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Vancouver yoga class caters to expecting and new mothers

Posted July 15

— Molly McAllister took a deep breath and prepared to go into the downward dog pose. She spread her hands apart, tucked her toes and lifted her knees off of the ground. She lowered her head and eased into the yoga pose, stretching her hamstrings.

Then she noticed Jack's diaper needed changing.

The Ridgefield mom quickly broke from the pose and pulled 5-month-old Jack onto a portable changing pad spread out over her yoga mat. She talked to Jack as she quickly swapped out the wet diaper for a dry one.

Meanwhile, the five other women in the yoga class moved on. They shifted into the sitting position and began pelvic floor exercises.

That's when 9-month-old Izebella decided she was ready to eat. Mom Garri Hiles cradled the infant and began nursing her daughter while continuing with pelvic muscle exercises.

Changing dirty diapers. Breastfeeding hungry babies. Soothing fussy babies. It's all OK — encouraged, even — in Daniele Strawmyre's Mommy and Me Yoga class.

"There are no rules in Mommy and Me Yoga," Strawmyre tells the moms before the class begins.

Strawmyre, a 43-year-old mother of two young children, began offering the postpartum yoga classes this spring. The class is open to women who are at least four to six weeks postpartum and their babies.

During the hour-long class, moms perform yoga moves and take breaks to tend to their babies as needed. Sometimes babies are incorporated into the class, such as "walking" on their rear ends and lifting baby while singing "The Grand Old Duke of York" or stretching down to blow raspberries on baby's tummy.

For McAllister, the class offered an opportunity for the new mom to get back into yoga after the birth of her son.

"I like doing yoga, and I don't normally have anyone to watch him while I do yoga," she said.

For Hiles, the class was a chance to try something new.

"I really enjoyed it," she said. "It was my first time doing yoga, even."

Izebella stayed entertained during the class by playing with cellphone cases and chewing on the top of a water bottle. But once she's mobile, Izebella and Hiles will have outgrown the Mommy and Me class.

Once babies are crawling, Strawmyre moves the moms to a different class: Multitasking Mama Yoga, which is for moms with kids younger than 4. That class, Strawmyre says, is a little more chaotic.

"The multitasking class really is a free for all," she said.

Some of the kids want to do the yoga poses, others just want to play. All of it is OK, Strawmyre said. While the class may get interrupted, the goal is still the same as the Mommy and Me class: to let moms do something for themselves.

"Self-care is really important to being a good mom," Strawmyre said.

MOTHER OF INVENTION

Strawmyre was a professional dancer in Philadelphia and taught dance and yoga. After teaching yoga for 10 years, she decided to get her instructor certification.

At the time she began the intensive coursework, she was 6 months pregnant with her son. As part of her training, Strawmyre had an apprenticeship with an instructor who taught mommy and me yoga classes.

"I just got so inspired by teaching pregnant women and new moms because the environment is just magical," Strawmyre said.

Strawmyre took courses in prenatal and postpartum yoga, as well as postpartum doula, childbirth and breastfeeding trainings. She offered some yoga classes to new and expecting moms while in Philadelphia and formed a bond with the women in her class. She leaned on them when her son experienced health issues and when her mother died from cancer.

"I had created this tribe of other moms and other women," she said. "When we moved out here, I was inspired and wanted to do something similar here."

Strawmyre's intention when her family moved west in November 2015 was to live and work in Portland. But after living with her in-laws in Ridgefield and then a rental home in east Vancouver, Strawmyre realized Clark County lacked prenatal and postpartum yoga classes and decided to base her business, ReadySetGrow, in Vancouver.

"Pregnant ladies and new moms don't want to drive into Portland for yoga," she said.

Strawmyre started offering classes after her daughter turned 1 year in March. Currently, she has a prenatal yoga class for expectant moms, a Mommy and Me Yoga class for moms and their babies, and a Multitasking Mama class for moms with kids who are crawling, up to age 4.

The classes are offered at two downtown Vancouver studios, The Yoga Seed and Vancouver Wellness Studio. Strawmyre also offers private, in-home lessons.

As demand for her classes grows, Strawmyre plans to add more group sessions. She already plans to add another Mommy and Me class and two more prenatal sessions this fall. Eventually, she'd like to open her own space and offer kids yoga and dance classes, including classes for children with special needs.

"I haven't been this inspired," she said. "I feel like I can be of service and help others."

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