Brenda: Today, we’re here with Hannah Williams of Sweet Harmony Yoga and she's going to talk to little bit about what's going on in her life and her new venture.
Hannah: I am really excited about this. I have been a yoga teacher for 10 years now and a prenatal yoga teacher pretty much the whole time. I went into prenatal studies because I got pregnant at the end of my teacher training. I taught at a very busy studio, Yoga Yoga, in all of their locations, for about eight years. Then, I moved out to the Dripping Springs area and noticed there was no prenatal yoga offered in that area. Three and a half years later I moved to Lakeway and there's still no prenatal yoga offered anywhere out here in the area west of Austin. Studios out here are little bit hesitant to have it because it's a niche. It's harder to get those mamas but the mamas really need their prenatal yoga. I know I sure did when I was pregnant! So I was really excited to have the opportunity to do this in our neighborhood. I’m able to offer prenatal classes and mommy classes as well as regular Hatha and Flow classes that are not heated. Out here there are many heated classes and that's fine and great, but not everybody wants that. I'm really excited we have a little music studio too. I'm also a musician so we have a jam room underneath the studio. It's just a sweet little house. I have a wonderful massage therapist who is renting space and offering massage here. We have events planned and are excited to see how it's going to grow.
Brenda: Tell me a little bit about when you figured out or the process by which you figured out that you wanted to work with pregnant mamas and postpartum mamas. What did that look like when you figured out that this was going to be was part of your life.
Hannah: In my teacher training, all my friends that I went through the training program with were starting to figure out what they wanted to specialize in and I immediately wanted to specialize in women's studies. I wasn't pregnant, I just I was drawn to the female body anatomy and I was drawn to helping women, whatever that looked like. Whether that be prenatal or in older life, women going through menopause anything. I like to help men too but there are so many teachers and they offer so much, that's just what I was drawn to. Then getting pregnant at the tail end of my training, I showed up at four weeks pregnant to a prenatal yoga class ready to learn. I was going to soak everything the teacher, Dawn Larned, was going to teach me. I was so excited to be there and I learned a lot from her. Lisa Taggart was another one of my teachers. I was religious about going to prenatal yoga as a teacher and learning and observing. I observed every class as I was in it and I just absolutely loved it. Then of course I wanted to see what I wanted to offer to the mamas. As soon as I had Emalina, I think she was four months old when I started subbing prenatal yoga classes. I was actually an optician for 14 years, not by choice, just by luck of the draw. My dad owned an optical shop and as I pursued acting and music in Los Angeles, I was able to work there. I’d go out on auditions and do the things I need to do without losing my job or having a waiter job, that was nice. And then I just got really good at that and I got my opticians license. When we moved to Austin that's the job that I got. Of course I didn't have any other skills really, other than music. I ended up managing a really high profile optical shop when Emalina was a baby and when she was one year-old I decided that I needed to leave. I needed to be home with her and follow my dreams as a yoga teacher. Two days before my last day at work I was in a panic because I had never not had a job in my adult life. Then Yoga Yoga called me up and offered me four classes and then within a couple weeks I think I had eight classes. It was great and I just love working with the moms. I've had a lot of moms cycle back through with second or third babies. I'm sure you can relate to how special that is. I just get really attached to them and then when they get to come back for postnatal yoga and then crawlers and toddlers. Sometimes I get to see them all the way through until the kids are two or three.
Brenda: You offer classes all the way through?
Hannah: I did at Yoga Yoga. Here it's about making sure I have enough people show up so that I can offer those classes. Yes, that's my plan and my intention here to do that. It's just so sweet for me and it's also really great for the moms because they build community. That's my favorite part about this. You're going through this really hard time in life. Hard is just want one way to look at it. It's beautiful. It's hard. It's emotional. It's transformational. It's everything. And to have other women that you can go through that with is so awesome. I'm a community builder. I see myself as more of a community builder than than anything. I create the space for them to share and then continue the relationships on through postnatal. A lot of my moms are still friends, 7 or 8 years later they're still really good friends. I just I love to see that.
Brenda: Tell me about, there's advice going around for all pregnant families, new moms and their partners. What would you offer up for your biggest piece of advice? Either something you wish you'd known or you did find out through your experiences. What would be your advice to them?
Hannah: Well, it's so funny because with baby number one and baby number two it was so different. I took my own advice with my second child. My first child I was so excited about everything, you know, I wanted everything to happen right away. I think I would just say savor every single moment. People will tell you it goes so fast and that's annoying to hear. And people will say, “Oh you're going to feel so much love,” and that's annoying to hear too because you think "I've loved before. I know what love is!" and then you have a child. I would just say, slow down and be OK with that. This time in your life it feels antsy because you want to get back to what you were doing. I still feel like that and Paisley will be 4 on Monday. It also goes so so so fast, to savor every moment and also make yourself a huge priority because when you just throw yourself into your children then you fall apart yourself. Your relationship might fall apart and then you're not really being as present and as happy as you could be for your kids. Somebody told me that long long long ago and Emalina was a baby and I thought it was crazy but I get it. It was said to make yourself the first priority, make your spouse the second priority or your partner, and make your child your third priority because of those first two are not doing well then the children suffer. I think that's huge.
Brenda: Do you have a mantra for your work or your personal life? A mantra that you feel is important for you to live by or to bring into your professional life. If so, why is it important?
