baby

My Blooma Journey: Gratitude, Motherhood, & Connection

I’m laying on my side, facing my 5 week old baby, his tiny limbs gently exploring the air.  There is soft music playing in the background, sun shining through the window, we’re warm and comfortable.  Strong hands reach to my neck with intention and massage my neck, my shoulders, my back, all the way down to my feet.  Unconsciously, a couple of big tears roll down my checks. It’s such a relief to move my nursing, mama body into powerful poses, to lay down to rest, and then to receive someone’s tender touch and affirmation.  With hormones shifting, emotions raw, and exhaustion all encompassing, these are tears of gratitude. Thank you for this space, thank you for noticing me, and us, together and connected. At a time when every waking (and sleeping!) moment is consumed with giving care, I have a sweet moment at Blooma where I am the one receiving.

In those early weeks and months of Samuel’s life, yoga at Blooma was the place I went to receive.  Parenting young children is so physically demanding, but I don’t think it’s ever more demanding than those first few weeks after giving birth.  In that space of newness and recovery, yoga was the sanctuary of our day. It was the place I went to be acknowledged, celebrated, and encouraged.  A place where I could connect with other moms - where our stories, our concerns, our joys (and sometimes our babies’ cries!) could be heard.  

Samuel is my 4th child, and it hasn’t been like this with my other babies.  There was no sanctuary where I felt that sweet connection and relief. My older kids are in 6, 9 and 12, and  Blooma wasn’t even in existence when I was pregnant for the first time.   Perhaps Blooma’s offerings weren’t as developed when I had the chance with my middle children, but I think the biggest factor was my desire to take care of myself wasn’t as developed.  I look back on those years and I think how much easier things would have been if I’d had this community. And I should have known better, I’ve been involved with the birth world for over 20 years.  

When I was 19, I had the rare opportunity to shadow the village midwife in a small fishing village in India and attended many births with her.  I came back to college, completed a doula training, and attended births in my early 20’s. I became an acupuncturist and Chinese medicine practitioner, and opened my practice in 2007 focused on women’s health, specializing in fertility, pregnancy, and postpartum care. I have walked alongside women becoming mothers hundreds of times, always encouraging excellent self-care and valuing of their well-being.  But now, with more things than ever on my to-do list, I finally see this equation from a different angle.

My assumption with my first three babies was that time spent caring for myself took away from the well-being of my family.  I would fit in an acupuncture treatment or massage, but there was no foundation of support that offered consistent care. Now, I recognize that the most important thing for my home, my children and my practice (which has now grown into a much larger women’s health and fertility center) is that I take top-notch care of myself.  Because Blooma has classes where I can bring Samuel with me, and offers childcare on-site, this is much easier to achieve.

My journey with Blooma started with barre class at 14 weeks of pregnancy.  I’d been dealing with very significant pain in my sacrum for a couple of weeks.  I knew that I needed something to help stabilize and strengthen my pelvis and decided to try a barre class.  After the first class the pain had significantly decreased and I was hooked.   I made an effort to get to barre class at least 3 times/week-- it became one of my main priorities.  If I didn’t go, the pain would start to return, so I was motivated. I was also determined to do barre regularly because I remembered how much strength it takes to care for a baby-- to hold and wear a baby, and then a toddler--for long hours, and especially to lug that infant car seat everywhere!    

I had done weight training and exercise during my first pregnancy, but by the time I was recovering from my third birth, I was physically weak and depleted and had a variety of physical ailments related to this.  This time around I wanted things to be different and I was determined to emerge from this pregnancy strong and vibrant.

Samuel is now almost 5 months old and I have marveled so many times at what a profound impact Blooma has had on the ease of my postpartum journey.   We try to make it to babywearing barre at least a couple times each week. Postpartum can be an incredibly isolating and lonely time, especially in the winter months. Getting to class regularly not only boosts my energy and my mood, but has provided connection and community, laughter and support.   

The staff at Blooma and the other women in my classes have witnessed my baby grow within my belly and now out in the world.  They have celebrated with me and sympathized with me, and I have done the same for them. They’ve witnessed me when my baby is adorable and when he’s inconsolable.  By showing up again and again I have not only become stronger and more comfortable physically, but I’ve also learned to be more vulnerable and more compassionate with myself and others.  

