San Francisco Holistic Pregnancy & Postpartum Guide

Here is it folks, our user-tested and approved guide to holistic pre- and post-natal resources. The Bay Area happens to be one of the best places in the country to have a baby in terms of all the fabulous classes, groups and practitioners to support parents-to-be. From pre- and post-natal Pilates to mindfulness in labor workshops to handmade lactation cookies, if you can imagine it, you can probably find it here.

Birth Preparation Classes

Whether you are planning a homebirth without pain medications or a Cesarean section, there are a number of great classes to help prepare you and your partner for labor, birth, and parenthood. Here are some of my favorite places for birth preparation classes:

Natural Resources
SF Homebirth

UCSF The Mind in Labor: Working with Pain in Childbirth & UCSF Mindfulness-Based Childbirth and Parenting


Birth and Postpartum Doulas

A doula provides specialized care for women (and sometimes their partners) during labor and/or postpartum. While they do not deliver babies or provide medical care, they offer a wide range of physical, logistical and emotional support during birth and post-partum. Some of them are also yoga instructors, massage and hypnotherapists or lactation consultants, thus bringing their own unique skill set and tools to make your birth experience and transition to motherhood a lot easier. A good doula is worth every penny. SF Doula Group  is a great place to check out some of the amazing women who provide doula services in San Francisco.   Some of my favorites are:

Birth Doula
Alexis Cohen
Post-partum Doulas
Caroline Hervre
Lidia Sawakuchi 



Midwives are highly trained birth professionals who may actually deliver babies either at home or in the hospital. Many, known as Certified Nurse Midwives, are also RNs. I can’t say enough about good things about the midwifery model of peri-natal care. It is a truly holistic and integrative approach, blending metrics from Western medicine like lab screening, and ultrasounds, with personalized care and a wide range of tools to make labor and delivery an empowering, safe experience for mothers and babies. Most midwives in CA work closely with obstetricians, and are excellent at referring out to specialists in cases if there are complications. Some hospitals have midwives on staff for prenatal care, labor and delivery. Another way to experience midwifery care is by having your baby at home.

Homebirth midwives do not have privileges to deliver babies in hospitals, and it is often difficult to get insurance reimbursement for a homebirth, so if you’re planning to have your baby in the hospital, check out the following hospitals that offer midwifery care:

Marin General
CPMC St Luke’s Campus
Kaiser Redwood City

If you are planning on a homebirth, there is an experienced community of midwives in San Francisco who will work with you. The Bay Area Homebirth Collective is a great place to start if this interests you.

I am particularly fond of Maria Iorillo, an experienced midwife, impressive community-builder and a truly inspirational woman. She’s attended over 1,000 births in her 25+ years of experience


As you may know, acupuncture can do wonders for pregnancy nausea, heartburn, aches and pains, as well as address breech positioning, plancenta previa and prepare the body for labor. Post-partum, acupuncture can help with hormonal re-balancing, milk production, and healing from c-sections.


One of the best things you can do for you and your baby during pregnancy is to stay or get active. While I don’t advocate Cross Fit or super-hot yoga classes, there are so many great group fitness classes for moms and moms to be that are fun, social and a great workout. Here are some of my favorites:

Zumba: The hip-shaking grooves of Zumba are great for loosening up tight hips, and the fun choreography is great for sharpening pregnancy brain. Talia Litle offers an amazing pre/post natal class on Friday mornings at Steppin’ Out Dance Studio. She taught throughout her pregnancy, so knows exactly what mamas-to-be and new moms need.

Yoga: With its attention to opening the body, focusing the mind, and teaching us to be present, yoga is an excellent preparation for parenthood. If you already have a strong practice, you may be able to continue taking regular classes into your third trimester, provided your teacher has experience offering safe modifications for pregnant women; there’s nothing like finding yourself in a class of mostly twisting poses (which are not advised in pregnancy) at 28 weeks staring at your navel. If you are new to yoga, pregnancy is a great time to start, and prenatal classes offer safe and appropriate poses to prepare you for labor and delivery. Here are my favorite teachers and studios in San Francisco:

Jane Austin at the Yoga Tree & Bernal Yoga
Gabby Yates at the Yoga Garden

Also, both of these teachers offer post-natal mama and baby classes for babies 6 weeks and older. In these classes, anything goes: breastfeeding, crying, napping…and the babies can do all of those things, too!

Pilates: Pilates is especially helpful postpartum to heal the pelvis and abdomen after childbirth. Be sure to work with an instructor who has experience with pre and post natal clients, as rebuilding the core should be done very mindfully if there have been any complications such as C-section, or diastasis recti. There are many great instructors in San Francisco, but I love Stephanie Forester of Preggo Pilates.

