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Teacher of the month - Julia East

What a wonderful job we have! Being a part of the beautiful journey into parenthood for so many couples and seeing their families’ blossom. For me, as a former midwife, it still feels a luxury to work in this way. The pregnancy yoga class is the space where we get to know each other, listen to the hopes and fears for the future, and build relationships that support us along the way. I believe the nurturing environment we create in class is important as this enables women to share thoughts and emotions and gain support from each other. Linking the breath with the flowing sequences and spirals, enjoying their changing bodies and connecting with their babies is at the heart of what we offer mothers.

Seeing them come back to the postnatal class with their babies is a delight. Watching the love and trust develop between mother and baby as the weeks go by and they try out different exercises is wonderful. As they interact in this way and have fun together the bond grows ever stronger. The smiles and lovely baby noises follow which delight their mummies all over again.

I had been interested in and practised yoga since my early twenties. After working for a while, I travelled to Greece, Turkey, the Middle East and India. Whilst in the Greek Islands I happened upon a Holistic Holiday Centre where I began working as a massage therapist and cook! I also ran courses in Massage and Aromatherapy for the yoga students. It was here that I met an extraordinary midwife who inspired me and set me on another path.

I returned to the UK and began midwifery training in London alongside teaching yoga. I enjoyed meeting the women and was exhilarated each time I attended a birth. But I was concerned by the medicalised approach to childbirth that I witnessed within the NHS, and so searched for different approaches and attitudes. I attended many conferences and talks and met Michel Odent, Ina May Gaskin and Sheila Kitzinger amongst others. Assured that there were many experts sharing my views I continued my training with renewed enthusiasm.

I was fortunate enough to meet Francoise in 1997 when I was part way through my midwifery training. A friend of mine was a Birthlight teacher and took me along to a weekend course in London. I immediately felt at ease and surrounded by like minded people. There was such a positive attitude towards pregnancy and birth which mirrored my own. The wonderful Birthlight movements and flowing sequences seemed perfect for pregnant women.

My first job as a midwife was at the Whittington Hospital in North London. I was working both in the community and in the hospital, attending homebirths and providing antenatal and postnatal care. At this time I began teaching Pregnancy and Postnatal Yoga classes with Tara Fraser at Yogajunction. From my dual role I could see that women were receiving lots of information about labour and birth from their caregivers but lacked the self-belief and trust in themselves and their bodies to birth their babies. My classes aimed to increase their confidence around birth whilst remaining realistic about the possibility and benefits of intervention. I then began working at the Birth Unit at the Hospital St John & St Elizabeth where the holistic approach to labour and birth suited my own ethos.

I gave birth to my daughter in 2004 followed by my son around two and a half years later. After this I decided to take some time out of midwifery and nurture my own family. Some 5 years later I found myself in Cambridge and looking to return to work. I felt as if I needed refreshing so contacted Francoise to ask her advice. I completed the Birthlight Perinatal Yoga diploma in London with Francoise where I met some wonderful yoga teachers. I was reminded of the Birthlight philosophy of valuing the individuality of teachers from a variety of different backgrounds and experiences. This is trusting and empowering which flows through to what we can offer mothers. I began teaching again in Cambridge and met Sally Lomas who has welcomed me into the local Birthlight community, as part of 'Joyful Babies'

It has been a joy to work with mums and babies again and to promote well-being in the transition to parenthood. I now teach Pregnancy and Postnatal yoga, birth preparation workshops, offer pregnancy massage and work as a birth and postnatal doula. As the babies in the postnatal class get bigger I have introduced songs, inspired by Sally, which is great fun. Thank you Francoise and Birthlight for your wonderful teaching, generosity and support.