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Welcome to my blog


This blog is for sharing interesting information about yoga, pregnancy, birth, parenting and anything else I think you might be interested in!


I will also post related local events here.

By Tessa of, Jul 22 2016 04:01PM

As some of you will know, I love going to bellydancing lessons and it's all thanks to Helen and her bellydancing academy. From watching the other women in class and at the shows, and reflecting on my own experience, bellydancing seems to be fantastic for body confidence and getting in touch with your feminine side. It seems to me that yoga and bellydancing complement each other perfectly so we got together so I could ask her some questions about exactly these things...

Helen has been a professional bellydance instructor, mentor and performer and blogger since 2005 when she founded the Santa Maria Bellydance Academy. Since then she has helped hundreds of women feel confident about themselves by bringing bellydance into their weekly routine. For information on how to join classes at her school, go to Why not get started right away in the comfort of your own home? For your free online beginner class with Helen plus regular tips and tutorials click here.

Tessa has been teaching yoga for 15 years and specialises in Pregnancy Yoga, Mother & Baby Yoga and Yoga for Women - basically yoga for every stage of a woman's life! She also hosts the Caversham Red Tent - a women's social circle where we talk about all the things you really want to know about. She is also starting a new Dancing for Birth class in September for pregnant women to stay active while expecting, receive practical antenatal education and most of all have fun! Visit to find out more. For regular class updates and free resources, click here.

By Tessa of, Jul 5 2016 08:39AM

In the pregnancy yoga classes that I teach, I'm always talking about the importance of being able to move your pelvis to help your baby move through more easily. Recently, I've also been talking about how you can physically make more space through the pelvic girdle. Here are three documents that illustrate what I'm talking about: Diagram of female pelvis; Pelvic inlet and outlet; and Increasing the spine to pelvis angle.

**These documents are part of a super duper new antental education course that I am starting with a multidsciplinary team in January 2017, but it seems mean not to share these with you now**

The 'Diagram of the female pelvis' shows you what your pelvis looks like. It is a different shape from a male pelvis and has evolved to let babies, even big babies, move through. It's really good to relate it to your own body: start with finding the hip bones (labelled iliac crests), then from your navel move down to the pubic symphysis (the pubic bone in the centre, which is front of your urethra), then trace down your spine to the sacrum and feel between the buttocks for the coccyx (tailbone).

The 'Pelvic inlet and outlet' document shows you in life-size that the inlet is widest from side to side and the outlet is widest from front to back. Moving around during labour enables you to get your tailbone and ischial spines out of the way. If women are lying on their back during labour, they will try to push their bottom up away from the bed to enable this 'foetal ejection reflex' or what is called 'opening of the back' in some some cultures.

The increasing the spine to pelvis angle' document shows you the ideal position to be in to increase the space for your baby to get into the optimal position for entering the pelvic inlet. The birth canal isn't straight, but curves and therefore having the front of the pelvis tipped forward gives the baby a lot more space to enter the birth canal in the best position.

You might like to try this exercise at home. Lie briefly on your back to measure from the back of the pubic bone to the sacrum. You are looking for a rough measure not scientific accuracy! Usually you can just reach between the tip of your thumb and middle finger. Then move into the standing posture in the third document. Make sure your hips are higher than your knees, your tailbone is lifting and that your legs are at least hip width apart. Try to measure again and you will no longer be able reach! Add to this the peak of hormones that will be circulating at the end of pregnancy to soften the pelvic joints and the moving you will be doing during birth, and this all adds up to MORE SPACE for the baby to move through!

I would thoroughly recommend The Female Pelvis by B. Calais-Germain and Understanding and Teaching Optimal Foetal Positioning by J. Sutton and P. Scott for more about this topic.

By Tessa of, Apr 25 2016 09:50AM

You may or may not have heard of the Dirty Dozen and the Clean Fifteen. These are lists published each year by the USA Environmental Working Group (EWG) with the fruit and vegetables with the highest concentration of pesticides (Dirty Dozen) and those with the lowest (Clean Fifteen). They also examine the number of different pesticides that each one contains. This is important because research shows that children have "unique susceptibilities to [pesticide residues'] potential toxicity” (American Academy of Pediatrics 2012). The pediatricians' organization cited research that linked pesticide exposures in early life and "pediatric cancers, decreased cognitive function, and behavioral problems."

