One of the reasons why yoga has become such an important aspect of my life is because of how much it helps me to keep feelings of depression and anxiety at bay. I know my loved ones who have gone through pregnancy and had babies have had an amazing experience, but with some challenging times too. So when I look back at those challenging times I think, oh I wish you had yoga. And that’s what mainly inspired me to enhance my studies and become a pregnancy, postnatal, baby and me yoga teacher 🙂
I want to help others enjoy this experience as much as they can and help them feel better about themselves, the same way yoga has helped me. So I had a look around using Google for intensive courses in the UK. As much as I wanted to do my 200 hour course abroad and away from distractions, I was happy to do this course in the UK as it was shorter. As long as it was away from home and work (distractions), that was the main thing. I came across Sally Parkes and something just drew me to her. I’m not sure who what where why, but something just said “this is the one!”
My intuition has become stronger and stronger with my sobriety, so now if I have a good gut feeling about something I just go for it. So I reached out to her and asked if we could have a quick chat over the phone before I put a deposit down on the course. Well the quick chat ended up being over half an hour! Sally is so down to earth and I felt really comfortable speaking to her. I have met a few egotistical people through yoga so it was really important to me that I had a good connection with my teacher. After our conversation I knew that I wanted to participate in her course, so I went ahead and booked up for December 2018. What I really loved and respected about Sally was that when I told her (in March) that I was completing my 200 hour yoga teacher training in September, she done a little countdown to figure out if December was too soon for me to do another intensive course. She said if it felt too soon she would have recommended me to join another course at a later date. This made me see that she genuinely looks out for the best interests of her students, she wasn’t salesy or pressurising at all which I really appreciated. Now after doing my 200 hour intensive course in September I completely understand why she done her little countdown haha! If the pregnancy course was any sooner than December, it would have been too much in that space of time. I think after any intensive course you need a minute (or a couple of months) to yourself to let everything sink in and get back to reality. The good thing about experiencing an intensive course beforehand was that I had a heads up of what the days were going to be like and how to prep myself. Prep myself as in, start reading my pregnancy yoga books ASAP! To be honest I didn’t straight away as my brain was still frazzled from the 200 hour course haha.. So I had a little break, got my ducks in a row, and then began to read Bountiful Beautiful Blissful by Gurmukh. Omg this book is amazing! One of the parts that stuck out to me the most was when Gurmukh wrote: Know too that choosing to be positive is a process, something you do over and over again. It’s not as if you will reach a point at which you will say, “Okay, now I’m fixed, now I will never know pain or anger or confusion.” It is the doing over and over again. It is called a living “practice.”
Although the book was about pregnancy and birth, I was learning life lessons too! Reading these books were so interesting to me, especially where my best friend Jaded was pregnant last year, it’s like I was reading my books and thinking of her the whole time. I would highlight sentences, take pictures and send them to her.
Then I’d call her and speak about my favourite chapters, I’d get all emotional saying “Do you know how amazing you are?! You’re growing a life in you!” 🙂 I’m so glad I read these book before having my own kids, because I feel like now I have so much more respect for pregnancy and me as a woman. I felt very empowered after reading them 🙂
So as much as my goal was to help mothers during challenging times etc., with all this new knowledge I’ve gained I now want to help them become closer to their babies, their partners, and their inner strength. I remember feeling very “Girl Power” and that’s before I even arrived at the course haha..
Another part of my prep was to observe, or take part in 3 different pregnancy yoga classes and write essays about them and my experience. One of my experiences wasn’t very pleasant, and I want to share it with you, I guess as a heads up for any future classes you may need to observe or take part in, as not everyone has the same approach re the ethics of yoga. I’ve copied and pasted the email I sent to the owner of this particular studio where I’ve been a student for almost 2 years, when you read it you’ll be able to get the gist of what happened:
My name is Rochelle and I was the lady who came last night to observe/attend the pregnancy yoga class as part of my studies to become a pregnancy yoga teacher. I wanted to send this message to express how I’ve been feeling as I thought your approach to me could have been handled in a different way. After the way you and your colleague spoke to me in front of the class I felt humiliated. The students could even feel it because they kept on smiling at me and reassuring me that it was ok for me to take part in the class with them. Your colleague even said to me “I don’t want to grill you even more, you must feel really embarrassed”, she even made a comment about me only qualifying to teach (vinyasa yoga) in September as people who teach in your studio have been teaching for years. By the way, I wasn’t there with an intention to teach in your studio, I just want to further my studies as I love teaching yoga and helping others. I ended up leaving after 5 minutes because I was sitting with my eyes closed for our breath work and tears would not stop going down my face. I’m sure you both didn’t mean to come across in a condescending way but I can’t help how I feel, I did explain to you that I’ve been attending classes at your studio, it wasn’t like I appeared out of the blue and your colleague even recognised me from her own classes and knew of me through ____, so my bad for assuming that your studio