Hiking: Walking and moderate hiking are also wonderful ways to maintain cardio fitness during pregnancy. With all the hills in San Francisco, you are sure to get a workout just walking around in most neighborhoods, but if you’re looking for new jaunts, check out Lands End or Stairways of San Francisco.

Massage & Bodywork

Massage during pregnancy can soothe sore muscles and give the body an opportunity to rest and relax. In addition to prenatal massage, cranio-sacral massage, Maya abdominal therapy and prenatal Thai massage are appropriate modalities to address aches and pains of pregnancy as well as general relaxation and circulation enhancing effects of bodywork. Here are some of my favorite practitioners in San Francisco:

Cranio-sacral massage with Randi Kofsky
Pre-natal Thai Massage at La Biang
Maya Abdominal Therapy (after 20 weeks): Yours truly and Jaime Shapiro

Placenta Encapsulation

Some women report that taking their placenta orally helps expedite post-partum healing and supports energy and lactation. Your placenta is extremely nutrient-rich with protein, vitamins and minerals, and your own hormones. While not everyone is going to make placenta smoothies (although if you’re inclined, by all means…), many women find taking prepared encapsulated placenta or placenta tincture easy and helpful. I love the women at Placenta Apothecary.

Physical Therapy

Pelvic pain during pregnancy, including pubic symphysis issues, can really put a damper on prenatal bliss. A well-trained physical therapist can help. In terms of postpartum care, a pelvic floor PT can help with issues ranging from incontinence to pain to diastasis recti. The therapists at The Pelvic Health and Rehabilitation Center are amazing at what they do, and are some of the leaders in pelvic floor PT nationally.

Food Delivery

The first few months postpartum can be a hazy blur of time and space. Most new families could use healthy, nourishing foods delivered to their door. Here are some of my favorite services:

For DYI meal delivery, Meal Train , is an easy-to-use template for organizing your friends and family’s visits and meal deliveries. 
Mama Tong: Traditional Chinese soups for post-partum recovery.
Munchery: Delicious meals delivered to your door with many options for a range of dietary preferences.


Lactation Support

Although breastfeeding SEEMS like it should be the most natural thing in the world, it is not always the most intuitive or easy experience for new mothers and babies. From latching problems to low milk production, there are a number of challenges with which a good lactation consultant can help. Many hospitals offer lactation consultants on-site, but there are plenty of independent professionals who will do home visits. Also, there are a few purveyors of delicious lactation support treats in SF. Here are my favorites:

Chris Pritchard
Mama’s Cookies
Mrs. Patel’s Fenugreek Bars

Sleep Support

You know that phrase “sleeps like a baby?” Unless you’ve spent a lot of time around infants, it probably doesn’t mean what you think it means. Infant sleep in the first three months is erratic, choppy and interrupted by hungry little bellies every 2-4 hours. While you can’t do much about this in the first few months, around 4 months, you may need some guidance on how to encourage healthy sleep habits. Here are some of my favorite resources:

Teresa Morris
Angelique Millette (amazing webinars as well as services)



Nobody WANTS to have a lot of stuff for baby. We all say that going in, but even the most minimalist “ultra light” baby gear aficionados end up with an absurd amount of accessories. Trust me, I actually sawed off the handle of my toothbrush when I hiked the Pacific Crest trail to save weight, and now my home is partially decorated by Fisher Price. Here’s my list of some gear guides and a few of my favorite newborn services.

 Lucie’s List, an amazing blog dedicated to reviewing baby gear and other first year decisions. So funny. So awesome. This is really all you need to help wade through the endless possibilities of stuff.
Eartbaby Diapers: Compostable diapers that get picked up from your house weekly. Not quite as sturdy as Pampers, but pretty good, earth-friendlier option.
Baby-Proofing: It is astounding the things these little munckins get into once they start crawling and realizing the versatility of opposable thumbs. Alex at Safey Nook is amazing at trouble shooting and then baby-proofing your home.
Maternity and Infant Photos: Keri Vaca is the eye behind Small Miracles Photography. It is so worth having some newborn photos taken. They are only that small for a blink of an eye, and really, your cell phone probably doesn’t cut it.

