How to Use Yoga to Support your Motherhood Journey (without studios or expensive pants)
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Every mom needs more help than we get. But if you’re a new mom struggling with anxiety and depression, it can be difficult to reach out for support. With or without a diagnosis of PMADs, you deserve help—and yoga therapy may provide just the tools you need to address any physical or emotional imbalances you are experiencing. The best part? Much of it can be done while you’re holding a baby or lying down. No mat required.
Suzannah Neufeld is a licensed psychotherapist and certified yoga therapist in private practice out of the Bay Area. She has 15 years of experience supporting people coping with eating disorders, body image concerns, anxiety, and pregnancy and early parenthood. Suzannah speaks regularly on the topics of eating disorders, body image, perinatal mood disorders, and yoga therapy for organizations like the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists, Postpartum Support International, and About-Face. Her first book, Awake at 3 a.m.: Yoga Therapy for Anxiety and Depression in Pregnancy and Early Motherhood, was published in 2018.
Today, Suzannah joins us to share her definition of yoga, discussing the difference between its true intention and how it’s been marketed in Western culture. She offers her take on the idea of self-care and explains why she advocates for responsiveness to your body instead. Suzannah also addresses what she calls the ‘all-natural mandate’ and the judgement and shame pregnant women and new moms feel around food. Listen in for Suzannah’s insight on the distinction between PMADs and the baby blues, the value in researching therapists before the baby comes, and how she leverages yoga therapy to help moms with anxiety and depression.
Suzannah’s definition of yoga
- Practices to connect body, heart and mind
- Provide clarity and meaningful existence
The 3 key components of Suzannah’s practice
- Breathing techniques—pranayama
- Philosophical tools (e.g.: inward focus, compassion)
The true intention of yoga
- Not about certain body type, structure
- Dropping into body to access freedom
Suzannah’s take on the idea of self-care
- Focus on self disregards community as source
- Activities often require time or money
Why Suzannah advocates for responsiveness to your body
- Act on need to rest, relationship with food
- Yoga affords opportunity to learn to listen
The difference between PMADs and the baby blues
- Distinction in duration, severity of symptoms
- Emotional, behavioral and thought indicators
Suzannah’s insight on creating a postpartum plan
- Deserve help with or without diagnosis
- Interview therapists while pregnant
How PMADs might show up in unexpected ways
- Anxiety (normal vs. interfering)
- Rage that makes you ashamed
How Suzannah uses yoga to help moms with PMADs
- Get present in body, notice areas of tension
- Address imbalances with poses or practices
- Many can be done holding baby, lying down
Suzannah’s view of the ‘all-natural mandate’
- Perception that yoga means eating clean
- Judgement that hurting baby if don’t
- Another way of policing women’s bodies
How to recover from shame around food
- Do what’s right for you, find support
- Know people will say unhelpful things
Suzannah’s top advice around yoga and mental health
- Medication can be helpful (not ‘easy way out’)
- Yoga won’t fix, but will provide solace
Connect with Suzannah
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Resources Mentioned in the Episode:
Awake at 3 a.m.: Yoga Therapy for Anxiety and Depression in Pregnancy and Early Motherhood by Suzannah Neufeld
Body Full of Stars: Female Rage and My Passage into Motherhood by Molly Caro May
Mindful Birthing: Training the Mind, Body, and Heart for Childbirth and Beyond by Nancy Bardacke
Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction
Yoga Rising: 30 Empowering Stories from Yoga Renegades for Every Body by Melanie C. Klein
Yoga and Body Image: 25 Personal Stories About Beauty, Bravery & Loving Your Body by Melanie C. Klein