For everything I have received at Blooma I am so grateful.  Thank you amazing teachers and staff. Thank you Sarah. And thank you to all the women in the classes who share this space with me.  

Kara is a Blooma Mama and the founder and senior practitioner at Fertile Ground Women's Health and Fertility Center.  Fertile Ground is a holistic women's health center in Southwest Minneapolis offering acupuncture, Chinese medicine, therapeutic massage and Maya Abdominal Therapy for women facing fertility challenges, who are pregnant, postpartum or dealing with other women's health concerns.

What's In Store - Bring Your Own Baby Teacher Training

At 22, I was introduced to the practice of yoga at the Piedmont Yoga studio in Oakland, California.  Since then, yoga has been a constant.  When I step onto my mat, it is a feeling of coming home, an invitation to begin again, align breath, body, mind and spirit.  Yoga has kept me conscious and thoughtful during times of change and transformation - especially when I became a mother.  Being able to practice yoga with both of my children since they were infants, introduced a way of being together that I still sense and feel 10 and 13 years later.

My Bring Your Own Baby (BYOB) Yoga journey began when my daughter Reyna was four months old.  I packed us up - curious, nervous, and ready to try something new.  It was time to change up our daily routine and get into a community with other new mamas.  One class in and I was hooked. I was transformed by this mama and baby outing option.  I loved coming to a place where we were not talking about parenting; instead we were parenting.  We practiced yoga with our babies in the form of mindfulness, 100% presence, non-judgement, acceptance, and surrender.  I am thankful to have intentionally nourished these qualities by attending BYOB Yoga. This hour carved out of my day to move, breathe, and connect with my baby in the safe and loving company of other mothers was truly sacred time; time that I reflect on with a savoring sweetness. 

In 2006, we were blessed with Boden.  More confident with my parenting through the practice of Bring Your Own Baby Yoga, I could really focus on getting to know this little guy.  What made the experience of BYOB Yoga a unique form of parent education was the space we were given to navigate our new relationship.  The sequence taught during class introduced a variety of ways to connect:  centering together with breath, physically connecting through infant massage, mindfully moving with integrated baby and parent yoga poses, and at the end of class an opportunity to rest together.  BYOB Yoga cultivated an awareness of how to be myself while navigating my role as mother and how to trust my response in tending to the dynamic needs of an infant.

 A few years later I was delighted at the opportunity to study with Lisa Bergly, creator of Yogabonding.  I became a certified postnatal yoga instructor and began to guide sweet mamas, papas and their little ones through a Yogabonding class.  Now that more time has passed, I am fortunate to be teaching BYOB yoga at Blooma. A few times a week I get to offer a class where moms and dads can show up during this this tender and vulnerable season, create community, move and breathe together, and practice a sequence developed to deepen the level of connection between parent and child. 

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Absolutely in love with teaching this format of a parent and baby yoga class, I was excited when Sarah Longacre Ehlers asked me to design a Bring Your Baby Teacher Training for Blooma.  Seeking another perspective, more training, I traveled to Boulder to study Mommy and Me Yoga with Katie Wise.  I returned inspired and ready to integrate my learnings and my experiences into a weekend teacher training at Blooma.

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Our upcoming Bring Your Own Baby Yoga Teacher Training at Blooma is a two-day immersion, March 17 and 18. We dive into the main components of a BYOB yoga class: creating community, supporting and empowering new mamas, connecting with baby through infant massage, and yoga postures to strengthen postpartum bodies/rehabilitate the core.  Local experts in the fields of mental health, mama well-being, anatomy, and infant massage will present and inform students during this training.  Please come and join other new and experienced yoga teachers as you prepare to explore a yoga practice that focuses on the intimate relationship between mama and baby. The training is ideal for yogis, childcare providers, Nannies. Mamas, Healthcare workers and more. Prior experience with yoga is encouraged, but not required for the BYOB Teacher Training.

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Written by Betsy Elworthy Sundell, RYT: Mama of two, Yogi, Blooma teacher, creator and instructor of Blooma’s Bring Your Own Baby Yoga Teacher Training.  Betsy is also a licensed elementary education teacher and holds her MA in Education.