.  If you had to ask me what part of my ‘job’ I love most of all, it would be retreats.  I almost feel guilty in saying this but I can’t wait for the first retreat of the season.  I can’t wait to throw a few bikinis and pairs of yoga shorts into a carry on, make the drive to JFK, hop on the plane and arrive, a few hours later, in a warm, tropical place, every sense awakened by the smell of tropical flowers, the healing energy of the sun, the wildlife, the taste of a ripe, LOCAL avocado…. all of it.

Day one of these retreats we all get to know each other…  there is always a time of transition.  People are tired from traveling, they may be in an unfamiliar place for the first time, settling into a different routine, different food, new people.  By that evening though, the transformation is already apparent.  The guard is down, (along with the hair), and strangers have already become friends (often for life).  By the last day, the group is happy, relaxed, cleansed, transformed on some level, ready to return back to their life with a renewed sense of purpose and clarity, perhaps even just a commitment to taking better care of themselves, or carving out time for more play in their lives, and my job is done.  Until the next retreat 🙂

4 reasons you should sign up for a retreat today:

1- You won’t regret it. Whether the hesitation is financial, logistical, or even apprehension about being able to ‘handle’ the retreat experience of lots of yoga or activity and healthful food, do it.  A good retreat offers something for everyone.  Not feeling like 2 yoga classes per day?  Take one.  Can’t stomach yet another organic meal?  Indulge in something less healthy if that is what you feel you need.  As your retreat host, I have absolutely zero judgement about where you have come from, where you are at, and where you are headed.  Your journey is your own- be true to yourself, and I will honor that.

2- You deserve it.  When was the last time you did something for yourself?  Truly, for yourself?  Especially if you are a woman reading this post, between our partners or significant others, our children, our jobs, there is often not enough time in the day.  Time spent on oneself is beyond crucial for one’s well being and growth.  Explain to your partner, explain to your children, explain to your boss.  You deserve it!!!

3- You will have the time of your life.  I promise.  (or your money back).  I can not remember, in all of the retreats I have led to all of the various places I have led them, anyone having a bad time.  Ever.  I swear.  There is something about going away with a group of strangers and doing lots of Yoga in a beautiful place that is, in so many ways, so much better than just going on ‘vacation’ –  having to seek out a gym or fitness class, and then laying around a pool for the rest of the time.  Even people that like that sort of thing tell me how much more they enjoy the retreat experience, which is why many of my retreat attendees come back again and again, year after year..

4- You will return home a different person (for better, not for worse).  I am not suggesting that you NEED to be a different person, but  we are changing (as is the world around us) every single moment of every single day.  Who you are today is not who you were yesterday or even this morning.  So, yes, you will return home a different person (for better, not for worse).

 

Check out my site www.jbyoga.com and choose the retreat for you.

4 Great Reasons to Treat Yourself to a Retreat // JB Yoga

Try these five yoga poses for depression to help stay calm, happy and grounded this coming winter season.

Downward facing dog

Good ole’ dog pose…truly a cure all. Having the head below the heart makes this pose an inversion, and inversions relax and soothe the nervous system, as well as shift our perspective.

Plank

From downdog, shift forward to Plank Pose. I included it here because it is an extremely empowering and grounding pose. Straight arms, straight legs, strong belly lifting towards the spine.

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5 Yoga Poses for Winter Depression // JB Yoga

The secret to a great week is a little preparation. So starting today, try integrating these simple mind-body habits into your routine. Center your mind with a quick meditation from Deepak Chopra, do these five core-sculpting yoga poses to strengthen your center and let Tara Stiles guide you into a restful sleep every night. Friday will be here before you know it.

Boost your mind-body connection this week: 

Start your day with Deepak

There’s nothing like meditation in the morning to help get you in the right mindset for a positive, productive day. Try this easy3-minute meditation from Deepak Chopra to get started.

Take five

A strong core is a healthy, happy core, so work these five yoga poses for core strength from Jessica Bellofatto into your yoga practice this week. Not only will these moves help whittle your middle, they’ll also help protect your back

Sleep well

A good night’s sleep is truly a great way to get a jump on a good start for the day ahead.

3 Ways to Power Up This Week // JB Yoga

It’s important to have a strong core, not only to look good in a bathing suit, but to perform all daily movements as well as sports and physical activities in a safer, more effective, more balanced way. A strong core can also improve posture and help prevent injuries as well as low back pain. The following yoga sequence will work all of the muscles of the core. As you hold these positions, breathe in and out smoothly through your nose, draw your navel towards your spine MORE with every exhalation, and ungrip the parts of the body that don’t need the effort (think the face, jaw, toes!)

 

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5 Yoga Poses to Strengthen Your Core // JB Yoga

About seven months ago, three months prior to my 40th birthday, I started asking around to my slightly older female friends, “What doctors do you use for female issues? Where do I go to get my hormones checked? When you turn 40, do you feel more tired than usual? Start gaining weight?”