Books, Apps, Websites DVDs

Mindful Birthing: Training the Mind, Body and Heart for Childbirth and Beyond by Nancy Bardacke
The Happiest Baby on the Block by Harvey Karp, MD
Expecting Better: Why the Conventional Pregnancy Wisdom Is Wrong–and What You Really Need to Know by Emily Oster
Birthing from Within Birthing from Within: An Extra-Ordinary Guide to Childbirth Preparation by Pam England
Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Marc Weissbluth, MD
The Sleep easy Solution: The Exhausted Parent’s Guide to Getting Your Child to Sleep from Birth to Age 5 by Jennifer Waldburger
The Wonder Weeks by Plooij Frans (also has a great app for smart phones)
Posted in Holistic Health, Maya Abdominal Therapy, Nutrition, Physical Therapy, Pregnancy, Uncategorized, Women's Health, Yoga | Comments Off on San Francisco Holistic Pregnancy & Postpartum Guide

Get Ready for Spring

“Spring work is going on with joyful enthusiasm.”

-John Muir

As so many of you know, I am a big fan of John Muir and his epic adventuring throughout California wilderness.  Therefore, who better to concisely explain the current seasonal landscape: joyful, enthusiastic and industrious in the face of exciting changes.

Spring, in Chinese medicine and theory, is considered yang within yin.  That is, it embodies the bright upward moving tendrils of new life and warmer weather, while still holding a hint of the colder, darker, more internal tone of winter.  We see it in the bulbs starting to sprout green beginnings, in the fresh crops of nettles and spinach in the farmers markets, of snow just starting to melt, and of course in the longer days that beckon us to get out and play after work- if only for a few minutes.  On a more metaphorical level, spring is a great time to begin to put into practice ideas that germinated in the more quiet reflective months of winter.

Acupuncture can help your body transition into spring by aiding circulation and supporting liver function.  Now is a great time to prepare for the seasonal shift that is just around the corner.

So what are some ways for you prepare for spring? Here are a few ideas:

  • Follow that voice that tells you to take a hike outside.
  • Clean out the cobwebs in dark corners of your home or office (and your email inbox!)
  • Start a creative project.
  • Enroll in a class, and be a beginner, with all of the verdant enthusiasm of beginners.
  • Eat something green and fresh that you may have never tried before.
  • Come in for a seasonal acupuncture tune-up if you haven’t been in for a while!

Spring forth!

In Good Health,


Posted in Acupuncture, Season Health | Comments Off on Get Ready for Spring

Love Your Mama: Integrative Peri-Natal Care with Chinese Medicine, Maya Abdominal Therapy, Chiropractic and Physical Therapy

This one’s for all the expectant mothers out there (and those of you with a mama-to-be near and dear to you).  You’ve got yourself healthy, you’ve got yourself fertile, you’ve got yourself pregnant.  Congrats! You’re now experiencing the miracle of life, play-by-play, unfolding in your body.  Awesome! And just maybe amidst this backdrop of wonder, creation, herculean feats of anatomy and physiology, you’re actually feeling like aliens have hijacked your body.  The swelling, the back pain, the nausea and the fatigue that many mamas-to-be experience can but a damper on your prenatal glow.  Yes, this process is amazing, but for many women it is not easy.

Even for women who have relatively mild symptoms, there is no doubt that pregnancy radically alters the body.  The uterus and pelvic ligaments stretch, your breasts gain up to two pounds, and you stew in a hormonal bath that may alter everything from smooth muscle tone (bring on the reflux!) to your sense of smell.  It is a lot of change in very short amount of time.

The good news is, that there are a number of safe, natural resources available for women to help increase vitality and reduce discomfort during pregnancy.  Chinese medicine, chiropractic care, physical therapy and Maya abdominal therapy all offer relief from symptoms and encourage the body’s healing potential.

Chinese Medicine
As many of you know, acupuncture and Chinese herbs can be incredibly effective in supporting fertility as both stand-alone treatments or in conjunction with assisted reproductive technologies.  But the support doesn’t end there! You can still safely use acupuncture throughout your 40 weeks to encourage a healthy pregnancy.

Acupuncture, in particular, may help control nausea and fatigue in early pregnancy.  Further along in your journey, it can help ease aches, pains and swelling in your limbs.  Acupuncture can also help in manage pre-existing conditions such as insomnia and anxiety without the use of pharmaceuticals.

Chinese medicine practitioners may also offer food and lifestyle suggestions for optimal ease and health during pregnancy.

Chiropractic Care
The growth of a fetus causes a significant shift in the shape and position of the pelvic organs and bones.  Many women experience lower back pain in the second and third trimester dues to these pelvic changes.  The sacroiliac (SI) joint, which connects the base of the spine to the pelvic bones, is particularly vulnerable at this time, and chiropractic care may offer substantial relief from the pain of SI misalignment.  Many of my patients have come back from the chiropractor with a bit more lightness in their step and a smile on their faces.  My go to resource for chiropractic care in San Francisco is Dr Ricky Fishman, who has helped many of my pregnant patients find relief from SI pain.

