Childbirth Education

Every Spring Blows In Winds Of Change…

On a mild Spring afternoon in 2008, I received a call from Billie Atherstone. It had been a while since we had last spoke, I was delighted to receive the call! Billie and I had met a couple of years earlier at a one-day prenatal yoga teacher training event. It’s fair to say, I instantly liked this willowy, quietly spoken woman.

Soon after the training day, an email arrived, Billie and her sister Pip were opening a Yoga and Acupuncture health clinic – “wow” I thought “these sisters are amazing! Not only do they get along, but they can co-create something as wonderful as Kundalini House.” Billie remembered me from that training day and kindly asked me to provide class covers, an easy thing for me to do in those days as we lived just a few minutes away. Back then she asked me to consider running a regular class. How I would have loved to, but my plate was ever so full – working part time, soul mothering my young son and running a couple of prenatal yoga classes from a tiny studio in Fairfield.

A little time passed, I left my day job and began birth attendant training. In addition to my weekly prenatal yoga classes, I started offering prenatal yoga for partners classes. That winter, I joined the NEIS scheme, so by Spring it was time to get my specialist prenatal yoga business off the ground!  

I soon found myself with the beautiful problem of outgrowing the space I was hiring, and at a cross roads. In many ways started to feel overwhelmed and uncertain about how to step forward…. and then Billie called!

That lovely voice on the other end of the phone, gently asking how things were for me? How are those classes, and what were my plans? With those simple questions, I dropped my guard and shared my dilemma. I needed to start a business, I didn’t have the circumstances to support opening a studio, and really all I felt called to do was to teach prenatal yoga!

With kindness and wisdom beyond her years, Billie suggested I move in to Kundalini House, that I bring my business into her space and Together we would Flourish. Oh my goodness, there was one answer to that proposal and that was Yes! We agreed I would begin with the New Year. And so I did! Before moving in, I had a list of none-negotiable stipulations, both Billie and Pip were open and loving in our planning:

  1. To create a meaningful prenatal yoga program, we need to offer more than one class each week;
  2. It was not OK to offer prenatal yoga at the bum (I had much stronger language to describe unhelpful class times!) end of the timetable;
  3. I would need props, a whole lot of props!

There may have been more, darling Billie and Pip graciously accepted them all! I moved in, and within a very short time, we changed the way prenatal yoga was offered in Melbourne and perhaps Australia. Unlike many studios, these classes were placed front and centre in the Kundalini House timetable. We decided from the outset that contemporary pregnancy support were now the central to the philosophy of the studio. We initially offered three classes each week and very soon expanded to four, giving pregnant women the opportunity to practice yoga at almost any time of the week.

Some of you may remember, in those days Kundalini House was level 1 of 391 St Georges Road. In that upstairs space was a lovely reception, three practitioner rooms one bathroom and one yoga room. It was like the Tardis!

Classes grew, the program extended to include monthly Active Birth Workshops. The props bill grew and darling Billie and Pip graciously kept bringing in supplies. Somewhere along the way, classes grew and overflowed the yoga room. We had waiting lists and women queuing out the door for most classes – we were outgrowing the space!

While all of this was happening, there were other stirrings going on in the background; something else happened, my partner and I found our dream home…. in a small town near Daylesford, an hour and a half away.

That was five years ago. I was so happy to be moving into this whole new way of life – a small property, space en-wilden my son just before the teen years and a place to make home for my little family. I announced my move to Billie and Pip – that wasn’t easy. What to do? I needed to hand over some classes and was grateful to see our Billie and Rachel step in to teach the Monday morning and evening sessions. This became the next innovation, just like any Hatha or Kundalini Yoga class, you could have a variety of teachers leading Prenatal Yoga classes within the one timetable.

Through out this time, Billie and Pip were not only managing their own practices, they were running a growing health clinic and growing their young families. We spoke often about more space and they searched the inner north for a possible replacement space, but the right one didn’t come. The solution as it turned out was right under our noses, in a great leap of faith, Billie and Pip took over the lease for the bottom half of the building, and the rest of that adventure is a joy to behold each time you enter the front door.

