Toronto Yoga Mamas is a studio and wellness centre for new moms and babies in Leslieville. It was my maternity leave sanctuary. The year I spent there after the birth of my daughter was a dreamy and happy time. I learned to be a mom in their gentle, warm and welcoming environment. The community it came with stretched beyond my time there and their support helped me evolve to take on another new role as mompreneur (mom + entrepreneur). Here’s the story of how The Urban Nursery took root at Toronto Yoga Mamas.
Yoga Mamas describes themselves as “a community of mamas supporting each other through the spirit of yoga, wellness and parenting” and in my experience, this is not only true but it’s just the beginning of the spark that it can put into an amazing new phase of a woman’s life.
I tried a free mom and baby yoga class and was hooked as soon as I entered their light and airy space. Shortly after, I took advantage of a special on the nine-month unlimited yoga pass. I couldn’t resist the opportunity to make this place a part of my new mom story. I looked forward to being immersed in their tranquil spa like environment anytime I wanted to do yoga, heal and spend quality time with my baby.
It wasn’t long before it became routine to pack up my little one and head over to yoga mamas to start my day. Some days, I felt I was living the idyllic new mom life in Leslieville. On others, I felt like a failure and a hot mess but no matter what I had been through the previous night, the mad scramble it took to get out of the house, the state of my unwashed hair and my baby’s last minute diaper explosion, I would always manage to brave the world and make it to my mom and baby yoga class.
I remember walking into the studio, shedding our outerwear and leaving the outside world behind. I would breathe in the gentle scent of essential oil and feel like I’d pressed the reset button on my day. It’s as if the serene atmosphere could still the chaos and drama that sometimes comes with a newborn. I’d walk past the pretty things in the retail area and note the items I wanted to pick up or add to my holiday lists. Pondering, I’d take the steps to the upper level where warm tea and lemon water is offered outside of the yoga studios.
Inside the studio, each place setting was carefully prepared in advance, making you feel even more welcome than the friendly faces and caring staff that greeted you downstairs. I’d settle in to nurse my baby before the class began. I’d breathe and take in the soft light coming in through the historic loft windows and feel the meditative effect before the class even began. I would look around to see the faces in the class I recognized and I remember feeling comforted as the regulars smiled at me and said hello from across the room. I felt like I belonged there.
I loved how the instructor would begin class by asking a contemplative question that would often resonate with me for the rest of the day. They might ask us to consider a milestone that baby had recently achieved, a moment where we felt we needed help, what we were most grateful for that day, what we wished for our baby, a great piece of advice we had received, or what motherhood had taught us so far. We would go around the room introducing ourselves and answering the question of the day. For a moment, we got an intimate glimpse of the women in the room. This shared experience over time bonded us to one another and created connections with people we might never have had the opportunity to know, otherwise. The struggles and suggestions shared by this community helped shape the way we navigated this monumental time. It was inspiring.
The instructor would sometimes ask if we were experiencing any physical pain that we wanted to address and customized the practice to accommodate. We would get into the yoga and it was exactly what I needed, every time. It frequently targeted the sore neck and upper back that so many moms experience from caring for a newborn. The classes were healing, gentle and forgiving with variations always provided. You could stop to tend to your baby at any time and take everything at your own pace. The closing ten minutes were reserved for a glorious shavasana and if your baby allowed, you might even be able to sneak in a quick nap, like me.
Class would end in a namaste and I remember beaming with gratitude every time. The end of class was usually spent socializing as we finished our tea and packed up. Sometimes, a group of us would go for a coffee, lunch, or a walk after class, and other times, I would head home with a lighter step. I couldn’t help but feel so much gratitude to have this opportunity to focus on this new motherhood journey with my baby, to be present and to grow in a nourishing space with a community of people who would unexpectedly lift each other up during their shared experience. It gave me the routine of practicing gratitude and I’ve taken that with me a long way since those mom and baby yoga classes.
This spark from my time at Yoga Mamas has flourished into a confident sense of self in my new role as a mom (now of two) and lead to a change in my career path a few years later.
I convinced a friend I met during mat leave to get a 9 month pass with me and it brought us so close, that we started a business together. Beyond that, we made friendships with other moms that helped us along our journey. Mompreneurs featured at Yoga Mamas socials were so kind, they’ve not only offered us advice but have become our friends. We even met the moms who would go onto open local boutique, August Kinn and were the first retail store to carry our brand. The team at Yoga Mamas have been so supportive as we’ve built our business and now, it feels like it’s come full circle as we’ll be popping up at their upcoming holiday social. It’s a kind of support I never expected as one of the women who were there, just learning how to care for their baby and hoping to do some stretching.
The Yoga Mamas About Us page says “Our centre creates opportunities for the mamas to stay connected, build friendships and learn from each other as new parents.” I’d say that’s only the beginning of what this beautiful, confidence-building, multi-faceted wellness space can do for you.
Check them out at the links below.
Toronto Yoga Mamas: https://www.torontoyogamamas.com
Mama Group: https://www.torontoyogamamas.com/mama-group.html
Yoga Babies: https://www.torontoyogamamas.com/yoga-babies.html
Free Mom and Baby Drop In: https://www.torontoyogamamas.com/free-mama-cafe.html
Selen and Bekki from The Urban Nursery at Toronto Yoga Mamas in 2016.