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Ep 120. – The Power of Postpartum Yoga- Interview with Deb Flashenberg

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This is Maureen Farrell and Heather ONeal and this is The Milk Minute. We’re midwives and lactation professionals bringing you the most up-to-date evidence for all things lactation. So you can feel more confident about feeding your baby, body positivity, relationships, and mental health. Plus, we laugh a little or a lot along the way.

Heather: So join us for another episode. Welcome to the Milk Minute Podcast, everyone. Hi. Hello. How are you? I’m okay, good. Well, we have an incredible guest for everybody today. Deb Flashenberg, founder and director of the incredible prenatal yoga center in New York city.

Very exciting. Yes, Deb is also a labor support doula, a Lamaze childbirth educator. She is pelvic floor yoga certified, and a mother of two. In addition to helping birthing parents all over New York city, including one of our fabulous patrons named Maya Kaough. Thank you for the hookup by the way, Maya. Deb has hosted the podcast, Yoga Birth Babies for the past seven years where she speaks with some of the world’s leading experts in pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding and parenthood.

Maureen: And we are so excited to talk to her today. I have all kinds of great questions and we hope that you guys will learn just as much as we do.

Heather: Yes. So please join me in welcoming Deb Flashenberg. But first.

Maureen: Oh, yes, we have patrons and questions. Let’s do that. Okay. I would like to thank two new patrons, Tina Trickel and Maddie Camp.

Thank you so much for joining us on Patreon. Every single cent that you give us means a lot to us and makes this podcast possible. Yep.

Heather: Makes it possible and accessible to everyone, which is what we really really want. That’s what our heart desires, our collective heart. Maureen and I share one now. We, we do, we’ve done this enough.

We are combined. Love dub. It’s our heart . So today’s question is from Whitney Feghali from Morgantown, West Virginia, who is in our Facebook group. And Whitney says, Exercising with big boobs?! Question mark exclamation point. I’m almost seven weeks postpartum and I’ve started to exercise again. I was sick all of my pregnancy and didn’t work out.

I feel that on so many levels. Mm-hmm. Prior to pregnancy, I did CrossFit, HIIT, ran, was overall active. My problem getting back into it is breast discomfort. Pre-pregnancy a run of the mill sports bra was effective for my then 34 C breasts. Now breastfeeding I’m a 36 triple D. I’m finding sports bras to either be too unsupportive that even walking quickly is too bouncy or bras that are tight causing aching.

I also fear tight bras will cause clogged ducts. I’ve been nursing and then immediately working out so I’m not full. Will the discomfort subside as I continue to exercise and breastfeed? Are there any magical bras or tricks that I can use?

Maureen: Oh, I wish I had a magic bra for you. I think, so one, good job nursing and then exercising.

That’s a great tactic. And yes, the discomfort will change. So you’re seven weeks postpartum, I think often people find just fluctuating comfort and sensitivity levels for those first three months. Right. What I would suggest, which is maybe not exactly what you’re asking for, but I would see how movement feels at home with no bra and see if you can get used to that, because if you can get your breasts used to more movement, feeling normal rather than uncomfortable, then that’s gonna serve you better when you’re working out. Because we definitely don’t want you to wear a super tight, restrictive bra that will cause clogged ducts, you know, movement is good.

Movement is great for your breasts. It’s great for breastfeeding, but I get that when you have heavy breasts, it’s kind of uncomfortable, but it’s also something that your tissues get used to over time.

Heather: I would also suggest continuing to empty your breasts prior to working out and bringing your regular bra with you to the gym so you can change immediately in the locker room and put on your regular, like very comfortable bra for the ride home. So just decreasing the amount of time that you’re actually in a tight sports bra can be helpful. But really it’s time, you know, time for your breast to adjust.

Maureen: I do like the Kindred Bravely sports bras.

I think they are the right amount of supportive. I have heard people say though, they’re not supportive enough and I get that, but we are, it’s a hard balance. We’re striking a hard balance here.

Heather: Davin and Adley also has. Do they have a sports bras? Sports bras, and swimsuits also. So for people that are having that issue and we have a promo code, so for Davin and Adley, we have a promo code MILKMINUTE for 10% off your order. So if you’re looking for extra incentive to treat yourself to a new sports bra, there you go. Sure.

Maureen: Well, good luck. I wish we had an easier answer for that question.

Heather: I know. Time and good job by the way, going to the gym. Good job. Good job.

Maureen: Okay. Well, let’s hop into our interview with Deb.

All right. It’s Maureen here. And I want to tell you that I have finally set up a link so you can instantly book virtual lactation consults with me.

Heather: Thank the Lord.