Physical Therapy
In some cases, mother-to-be experience very severe pelvic pain from excess movement of the symphysis pubis, a cartilaginous joint in the front of your body that holds together the two sides of your pelvis. Physical therapy can effectively treat this condition by offering manual therapy as well as stabilization exercises and biomechanical modifications for daily activities.

It’s important, however, to see a Physical Therapist with experience in pelvic pain.  The practitioners at The Pelvic Pain and Rehab Center are masters at this work, and have a very informative blogpost about their strategies for pelvic girdle pain during pregnancy.

PT can also help with pelvic floor disorders after childbirth, helping women figure out exactly which muscles need strengthening and which need relaxation, as needed.

Maya Abdominal Therapy
Let’s not forget about post-natal care for mom.  Maya Abdominal Therapy can help restore optimal circulation of blood, lymph and qi, and guide the uterus into optimal anatomical position. This non-invasive, external massage on the abdomen and lower back offers new mothers a gentle and nurturing way to thank their bodies for the hard work it has done during pregnancy and birth.

For more information about how these therapies can help you or the pregnant woman in your life, please drop me a line,or check out these other resources:

Dr Ricky Fishman, DC
Cow Hollow, San Francisco

Pelvic Pain and Rehab Center
San Francisco, Oakland and Los Gatos locations

In good health,

Posted in Chinese Medicine, Chiropractic, Fertility, Holistic Health, Maya Abdominal Therapy, Physical Therapy, Pregnancy, Uncategorized, Women's Health | Comments Off on Love Your Mama: Integrative Peri-Natal Care with Chinese Medicine, Maya Abdominal Therapy, Chiropractic and Physical Therapy

A Balm for Belly Blues: Maya Abdominal Massage and Gynecological Health

When is the last time you rubbed your belly? For many of us the answer is, “ Um, what?”

When is the last time you experienced discomfort or dysfunction related to digestion, menstruation, fertility, or injury in the pelvis or lower back?  Unfortunately, the answer for many of us sounds more like, “Um, yesterday.”

Larson Acupuncture provides Maya Abdominal Therapy and Chinese medicine for menstrual health, fertility and digestive health.

These two questions are not unrelated.  It would not be an exaggeration to say that we live in a time in which issues with digestive and gynecological functions run rampant amongst women of all ages.  We also live in a culture in which we are often out of touch, both literally and figuratively, with our bellies. 

The abdomen and pelvis are the source of creativity, nourishment and intuition.  In Chinese medicine theory, many of the body’s major meridians- pathways of circulation-  pass through the belly.  Not surprisingly, meridians closely associated with reproductive health such as the Chong, Ren, Kidney and Liver chart a path through the abdomen.  Powerhouse meridians for digestion such as the Spleen and Stomach channels follow suite.  Furthermore, Chinese medicine and martial arts traditions locate the dan tian (“elixir field”) in the lower abdomen, and regard it as the center of power and vitality in the body.

But for all their strength and generative potential, the abdomen and pelvis are also vulnerable to injury from physical and emotional trauma, disease and dietary stressors.  Based on the traditional techniques of Maya midwives and healers, as taught by Dr. Rosita Arvigo, DN, Arvigo Techniques of Maya Abdominal Therapy reduce pain and encourage healthy function of organs in the abdomen and pelvis.  Maya Abdominal Therapy -also known as Maya abdominal or uterine massage- draws upon ancient wisdom to address a range of digestive, reproductive and musculoskeletal issues including:

  • Gynecological pain
  • Fertility
  • PMS
  • Urinary incontinence
  • Painful intercourse
  • Prolapse or displacement of pelvic organs
  • Gas, bloating and constipation
  • Lower back and hip pain

Maya Abdominal Therapy honors the connection of mind, body and spirit. Therefore, it not only addresses physical symptoms, but may also inspire a more caring relationship with the belly and all that it holds.

Uterine position, in particular, is important for gynecological health and fertility.  When the uterus is displaced (i.e. straying too far away in any direction from front and center), it can compromise the circulation of blood, lymph, conduction of nerve impulses, and flow of qi- the body’s vital energy. And when circulation is compromised, our cells are not properly nourished, toxins accumulate, and eventually pain and dysfunction follow.    Maya Abdominal Therapy consists of non-invasive, external massage on the abdomen and lower back to stimulate circulation of blood, lymph and qi, and includes specialized techniques to guide the uterus into optimal anatomical position.

