Our new Divine Flow blog series features interviews with yogis who inspire us. Next up is London’s Hannah Kluman. Hannah is inspiring for not only her extensive knowledge and experience but for supporting women on the incredible journey of pregnancy. Here she shares her thoughts, motivations and advice for all the Divine Flow mammas out there.
Tell us a bit about yourself
I first came to yoga when I was 19, attending a Saturday morning class at the original Triyoga in Primrose Hill, London. The class was straight after Nadia Narain’s, and I remember always passing these blissed-out woman with blooming bumps coming out of her yoga studio and thinking “Yes. How beautiful. I want to be a part of this world.” Since then, I always had teaching in the back of my mind and, actually, specifically pregnancy teaching. There was something about supporting women during this epic time that really called to me.
Over the next 10 years I developed my practice and training alongside my job in film production to the point at which I could no longer juggle the two, so switched to teaching full-time.
What style/s of yoga do you teach?
I am lucky to have trained with and continue to be taught by some incredible teachers and I have learnt things from everyone – even those whose teachings I may not have enjoyed!
I originally trained in Hatha and Vinyasa yoga with Vidya Jaqueline Heisel and Carl Faure, who are brilliant. I then went on to qualify in Post Natal yoga with the legendary Nadia Narain and lastly Pregnancy Yoga with Uma Tuli Dinsmore. I practice with and am deeply inspired by Julie Martin (Brahmani Yoga), Jean Hall, Calli Popham and Naomi Absalom who, whilst having vastly different voices, share a fluid and embodied approach which is very much at the root of my teachings. So whilst I don’t like to put a label as such on the style that I teach, it has taken influence from all of them.
What is your yoga philosophy?
In a world vying for our attention and moving at an ever-faster pace (especially in a busy city like London), nurturing the ability to remain present is hugely important and at times challenging. It’s not just something you do when you step onto your yoga mat – it’s an ongoing daily practice which the breath helps to facilitate.
Use this breath to listen to your amazingly insightful, intelligent body. It will most likely teach you more than any yoga teacher will, if you really listen. Once you’ve listened to the signals and messages, pause. Then respond in a true, honest, kind manner. This ‘pause’ is an invaluable tool in navigating and processing the craziness of the modern world.
I think even if you are at first drawn to Yoga solely for the physical aspect (Asanas), if practised regularly the spiritual side will eventually swallow you up. The word spiritual can feel a little ethereal to some, but for me it’s not worshiping a god. It’s re-connecting to myself and inhabiting my body. Stripping back the layers of conditioning, stories, ideas and thoughts that consume us on a daily basis to find what’s beneath, what is ultimately always there. I guess coming back to that word: “listening”.
Have a read of Patanjali’s 8-limbed path, that’s a pretty good starting point.
What are the benefits of practicing yoga while pregnant?
For many women, especially first time mummas, pregnancy is a hugely daunting period of their life. Both the physical and emotional body goes through some unbelievably intelligent changes as it creates, nurtures and holds space for this new life.
Through practising pregnancy yoga, the mother can not only relieve physical tension within the body, but also build both physical and inner strength to help overcome and manage many of the ailments that present themselves through pregnancy (and there can be a lot!). We practise asanas, mindfulness and breathing techniques, so that relaxation methods become second nature. These are invaluable tools in preparing not just for the birth itself, but for post natal life with a baby and all of the changes and fluctuations it brings
Pregnancy yoga encourages mums-to-be to bond with their babies through mantras, mudras, visualisations and pranayama. For me, the aim of the class is to provide a safe and welcoming space for these women to be heard and meet other ladies going through a similar time, sharing stories, advice and support. What I see is that this community is stronger than most. Pregnant women have a heightened intuition; it’s pretty incredible to witness and I encourage my students to take advantage of these primal instincts in listening to their bodies and trusting their own inner voice. I want my students to leave feeling nourished and, most of all, empowered.
What if someone is totally new to yoga? Is it okay to start learning pregnant?
Absolutely. Please do. You don’t need experience to practice Pregnancy Yoga, just show up. If you are new to the practice, the one caveat I would make is to go to a Pregnancy Yoga class rather than a general yoga class! I don’t think your baby will appreciate you trying out your first handstand now!!
Is it important for experienced yogis to modify their practice when pregnant?
This is a slightly controversial one and is up for debate. I see many ‘insta-yogis’ doing all sorts throughout their pregnancy, including major back bends like Urdhva Dhanurasana, which to me looks so uncomfortable. I guess there is an argument to say if it truly feels good to you (and this is where honesty kicks in!), then go ahead. For me, personally I would modify my practice to suit my needs. Ask yourself ‘Does it serve me? Does it serve my baby’? and go from there.
What are the key things to remember when practicing pregnancy yoga?
*There are lots of beautiful pranayama (breath) practices to do but avoid ones that include breath retention and kapalabhati as it deprives the flow of oxygen to the baby, as you are breathing for two.
*Avoid using your core (abdominal strength work). Instead work on your arms…. Holding those babies 24/7 is a workout!
*Avoid deep twisting poses.
*Try not to over-stretch. I know you’ll feel all flexible, suddenly able to touch your toes and beyond… but that’s the Relaxin hormone talking.
*Take your time and move slowly. There is no rush.
*Give hot yoga a miss!!
What advice would you like to give to all the mama yogis out there?
You have two hearts right now, you will inevitably feel all the feelings much deeper than before. Your breath is your biggest tool. You got this.