In the UK we have the Pesticide Action Network (PAN) that has a list that you can find here: This is based on older data, rather than being updated yearly like the US one, but you see the same culprits occurring again and again in the lists. It is also worth knowing that some pesticides that are used in the US are banned in the EU so that can be a reason for fruits and vegetables being in different places in different lists.

The worst fruits listed by PAN are: soft citrus, pineapples, pears, apples, grapes, strawberries, peaches, nectarines and apricots. The worst vegetables are: tomatoes, parsnips, cucumber, carrots, lettuce, beans in a pod, peas in a pod, sweet potatoes, courgettes, marrows and yams.

So what does this mean for you as a shopper? Obviously, I’m not suggesting you avoid eating these foods because a variety of fruit and vegetables are good for you. Instead, I would suggest buying organic for those that are on the worst list. This means that you don’t have the cost of buying everything organic if you can’t afford to, but can be selective in where you put your money. Not listed there, but also susceptible to high concentrations of pesticides are leafy greens so better to buy your salad leaves, kale etc as organic produce or, better still, grow your own! So if you are starting solids with your little one, you might want to buy organic apples for him/her to eat. Very often, especially in season, a bag of organic apples is as little as 5p more expensive than the normal produce. Or if you are pregnant, you might decide to buy the organic tomatoes and salad leaves, and forgo that Costa Coffee drink.

A study by Cynthia Curl of the University of Washington found that people who report they "often or always" buy organic produce had significantly less organophosphate insecticides in their urine samples, even though they reported eating 70 percent more servings of fruits and vegetables per day than adults reporting they "rarely or never" purchase organic produce (Curl 2015). Obviously pesticides are healthy for anyone, but several long-term observational studies have indicated that organophosphate insecticides may impair children’s brain development so it’s a particular worry for little ones. Although some cynics say the amounts of pesticides are minimal (in studies using rats to rate toxicity), I think they are missing the point! It is the accumulation of pesticides over a lifetime that is problematic. These toxins aren’t water-soluble like Vitamin C for example.

So, I suggest you shop clever. Write a list of the worst culprits and see what the difference in cost is when you buy organic. Balance these with the fruit and veg on the clean list so it doesn’t break the bank balance.

PS See my other blog on what’s in your toiletries.

AAP 2012. Organic Foods: Health and Environmental Advantages and Disadvantages. American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Nutrition and Council on Environmental Health. e1406 -e1415. DOI: 10.1542/peds.2012-2579.

Curl CL, Beresford SAA, Fenske RA, et al. 2015. Estimating Pesticide Exposure from Dietary Intake and Organic Food Choices: The Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA). Environmental Health Perspectives. Advanced publication February 5, 2015. DOI: 10.1289/ehp1408197

By Tessa of, Feb 14 2016 08:48PM

I am always thrilled to hear about the births of babies from my pregnancy yoga classes. You can read the birth stories and see the lovely photos at I'm even more thrilled when I hear that the yoga has helped in some way during the pregnancy, birth or afterwards. Here are the Top 5 benefits (amongst many!) that I have compiled from the new mums who've attend my classes and birth preparation workshops.

1. Stay calm using the power of the breath

Sometimes people look at me like "Why do you need to teach pregnant women to breath? We're all breathing, all the time." However, most of the time we breathe automatically and take it very much for granted. The most common comment from new mums is that the breathing techniques and awareness that they learned during the class made all the difference, and very often meant that they were able to birth their baby with gas and air alone (if that's what they wanted). They often describe how midwives were impressed with their calm breathing and focus through their birthing journeys, even when it didn't go as planned.

When you practice different breathing techniques, you begin to understand how your breath can have a huge impact on your state of mind and level of relaxation. And relaxation is essential to a smooth birthing journey. If you remain relaxed, your body can get on with what it knows how to do. The golden thread breath is fantastic and you can see a video of it here:

[Photo from Tina Cleary of Expecting Photography]

2. Empowered about your role in the birth

Occasionally I will hear a story about an expectant mum who experiences regular uterine contractions, is asked to come on into hospital, only for them to fade on arrival and to be sent home. This is SO disappointing when you thought you'd be meeting your baby soon. Sometimes this is because the woman felt vunerable and unsure when she arrived at the unfamiliar enviroment of the hospital.

