Here at the Center for Sacred Window Studies, we share voices from many perspectives and backgrounds. We believe that the sacred weeks post birth, and the experience of humanity is experienced in countless ways. We learn by listening to one another and honoring our stories. The views and opinions of our writers do not necessarily reflect the mission, viewpoints or opinions of the Center for Sacred Window Studies.
Here and Now Motherhood is a nonprofit organization dedicated to Ayurvedic postpartum support and nourishing heroic mothers during all phases of motherhood.
I’m Nicole Hunt, the founder and director of Here and Now Motherhood – and I’m a mom too. My postpartum journey has not been easy; and Ayurveda and yoga have helped me find balance and peace.
What is Here and Now Motherhood?
I started Here and Now Motherhood as a way to support moms. Our mission as a nonprofit is to support women during matrescence. Matrescence is the transition into motherhood (think adolescence, but for moms.) This transition period lasts for at least ten years after birth. At Here and Now Motherhood, we use yoga and Ayurveda to nourish and support mothers during this often challenging time.
After over three days of labor and three hours of pushing, I gave birth to my beautiful son. It was the most incredible experience of my life! As soon as my epidural wore off, however, I started feeling pain on the exterior of my hips. I asked my postpartum nurses if this was normal, and didn’t receive any suggestions or help. While an OB/GYN did offer a support band, I was still in pain months after leaving the hospital. Over five medical professionals (including a pelvic floor physical therapist) brushed my pain aside — I felt discouraged and frustrated.
During an appointment I made with a midwife to address breastfeeding issues, I brought up my pain. The midwife answered, “Well you just had a baby.” I became really frustrated at that point, and I snapped, “Yes, but am I supposed to be in THIS much pain?” With a deadpan look on her face, the midwife asked me, “How’s your mental health?” As if to say that my perception of these physical problems were a result of a mental health problem.
I’m glad she checked in on my mental health. The only problem was that this wasn’t a mental problem; it seemed like a physical injury.
Feeling resigned, I thought to myself, “Well, I guess this is what postpartum is like – just being in pain all the time.”
Aside from physical issues, I felt emotionally overwhelmed and exhausted – to say the least. Eventually I was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) due to birth igniting dormant trauma from my childhood. I also discovered I had a short-term hypothyroid problem and diastasis recti.
Yoga as a Solution
At about four months postpartum, I went to a free postpartum yoga class. I’ll admit, I only went because it was free and I could bring my baby with me. My nearest family was 12 hours away, so bringing my baby was really important to me. Still experiencing physical and emotional pain, I was open to whatever yoga could offer. To be honest, I was at wit’s end physically and I felt overwhelmed emotionally.
This yoga class changed my life.
The yoga teacher led the mothers through a move that instantly made the pain in my hips disappear. Finally, I was no longer in pain! Even though I didn’t return to this class, I continued to do that simple exercises on my own any time I had physical pain. Little does this teacher know that she changed my life!
Ayurveda and Trauma
While attending a prenatal yoga teacher training, I heard the teacher mention Ayurveda in passing: “Ayurveda is about the different seasons of life, which is useful for pregnancy.” I frantically scribbled a misspelled version of Ayurveda down in my notebook, with stars surrounding it, making a note to look into it more later.
As soon as I could, I started devouring everything I could read about Ayurveda, loving how it described so much of my postpartum experience – from a year and half of constipation caused by a postpartum vata imbalance, to scanty sleep and low-grade worry.
I started to experiment in the kitchen with kaphogenic foods that had grounding effects.
At that time, I was also working through a PTSD diagnosis using eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) with a therapist. The therapy was helpful, and Ayurveda took my trauma healing to the next level. By eating grounding foods, I felt a huge shift emotionally and physically. Not only did my constipation improve (not TMI if you’re a postpartum caregiver or mom), but I finally felt relaxed, calm, and steady after a year and a half of feeling overwhelmed. I moved from task to task with ease, calmness, and bliss – all from learning how to eat grounding foods that were vata-pacifying. Triggers no longer had such a profound impact on me, and my PTSD improved greatly.
I saw the progress I had made with the help of Ayurveda when I was in a situation that normally would have ignited me: While driving in the car, my husband made a driving suggestion. It seems small, but usually this sort of thing would trigger me, and I would take hours to emotionally calm back down. After incorporating Ayurveda into my life though, I felt grounded and calm. I made the suggested correction and continued my conversation with my husband.
My husband Jeremy said, “Wait, can we talk about that? That was incredible.” Even he could see the shift in me that Ayurveda had caused.
Not only did Ayurveda fix my digestive and emotional imbalances, it also aided in my trauma recovery. You can see why I’m kind of obsessed with Ayurveda!
When I started the mom-centered yoga program at Here and Now Motherhood, I wanted to incorporate yoga and Ayurveda in order to help mothers through providing practical and simple tips for moms to feel more balanced during the postpartum period. Mom-centered yoga combines yoga with Ayurveda, guiding mothers through vata imbalances with love and care.
Through postpartum yoga, teachers at Here and Now Motherhood generously support mothers during the overwhelming postpartum period.
These classes encourage grounding, relaxing, and getting out of our heads while centering on pacifying vata.
Prenatal classes are gentle with cooling pranayama to help mom feel more comfortable during pregnancy. Cooling pranayama are breathing exercises that can decrease pitta dosha, both calming an angry mood or cooling down the body temperature-wise. During pregnancy, women often feel physically warm or can feel like their emotions flair easily. These targeted breathing exercises help soothe those aspects of pregnancy.
During all yoga classes, Here and Now Motherhood provides free childcare. Babies often have a lot of love and support postpartum, but mothers don’t receive much attention and care. In order to fully focus on Mom and let her completely relax, Here and Now Motherhood provides free childcare. This way Mom gets a moment to herself, and finally has a chance to receive the targeted care she needs.
Postpartum Caregiving + Sacred Window Studies
The deeper I got into developing Here and Now Motherhood’s yoga program and started connecting with other maternal health professionals, the more I realized that I was offering yoga classes from a doula perspective. I was sharing Ayurvedic information pertinent to new moms, teaching vata-pacifying poses, and supporting the lowering of vata dosha by connecting mothers. Because I had my own personal experience to go off of, and had read a ton of books, I knew I was heading in the right direction. But after connecting with other doulas, I realized that getting some specialized training would be necessary.
After doing some Googling, I discovered that there was such a thing as an “AyurDoula!” I started getting really excited. This is exactly what I was looking for: the Ayurvedic postpartum doula profession! I found ayurdoula.com, and saw that Charlotte was an instructor at the Center for Sacred Window Studies. After looking through their website, I found out that CSWS also offers a work-study tuition option.
Okay, now I was really intrigued.
I set up a phone call with Christine Eck, the director of the school, and learned a little bit more about what they do. I was curious if they focused on cooking, and to my delight, yes they do! Food has been such an important part of my personal Ayurvedic journey that I was so excited to learn more about that. Christine explained that food was a large focus of the training, and that we would be doing cooking in our own kitchens.
I was also thrilled to see that we would study breastfeeding, as well as receiving training in how to support mothers with herbs. Though I nursed my son, I felt a little inadequate at helping other mothers. I love that this program comes from an Ayurvedic perspective even with breastfeeding.
When I learned that this course was not only online, but that if I couldn’t make it to the live class, I could watch the videos later — I was sold. Being a mom of a 2-year old and running a nonprofit means that I need that flexibility. I applied to the work-study program and was so excited to get it!
Receiving training and certification from the Center for Sacred Window Studies is an exciting opportunity for me because I will be able to clearly explain the perspective my nonprofit comes from.