Maureen: I know Heather, it took me a long time to take the leap from in person visits to virtual, but I did it.

Heather: You’re gonna love it. I love doing virtual consults. They are the best. It serves more people. I’m so glad you took the plunge.

Maureen: Thank you. And if you guys out there wanna book some time with me, you can go to HighlandBirthSupport.com and then click on my lactation services tab.

Heather: Is that H I G H L A N D? Yes. Okay.

Maureen: I will see you on zoom, everybody.

Heather: Deb, thank you so much for coming on the show today. We are really wanting to dig into your expertise in prenatal and postnatal yoga for the person who’s planning to feed or currently feeding their baby with their body. So let’s find out together how yoga could impact lactation journey.

Deb Flashenberg: Oh, I definitely think it certainly can.

And first of all, thank you for having me on. So when someone chooses to breastfeed or even bottle feed, think about how much time they’re holding that baby and what that does to one’s posture. So I think there can be a lot of aches and pains just from their repetitive feeding.

And then if someone’s choosing to breastfeed, and I, I try, maybe you guys can have this answer. Cause I tried to lock down the lactation consultant I work with. I’m like how much extra weight is in someone’s chest? And I’m like, I want data. And she’s like, I can’t give it to you. And I’m like, okay.

Because I remember when I was breastfeeding, I was blown away by how heavy my chest felt when, when my breasts were full. And if you think about all that weight in the front body, it just can really change the structure of one’s posture. You know, think about that top heavy, what it does to pull forward. And then your back muscles are trying to counterbalance that.

And then the, the neck gets displaced. So there’s a lot of aches and pains that come with how we feed our children. And so the yoga path can address that, help strengthen that. But then I also think, and this is maybe getting a little ahead of myself, but when we come together as a yoga class, there is really a sense of community that also comes along with, with how we feed our children and just being together in this postpartum journey.

Heather: Oh, for sure. And just to give you some peace of mind, I know for a fact there are some listeners in our Facebook group who have weighed their breasts before and after feeding on their scales. Like how, how can I measure my boob? And they like put it up on the counter and just like rest their breast on there.

So it can, I mean, I’ve seen like definitely a three to five pound increase. Yeah. Just from their anecdotal, you know. Yes, sometimes.

Maureen: And, and we’re just like, we literally grow more tissue and store more fat there during pregnancy. So, but it varies, right? Some people you wouldn’t hardly notice a change.

So I don’t know.

Deb Flashenberg: So think about that. Six to, so that’s per breast. Three to five pounds per breast. That’s an extra six to 10 pounds. Yeah. From your chest hanging forward. And your back is not, you know, it’s not like we slowly built that weight up and our muscles are accommodating and adapting to it. This fluctuates a lot.

Mm-hmm. And so our bodies are trying to stabilize this additional weight. It’s, it’s kind of amazing what we’re able to do.

Heather: It is absolutely. I feel like most people just think that it’s par for the course, you know, they’re like, yep. My pelvic floor is trash and it’s not holding up this extra weight on the top. And this is just what it is to be postpartum and quote unquote, when I get my body back, I’ll get back to yoga.

Deb Flashenberg: Yeah, I don’t. Yeah. That’s I, I feel sticky about that one. Yeah. I feel like. First of all, is the body ever back? You know, it is a journey that we go through to create a baby and then birth that baby. So my kids are; my son’s almost 11, my daughter is 8. And as much as I may fit back into my clothes from that many years ago, it’s certainly changed, especially the internal structure.

I remember my midwife said the, the structure of your body will be forever changed. And I’m thinking oh, okay. She’s like, especially the landscape of your pelvis. And I thought, thanks.

Heather: Don’t say landscape. That’s a great way to say it though.

Deb Flashenberg: The landscape of your pelvis. And it’s so true, but I think before, if you haven’t been in that perinatal world, I do think there isn’t quite the concept of what it means to be postpartum and what the body has to readjust to.

And, you know, we know our hormones are different until we’re finished breastfeeding. And something I found super interesting is that the hormonal level of someone breastfeeding is similar to that of someone post-menopausal. So we know that the muscle tissue and the pelvic floor is greatly affected.

It doesn’t have that same strength and buoyancy, that it would, if someone wasn’t breastfeeding, so the body is really changing. And it’s again, I keep going back to the idea of journey. There’s a story that I, I heard when I was doing my birthing from within training, where they talked about, I believe it’s a goddess Inanna and how she travels to the underworld.

And then she travels back and the travel back makes me think of parenthood. That it’s not just about the event of giving birth, but it’s also the other side of coming out of that space and embodying our new experience. And that’s what I think a lot about the postpartum body and mind. That just because the baby’s out doesn’t mean we’re kinda like, pop! Back to where we were.