would be supportive of my studies, I didn’t mean to disrespect you in any way. Your colleague mentioned it wasn’t an open studio, but where I’ve always attended classes as a drop in I didn’t realise you done your own teacher training and it was different for someone observing/attending as part of their studies. Maybe next time if you’re in a similar situation explain to the person that unfortunately you don’t accept students from other courses but thank you for coming to the studio, wishing you all the best in your studies. You and your colleague have been in my position before remember, wanting to be a teacher. A little empathy can go a long way, especially in your field of work. It’s a shame because I was really excited to attend last night’s class. Your studio used to have a really special place in my heart as it really helped me with my sobriety. I’ve been sober for almost 2 years now and I really struggled at 1st, then my friend recommended I try yoga and brought me to ____’s class in January 2017. He’s a wonderful teacher and is actually one of the people who inspired me to become a yoga teacher myself. When my mother comes over on holiday (she lives in The Philippines) I always bring her to his class. It’s a shame because I won’t be returning to your studio now as what I experienced last night has tainted any good memories I have. I was really upset last night, didn’t sleep well and was still crying this morning. I’m actually teaching this evening and I’m hoping it won’t be affected by my emotions today. I used to suffer from depression, anxiety and low self-esteem so last night really did knock me and brought back lots of old feelings. I know you didn’t do anything on purpose but I wanted to share this with you to hopefully give you some awareness of your words and your energy. I felt so uncomfortable, I didn’t feel good enough to be there. It’s taken me years to build up my confidence again so please bear in mind the way you speak to others and how it may affect them. There’s this quote I really believe in “Be kind, because you never know how much the person beside you is suffering.” Please know I’m not looking for a reply or even acknowledgement from this message, all I hope is that if you’re ever in a situation again like last night, this message will help you come from a more understanding compassionate place.
From that experience I would say, definitely contact the studio in advance and ask for their permission 1st haha! I know it seems like common sense but I honest to God felt so comfortable at that studio, and I knew the teachers. I thought it would be sweet to show up and ask there and then, especially where I done it to two other studios prior and the teachers were really supportive. Anyway, lesson learned. Also, when I said that I was teaching that evening, I meant Fight Klub, which is a boxing workout with punch bags to drum and bass. At the time I was only trained as a DnB Workout instructor (equipment free Fight Klub), but my trainer Patrick wanted me to improve my skills and start teaching Fight Klub. Sods law that was the same night I was teaching it for the 1st time ever! I half wanted to cancel because I didn’t feel myself at all. But then I thought, I can’t just cancel every time I have a bad day. I remember having a bad day one Saturday when I was teaching my DnB Workout, and I just reminded myself, you’ll be ok once you get there, and I was 🙂 You end up bouncing off everyone else’s energy, plus the music lifts you up too. So I text my trainer Patrick earlier that day and gave him a heads up that I wasn’t feeling 100%, and if he had any feedback to give it to me the next day when I wasn’t feeling so sensitive haha.. Well, turns out my 1st Fight Klub went really well, I was so happy! Now I’m glad I didn’t give up, sometimes you just got to keep on going and no matter how you’re feeling, you never know how your day may change 🙂
Oh by the way, the owner of the studio replied to my email apologising which was nice. What I appreciated the most was when she said “I guess if those students in class last night don’t come back it is my own fault.”
That’s all I wanted, just for her to take some accountability and hopefully next time to react with a bit more compassion.
Now what I realised during the classes I observed and took part in, is that all the teachers had kids and already experienced pregnancy. My yoga teacher Anna (https://www.yogawithanna.co.uk) asked if I had any questions after I observed her class bless her and I did have one:
What do you think of me teaching pregnancy yoga even though I
haven’t been pregnant before?
I just want to see everyone happy and healthy, especially mothers who are going through such a big transition in their life, I believe I can help make a positive difference to them and how they’re feeling through yoga. But, I can’t actually resonate with them or really understand how they’re feeling because I haven’t been pregnant before. I can do a few pelvic floor exercises so at least I understand from that aspect haha..
I actually sent that in an email and she called me straight away love her. She reassured me that I didn’t need to have that experience to teach pregnancy yoga, my intention is good and that’s all that matters. She also made a point that male doctors who deliver babies and perform c sections have never been pregnant but they still know what they’re doing, and that certain addiction therapists can still do their job even though they’ve never suffered from an addiction. It’s so true! I felt a lot better after our conversation and haven’t had any doubts since 🙂
It’s funny because the 1st day I arrived at the teacher training, Sally brought this question up too. She actually said sometimes it’s better to not have the experience as you are a blank canvas and have nothing to compare it to, and you won’t bring your own experiences into class. She gave examples of really good, successful pregnancy yoga teachers who don’t have children, so that was reassuring too.
So the teacher training was held in Brooklands Barn, Sussex. Beautiful location and venue, I even had time to go for a swim one morning 🙂
I got a taxi from the station and as we were en route the driver said “I wouldn’t walk through this field if you’re going into town, there’s a bull in it” haha!
