Ana Davis - Bliss Baby Blog
Introducing Bliss Baby Yoga's New Zealand Course Facilitator - Jennifer Allen
This month we profile one of Bliss Baby Yoga’s senior course facilitators, Jennifer Allen, who leads our New Zealand courses. Once a professional dancer, Jennifer now shares her joy of movement through yoga and pilates. As a mother of two, Jennifer has experienced first-hand the benefits of a regular yoga practice to support her through the life-changing journey of pregnancy, birth and motherhood, and is keen to share her knowledge and experience.
How long have you been teaching yoga, in particular prenatal yoga?
I started teaching general yoga classes about nine years ago, primarily in Vinyasa Yoga. Then about six years ago, when I was completing my Level 2 training with the Byron Yoga Centre, I met Ana Davis. With a particular interest in yoga for women, I felt really drawn to her energy and teaching style and so I completed the Bliss Baby Yoga Prenatal teacher training. Prenatal yoga for me at the time was new and exciting and I was in love with it immediately. I fell pregnant soon after my training and I started teaching almost immediately after completing the course.
About two and a half years ago I reconnected with Ana on a trip to Byron Bay and herein blossomed our working relationship and bringing the Bliss Baby Yoga teachings to New Zealand.
How has your background in professional dance influenced your journey with yoga?
At the age of 23 I suffered a serious spinal injury. Whilst I continued to perform for a few years following the accident, it made me aware of just how much I had been treating my body like it was invincible. I needed to find another way to express myself that was safer and more nurturing to my body.
I started taking pilates classes which lead to a job teaching Pilates at a yoga studio. I was entitled to free yoga classes there and found myself taking 2-3 classes a day and simply loving it. I really enjoyed the way it created the same sense of connectedness with my body as dancing did, but I walked away from a class without the pain that dancing left me with.
Yoga has become a permanent replacement for dancing - I don’t dance anymore. So much has changed in my body over the years and I have relied on my yoga to stabilise injuries and connect to my body. On a physical level yoga has helped me to stay strong.
There was a definite process of letting go of dancing, but there was never any resentment. As I was replacing my dancing with yoga, all these amazing teachings were emerging that smoothed out the transition for me. Yoga taught me to let go of the past and any sensations of guilt for not continuing to dance.
What drives your passion for prenatal yoga?
As a mother to two young children, I have been through two very different experiences of pregnancy, labour and childbirth. My first was a relatively good pregnancy but a very long, unprogressive labour, which lead to an assisted delivery.
In my second pregnancy I experienced severe morning sickness, which in the end immobilised me up until two months before his delivery. As a result, my yoga practice was pared back to pranayama and meditation as any gross movement made me very unwell. Two months before he was born, I had a burst of energy and was able to prepare for the birth, which turned out to be a delightfully lucid five hour natural birth.
So now, with these very unique experiences under my belt and having been introduced to new motherhood twice, I am ten times more passionate about prenatal yoga.
I think there is a great deal of expectation for women to be everything to everyone. If we afford ourselves the opportunity to be still in meditation, come back to our natural breath and be spacious in our bodies and movement, we are so much more able to cope with the outside fluctuations of life.
What are the opportunities for Prenatal Yoga Teachers in New Zealand?
When I moved to Auckland six years ago, there were very few teachers catering specifically to pregnant women and new mothers. Whilst the community has evolved a lot since then, particularly since the establishment of Lululemon and their supportive marketing campaigns, there is still enormous opportunity for teachers to specialise in prenatal and postnatal yoga.
Many of the teachers that attend the Bliss Baby Prenatal Yoga Teacher Training courses that I facilitate, start the course by saying that if a pregnant woman walked into their class they wouldn’t know the first thing to do with her. But by the end of the training they are more than capable and confident to hold that space for a pregnant woman. So much of this is owed to Ana’s course and the journey that it takes them on.
What do you love most about facilitating the Bliss Baby Yoga Prenatal and Postnatal Teacher Training courses?
Teaching teachers is my dharma. Whilst I love my weekly classes teaching the general public, there is something extremely satisfying about being able to shape new teachers in a discipline that requires a great of deal of understanding in how to teach pregnant women safely. They have to learn how to cater to each woman’s individual needs, which is more challenging than a general class of relatively healthy beings.
It takes a special gift to be able to create an environment that nurtures each woman and her baby individually. My goal through the Bliss Baby Yoga trainings is to give teachers the knowledge and confidence of how to keep the women safe and to provide them with an individual space in their practice.
As this skill is something that needs to be built up gradually, I often keep in touch with and mentor the teachers after they have completed the training.
Jennifer will facilitate the Bliss Baby Auckland Prenatal Yoga Teacher Training weekend intensive at the Golden Yogi Studio, 30 May - 1 June 2015 (Queen's Birthday Long Weekend). Click here for more information.
-By Abigail Bennett