There’s just this immense change that’s happened.

Maureen: Absolutely. So obviously this work is personal for you now. I’m curious if it was always that way. Like when did you decide that you wanted to focus on prenatal and postnatal yoga? Was it like just a natural progression? Were you like, I know from the start, what I’m doing?

Deb Flashenberg: No, no, no. No, no, I’ll be honest. Not at all. My degree is in musical theater and it has nothing, nothing to do with, with, and I wasn’t even that kid that was really maternal. Like my daughter plays doll. She plays family. Like I had one doll. I still remember her name was Amy. Like I cut all her hair and I painted her and I left her in the yard.

Like it was, I was not, I was not maternal. Poor Amy. And I just look at how my daughter is and I like she, and she also has seen me in the birth world. So like she’s worn baby slings and stuff like that. So like, but I was not that kid. So I was performing for a while and then I got into yoga and then I wasn’t liking the style that I chose.

I started with Bikram yoga, which is very specific. They don’t give a lot of individual or any individual attention. It’s very much like a monologue. And I was really disenchanted with it very, very soon. And someone mentioned prenatal yoga. And I was, I think, 27. So, and also performers are not wanting to have kids right away.

You know, it’s different. I think it’s a little different in New York. The, the timetable that a lot of people choose to start a family. And I mentioned this to my mom who did marketing and she’s like, what about prenatal because everyone’s always pregnant? And so it started just with that idea.

But then as I got into the work, I was really struck by the birthing practices in our country and I became just a strong birth advocate. And then I became a doula and a childbirth educator. So I led into that world, not from my own experience, but because of a suggestion. And then because of what I saw, because what I, how people I didn’t feel were really respected and treated well.

And bodily autonomy is a whole nother topic, but yeah, because of that, it led to my passion for this work and then having my own kids. That was, which I had 10, almost 10 years after starting this work. That was another level of it becoming very personal and deep for me. And especially the postpartum, cuz even though I had been teaching it, I didn’t really see behind those six, like the curtain of this first six weeks.

I saw students coming back 6, 8, 10 weeks later, but I didn’t really have a strong sense of what that was like. And I had a really hard first birth. And so there was a lot of recovery postpartum and like you said your pelvic floor is trash.

Like I, like, I felt like my pelvic floor was like down to my ankles. Like it just was not there. And, and I, I, from that point, it helped me want to help people have better birth experiences, but as well, really have the support postpartum and the understanding that it is a journey and it is gonna take time and to not be hard on yourself, that it is gonna take time.

So it became personal, but it didn’t actually start that way.

Heather: That’s how they get you though. You know what I mean? Like almost every single person that I know that works in the birth space. I’m like, how’d you get here? And they’re like, well, it was a weird road but then I saw somebody being abused and I just couldn’t take it anymore.

And I knew I could do something about it. So that’s why I think in the birth world we have so many strong voices that are advocates, but they come from everywhere and I’m always fascinated to hear how people got there. So thank you for sharing that story.

And you know what I could not stop thinking about when you were talking about how your public floor’s never the same? Anyone that’s ever watched Bones or any kind of like anthropological study of a, of a skeleton that’s found like a true crime thing.

They’re like, we can tell this is a female age, 27. Definitely has had a child before. And before I had a kid, I’d be watching that and I’d be like, what do you see? Like what’s on the pelvis? How do you know now? You’re like, it looks like a pelvis to me. What’s different? What’s gonna happen to mine? And now I get it. I’m like, oh yeah.

Deb Flashenberg: It’s a little different. Going back to my midwife, the landscape is forever changed.

Heather: If they found my skeleton, they’d definitely be able to tell. So let’s talk about that postpartum that can be rough. And maybe even in best case scenario, when should people start coming back to yoga? Like maybe if, if they are motivated to come back and it’s on their list of things to do, like someday postpartum, what is too soon?

It like when, when can they start?

Deb Flashenberg: Well, if they had a surgical birth, if they had a cesarean, it is major abdominal surgery. So I’m, I do hold strong to six weeks. That said, I have had people come in earlier. And at that point I’m going to give them a very gentle practice. So I never had a cesarean, but I did have hernia surgery on my abdomen and it was really intense to recover.

So I, I get a sense of what that’s like. So I really say six weeks for a cesarean. And then I invite people to wait for their bleeding to stop for a vaginal birth. The body is still healing. And if we push too hard, it can inhibit the healing. And we don’t wanna do that, especially if the pelvic floor had some weakness or if the abs have diastasis.