In contrast, I know midwives who say that they know when a woman has done pregnancy yoga or hypnobirthing because she is confident when she arrives. Looking around to see what she can use - maybe a birthing ball, or leaning into the wall to ride the surge of a uterine contraction. She will be focused or in 'The Zone', using relaxation techniques that she has practiced beforehand. Birthing partners who have attended my birth preparation workshops also comment that they feel useful during the birth: they can offer practical and emotional support, be an advocate for their special lady in this unique journey. My greatest wish is that a woman feels like she has been empowered by the experience of birth (even if it was not exactly how she imagined it!) and rose to the challenge of this rite of passage.

3. Space to enjoy your pregnancy

If you're busy at work, doing DIY to get the house ready for your baby or already have children, it can be hard to stop and have time to connect with your baby and enjoy the pregnancy. Having a weekly pregnancy yoga class gives you the space to prepare emotionally. In addition, the yoga movements support you physically to enjoy a healthy pregnancy. As the weeks pass, the classes show you how to move as your baby gets bigger and you may feel uncomfortable (although I'm sure you'll be blooming on the outside!) Occasionally, an expectant mum may develop something like pelvic pain or wrist pain, and with the experience of hundreds of women coming through my classes I am able to show her how to manage these side effects of pregnancy until the baby is born.

Most importantly, expectant women enjoy the relaxation during the class and from the free downloads that are available from my website. It is essential that the expectant mum goes into the birth with her energy levels high, batteries full-charged for the journey ahead, rather than being depleted from 'finishing everything before the baby comes'. This can mean that rather than a cascade of interventions happening when she is exhausted, you are maximising your change of an intervention-free birth and an alert baby on arrival, ready to feed.

4. Trust the natural process of birth

In the pregnancy yoga classes and birth preparation workshops, I hope that expectant parents come to believe in the natural process of birth that has served us well for millenia! Although over the past decades, birth has become medicalised and moved into hospital (as shown in recent episodes of Call the Midwife), in a normal, healthy pregnancy there is absolutely no reason why a woman cannot manage the birthing journey, and dare I say it, enjoy it (as some might enjoy a marathon!) In the Pregnancy and Birth Colouring Book that I illustrated last summer, I wanted to give expectant mamas the chance to reflect on how amazing their bodies are and see how there are lotsof options when it comes to birthing your baby.

We are used to seeing women lying on their backs or with their feet in stirrups for birth on TV, but there are so many positions you can give birth in: on all fours, squatting, lying on your side if tired, in water.... During the yoga classes we practice these positions so that they begin to feel natural. Then during the birth you will find the position that suits you and your baby, and you will trust your instinct to move around. When you learn in the classes about how changing the position of your pelvis can help your baby's journey, or the amazing interplay between your baby and your body, you may even be excited about the birth.

5. Quicker recovery after birth

There are several ways in which pregnancy yoga aids your postnatal recovery. During the pregnancy yoga classes, we practice pelvic floor exercises to prepare for birth. By using those muscles, you aid circulation to keep them healthy, but also are able to relax them in preparation for dilation (the opening of the cervix to allow your baby passage through the birth canal). When you are in the habit of practicing these exercises antenatally, it is much easier to remember to do them postnatal to aid any healing that is needed (e.g. around stiches). A good tip is to do some pelvic floor squeezes every time you feed your baby.

In addition, by exercising safely during pregnancy, it is possible to keep tone around the abdominal area. Although some women may find that they have a separation of the abdominal muscles (diastasis recti), it is much easier to fuse these muscles back together when you were in shape previously. If you have been careful during pregnancy, when ligaments are more likely to stretch due to the relaxing relaxin hormone, then you are likely to get moving more readily.

It is important to be patient with your body though. If it has taken 9 months to grow a baby, I think you owe yourself at least that amount to getting back to your 'pre-pregnancy' body. Having attended pregnancy yoga classes, I find mums are more likely to be patient with their bodies. My Mother & Baby Yoga DVD introduces yoga practices at a kind pace so that you can enjoy the fourth trimester with your baby and increase stability and strength at a sustainable level.

I hope I've convinced you that pregnancy yoga is very beneficial. I'd love to hear how pregnancy yoga has helped you in your pregnancy so please leave a comment below.

Best wishes for YOUR birth!

Tessa x

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