Since our move to the country, I have continued running weekly classes, last year in response to my own health issues, I cut back from two to one. This Winter, the uncomfortable truth became clear, that after five years of travelling from the country to lead my classes, it was time for me to pick up the phone and call Billie. One of the most difficult calls I’ve ever made. Billie as always, so kind compassionate and gracious accepted my resignation. It’s time, we agreed to hand over the baton, time refresh the program.

I am forever grateful to Billie for making that call in the Spring of 2008. In the safe container of Kundalini House, I’ve been able to grow and evolve my practice. Somewhere along the way, mamashanti and Kundalini House became known for offering a particular style of prenatal yoga. Somewhere in that, it became clear to me that I was no longer teaching prenatal yoga classes, they had morphed into a whole new modality. Classes were now a unique blend of yogic philosophy, rhythmic movement, intimate breath practices, acupressure and contemporary childbirth education – Yoga for Pregnancy and Birth. I truly believe it was the unique confluence of environment, support and loving inspiration that made this possible.

I sought pregnancy yoga to increase my confidence in birthing my baby with minimal medical intervention. Your yoga met this need plus so much more. You helped me with the emotional ups and downs of the pregnancy journey. You drip fed information each week about baby development, birthing baby, staying healthy during and post pregnancy, attachment strategies ie ways to increase bonding with baby both during pregnancy and afterwards.  You gave me strategies to predict medical intervention, minimise medical intervention and also give permission for invention when needed ie not a black and white view that medical intervention is ‘bad’.  You enabled me to connect with my body and get into zone even in a very medicalised environment during labour. The positions practiced in class focused on exactly what I needed during labour.  I had a drug free labour that I believe was only possible because of your classes!!! — Louise–

I realised a couple of months ago, that my time with Kundalini House has been the longest and certainly the most joyful I’ve experienced anywhere! Staying with the studio has helped me work through my commitment issues – on so very many levels. I will dearly miss the spontaneous conversations in hallways; the kindness and support of the whole group of yoga teachers and practitioners; the sharing of baby news from our clients and the tides of babies sweeping through our teaching and practitioner group – I’ll Miss It ALL.

So what next? Kundalini House will continue to be the place to go for integrated pregnancy and postnatal support. That for me is very clear! I’ll be consolidating my time with less travel and bringing more, closer to home. I’ll continue teaching weekly classes in Kyneton, where it’s been an absolute delight connect with local women and to welcome in women who have migrated from North Fitzroy to North-North Fitzroy! I’ll be blending chai and sending that spicy magic as far and wide as I can. I’m quite looking forward to reconfiguring the way I offer opportunities for birth preparation and I’ll be developing the next iteration of mamashanti teacher training. So in many ways, nothing is changing because this story is all about change… so watch this space!

I close with expressing my infinite love and gratitude for Billie and Pip, for all of the teachers and practitioners of Kundalini House, and of course heart-exploding love for all of you beautiful pregnant women who have invested your trust in me.  You have all helped me find my voice in my calling; and to stop resisting the call to be with women during their birthing years.  You’ve given me courage to listen to my heart and teach from a collective wisdom that can only be found at the seat of the great teacher – Birth. 


what’s the difference between Prenatal Yoga and Yoga for Pregnancy and Birth?

I’m often asked to describe the difference between Prenatal Yoga and Yoga for Pregnancy and Birth?

mamashanti :: Goddess in my garden

Perhaps it’s two titles to describe the same thing.  Perhaps it’s a way of defining two very different experiences.  Both kinds of classes have so much to offer you in your pregnancy.  Today I’d like to share why I call what I’m teaching Yoga for Pregnancy and Birth.

For the past decade, I have been exclusively teaching yoga to women during their birthing years. In this time, I’ve attended dozens of births and sat with hundreds of women listening to their stories and feeling into their experiences of birth. I found that in this time, so much of my early understanding of what is considered to be appropriate to share with women in the context of a pregnancy friendly yoga class was being stripped and dissolved.

