Yoga and Community: Supporting New Mums in Bristol
During the school holidays my usual Mum & Baby Yoga courses are suspended so that I can spend time with my own children. I wanted to do a one off session in the park to bring as many mums together as possible and thought it would be a great opportunity for us to raise money for Mothers for Mothers, a local charity which support families affected by depression and anxiety during pregnancy and following the birth of their babies up until school age. So one day earlier this summer over 50 mums and their babies came together in the Sensory Garden in Page Park, Bristol to do Yoga with me, and raised over £200 for Mothers for Mothers. The charity’s CEO Maria Viner came along and shared information about the amazing work and services they offer, with Fiona Murphy and Natalie from Photography by Fiona -taking pictures of all the beautiful mums and babies.
Perinatal depression is a subject close to my heart as many of the women I come into contact with through my Pregnancy and Postnatal Yoga classes are affected in some way. I too suffered from Postnatal Depression following the birth of my first child 7 years ago. For many women having a baby not only changes your life beyond recognition, but also changes you in ways you were not prepared for. It can be a scary time and the pressure to appear the ‘perfect parent’ with the ‘perfect baby’ can leave people feeling alienated.
Mothers for Mothers works to help reduce the stigma around mental health but crucially also offers much needed practical support to women during their darkest times. They offer a Home Visiting service and Counselling Service, available not only to mothers but fathers too. They currently run four weekly peer support groups in Bristol including our local group at Staple Hill Children’s Centre on Mondays from 10am-12pm. There is also their Reach helpline (0117 935 9366) which is open Mon-Fri 10am-9pm and Sat-Sun 8pm-12am offering support and information for anyone affected or their family.
It was my own experiences of Postnatal Depression which ultimately led me to becoming a Pregnancy and Postnatal Yoga Teacher with LushTums. I had practiced Yoga for many years before becoming a mother but following the birth of my son, Yoga took on a new significance for me. I found that the time to myself on the mat really helped give me some head space and muted my endlessly chattering mind. I always came away feeling rested and yet energised. Understanding how breathing can affect your nervous system and moving your body can help rinse cortisol from your muscles and help release endorphins, it is no surprise how wonderful it felt following nights of broken sleep and all the endless carrying and lifting.
In my classes I hope to create a sense of community and friendship to combat any loneliness new mums may be feeling. We always open with our “Hello Circle” where you introduce yourself and talk about anything you want to. If you have any aches or pains I build movements into the class to help you, or if you are feeling emotional you can share in a safe space. Though listening and sharing knowledge, a woman’s whole experience of pregnancy and motherhood can be transformed. I’ve seen the seeds of friendships that start to develop in Pregnancy Yoga become fully blossomed BFFs when babies arrive.
I truly believe Yoga can benefit everyone… you do not need to be flexible/fit/thin/young/spiritual. If you suffer from low mood, stress or anxiety why not give it a try? On Monday evenings at Lincombe Barn in Downend I teach Mother’s Yoga where we continue to create that sense of community after our babies are no longer babies! Suitable whether you are 6 weeks postnatal or 6 years. It is also a great way to start to connect with your body if you have not done any exercise for a long time. Mindfully moving, connecting with your core and awakening the spine can be a doorway to better health. Everything is welcome. Whether you have had the worst day ever and barely made it on to the mat, or you spring in to class with a big smile on your face, it is your time and your practice to get whatever you need today.
Clair teaches Pregnancy Yoga, Postnatal Yoga and Antenatal Education classes in Bristol. A mum of two, she is also a Barnardos Breastfeeding Peer Supporter and member of Downend WI who loves reading, food, camping- and of course Yoga!