And from the research I’ve done, every pregnant body has some level of diastasis in case listeners don’t know what that is. That’s the separation of the fascia, the connected tissue, the linea alba, loses some of its integrity and strength. And then we have this push through on that. We, that’s not gonna help for a really solid core.

So I say, let the bleeding stop. I, again, I’ve had people come in earlier, but I, if they are coming in earlier, I make it a different practice. It’s not at that point as much about re-strengthening. Cause I don’t think their body is quite ready to take that step. It will be a little bit more about restorative cause they’re probably tired.

And then about releasing tension, because if we go back to how heavy the breasts are and holding a baby and wearing a baby and the back body come out of pregnancy has lost a lot of strength. Then I wanna have a way to release some of that tension. So yeah, the, the quick answer is six weeks cesarean, bleeding stop vaginal.

Heather: Yeah, but I need to interrupt you for a second because what I did not hear you say is don’t come. I heard you say, when you come, I will adjust my practice for you. Yeah. And I think a lot of people don’t realize that, you know, maybe they haven’t done yoga before, but they want to start.

That yoga teachers are not like your second grade teacher who’s like whipping their little, hopefully not, you know, their, their stick around and like making sure everybody’s doing what they need to be doing. It’s like, this is your practice. And you know, the teacher, I’ve never experienced a teacher who’s like, you need to do exactly this. They’re like, you do what you can do.

So how do you manage that with a group of people? If there’s one person that might not be where the rest of the group is?

Deb Flashenberg: Oh, yeah, that happens a lot. And that’s something I talk about in teacher training a lot, especially for, so for prenatal, I kinda level the field that we all are basically within the same structure.

Mm-hmm. But postnatals, you’re absolutely right. I could have somebody six weeks postpartum. I could have someone six months postpartum. I could have someone six weeks postpartum with five yearsā€™ experience and someone six months with partum with like two months experience. So it is a lot of juggling. And that is where I do think I’ve been teaching yoga for over 20 years.

So I do think that’s where that, what I call it, the three ring circus is, is often in play. But it’s also about for if those are listening, yoga teachers understand it’s different stages of pose. So if someone understands, and I use the word peak pose kind of loosely that if I’m trying to work up to this idea of a finalized pose, we can stop along the way.

And I have to do that whether someone is six weeks or six months, cuz some people come in with diastasis and as I mentioned, most pregnant bodies have it. And so a lot of postpartum body have it, but not everyone heals the same way. So then I’m also saying, okay, those with, you know, diastasis, you’re doing this, you’re not doing that.

Or those with pelvic floor issues going on. I don’t want a lot of downward pressure, so it is a bit of a learned skill, but we can also kind of clump things together, like, okay, those, those that are not moving on, you’re gonna stop here. Those that are moving on, we’re gonna keep going in this direction. So it’s, I guess it’s just a learned skill.

Heather: Yeah. Those of you that are napping on your mat right now, keep doing what you’re doing.

Maureen: You know, I’m curious though, I have done a lot of prenatal yoga during my pregnancies. And, you know, there are a lot of modifications I made depending on my trimester and whatever, you know, and some that kind of just seemed standard for my instructor.

Like, okay, you’re this pregnant now here, try using this block. Mm-hmm. Do those apply for lactation? Like, do we just kind of have standard things that you’re like maybe don’t do that or change it this way if you have a chest full of milk?

Deb Flashenberg: Yeah. I mean, definitely not coming down onto their chest from plank. There’s a pose that I, I have always hated. It’s called knees, chest and chin, where you have your knees and then your chest and your chin. I find that hurts my shoulders. But then imagine if you have a chest full of milk and putting pressure there. So no knees, chest and chin, but even when we’re lowering from plank, I don’t come flat down.

I have them basically comes straight into some sort of chest up pose so that they’re not squishing their breasts. I also take into account a lot of wrist issues. That’s really common for someone that is breastfeeding. Yeah. Cause again, if we have that weight of the chest pulling forward, the shoulders are going to end up rounding and that can cause wrist issues.

So we do a lot of focused on the pecks, opening in the shoulders opening to help prevent that. But yeah, we often have to accommodate wrist issues and not squishing the chest. Yeah.

Maureen: That tennis synovitis is super common.

Heather: Yeah, I definitely had that. And just generally you feel so much heavier on top. It almost feels like your wrist atrophy.

Yeah. And like, I just remember that feeling of trying to even be in plank and being like, ow, my wrists are going to snap off.

Maureen: I, it just reminded me. I’m like, oh, I should do my little like finger stretches while we’re sitting here.

Heather: I know.

Deb Flashenberg: Yeah, we do a fair amount of like milking the wrists and then how to support the wrists.

