In 2015 I gave birth to my first daughter, Willow. I had a very straight forward pregnancy in which I was doing (cringe) handstands well into my 9th month. In a culture where we are celebrated for acting like we're not pregnant I was congratulated for it and my ego liked it. I don’t think I was putting either of us in grave danger, but really what are the benefits of a heavily pregnant woman doing handstand? Months later I was listening to Magamama on a podcast and she said something to the effect of "yes it's possible to handstand when you're 9 months pregnant, but is it optimal?" Boom! It might have been very obvious to a lot of people, but that was a real light bulb moment for me. In hindsight I think I was desperate to hold on to my pre pregnancy identity, as many women are.
For having such an easy pregnancy, Willow’s birth turned out to be very different. I had a lot of people say to me "you're a yoga teacher, you'll bounce back" and I believed them. Holy shit, I did not bounce back. I hit the ground hard. And stayed there for a while. Willow's birth was very long (some reasons for this probably could have been helped with better support from my care providers and more knowledge on my part, but then again, maybe not – who knows?) It ultimately ended in a forceps delivery that was very damaging to my pelvic floor. That's a whole other post but long story short, it took me a very long time to recover. Swap out 6 weeks for about 18 months. I was devastated. I had to become an advocate for myself, I did a lot of research and saw a lot of pelvic floor experts. Some were great, others not so much.
As the focus of my life shifted, the focus of my teaching followed. After we moved back to Canada in 2016 I found La Lupa Via's Prenatal Yoga training. I didn't know her or what to expect, I just wanted to learn as much as I could...The training changed my life and helped me have some huge leaps of emotional healing from Willow's birth. I remember thinking everyone at the training must have been like "please STFU about your birth" lol. Because I talked about it a lot and I cried a lot (again!) But it really helped. I will always be so grateful to Teresa for her teaching and the space that she holds for people's messy healing. Since the Prenatal training I have also completed La Lupa Via's Baby and Me Yoga training as well as her Sacred Cycles Doula training.
Having such a difficult time with Willow’s birth completely reshaped my identity and my career. 4 years out I can say I’m very grateful for it all because I would not be teaching Prenatal or Postpartum yoga had I not had such a challenging experience. It has reignited my passion for teaching and just lights me up in general! Supporting women through this huge transition in their lives has given me a new purpose that I could have never foreseen.
In 2019 I gave birth to my second daughter, Meadow. It was completely different from my first birth and a very positive experience. Because of what happened with Willow, I was hyper vigilant and probably a bit OTT in my preparation this time round. I did a lot of prenatal focused yoga (no handstands), active meditations, Spinning Babies techniques, hypnotherapy, pelvic floor physiotherapy, walking a lot in nature and educating myself on ALLLLL the options. I was very lucky in that it was relatively short, and although intense, was free of any major complications. I also had amazing support and care throughout my pregnancy and the birth this time. (I will love Jane and Talia from Matraea Midwives and all BC Midwives for that matter, forever.)
I want to acknowledge that I was very fortunate in my second birth in that everything pretty much went to plan and I was able to have the birth that I was hoping for. I am very wary of saying I did A, B and C and that’s why my birth went the way I wanted it to. Birth is so unpredictable. Maybe all my preparation did help Meadow's birth go smoother, but who knows?! Maybe it was the luck of the draw. Sometimes, especially in the yoga world, a natural birth is worn like a badge of honor, which inadvertently can make those whose birth didn't go as smooth feel shitty. (Me after Willow's birth 🙋♀️). Now having experienced both a high intervention birth and a more natural one I can say they were both really hard. Every birther deserves a freaking medal and a parade however their baby ends up coming out! I hope this non dogmatic approach comes out in my classes and everyone feels welcome.
Well friends, I think my yoga story is all up to date for now! Thank you so much to everyone who has come to class so far and all the teachers that I've learned from. I've made such amazing friends from yoga! Looking back on the past 18 years has really made me appreciate how practicing and teaching yoga has completely shaped my life. I never would have guessed my life would have turned out like this, but I'm glad it did.
I originally posted this in my social media, but I though it might be useful if I posted it here too. Here it is, how I started and what led me to where I am now...
I started practicing yoga in 2001 while living in Calgary. I had moved there to do a reflexology course (I've never done reflexology again since finishing it! Oops.) I was on the phone to my sister and said to her "Do you know what I want to try?" And without ever speaking to about it before she said "Yoga?" There was a hot studio down the street from me so without having a clue away I went. It was so intense but something inside me loved it. Weirdly I knew by my 2nd class that I was going to be a yoga teacher but I was too shy to tell anyone for about a year.
