Photo by Maggie Pope
MyBirth doula service opened in July in Scott’s Addition. Co-owners Emily Bruno, Amy Lavalle and Jenny Fisher offer an innovative suite of services in a crisp, yet colorful space that houses a common room, a yoga studio and offices for other Richmond creatives. MyBirth doulas support all types of birth, including medicated and scheduled births. We sat down with yoga instructor Laura Grace Zetlan to learn more about the yoga classes, how yoga helped her through her pregnancy (she earned her certification during that time), and for tips that all parents can use before, during and after bringing in a bundle.
Richmond magazine: How long have you been a yoga instructor?
Zetlan: I finished my teacher training about a year and a half ago. I had been teaching yoga for about two and a half years before that and practicing for 14 years. I had also been a barre, pilates and dance instructor.
RM: What did you learn while pregnant during your training?
Zetlan: For me, it showed me I had the strength I needed to get through. I was 35 weeks pregnant and still doing handstands and headstands, though that’s not what I’m going to be teaching here. Regular meditation practice, breath techniques and more helped me prepare for birth for my own son, which was a long and difficult birth. Luckily, I also had Emily as my doula.
RM: How did you select Emily?
Zetlan: I met Emily via DoulaMatch, a database that helps you find your doula. I also had met Jenny when she had brought her son to my toddler yoga class. I interviewed them both and chose Emily, but knowing Jenny was Emily’s backup, we would win either way.
RM: Why did you start teaching at MyBirth?
Zetlan: When I was going through my prenatal training, I reached out to Emily and asked if the classroom space was to include yoga. I knew how much my practice meant to me during my pregnancy. I had been teaching moms and kids before that. I wanted to bring that inner strength to mommies-to-be and bring out the inherent inner strength of women in the process.
RM: What yoga principles are important during pregnancy?
Zetlan: We build community. That is No. 1. You get to meet moms in the same process as you. In the beginning, you introduce yourself and anything going on in your life and pregnancy. A mom at 17 weeks and a mom at 30 weeks can both teach each other things.
There is a lot in birth that you cannot control. What you can control is your breath. You can open the body and mind with breath. We do a lot of poses that open the hips and the pelvis. They create space in back, help hug the baby into the body, and alleviate some of the pain.
Restorative yoga is also important. We use lots of bolsters and blocks to relax. There is always a long Savasana (corpse pose) at the end, seven to 10 minutes. It’s nice to remind women they have nowhere else to be and no other person to tend to or to be in that moment.
RM: How about postpartum yoga? What are new moms needing most?
Zetlan: Postpartum workshops make time for just the new mom to be in class by herself. Her partner goes off by his or herself with the child. We focus on time and space for Mama.
We also work on rehabilitation of the pelvic floor and of the abdominal muscles. A lot of women go back to working out really quickly because society says they have to bounce back. That can lead to incontinence, separation of the abs and more.
For moms who are breastfeeding, they are picking up the baby a lot and their shoulders are up to their ears all the time. We incorporate a lot of eagle arms and other poses to relax the upper body and upper back.
RM: What tips can you offer new moms that they can easily implement?
Zetlan: Yoga means to “yoke,” or to come together. You need to come together with other people. Find other moms, find a support system, find a support group, find a stroller group you can walk with.
Yoga is off the mat, too. Focus on simply breathing. You have to breathe and take as many moments for yourself as you can. Hand the baby to your partner. Sit, have a cup of tea. Take time for yourself. This also helps you listen to your body and what it’s trying to tell you it needs.
Postpartum anxiety and depression are real. I know a woman who took her own life. I grew up with her on the South Side. There is a lot of stigma and a lot to learn. We should always be talking about it. We need to care for one another. We need to have our village.