‘A yoga love affair’ By York perinatal yoga teacher, Alison Goodwin
Let me take you on a little journey through time, right back to the beginning of my story. A busy career girl suffering a degree of burnout, I sought out yoga to help me relax. I fell head over heels in love with the practice, and experienced a real sense of homecoming.
I loved it so much that I began training to teach, then discovered that I had fallen pregnant with my son. Once I got through my nauseating first trimester (anyone who says ginger biscuits help has never suffered!) I joined yoga for pregnancy classes with Sophie Carr, in a room in the eaves of Jacob’s Well. It’s a magical place, and the environment really contributed to the sense of having stumbled upon something special. We gathered in circles and learned the mysterious and not so mysterious ways of pregnancy and childbirth. My socks were comprehensively knocked off by the fearless discussions Sophie facilitated. I had no idea I could choose so many aspects of my childbirth experience, assuming that I would turn up at the hospital and a midwife would tell me what to do. I began quite an education, learning that I could birth at home; that a midwife didn’t deliver my baby, I did; that I might be able to do this without the drugs I was anxious about taking in case they made me sick and woozy. I decided I wanted to experience my baby’s birth in a fully present way, just as I approached my yoga practice. We learned to move, breathe and focus our attention in ways that would help. I booked a home birth and an independent midwife and became excited as well as fearful about the big day.
Among all of this, Sophie and I began to work together on the teaching, with her mentoring and guiding me to a point of being able to take over some classes. Teaching yoga for pregnancy when pregnant was a special experience on its own, and one I repeated throughout my second pregnancy, I carry that personal memory of how the postures feel in a pregnant body into my teaching today.
The day arrived, I woke on the morning of 30th September 2007 with some crampy pains, a bit of hindwater leakage and a sense of anticipation. My son was on his way. A long, challenging 24 hours later, with lots of swearing, roaring and moments of great doubt that I could do this (plus almost 3 hours pushing and no small quantity of gas and air!) and my son was in my arms. I was elated and awestruck and in love like never before – but I went on to have an incredibly challenging first year as a mum. He didn’t sleep much, I struggled to breastfeed and ended up guilt ridden formula feeding, and by the time he was 6 months old I was quite severely depressed and seeking the help of a counsellor. By 9 months I felt rather better, but very much not my old self. I decided to quit my job and go full time as a yoga teacher, working with Sophie teaching pregnancy yoga and starting post-natal yoga classes. I eagerly embraced, and still firmly believe, that in most cases (90% according to the world health organisation) birth can happen without requiring any intervention – with the BIG caveat that we don’t want people feeling crappy if it doesn’t go that way! There are any number of reasons why it might not.
The post-natal classes are my proudest achievement. When my son was a baby I found baby groups really, really difficult. Everyone else seemed to be coping better than me and on the few occasions I reached out for support I felt judged. Why wasn’t I happy with my baby? Why had I “given up” breastfeeding? I went home from one group, cried my eyes out and didn’t leave the house again for a month. Well, my group was NOT going to be like that! I set out to help everyone feel welcome, including circle time where people introduced themselves and their babies, had a chance to speak and be heard on how they were feeling. We stretched gently, played with the babies and relaxed, then had a cup of tea and cake provided by me. Over the years I’ve added to my bank of knowledge allowing for deeper levels of support, but the set up essentially remains the same. It ain’t broke so I ain’t fixing it. This class has been running for thirteen and a half years and counting.
Post natal yoga at The Stables Yoga Centre
And so the story evolves. Two years later I had my second baby. This time things did not go to plan. After another long night in labour at home, swearing, gas and air – I transferred into hospital where she was born by emergency caesarean section. I distinctly remember thinking, as I was being wheeled into theatre, “well this will be useful for the yoga classes!” I’d now experienced an epidural, spinal block, surgery and subsequent recovery. Go me! This baby fed well, I found my first year far easier, and was eager to get back to teaching, with a new perspective. I bounced back and recovered from this birth psychologically far more readily than my first. I feel being well informed about birth and having a good understanding of how my body works made all the difference – I was in control of the decision making.
Alison and newborn baby Tessa in the recovery room
The wisdom of experience…
And the rest, as they say, is history. Sophie went on to buy a studio – the fresh, vibrant and much loved Stables Yoga centre in South Bank, where our classes are now based. I continue to learn and grow all the time as a teacher – studying, reading, practicing, making sure that what I offer is as useful as it can possibly to the people who attend. I still believe that through our practice we can explore our relationship with ourselves, our pregnant bodies and prepare for birth and beyond. I love the magic that happens when people come together and feel able to speak their truth. I now consciously promote an inclusive and body positive environment in every class. This includes being aware of my own language and behaviour, working to deconstruct my own biases, and committing to learning and doing better all the time. Exhausted, inspired, overwhelmed, or determined – come as you are. Find your place on the mat. All of you is welcome here.
Stables Yoga Mamas relaxing at the end of class
Want to know more?
I’m currently offering Yoga for Pregnancy and Post Natal Yoga via zoom. Pregnancy is on Sundays 6.30 – 8.00pm and Wednesdays 5.45-7.00pm and you can come to both for £7 week. If it’s your first time we offer a £5 trial week, any 2 consecutive classes. Post Natal is Tuesdays at 11.00am-12.30pm and I’ll be adding more classes again once the kids are back at school. As restrictions lift we will hope to offer in studio places alongside zoom again.