Lately I’ve been talking with a lot of people who work in fertility, prenatal, labor and postpartum care because my book The Ayurvedic Guide to Fertility just launched. I had been wanting to speak with Jane Austin for a while because she’s been teaching prenatal yoga to thousands of women and their partners for thirty years at one of the San Francisco Bay Area’s largest and oldest yoga studios. We tried to get her on a panel I moderated last month, but we couldn’t get the schedules to sync up, so we decided to do a one-on-one interview together.
I knew of Jane from when I used to live in the trendy Mission District in San Francisco before I was a mother, back when I was basically Mark Zuckerberg’s neighbor! I used to take yoga classes at Yoga Tree Valencia Street, where she taught, and see all the baby strollers parked outside the studio as I was waiting for her Postnatal + Baby Yoga class to end. It was a mysterious world of breastfeeding, diapers and tiny shoes, into which I felt like I was getting a sneak peek.
In her classes, Jane creates the space for pregnant women to connect with their bodies, babies and each other, even when they are on Zoom. She also teaches yoga teachers all around the world how to teach prenatal yoga. Jane says that prenatal yoga helps a woman soften and release to let go into the experience of being pregnant and preparing to give birth. At the same time, she points out that motherhood isn’t always gentle, so preparation for it isn’t always gentle either.
My favorite line from Jane about her own experience of being a mother:
“My needs were part of the equation.”
I was curious about how Jane was facilitating yoga classes on Zoom with the COVID-19 pandemic going on. I had taught yoga for ten years, but always in person. However, since my whole business has moved online since the pandemic started, perhaps I understood a little of what Jane and her students were going through. Jane’s feedback made me realize how important it is for someone to be facilitating connection between women during their pregnancy – even if it’s only a virtual connection. It’s likely the biggest transition any woman will go through in her life, besides her own birth and death. Jane explained the way she makes it work so that her pregnant mamas can still connect with their own bodies, babies and other mamas!
I was also curious about whether Jane has seen a lot of the pregnant women she’s had in her San Francisco classes go through any sort preconception ritual at the start of their fertility journey. I know the benefits of nesting and doing Ayurvedic preconception preparation prior to conceiving, and in my Ayurveda practice I notice that it’s a very rare kind of mindful woman that will seek to start the path to motherhood with that level of consciousness.
Watch or listen to my talk with Jane and hear her riff on why it’s so important for women to be empowered throughout their pregnancy to trust their instincts, have a sense of agency and make their own decisions – no matter which path they took to conception. She’ll get you excited to go deeper into yourself!