In 2002 I went to teacher training in LA for 9 weeks. At 20 years old it was the biggest challenge I had ever gone through. I cried. A lot. But going through that training made me a lot stronger, physically and mentally. After training, I came back to teach at what is now Calgary Hot Yoga The amazing owner Kim Mcmullen was kind enough to take me under her wing. Thank you Kim!
After 2.5 years of teaching in Calgary I got the opportunity to move to Hong Kong and teach at Pure Yoga Official Page. I taught a lot. In the beginning I cried a lot. (Notice a theme?!) And I learned so much. Patrick Creelman, Paige Faraci & Forrest Yoga were hugely influential to me and taught me so much as a student, a teacher and as a person. The teachers at Pure became like family, many of whom I still count as best friends. I hold such a special place in my heart for my time there and am so grateful for it. 💖
After 4.5 years in HK, I convinced my then boyfriend, now husband, to let me move back to England with him. (He was a tad hesitant! Lol.) After teaching so much in HK I was pretty burned out and unsure if I even wanted to teach anymore. Once we got to the UK I missed my yoga family in HK and cried a lot (there it is again!) But as fate would have it a new studio called Breeze Yoga in Beckenham was opening close to where we lived and they needed teachers.
Breeze Yoga ended up being my home studio for the 7 years I was in London and I have so much love for it! Right from the beginning the students there were so friendly and open.
I did find the first couple of years in England really challenging though. After working with and living so close to all of my best friends in HK, the suburbs of London felt really lonely. I didn’t love it, and London didn’t always love me either... About 6 months after arriving in England I had an audition at a large yoga studio in London. In hindsight I was young and cocky coming from teaching at a big studio like Pure in HK. I remember walking to the tube station afterwards and thinking about how well I did, of course they'd hire me! Turns out, they didn’t feel the same. They passed on me. The woman who did the interview emailed me some critiques of my teaching afterwards, which deep down I knew were true. I cried a lot (here we go again) when I read the email and then some more when Neil got home from work. My ego was bruised and I felt so embarrassed, I didn’t tell more then 2 or 3 people for years afterwards. Situations like that are so hard to swallow at the time, but I took her critiques to heart and I know it made me a better teacher. It’s taken me until my late 30’s to start to understand that failures are some of the best opportunities to learn. That learning experience made me all the more appreciative of what I had at Breeze.
I ended up working at some other lovely studios in London, but I always taught the bulk of my classes in Beckenham. I taught a butt load of 6:30am’s and had a lot of early morning heart to hearts after them. I do think getting up so early for so long ruined my ability to ever sleep in, but on the flip side I also think it prepared me for having kids lol. The students and the staff there were always so supportive and helped me feel like England was my home. They saw me through homesickness, buying our first house, getting married, as well as my first pregnancy and birth. Many of the students and staff are still dear friends. I will always be so appreciative and grateful for my experience teaching there.
Practicing prenatal yoga has a vast number of benefits and can help to support women throughout their pregnancy as well as their birth.
Physically, prenatal yoga allows us to stretch and strengthen muscles which can aid in the relief of ailments such as lower back pain, sciatica and other discomforts associated with pregnancy. Creating awareness of the pelvic floor is another huge benefit for women as it is under a greater strain during this time. We practice techniques that not only help it strengthen but also to relax. Maintaining a healthy, functioning pelvic floor can help us to avoid common dysfunctions such as incontinence in pregnancy as well as postpartum.
Mentally, prenatal yoga gives us tools to deal with stresses & worries that may arise during this time in a woman’s life. Taking time for self care from our busy lives can help us slow down and connect with our baby. Coming to a prenatal yoga class can be a great way of meeting other expectant moms. A community of mom friends can be a fantastic support system during pregnancy and possibly even more important after we give birth.
Breath awareness may be one of the most beneficial aspects of a prenatal yoga practice. Regulating the breath helps to activate our body’s relaxation response. This can help improve digestion and sleep, as well as aid in a healthy immune system. While we always include relaxing and restorative poses, practicing breathing techniques during challenging postures can also help prepare us for the birthing process. By doing a yoga posture that may feel more physically challenging, we can practice breathing through intense physical sensations and emotions that may come up during labour and birth. Holding your breath, which a lot of us do unconsciously, can cause tension in the body. Continuing to breath and using other tools we learn in prenatal yoga such as working with sound, visualisations and affirmations can help our bodies and minds to stay relaxed even when things feel challenging and intense.
Since the birth of my own daughter, teaching prenatal yoga has become one of my passions! Please feel free to contact me with any questions or if I can help in any way!