To truly honour the needs of these generous women, who continue to share their insights and heart-felt desires with me, I came to the realisation that I needed to do two things. Firstly I needed to reach deeply inward to consider the application of the fundamental tenants of Yogic philosophy – reframe my relationship with my own practice and what I was offering to women. Secondly, create a new approach to yoga that was based on cultivating a suite of rich and luscious womanly practices, rather than the process of stripping out and modification of standard asanas.

In heeding the humbling lessons of birth, I feel liberated from the binds of offering women “continuity in their known practice”. A kind of prenatal yoga that relies upon a heavily modified classic hatha yoga class. So liberated, mamashanti’s Yoga for Pregnancy and Birth will immerse you in a way of yoga that is:

  • Entirely devoted to honouring your unique transition from maiden to mother.
  • Seamlessly integrated with contemporary independent childbirth education.
  • Made abundant with exquisitely feminine practices.
  • A flowing and potent practice created by intricately entwining breath and movement.
  • Simply, a new paradigm in birth preparation.

In each class we explore the significant role specialised Yoga for Pregnancy and Birth can play to help you to actively and consciously engage with the birth your child. Specialised Yoga for Pregnancy and Birth taught by a qualified and experienced yoga teacher is all about consciously integrating ways of moving and breathing to help you “lean into” the intensity of labour. These practices are augmented with deep-guided relaxation, enriched with reassuring imagery to build confidence in yourself, your child and your birth process. Regular attendance will help you:

  • Take this suite of contemporary active birth practices from learned technique into the realm of instinct and intuition.
  • Create profound body-felt confidence in your own boundless birthing potential.
  • Habituate your capacity to positively work with the intensity of birthing your child.
  • Contribute to a positive experience of childbirth.

It’s going to be slower, softer and there will be a whole lot of time spent in practices that will intentionally encourage you to feel inward. Birth is, after all an entirely sensory experience. Where better to explore your inner realms than the safe and supportive environment of a room full of beautiful, pregnant women?

Would you like to experience mamashanti’s Yoga for Pregnancy and Birth Classes.  Perhaps you’d like to learn a whole new way of teaching yoga to pregnant women? Visit my page for 2015 training opportunities.


mamashanti’s Advanced Practitioner Training for 2015

This week, I launched my new website and my Advanced Practitioner Training for 2015. Creating a new website, thinking about how I’d like to present my work to the world been an intense ride. However, this pales in contrast to the journey of crafting a program to share with other practitioners. Whenever I’ve wavered in my resolved; asked myself “who am I to be stepping out like this?”, I sift through the countless emails I have received over the years. Today, I’d like to share this achingly beautiful message from one of my very dear students. I hope it explains why I feel both inspired and utterly compelled to share the way of mamashanti…

“When I first became pregnant I continued my normal hatha classes and then about half way I started to realise this was no longer appropriate practice for me. I asked around some of my Mama friends and was recommended to Mamashanti by a few different sources.
I went along to check it out, thinking I would be getting another modified hatha class with a few bits of birthing wisdom thrown in and got such a lot more.

Nina’s classes are filled with wonderful nurturing postures that are in fact active birthing postures. They were subtle, gentle and so effective in nurturing and preparing my pregnant body for birthing my baby.

I decided to extend my practice with Nina after a diagnosis of ‘unstable pelvis’ and attended the Mamashanti workshops on specific areas of challenge for pregnant women. By practicing Nina’s specific, gentle, quiet and effective postures I was able to manage throughout the rest of my pregnancy with no further damage to me or my baby. Her sensible advice and impressive body of work in this area still inspire me today as I continue to practice many of the postures she introduced me to.

Now, after delivering a healthy baby boy, I can reflect back on my yogic journey during my pregnancy and give thanks for the wonderful wise women who lead me to Mamashanti. It is only now that I can truly appreciate how inappropriate a modified hatha class is for the pregnant woman. And how appropriate the quiet, gentle, subtle practices taught by Nina really are. Also I can now see how much this kind of yoga has to offer Mamas in the incredible task they undertake of carrying, birthing and raising a baby.”
xx Medine February 2014

Does the possibility of enriching your women-centred business inspire you? Visit my website for a taster of what’s on offer in 2015.