Hannah: I feel like there's basically one that I think kind of guides me all of the time and that is to just be my best self and allow the light to shine through me in whatever way I can do that. Whether it's singing and writing a song or teaching a class I really try to open myself up to be a vessel and to share what the universe or God or Goddess, whatever you want to call the higher power, just be that vessel for sharing that message in my own unique way as only I can. That'll manifest itself in a bunch of different ways of saying it. Depending on the day and what I’m really on working that day. That's pretty much my running theme is to do that. I really have always tried to do that with my songwriting and I try to use my voice to do that in my classroom as well. It does depend on the day too. I’ll ask for one before every class when I'm teaching. I’ll do that standing in the bathroom because that's my little corner of space. I like to go in and just ask to be a guide for the teachings of yoga to come through me. I've also recently, (this might help some other teachers, new teachers, it’s taken me a really long time to do this and I'm 40 years old,) I've kind of stopped comparing myself to other people and what they've learned and thinking that I'm not good enough or as good of a teacher as so and so or gosh I don't remember this. I had this really awesome epiphany the other day where I realized, I've known this but I really got it in a new way, that everybody has their own unique gift and everybody has their experience. That's going to come through with their teaching. For example, if somebody isn't interested in a yoga class because they tried it once. I'll say well try different one because you never know what the next person has studied. Even if they studied the exact same thing as the last class you went to they interpreted it differently. They retained whatever they were meant to retain, then they deliver it in their own unique way as well. That's really helped too, just be proud of what I retained and how I deliver the message instead of worrying about not retaining what somebody else retained and always being open to learning more.
Brenda: Tell me what you KNOW to be true about the prenatal and postpartum period. What would you say is in your bones that you know is true about that time period for families?
Hannah: Oh, that’s a lot of stuff to say.
Brenda: One thing that you know is true.
Hannah: Gosh, I think I might go back to it's a really sacred time. I think I have two different answers, one for the prenatal mother. I think I might have three answers, one for the mother, one for the father and one for the family. For the mother, you know we we definitely want to keep our bodies safe in our pregnancy, before and after. The stronger we can be the better. Then to do your exercises and your yoga and your poses and everything in a really safe way. I think that I experienced every possible ailment that you could potentially experience and learned from my mistakes. I like to help moms to not go through what I went through. To help them have the easiest time possible. Also to include the dads, we learned that a lot in Birthing From Within. I really appreciate that or the partners, because the mother is growing a child and that's huge and the partner is growing a whole new set of emotions and grooves in their brain and neurological pathways are being created. They are going through a lot too and sometimes they just get tossed aside and no one asks how they are doing. You know that's important to make that more commonplace, checking in with the other half. As a family, gosh, taking that time to really enjoy each moment I guess you could say, without being too redundant. I know with my second child, I'm not doing more than two, I know people have multiple and they can probably give me a good lesson or two about this, I'm still working on it but with with my first child really just including her every step of the way. Making her feel a part of it. She was there when I took my pregnancy test. She was there at the birth. She helped me for a while until I was in too much pain and then she went to her grandparent’s house. Then she was the very first person who got to meet Paisley when she was born and she is still jealous. I feel like that really helped a lot to make her feel really loved. Then with a spouse too it's always a struggle making everybody feel equally important and like they’re a top priority. That is a challenge and a balancing act. I don't know if I'll ever figure that one out but I'm working on it all the time.
Brenda: Do you have anything else you would like people to know about you, about your practice, your studio, anything else?
Hannah: Yes, I would love to. Thank you. I really like to cater to regular people. We have fun in my class. We make jokes. It's not super serious. I like to talk about yoga and what it means and I'll weave in those lessons I feel like that's really important. I'll try and weave that in in fun and lighthearted way. I think my biggest thing is I see myself as a community builder, like I said. My biggest thing is to make people feel safe and comfortable. I feel like from the feedback I’ve gotten that's what they get from my class. I don't want anyone to feel out of place like they don't know what's going on, like they’re the oddball out. In my mama classes or my regular classes, it's really important that they understand why we say om, why we say namaste. I explain it and sometimes I'm an over-explainer and I'm redundant but it's important to know that. I think I practiced yoga for 12 years, (this might've been my fault that I didn't go seeking it out but I expected a teacher to tell me,) I think I practiced for 12 or 15 years before I had a clue what om or namaste meant. I just knew you said that in class and I always felt kind of ridiculous saying it. I see the looks on faces when we say it. People feel awkward and so I break the ice and we break it down. We talk about it and I try and have a good time. Also being a musician I love music. I love going to classes that are quiet sometimes too and listening to the breath. I do love that but we don't really do that in my class. I always have a playlist. Sometimes I sing at the end of class and play. For me and my own personal practice that’s what moves me and helps me so I like to do that in class. I have a lot of moms asking if they can have my playlist. So I’ll publish them for them. In this studio, what I like about it, we are in a house. We are in a neighborhood so it's not a huge space. We can't have packed classes. I think the most packed we can realistically have is 15, we would be mat to mat. I want to have classes small, maybe 12 max. People can really get that individualized attention and they don't have to be doing it the wrong way or feeling like something is uncomfortable. Also with the mama classes, well, all of the classes we have I have space between the classes because I want to allow time for people to connect and establish their relationship. We’ve got this huge deck and we can have tea and hang out on the deck. After the mommy and me classes we can walk couple houses down to our neighborhood playground and play there and pack a lunch. It’s about fun and building community, feeling safe and learning and growing being our best selves.
To get more information about Hannah and the classes she offers at Sweet Harmony Yoga, go to her website at www.sweetharmonyyoga.com.