Maya Abdominal Therapy is renowned for its help enhancing fertility, and can be applied as a stand-alone treatment, or in combination with other modalities such as Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART) and Chinese medicine.   This safe, empowering technique may support conception and feels great, too.

While practitioners may vary slightly in style and structure of a Maya Abdominal Therapy session, most adhere to the following guidelines.  Initial sessions last 90-120 minutes, and include a thorough health history and intake, treatment, as well as education for self-care between sessions.  Follow-up treatments last 60-90 minutes and may be combined with other body-work techniques, acupuncture and discussion of herbal supplements and nutrition as appropriate.

Most recipients of this technique leave the session feeling relaxed, and with a sense of greater ease and circulation in the abdomen.  Many experience noticeable relief from digestive and/or reproductive health issues within the first three treatments, which are generally scheduled every two weeks or once per month.  Some women experience an emotional release as the work can be deep, and may access patterns of holding in the body. Furthermore, the self-massage protocol can help recipients continue and deepen healing between sessions.

For more information about Maya Abdominal Therapy visit the Arvigo Institute’s website   For a complimentary 15 min phone consultation about how this work may help you, please contact me.

Wishing you a very happy belly,

Bria Larson, L.Ac.

Posted in Chinese Medicine, Fertility, Holistic Health, Massage, Maya Abdominal Therapy, Women's Health | Comments Off on A Balm for Belly Blues: Maya Abdominal Massage and Gynecological Health

Winter Nourishment

Can you feel the rhythm of winter- the slanted light, the darker night, the call to rest, settle, be quiet?

Some of us do, and welcome the slowness of this season of incubation.  But the rest of us, oh how we fight it!  We party on through the holiday season, only to be thrust back into new goals, new plans, or the same hectic pace of life we live 12 months out of the year.  Some of us continue to be plugged into half a dozen electronic devices and work until 11pm.  Some of us still eat frozen yogurt and watermelon, like it’s summertime. Most of us just don’t slow down and take the opportunity to deeply nourish ourselves in the winter.

Now, I am no Luddite; I really love my iPhone. Nor do I overly romanticize the candlelit days of old; I grew up in a 300-year-old New England farmhouse with no heat on the second floor…I am here today because of electric blankets.  I do, however, find it beneficial to take a cue from nature (and, really, human cultures throughout most of history), and adapt our lives a bit to the season.  Take a nap, turn off the computer, eat warmer, denser foods, and get curious about the darkness and quite in the air and inside ourselves.

In Chinese medicine, the winter is associated with the kidneys.  Like all of the organs in Chinese medicine, the kidneys encompass not only the structures and functions described by Western medicine, but also symbolize a collection of other physiological functions.  Thus the kidney system in Chinese medicine not only governs urinary function, water metabolism, and adrenal health, but also reproductive function and growth, bones and teeth, as well as the lower back, knees and ankles.  The kidneys can also be understood as housing the body’s deepest reserves of energy.  When they are overly taxed, through chronic disease, stress, lack of sleep, we may have problems with any of these areas, and will almost always feel a fatigue that seems to reach to our bones.

The winter is an excellent time to give your kidneys extra care.   Here are a few suggestions:

  • Sleep: a well-placed afternoon nap, or a slightly augmented sleep schedule can do wonders for the kidneys.  Hibernate a little.
  • Salty and Bitter Foods: These two flavors draw the body’s energy inward and down, thus keeping our core warm and nourished, according to Chinese medicine theory. Try incorporating more bitter foods like leafy greens, turnips, quinoa and oats and mineral-rich salty foods such as miso, seaweeds, and millet into your winter menus.
  • Kidney Foods: Delicious, kidney-boosting foods perfect for winter meals include walnuts, black beans, chicken and lamb.  Mmmm lamb stew.
  • Contemplative Practices:  The slower pace and internal focus of winter make it a great time to cultivate our inner listening and observation.  Meditation, yoga, tai qi and qi gong are a few ways to get there.  Some of my favorite resources in the Bay Area include: San Francisco Zen Center, Qi Dragon Healing, and The Yoga Loft
  • Acupuncture and Herbs: Been curious about trying a course of herbs to strengthen energy and immunity? Now may be a great time.

So, take break, wrap your self against the cold, and let the spirit of winter embrace you.

Posted in Chinese Medicine, Kidneys, Meditation, Nutrition, Season Health, Yoga | Comments Off on Winter Nourishment