Studio spotlight: Yo Mama Yoga and Family Center

Katie Wise build a business around prenatal and family yoga. Learn how she did it.

Twelve years ago, when yoga teacher Katie Wise did a private lesson in her pregnant friend’s backyard, she found her calling. “It was just magical,” she said. “I had been teaching regular yoga for a while, and I just felt like there was this extra level of miracle going on that was more than just teaching to a body.”

Fast-forward to 2006. Wise, who now has two children ages 4 and a half and 15 months, had been teaching prenatal classes in studios but found that because of the smaller class size (“Pregnant women graduate!” Wise joked), studios were hesitant to give up slots for this type of class. She also found a greater need for pregnant yoginis in her community, and so Yo Mama Yoga and Family Center in Santa Monica, Calif., was born. Two years later, Wise and her husband, John, moved to her hometown Boulder, Colo., where she quickly found out she was pregnant with her first child. “I was painting the studio in my first trimester and getting everything ready,” she said. “We opened the studio then; I was walking around Boulder as a walking advertisement for my studio with my pregnant belly.”

Wise fell in love with prenatal yoga and “never looked back.” She considers prenatal yoga an added level of preparing for childbirth. “Yoga asks us to be flexible and present and really listen to our bodies,” Wise said. “And when you’re pregnant, you’re forced into that space because your center of gravity, your waistline, your physical shape are changing literally every week.” And yoga can help alleviate many of the common symptoms found in pregnant women, including low back pain, sciatica, pubic symphysis pain, nausea, insomnia and many more.

One of Wise’s techniques includes guiding the women into postures for five to eight minutes, what she calls “keep-ups,” that are meant to help prepare women for the process of childbirth. “The moms are going crazy because in most yoga classes you don’t hold postures for more than about a minute,” she said. “Sometimes they question why they’re doing it. There’s a level of physical challenge that birth can require of women. Pregnancy is a year of going beyond your physical limitations. I want to give women a mini-taste of that in prenatal yoga in a way that’s safe.”

Yo Mama offers not only prenatal yoga, but also post-natal yoga including Mommy & Me, that caters to newborns to 1-year olds; Core & Restore, for new mothers to focus on core work and restorative postures; Family Yoga, which invites new parents and grandparents to enjoy yoga as a unit; and Kids Yoga, for children to experience yoga on their own. There’s also Yoga for Fertility, where Yo Mama partners with Colorado Center for Reproductive Medicine to help prepare women for pregnancy.

In addition to yoga classes, Yo Mama really focuses on the family and community. Wise, who trained as a doula in 2003, has attended about 200 births. She calls Yo Mama a “home for women during their whole pregnancy.” Pediatric CPR, baby massage, breastfeeding support and community acupuncture are just a sample of the classes and workshops offered at Yo Mama. And Wise doesn’t exclude the fathers; the studio hosts events like “Daddy Stag Night” that encourage new fathers to get together for different activities like card tournaments or liquor tastings. There are weekly classes for partners to attend classes with the pregnant women, and Yo Mama hosts “date night” classes once a month as well.

And to round out Yo Mama’s services, Wise offers a Yoga Alliance–certified teacher training twice a year. It teaches not only how yoga can benefit pregnant women, but also the anatomy and physiology of pregnancy, how to build community and the baby’s experience.

Wise is always inspired by prenatal and post-natal yoga. “It’s an incredible spiritual journey a women is on,” she said, “whether she had ever considered herself on a spiritual journey or not; she is just by being pregnant.”

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