When I arrived a few students were already there, it was nice speaking to them as we were waiting to check in to our rooms, some even travelled overseas – from Dublin, Iceland and Pakistan. I shared a room with a lovely girl Annie from Dublin who was 30 weeks pregnant. I was a bit wary re sharing a room after my teacher training in Ibiza, because I remember there was some tension at times between the girls sharing, and I remember how important it was for me to have my own space after how full on the training was. But Annie was amazing! We had such a laugh and we’d chat for ages. She was so down to earth and we bonded over our similar pasts partying in London haha, so it was like our room was meant to be. I’m so glad I met her actually because she was one of the reasons I decided to open up and share my story re my sobriety..
She really encouraged me to write it as I was scared, I just felt so bad for all the lies I told. And she said something like “but people will understand when they hear what you went through, they already know your morals and values, they know the real you.” That always stuck with me, so thank you Annie for your belief in me, I’m so grateful for your support 🙂
Ok back to the course. We arrived on a Sunday evening, checked into our rooms, practiced some pregnancy yoga, sat down for dinner together, and then a quick lesson re the benefits of pregnancy yoga before bedtime. Omg talking about dinner, Claire was our chef during the training and she was cooking the best plant based dishes I’ve ever had! I was looking at her thinking, what party can I host just so I can hire you?! Haha! She was that good 🙂
Meal times were also a good time for bonding with the other students. Like I said before I’ve met some pretentious people through yoga, I mean I’ve met some amazing people too who definitely outweigh the arrogant ones, but still I usually keep myself to myself a bit in those situations. But the women on this course were so lovely 🙂 We even had a baby with us as one of the girls brought her daughter, she was adorable, especially during our baby and me yoga practice. So yeah there was a proper mixture of us and it worked, a really nice balance. I felt completely myself with them, chatting away in my South London accent and laughing out loud all the time 🙂 Also running off for power naps, I’d finish my lunch quickly then go for a quick lie down. Annie was like, I get why your friends call you nap queen haha!
Ok back to the course.. We covered so many different subjects including optimal foetal positioning, yoga for the different trimesters, common contra-indications during pregnancy, postnatal changes (physiological and anatomical) and baby and me yoga. It was definitely worth every penny, I learnt so much! And also came back with a new found respect for what the female body goes through, and how important postnatal exercise is, as in not to push yourself too soon and why. This was really interesting to me because I love Fight Klub and I always assumed I’d go back to it ASAP after giving birth one day, and now I’m like no Rochelle, take it easy, your body needs time to heal. I didn’t know what to expect from this course but it definitely exceeded everything I wanted to get out of it. Maybe it was different for me because I haven’t had a baby yet so all the details were quite new to me. It was so beneficial though because when I teach pregnancy and postnatal yoga, I’ll have enough information to understand what they’re experiencing.
So we started on the Sunday and finished off on the Friday, that day was for our practical assessment (shout out to Heather Deaville for helping me so much with mine, the pelvic floor exercises, I still know the exact explanation off by heart haha!). We finished off with a lovely brunch and then said our goodbyes. All the women on the course are so helpful, we’re still using our WhatsApp group to help with any questions etc.
Now, written assignments. There’s a couple you need to complete before you attend the course and then four more after. I was away after the practical training so didn’t manage to start any of the ones I had left to do, and then when I was ready to start, I went through a horrible experience and was diagnosed with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).
I told Sally and she was so supportive and caring bless her, it really meant a lot to me. We didn’t even talk about the coursework which was great, I mean it wasn’t even in my thoughts, I didn’t ever think I was going to pass actually because all I had planned for the rest of the year was staying in bed! Anyway with EMDR therapy and the support of my amazing family, friends and Sally, I managed to move forward with my condition and slowly rebuild myself. Poor memory and lack of concentration were a couple of the PTSD symptoms I experienced, which isn’t great when you need to study. But I took my time and only studied when I felt like it, I didn’t ever force myself.
During my struggles with PTSD I read a book called A Piece Of Cake which gave me a lot of hope, even when it came to studying! The author Cupcake Brown wrote: “I started out by studying for five minutes (that’s about as long as I could go before my mind changed directions) and then taking a ten-minute break. Study for five, break for ten. Of course, this made doing homework take forever, but at least I was doing it. Slowly, I increased the study time and reduced the break time. Within a month, I’d advanced to studying for ten and breaking for five. After two months, I could study for almost a half hour without a break. There’s something to be said about baby steps.”
So after I 1st spoke to Sally back in March 2018 and completed my practical training in December, I have finally passed my pregnancy, postnatal, baby and me yoga teacher training YAY! 🙂 It’s taken a while but I really do believe that..
Thank you Sally for being an amazing teacher, and for just being you! I’ve got so much love and respect for you, and I’m forever grateful for your care and understanding. I highly recommend Sally’s yoga teacher training, I’d actually love to do it all over again. Thank you for taking the time to read my blog, please follow my social media to keep updated with pre/postnatal yoga classes. I will be starting some soon in Byfleet, Surrey KT14. And please visit Sally’s website below to find out more info, she does retreats too 🙂