Ok ok ok. The headline is meant to be snarky. Doesn't make it less true for me, though.
I don't do yoga.
I used to. When I was living in NYC and was starting to ease up on my heavy amount of dance classes, I would take this one yoga class religiously. Even when friends would come to visit me over the weekend, I'd leave them at my favorite Greek diner across the street from the gym so I could make it to my noon on Sunday power yoga class. This teacher was amazing -- her thick Korean accent peppered an hour of challenging flow that always seemed to fit together like a perfect jigsaw puzzle. The class was full, but never overly crowded. I was never bored. My body felt amazing after.
Since that time, however, I have never once taken a yoga class I fully enjoyed. And I've tried, trust me. Not dancing 6x a week meant that I had to outsource my typically long stretching routines and yoga seemed like a great way to to it, so I tried. And tried. And tried. I've tried in 4 other states, 7 other cities, 2 other countries since then. Everyone is always telling me to do it so I tried my darndest, damnit!
It's not because I have been enlightened to what crap yoga is, guys. I'm not and that's not my point. The point is that yoga...or any other one modality of anything...is not necessarily the answer to everything for everyone.
How many hours of my life have I wasted doing something I honestly don't like? How much money? Why did I let myself get talked into it so often?
Part of it is that I feel a bit like a trader not being into this thing that nearly every one of my colleagues have as part of their lives and/or practices. Yoga seems to have glided into the idea of "wellness" more so than nearly any other thing, and birth work is far from an exception. Honestly, I’ve felt downright judged from many in my work circle for not having a yoga practice, and I’ve felt on more than one occasion that other doulas don’t want to work with me because I don’t do yoga. I vehemently believe that it is their right to not want me to be a primary back up for literally any reason under the sun, but judging me for not doing yoga and still being a doula? …That’s kind of crazy to me. It’s not like I didn’t get certified in birth and postpartum care, it’s that I don’t stretch the same way as they do. I get that they probably incorporate yoga breath, etc., into their client care, but it’s not the primary component of attending births. It’s also something I can learn and teach outside of a yoga class. I dunno, maybe I’m overly sensitive, but the yoga pressure can feel really intense in wellness circles and it’s a bit much at times.
As female small business owners in a fringe profession, we almost always have to diversify our service offerings to make ends meat, which means picking up complimentary care modalities, of which yoga instruction is just one. I'm not claiming that becoming a yoga instructor is a piece of cake here, but it can take a lot less time than many other body work professions and there's such an abundance of studios and gyms to be a part of, that it can make sound business sense to tack this training on. Instruction creates a cyclical flow of clients, too -- You pack your classes with pregnant folks who then learn about your doula services along with doula clients who learn about your yoga classes. Since most pregnant folks are told early on about prenatal yoga, there are some lower hurdles to leap over in getting bodies into your classes. It’s a circle that makes sense. Plus, things taught in yoga classes about calming your mind and breathing, plus the physical stretching CAN be very beneficial in birth. It’s just NOT the only way to come to those practices, especially if your a pregnant person who just doesn’t like yoga. Or doesn’t like gyms. Or who doesn’t have the resources to go to an expensive class. And all of that is 100% okay.
I'm not saying a word of this with judgement about folks who participate in or teach yoga. I have judgements about the broader Western yoga culture (Ehhh $200 stretch pants? Body shaming companies? And sorry, why is no one screaming on a rooftop about cultural appropriation here?), but that's not the point I'm trying to make with this post. I’ll leave that for my happy hour ranting with friends.
Speaking of happy hour, what about all these classes that advertise themselves as yoga, but are about drinking and socializing? That’s all fine, but is it yoga just because you wear stretch pants? Or things like trap music yoga…? Why don’t they just call it Double Appropriation of Brown People Stretching Hour instead? Restorative yoga classes are sometimes just a $20 nap. I honestly think to each their own here and you might get a lot of enjoyment out of these things, but calling any dang class with a mat “Yoga” speaks to a larger issue with the huge commodification of wellness and the entrapment of code words in that realm. Just because something is labeled “natural” or “wellness” and so forth, doesn’t mean it has anything to do with improving your health. Or at least it doesn’t need to be drilled into you that it’s mandatory if it works for some, but not for you.
No, my point here is that there is no one-size-fits-all type of wellness.
That will likely be a running theme in these articles. Just because something worked for someone else, doesn’t mean you’re wrong for not enjoying it. Just because something is “natural” doesn’t mean that it is essential to a healthy life. Yoga is not going to save you if you find it boring. It won't save you if it's cost prohibitive. It won't save you if you simply don't want it to. That goes for EVERYTHING. Not doing yoga doesn’t make me or anyone else particularly Not centered, Not mindful, Not relaxed, Not focused, Not able to be present and calm for my clients or myself. Loads of people have come to yoga for those things, but I find ways outside of that one practice to be still and grounded. You can, too.
I try my hardest to create a system for my clients that doesn't have an air of proselytizing about any one type of care or modality when counseling them about any area of wellness. Even if deep down in my biddy heart I really really think that the evidence points toward you eating that dang pickle or taking that dang herb or doing your yoga, if you're not into it, I'm not going to push it. I truly wish more care providers were willing to do that and try to connect clients to those who are that way, too.
If you are needing some support in your general reproductive health or with a specific reproductive health concern, in pregnancy, or in postpartum and want to connect with a consultant who will hear your needs and not try and push you down a particular path, come see me for a session.
ps- Check out one of my all-time favorite articles on the cult of wellness and how it’s steering us wrong by Amy Larocca in The Cut.