pregnancy, healing, and finding your tribe

My Yoga Story

Like many people who have found their way to yoga, a physical issue first led me to starting my practice.  My back first went out when I was 18 years old and away at college, and yoga was something that felt good no matter how my back felt. Good back day, bad back day, really bad back day – yoga was the one thing I could rely on by myself.

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Shortly after starting yoga, I had my first back surgery to repair a herniated disc in 1998. The results of that surgery lasted for six years until I had to have another piece of disc removed from that same location (surgery #2) in 2006. In 2012, I had a spinal fusion (surgery #3) and then less than a year later I had abdominal surgery. If you’re keeping count that is four surgeries in 15 years. And for those of you who’ve had any type of surgery, you know about both the physical and emotional tolls this takes.  I had been put through the wringer on all fronts. Yoga continued to be my go-to remedy for healing my wounds of every kind.

In 2013, I began the next step in my yoga journey, this time to becoming a yoga teacher and yoga therapist. I wanted to give back and help others find the healing that had been my lifeline through my traumas. Just as I decided to take this next leap, I was hit with a few more bumps in the road – I was laid off from my full-time job and soon found out that I was pregnant.  I guess big life events like to happen all at one time! I was an unemployed, pregnant, surgery-prone, back-injured, yoga therapist in training. Although it had a nice ring to it, it was a lot to process all at once.

Again, as I did before, yoga became my path to empowerment and comfort. This time it was through my training as I learned all about the benefits of yoga therapy during and after pregnancy, especially to address the impacts to the body and emotions. Between receiving therapy for my back, and taking my classes, I did my best to practice yoga on my own and start reaping some of those benefits. However, this time yoga alone wasn’t enough. I realized that without a job, and without any other pregnant friends at the time, I was very lonely and feeling very isolated. After I delivered my daughter Lila via unplanned C-section (surgery #5) it became very clear in my post-partum life that finding a community of new mamas was going to be vital to my sanity and raising my daughter, and as a yogi I needed to find my “people”. I needed to find a way to fuse my individual yoga practice and teaching with the sense of community.

Note: My husband was very supportive throughout all of this. His job in the film industry kept (and to this day does keep,) him away from home long stretches of the day when I am at home with Lila.

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Once I realized that community support was the missing link, it was still challenging to find other pregnant mamas going through the same feelings, sensations, weirdness and newness. I began looking for options in Southern California and found a surprising lack of variety in what was offered for new moms. I felt there was not only a gap I could bridge, but also the ability to create the community I was longing for while helping others through yoga therapy.

So I began teaching other mamas. I now offer Postnatal Therapeutic Yoga packages teaching new coping skills and a shift in focus. Yoga is comprised of eight different limbs and physical asana (yoga poses) is only one of those limbs.  Other limbs that we draw on in yoga therapy are pranayama (breathing practices of which there are many,) meditation, the Yamas and Niyamas (how you treat others and how you treat yourself,) and we use these practices to relate to an individual’s lifestyle and support the changes. The beauty is that my clients get both the lessons and the sense of community all in one. My hands-on approach shows them that they are not alone and that they are connected to a wider network of folks going through the same thing.

Here’s how it works :

  • I begin by going to a new parent’s home. I do this for two reasons: 1) The obvious- if you’ve ever been a new parent or know one, you know how hectic packing up a baby can be and 2) This gives me the opportunity to see how things are set up in the home.
  • On the first visit, the first thing I do is a general well check for the parent(s). Is there anything that they need while I am there or that I can help with? Specifically:
  • Physical space – I also take a close look at how the parents move from the bed to baby in the middle of the night, where the changing table/area is, how they move around their home with baby, and their needs throughout the day.
  • Feeding postures – I look at and address posture while feeding baby, standing, holding and rocking the baby, picking up based on from where, etc. I also teach the parent how to find a standing posture that is aligned and safe, which over time will build strength and potentially eliminate discomfort as much discomfort is based on poor posture.
  • Next I will talk about breath and how we can use it so begin to strengthen and reconnect to the core. Most women (and people in general) have no idea of the benefits of focused breath work and the importance something we do unconsciously every single minute of every single day.
  • From there we get into meditation, which can be a very important tool for self care as there are many ways to use it.
  • With the breath centered movement we create an at-home practice. While there may not be enough time for a full workout, or the thought of a full workout might be overwhelming, the breath centered practice that we create is brief, manageable, broken up throughout the day, and based on daily lifestyle and habits.
  • In addition to the above, I also help mothers and new parents with any resources or referrals that they might need. There are learning to navigate their way through new, unfamiliar, and sometimes uncomfortable territory, and there may be other types of support that is needed outside of my scope of practice. Every pregnancy is different and affects every woman differently, so the more individualized the care needs to be.

Lastly, as a yoga therapist I am a person giving this new parent undivided attention, allowing them the space to be and feel however they need to that day, acknowledging where they are and providing them the time to feel heard in everything that they need/want to say.

Through this teaching, I’ve found a community of mamas and new parents who I can nurture and learn from.  I’ve found a calling in helping those who are going the same things that I went though and offering them yogic tools to help and empower themselves.  I have also learned over time that my experience with chronic pain plays into helping a mama through the discomforts of being pregnant, of labor and delivery, and the family through the physical discomforts of having a newborn.  Both chronic pain and having a child can be very lonely and isolating journeys if you don’t find some source of support and strength to help guide you through.  These experiences can be life changing and identity changing. Although I have physically, mentally and emotionally been through a lot, it is that experience that guides me towards helping other get through similar times.

Join Rebecca at happy baby for her yoga mama circle: a postnatal therapeutic series (wed. 2:30pm or fri. 2pm) to restore you core + pelvic floor, connect with baby + build YOUR MAMA TRIBE! Registration details HERE

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Rebecca Hackett, C-IAYT, YTRx-800C, RYT-500, RPYT, founded Joyful Path Yoga Therapy in 2013.  She has been practicing yoga since 2000 and is a member of Yoga Alliance and International Association of Yoga Therapists (IAYT). She is a graduate of the accredited Yoga Therapy (YTRx) program at Loyola Marymount University, a four year training, including an internship year working with chronic pain patients at Venice Family Clinic. Rebecca teaches Mom & Baby Yoga, Prenatal Yoga, Toddler Yoga, Senior Yoga and Strollga as part of the Baby Boot Camp Program. Rebecca also sees clients privately for either yoga or yoga therapy, creating individual programs based on the person’s immediate needs, physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. To contact Becca about her yoga therapy sessions you can look at her offerings on www.joyfulpathyogatherapy.com, email her at info@joyfulpathyogatherapy.com or call/text 424-255-8890.