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Teacher of the month - Jess Healy

I discovered Birthlight when I used Francoise’s book “Yoga for pregnancy, birth and beyond” during my first pregnancy. My daughter turns seven next week, and the title of this book has become the story of my life, and work! After the upside down, crazy, beautiful first two weeks of my daughter’s life, I remembered the book, and turned the page to the post- birth section: well, that was it! I always felt that the practices, both the ones in the books, and then those that I learned when I trained to teach baby yoga with Sally six months after this, resonated deeply with my instincts as a mother. Giving my babies the freedom to move around on the floor, to lift and balance them using my own body, just as I had introduced them to yoga when they were in the womb; these were so important and natural to me. Arriving on the mat to be taught Baby Yoga 1 by Sally was like coming home. She made me and my baby feel seen, heard, valued, and accepted. She talked to my baby as an equal being in the room; a member of the yoga class. I like to think that this is the way I teach too.  Some of the practices I learned on the Birthlight courses (with Sally, Marion, Francoise, Emma) I had already been doing with my babies at home, and was so pleased to then be taught them ; validating them and my own instincts about the safety of, and benefits of 3-D movement/ yoga with babies! This, I think, is the beauty of Francoise’s broad influences. Yes, it is yoga; the principles and practices of yoga; but also it is about distilling ancient and traditional wisdom, natural instincts, the joy of movement and of play, heart-centred parenting, valuing mothering and valuing the circle of family/support around the mother.

I have practiced yoga most of my adult life but I can firmly say that Birthlight’s policy of nurturing teachers who have not had the opportunity to train as generic yoga teachers already, has meant that Birthlight has turned me from a Mum into a yoga teacher.

I began teaching in Manchester in 2011, alongside doing my existing job, four days a week for the disability team in Childrens’ Services. With a ten month old baby in full time nursery , I can not say this was easy, but I knew that I was working towards a life where I could spend more time with my child and do what I felt passionate about, in my own way. I became pregnant a couple of months later and so followed probably the toughest yet most amazing couple of years of my life. When I look back at how I taught while pregnant/ with my babies in a sling or as my real life ‘ doll’, made tea for all the mums, packed up my mats, cushions and blankets, all after a broken night of sleep and with a partner who worked away much of the time, I actually know how I did it. Easy: through Birthlight yoga. Living it as well as teaching it. When I split from the children’s Dad in 2013, I decided to move back to my roots in South Devon, packing up my family, life and my business with me. I started up again after six months ( the only time I have stopped teaching!) and now, three and a half years later, I have a beautiful circle of Mums, babies, toddlers, and families who have come through my classes, and come to me for massage at various stages, and keep returning! Training to teach pregnancy yoga a year ago was another part of that lifecycle falling into place. I now have running, pregnancy yoga, baby massage/ postnatal recovery, mum and baby yoga, tiddler yoga, toddler yoga, family yoga, and mini yoga retreats for Mums without their little ones there (3 hours of relaxing, lovely yoga with tea and cake!)

I am also a massage therapist; a path that started way back when I worked in residential care, and another “coming home” experience when I finally got the opportunity to train. I practice a lot of pregnancy massage, postnatal massage, Indian head massage, and now, massage using Rebozo.  When Birthlight started offering the baby nurture/ baby massage course this was a golden opportunity for me to fuse the two interests, and after the training with Liz, I offered a separate class for babies under three months; smaller, more gentle, nurturing; which has been a great success.

I started to wonder if I could share my experience of working with hundreds of Mums and babies by teaching for Birthlight in the future. I asked Sally for guidance, and she invited me to shadow her delivering Baby Yoga 1. I did this last week and it was an incredibly rewarding experience. I got so much out of it, and felt like I was ‘giving back’ to Birthlight by supporting Sally to deliver and to look after the group, the visiting babies and parents. Being on the training again has reaffirmed for me that I am a Birthlight teacher first and foremost. It all flows from there for me! Even my own practice; these days I love acro yoga which is often a grown up version of the more dynamic baby and toddler yoga practices within Birthlight! At last, someone flew ME on their feet!!

All I can say is thank you from my heart, Francoise, Sally and the Birthlight team.

Jess Healy
Jess Yoga and Wellness (formerly Treetots Yoga)
(website still in transition to my new business name!)
Instagram: @Jessyogawellness
[email protected]