For our inaugural Wednesday Wisdom, we had the pleasure of interviewing Hannah Williams. Hannah describes herself as a “Yoga teachin’, Guitar Slingin’ Mamasita of two very sparkly little girls.” She has a passion for creating space, community (and a good workout!) to mamas in their baby-making years. She has been a student of yoga for twenty years and a teacher for seven with a specialty in pre and postnatal yoga. Being a musician as well, Hannah is known for her musical playlists and an occasional serenade on guitar during savasana. She has also trained with Birthing From Within and loves to support mothers unconditionally no matter what their birthing or mothering preferences are and encourages the love and non-judgment for all mamas out there!
BPP: When and how did you become a yoga instructor?
HW: In 2005 after I moved to Austin, my practice became a lot more regular than it had been in the past. I fell in love with some amazing teachers and went religiously to their classes. This is awful, but one day the yoga studio got broken into and my teacher’s purse was stolen. That moment was so upsetting. I remember just standing there shocked and said in tears “How could anyone do that to people that devote their lives to making the lives of others better?” That’s when it hit me. I wanted to dive into my yoga studies and devote MY life to uplifting and empowering others. I got in that moment how special that was.
BPP: Has yoga impacted your own life as a parent?
HW: We all have our crazy days…..But I have much fewer of them because of my yoga practice! I think the biggest thing has been self care, whatever that means for you. Journal writing can be as powerful and impactful as meditation for me. But these days since having my second child, I focus on gratitude whenever I possibly can, when I roll out of bed, brush my teeth, whenever! I also get into my yoga room and do some kind of practice. Even if it’s five minutes. Five minutes of meditation and intention setting completely shifts the course of my day for the better. Most importantly practicing Ahimsa (loving kindness towards myself and all beings.) When my five year old is having a meltdown I can pull out all my hair and join her or I can give her love and compassion. The latter always wins.
BPP: What are the benefits of yoga for expecting or new parents?
HW: The practice of being present. When we meditate or follow our breath in a yoga class we are training our brains to become still. We are absorbed in the moment and filling it with awareness and intention. Releasing expectation is also HUGE. We put so much pressure on ourselves and our partners and it can cause a great deal of inner turmoil and conflict. We can have more positive outcomes when we focus on what’s working instead and on what we appreciate in ourselves and others. And of course yoga helps to relieve all those aches and pains we get during pregnancy and postpartum! While pregnant, it’s so important to stay strong as well as open up space in our bodies by stretching and lubrication our joints. Our center of gravity completely shifts, and that causes a lot of strain and pain in our back and pelvis. We can make it a whole lot more comfortable with yoga poses and body awareness. After the baby comes, we spend so much time sitting and nursing or feeding that our our shoulders roll forward and need to be opened as well as our quads and hip flexors. It also comes back to self care. We’ve got to fill our cup or we have nothing to give. The community building and connecting with other expecting or new parents is also something that’s really special. It’s one of my favorite things about teaching. I love watching those friendships build.
BPP: Favorite pose for an expecting mom?
HW: Wow, there are so many I love. But I think if I had to pick just one favorite it would have to be Viparita Karani (legs up the wall.) I call it “The Mother of all prenatal poses.” You elevate your hips on a bolster or folded blankets so that there is still proper blood flow to your heart and it feels so amazing. It releases the anti-stress hormone, serotonin so it’s very helpful in reducing anxiety and helping you sleep better which is oh-so-common during pregnancy. It is also great for relieving low back and hip pain, varicose and spider veins, edema (swelling of the feet and ankles), hemorrhoids, really, you name it and this pose is a cure all! Of course there are always exceptions and contraindications though like high blood pressure, so it’s important to chat with your care provider and teacher before practicing this at home.
BPP: Do you encourage new parents to bring their infants to yoga class?
HW: Absolutely. As long as it’s a postnatal class. Usually when they’re really little we can’t break away from them and so it’s better to bring them! We also do baby yoga, we sing songs to them with movement, we practice poses with them and expose them to yoga! We get to nurse them or feed them, change them, whatever they need and we’re still absorbing YOGA and connecting with other new Moms and babies.
BPP: Would you recommend prenatal yoga to a mom who has never practiced yoga before?
HW: Yes. Many Moms start out with prenatal yoga. Most classes, unless specified are geared towards all levels. Beginners are a huge majority in prenatal yoga. I feel like I offer more modifications to advanced students! Although by the third trimester even the most advanced students are slowing way down!
BPP: Have you ever been brought to tears by a yoga student or class?
HW: Oh yes, many times. Once when a mom was sharing about her worries of how her older child would feel when the baby is born. She started crying and the next thing you knew there weren’t many dry eyes. I think we could all relate or imagine what that must feel like. And there has been loss. That’s always really hard. I had the most amazing student several years ago who shared the loss of her baby a year prior and was there every week in her second pregnancy with so much love and attention to her every move, every breath. She was the strongest most beautiful woman. I told her that one day after class and then cried my eyes out as soon as she walked away. I wasn’t as good at holding back the tears when I was pregnant with my students.
BPP: You’re also a musician. How has music played a role in your yoga practice and your life as a parent?
HW: Yes! I love to talk about the link between yoga and music. Music has played a role in my practice by my carefully thought out playlists, as well as songs I’ll sometimes sing in savasana that are appropriate to the theme or time in life. But it’s yoga that has impacted my music even more. I am such a better musician, artist and performer since diving into yoga in teacher training. I have an entire workshop dedicated to that! (Yoga for Musicians) And back to why I became a teacher in the first place, it’s the same with music. Most of my songs have a positive message or a silver lining. My intention is to inspire, uplift and empower people through music and yoga. At home music is on a lot of the time. We have many dance parties (in the womb and out!) And my five year old has been singing since she could talk basically. She actually kicked me off stage at my own show and made up a beautiful song on the spot. She did it again when we were recording my record and we put it on the album and she tore the house down at my record release show! My littlest is obsessed with the guitar. Every time I play she crawls over, eyes and mouth open wide and starts strumming. My husband is also a guitar player and singer who’s playing all the time and we have a music studio that they love to hang out in. I’ve been finally getting back to writing a lot since having my second kiddo and I play and sing every day. It’s just a part of life at home! The most rewarding thing has been to hear my daughter sing my songs. Especially the really positive ones. That’s what it’s all about!
BPP: Final question – If you had to give one sanity-saving tip to new parents, what would it be?
HW: Do something nice for yourself every day, no matter what it is, just take care of yourself. Love your partner, appreciate all they do and be grateful as much as you can for all the wonderful things in your life. Try to keep positivity the running theme in your life and listen to inspirational books on tape or documentaries while you do your regular household duties throughout the day. Laugh a lot and have date nights! Oh wait, you said one tip! Here it is. Be grateful and positive and everything else will fall into place!
- With or without experience, pregnant and new moms can benefit from yoga.
- Yoga helps parents to slow down, breathe and be present in the midst of the chaos.
- Putting aside time every day for self-care and gratitude (even if it is only for a few minutes) will help you to remain more positive and be a more happy, stable parent.
Learn more about Hannah, her yoga classes and her music at any of these links:
Yoga (RYT): http://www.hannahwilliamsyoga.com
Meetup Prenatal / Postnatal Yoga in Dripping Springs: http://www.meetup.com/Prenatal-Postnatal-Yoga-in-SW-Austin-Dripping-Springs
FB Resource group for Hill Country Mamas: http://www.facebook.com/groups/hillcountrymamalove
Thanks Hannah – we feel more relaxed already! – C&K ♥