This past weekend I had the privilege of meeting up with a local prenatal and postpartum yoga instructor to document her approach to a mindful and connected pregnancy. Claire Sandberg of Nurture and Nourish Yoga found yoga to be such a positive influence in her life when she had her own babies. She felt compelled to train to offer yoga to other women and their families moving through fertility challenges, pregnancy and postpartum.
As soon as I met Claire, I just knew the type of person she is – nurturing (hence her yogi name), supportive and incredibly giving. She pours her heart out for the mamas (and papas) that she gets to guide through pregnancy and postpartum.
I am so excited to share with you, Claire’s take on prenatal and perinatal health and mindfulness for families in all walks of life.
#1. Can You Share With People Who Is Behind Nurture & Nourish Yoga And What You Offer?
A: That’s me – Claire Sandberg. I founded Nurture & Nourish Yoga out of a passion for offering yoga to support women and their families through fertility, pregnancy and postpartum. I offer group and private perinatal yoga classes and a Perinatal Yoga Teacher Training for yoga teachers and other birth workers.
#2. When Did You Start Your Yoga Journey And Why Did You Choose To Become A Yoga Teacher?
I’m trained as a physician and spent all of my professional life in England training and working in medicine – it was there that I was introduced to mindfulness mediation – it was being offered at my hospital as a support strategy to prevent healthcare worker burn-out.
That first introduction was utterly transformative for me but it wasn’t until I had my kids that I really started to commit to a movement practice too. So you could say my kids brought me to yoga! I found the practice to be such a grounding and positive influence through my own fertility issues, pregnancy and postpartum that I wanted to learn how to share it with others. When we moved to the US we expected to be here for a short time and so I took the opportunity to follow my perinatal yoga teaching dreams!
#3. What Do You Find To Be The Biggest Benefits Of Yoga During Pregnancy And Postpartum?
A: This is a tough one – there are so many! Yoga is all about connection. Firstly, coming together with other people on the pregnancy and postnatal journey, in a practice that is all about non-judgment, is very powerful. Often times people bond deeply with their pre and postnatal yoga friends.
And then there is connection to yourself. The perinatal phase is a time of such enormous change in the body and mind – roles change, identities shift. It’s a lot to manage physically and emotionally and yoga gives us the tools to get connected to our real inner experience. To explore ways to stay centered and grounded – useful for pregnancy, birthing and parenting.
And connection to baby. I believe the more we can be with ourselves with kindness and compassion the more it makes it possible for us to connect to our loved ones in that same way.
From a more physical perspective great perinatal yoga can help with the aches and pains of pregnancy. Many people say it helps them sleep and is a great way to get reconnected to the deep core. Stretching out all the discomforts of feeding, holding, rocking and caring for long hours in postpartum.
#4. Can You Describe What A Typical Prenatal And Baby&Me Class Look Like?
A: Prenatal class starts with an opportunity for each person to say hello and share how they are feeling in their body and mind. We spend some time doing what’s called ‘centering’. This means using gentle breath and mindfulness practices to calm the nervous system down and get grounded and tuned-in to ourselves. The movement part of the practice is a combination of strength and stretching (we need both in pregnancy). It includes movements that can help to bring baby into a good position for birthing. In addition, I also incorporate strategies in class that can be useful in labor and for any kind of birth such as breathing and relaxation techniques, affirmation and mantra. Class always finishes with some time in Savasana – a time for deep relaxation.
At Baby & Me anything goes! Babies are fed, changed, rocked and loved on a lot within the yoga practice. We always start with a welcoming chat – each person introduces themselves and their baby and talks about how things are going. The movement part of the class is easy-going and flexible with lots of options. It will feel amazing to stretch, strengthen and breathe!
Sometimes people tell me they can’t come to Baby & Me, because their baby will cry. Please know that we fully expect babies to cry – that’s what they do. Sometimes it can take a couple of sessions before a baby feels settled for the whole practice. Very quickly though, they’ll come to love watching you move and getting involved!
In between stretches and strength exercises this little love fell asleep in daddy’s arms
#5. When Would You Recommend Women To Start Prenatal Yoga?
A: You are welcome to join prenatal yoga at any time in pregnancy. If you are already practicing yoga, my suggestion would be to join a prenatal class as soon as you feel you want to explore changing your regular practice . That might be right away – it depends on you and the style you practice. If you haven’t taken a yoga classes before, opt for a prenatal class from the start.
During “centering” at the beginning of prenantal yoga
#6. Where Do You Teach?
A: I teach Prenatal, Baby & Me and Postnatal Yoga at Blue Nectar Yoga in Falls Church, VA as well as the Wellness Center at INOVA Fairfax hospital. Also I offer private sessions from my home studio in Falls Church.
#7. What 3 Words Would You Use To Describe To Someone Your Practice’s Philosophy?
A: Compassion. Connection. Transformation.
Claire during an adjustment of tree pose
#8. What 3 Words Would Your Clients Use To Describe You?
A: Open hearted. Kind. Enthusiastic.
#9. What Did You Want To Be When You Grew Up?
A: When I was little I wanted to be a librarian so I could stamp books all day!
#10. Can You Share A Fun Fact About Yourself?
A: I’m a National Park nerd – this year I’m trying to take 40 hikes in them for my special birthday 😉
#11. Is There Anything You Would Like To Share With My Readers?
A: Perinatal yoga isn’t just for one kind of birth or one kind of person or one kind of parenting style. It’s for all pregnant people, all types of birth and all types of parents!
#12. What Is The Best Way To Get In Touch With You Or Book A Class?
A: You can find out more on my website www.nurtureandnourishyoga.com and follow me on IG @nurture_nourish_yoga
… Next on the blog, a service that every women should have the opportunity to experience at least once during pregnancy …