Jessica Bellofatto Headstand SUPThese questions and more were swirling around in my head as I had just returned from teaching my annual yoga retreat in Tulum, Mexico. I had felt fantastic while I was there, meditating every morning at 6am., running on the beach, SUP’ing in the ocean with my 11-year-old son riding on my board (adding 70 extra pounds of weight to my efforts), and teaching two hour yoga classes twice a day. It is what I generally thrive on.

Then, just a few short weeks later, there I was, barely able to drag myself out of bed in the morning, subbing out yoga classes left and right, and wondering naively, “Is my age finally catching up to me? Is this what 40 feels like?” The thought of being pregnant did not occur to me at all. After all, I had an IUD in, and they are said to be 99 percent effective. A couple of weeks into this strange new reality, it did dawn on me. I lay awake throughout the night, in shock, but knowing that it was true. I was pregnant. My son would be turning twelve in October, and my daughter eight in September. For all intents and purposes, I was WAY out of the woods. And here I was, about to turn around and head back into them.

I have been divorced for about four years, and am deeply in love with my live in boyfriend. It HAD occurred to me that he would make an amazing father, I just didn’t think I was necessarily ready and/or equipped to go it again. But, as my yoga practice has taught me over the past 20 years, anything is possible, nothing is impossible, and the only constant is change. Thus, we made the decision to embrace this unexpected gift and embark, all over again, on the craziness that is pregnancy, labor, and infanthood!

As I enter into my 33rd week, the home stretch, it has been, once again, movement that has kept me energized, happy, strong, and emotionally stable! Be it yoga, running, paddling, surfing, or swimming. A day after turning 40 at 18 weeks pregnant, I ran six miles at an average of an 8:30 pace (a bit slower than pre-pregnancy pace) and then took my seven-year-old daughter on an awesome downwind paddle with my friends with the wind at 20 knots. At 28 weeks, I placed fifth in a six mile SUP race, just a minute or two behind the lead women. And at 30 weeks, I placed first in my age group in a local 5k (this time at a 9 min/mile pace!) Throughout the summer I have kept up a demanding schedule of yoga classes on land, SUP Yoga classes on the water, taking care of my two older children and, oh yeah, packing to move! I say all of this not from my ego, but to attempt to dispel the myth that pregnant women, especially pregnant women of a certain age, are weak, or in some way handicapped.

In this quest, I am not alone. Recently, a 35-year-old woman who was 38 weeks pregnant with her third child, got harshly judged and criticized all over the internet when the folks over at CrossFit posted a photo of her, looking gorgeous I might add, lifting weights. The comments that followed ranged from being naive to being downright cruel, telling her that she was a horrible mother, would lose her child, and was stupid for staying physically fit and strong through the course of her pregnancy. I am not saying that all pregnant women should lift weights or go out and run six miles. But I have come across too many people that are shocked by the fact that I continue to run, surf, paddle, move, and revel in my body, that I feel the need to set the record straight. Pregnancy is not an illness. Pregnancy is a normal, natural condition (as is birth, by the way).

Jessica BellofattoYes, all pregnancies are highly individual, and yes, under certain circumstances women must follow certain guidelines to ensure that they are not putting themselves or their babies at risk. But, for the most part, we women can continue to enjoy most of what we enjoyed pre-pregnancy, while allowing for the inevitable fact that the body is changing rapidly every single day, and to honor that, to cultivate the ability to listen to what feels good and what doesn’t, each day. In my last pregnancies, beyond 14 weeks it no longer felt ok to lie flat on my belly. But this time around, I was able to lie flat on my belly (and therefore surf) up until 20 weeks. I am most grateful this pregnancy for stand up paddling. I only started paddling about six years ago, so had not had this sport to enjoy my first two pregnancies. It has been amazing to be on the water, whether it be teaching SUP Yoga classes, going on a downwinder, or just taking a leisurely paddle in the bay.

We, as women, are so much stronger and more capable than we often give ourselves credit for. Instead of criticizing and judging the pregnant weight lifter, can we instead honor her? Can we honor and support ALL women and empower each other to live our best lives with less doubt, less fear, and more joy? Can we embrace all of the stages of a woman’s life and create the space for each of us to find our own unique expression and path?

These last seven weeks of my pregnancy I hope to be able to run, paddle, swim, do headstands, and enjoy this sacred time in a way that speaks to me. When we as women are happy and fulfilled, we can then serve others from that place. I already know that my baby understands this; after all, he or she chose me as its mother and made it quite clear that it was meant to come into this world at this point in time. I am honored and ecstatic to be of service to this being and can not wait to meet her!


This blog was originally posted on Athleta.com

The Pregnant Athlete // JB Yoga