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Moms Benefit from Yoga Therapy for Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Beyond

“The job of a birth partner or a laboring mother is to look deep within, past the intellect, into the realm of body wisdom, and trust the process. This is the heart of Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy, and it works in the delivery room like you can’t believe!” ~Lela Beem, Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy Professional, Evanston, IL.

Recently, as part of Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy’s Professional Spotlight Series, I had the honor of interviewing Lela Beem, PRYT professional in Evanston, IL. It was Lela who I received my very first Phoenix Rising session with several years ago when I was considering whether to become a yoga therapist and begin my Level 1 training. A single session later, I knew in my heart that I had landed right where I needed to be; on my dharma path.

Since then I’ve completed multiple trainings with PRYT, each building on the previous one with an intricate set of enhancements that seem to flow effortlessly into the next. Along the way I’ve used the skills I’ve learned to support a variety of populations going through various transitions in their lives; from those leaving a long-time job or relationship, acclimating to the demands of parenthood, coping with the loss of a loved one, coming to terms with a recent diagnosis or ongoing illness to hospice patients, teens learning to regulate emotions and curb self-injurious behaviors, and women in abusive relationships.

Coincidentally, in my most recent yoga therapy venture I’ve landed among a natural birth collective in Oklahoma City, OK, so you might imagine my thrill when I reached out to Lela about an interview and learned of her extensive experience using yoga therapy to support prenatal and postpartum moms and their families. It’s synchronistic moments like this that validate me on my dharma path, reminding me yet again that I’ve landed right where I need to be.

Thank you, Lela, for being a channel. To all who are reading, may you find some inspiration and momentum to fuel you forward on your own dharma paths.

Sarah Bustamante: What is it that led you to seek out PRYT?

Lela Beem: I first experienced a Phoenix Rising session with Rhoda Miriam in 2007. It was shortly thereafter that I began my Level 1 training. I am so glad that I got a yoga therapy training early in my career, and that I picked this one. I had my 200 hour in Kripalu and felt that I needed more deep listening and space holding skills rather than prescriptive ones. SB: What inspired you to start offering PRYT for prenatal and postpartum moms?

LB: I had already been teaching prenatal yoga before I started my PRYT training, so I began exploring ways to modify Phoenix Rising sessions for the pregnant body. More than anything, however, I found that the skills of asking open-ended questions, witnessing others in their difficult feelings, as well as an enhancement in my present moment awareness, gave me the ability to create powerful experiences for pregnant women. I found that I was able to meet them in a whole new way.

SB: How have you witnessed yoga therapy supporting women before, during, and after childbirth?

LB: I find that the common denominator for women who are trying to conceive, pregnant or postpartum is ANXIETY. It’s a year (or more) of having so much out of your control, but with so much desire to achieve something so profound. The feeling of groundlessness is quite potent and tumultuous at times. Therapeutic application of postures, breathing, meditation, relaxation and deep listening can help women sink into the moment they are in, and develop trust in their bodies and in the process unfolding. In a PRYT session, we can provide a type of support that women in this life stage often crave – to be validated and seen for the remarkable warriors that they are.

Whenever I attend a birth or when I have given birth myself, I feel like I’m inside of a giant Phoenix Rising session. It’s always about What’s Happening Now! The minute you start to get trapped inside the clock of “what ifs” and “how much longer?” and “how long has it been” and “can I do this?”, you can get so derailed. The job of a birth partner or a laboring mother is to look deep within, past the intellect, into the realm of body wisdom, and trust the process. This is the heart of Phoenix Rising, and it works in the delivery room like you can’t believe!

SB: Do you offer private sessions, groups?

LB: I offer private sessions, birth consultations for couples, group birth education, prenatal yoga classes, baby yoga classes for women with postpartum mood disorders and a prenatal yoga teacher training.

SB: Can you tell us more about your Pregnancy Mentorship Program?

LB: This is something I am just starting to offer. I have found that women on the pregnancy journey often feel desperately isolated and overwhelmed, especially with their first baby. I have experimented with doing phone sessions biweekly with women who need extra listening and guidance. I offer PRYT dialogue, posture and breathing suggestions, journaling prompts and book recommendations. I can also provide consults with the birth partner. This is something that I co-create with the women to best serve her needs and could also include in-person sessions if possible.

SB: What about your pre/post-natal specialized teacher training with PRYT components?

LB: Five years ago, my business partner and I created a 95 hour prenatal and postnatal yoga teacher training in Chicago called the Amala School of Prenatal Yoga. We designed it to have many PRYT influences. As we prepare our trainees to work with pregnant women, we are also helping them to become more trusting and non-directive with their clients and students in general. We encourage them to listen mindfully, to not be afraid of holding someone at their edge and to ask more questions, rather than try to be the expert. Our training is not only for people looking to specialize in working with this population, but also an advancement in languaging, sequencing and listening skills for private and group class facilitation. We also provide extensive mentorship to our trainees and graduates, something that I was deeply inspired by in my PRYT training and I believe should be required of any yoga teacher training.

SB: How can moms and moms-to-be benefit from yoga therapy?

LB: A therapeutic approach to yoga can help a pregnant woman feel physically stronger and more emotionally confident as she prepares for childbirth. I believe in offering an extensive educational component in my classes and trainings so that women can learn about the changes that are happening within them, and also what to expect. At the same time, I have learned from Phoenix Rising that the most valuable tool we can offer as practitioners is a light toward our client’s deep inner knowing. This intuitive sense is what a woman must tap into as she enters the journey of motherhood, which has many unexpected twists and turns along the way. If she has made contact with her sense of center, developed an affirmation (or five), she will be incredibly illuminated by her own inner teacher as she walks forward into this transformation.

“I have to say, that yoga absolutely made a huge difference in my delivery. Mindful breathing practice really paid off and ESPECIALLY the work on mantras and positive thinking. In the end, I didn’t despair when the OB came in the room and I kinda knew they were considering a c-section. I didn’t let myself feel defeated and I gave it my all. And I did it! Pre-yoga me might have just resigned herself to the c-section for fear of getting her hopes up and not succeeding. Your classes, in combination with the Bradley classes we took really prepared my body and mind.” ~Marie, Chicago, IL

SB: Say more about the program you’re in collaboration with in Evanston, IL called Beyond the Baby Blues, a group therapy support group for prenatal and postpartum moms.

LB: I have the great fortune to live near a support group that is affiliated with our local hospital and supports women who have perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. In their six week course, they offer yoga once to each group. The babies are present, so I lead a class that incorporates them, which is always fun. I help women reconnect to their bodies and give them simple mindfulness and relaxation tools. Mostly they are very anxious and stressed and sleep deprived. It’s amazing what 45 minutes of movement, strengthening and breathing can do to re-center some people. I love teaching this group.

SB: You also offer Birth Consultations for Couples. What are those like?

LB: Occasionally, I offer private sessions for expecting couples either in the studio or in their home. We discuss the role that fear and anxiety can play in birth and ways to address it through communication, movement, relaxation, affirmations and breathing skills. I talk about how being both exhausted and afraid can derail our plans to stay calm and steady, and we practice strategies for coping with the unknown. I also do this in a group class format, but it’s easier with just one couple.

SB: Say more about your baby yoga classes for women with postpartum mood disorders.

LB: I offer this in conjunction with the Beyond the Baby Blues perinatal mood and anxiety group. We spend time going through poses and breathing practices that the women can do at home with their babies present. Many of them are highly anxious and very self-conscious, as well as traumatized by childbirth and the postpartum time period. I give them basic mindfulness tools, as well as postures they can share with the baby. It’s always a very powerful group, and the women are quite receptive.

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