But it’s a lot of chest opening to combat that caving forward. And then also upper back strengthening because the chest is caving forward. We have to put a lot of back strengthening into our class.

Heather: You can’t see us right now, but we are like, oh yeah, strengthen that upper back. We cannot, we cannot stop trying to fix our posture through this entire discussion. So thank you for that.

Maureen: I feel like this happened during our pelvic floor therapy episode too, where I was like, oh right, okay. Don’t sit like that.

Heather: Well, I mean, obviously there’s a lot of benefits to yoga. I don’t think there is any professional or person out there that could just say like, oh, yoga’s not good for you.

Like everyone knows at this point, yoga’s good for you. But if you had to pick the top three benefits of yoga for a postpartum parent who’s chest feeding, what would they be?

Deb Flashenberg: The top three benefits of yoga. The first one I think would be about the nervous system, because I think early parenthood or any parenthood, it has its ups and downs.

It can have a lot, it can have anxiety, it can have depression, it can have overwhelm, it can have boredom. And so I think learning how to regulate our nervous system can benefit. And then we think about, I won’t get too geeky into this, but if we think about that we need a good nervous system for lactation.

You know, we need that oxytocin, then it’s not going to go well, if we’re very adrenaline heavy. So I guess the first thing would be mindfulness that leads to helping the nervous system downgrade if it’s in this like fight or flight.

Then I would say posture is something that’s really helpful as we were mentioning. We’re talking about that. When we have good posture, it helps our breathing. It helps the pelvic floor. I think it helps confidence. It really helps our whole internal organs. It helps strengthen.

So I guess top benefits: our nervous system, posture, breathing. And then I think of it also as a mental vacation.

When I get on the mat, it’s my time to, I don’t have my phone with me. I really, it’s one of the few times that my brain isn’t spinning of my to-do list that I either have to do or didn’t get done. It feels like it’s just a step away from pressure. Like, that’s what I say, like my mental vacation like. And I think as a new parent, there’s so many fluctuations of our mind that if we can get on the mat and just focus on ourselves for a little bit, we can come out refreshed and ready to be a parent.

So it’s surprising that all these things I’m saying, it’s not even really asana based, you know, it’s not like I’m like, yeah, I get a strong, you know, butt, or whatever. It’s, you know, it’s, it’s it’s, I think it’s deeper than that.

Maureen: Well, and I think that speaks to then, you know, how so many different people can benefit from this practice because it’s not just about strengthening certain parts of the body or, you know, developing like this amazing dynamic core.

It’s, it’s a mental practice too.

Deb Flashenberg: Well, I actually, yeah, I think so too.

Heather: Yeah. Well, I feel like a lot of times that transition to motherhood, especially for the first time, we have to restructure the way we think about what exercise is for. And you know, we’re no longer attracting a mate, you know, we’re usually not, yeah.

Speaking personally for myself, you know, I was very focused on fitness for like aesthetics, you know, like I wanna look good.

Maureen: It was achievement for me. I was like I would like to climb another mountain. I would like to yeah. Like go on another bike trip.

Heather: Yeah. And now I’m just trying to like, be able to dead lift my 32 pound three year old and not pee my pants.

Yeah. You know? That’s a good goal for me. So I think that, you know, you saying that and just letting us know that, oh, the nervous system is something you can’t see, but it certainly can benefit from this practice. It’s like, I wanna feel less anxious. Thank you. Yes. Sign me up.

Deb Flashenberg: Yeah. And I mean, I definitely think there is parts of the postpartum body we do need to re strengthen, but I think the bigger, and we’ll like, we get there in the practice. You know, that’s built into what we’re doing, but we can also find other ways to do that. Right. But I think the yoga practice is so unique that it can really help our nervous systems. And then we can be more present and less anxious or depression.

Not saying this is one, my little caveat. This is not, you know, gonna take depression away. I always feel like I have to say that, but it can really help our nervous system. But on the other side, we also can get some amazing physical benefits. You know, I’m still as much as I am a yoga teacher, I’m still on my Peloton every day.

Like I still think there’s a place for that. I think it’s just about finding that balance. We can still want a certain aesthetic in a healthy manner, but then we can also use our yoga practice for a different place than just a workout.

Heather: Sure. I also need to thank you for mentioning that it’s okay to feel bored when you have a newborn because they are boring. They are, they’re so boring. I mean, and not for everyone, but for me and for so many people I know, it’s like you go from like this really stimulating life where you’re out and about all the time and you’re using your brain constantly to just being over stimulated in some ways, but very chronically under stimulated in other ways.

And I completely agree that, you know, you might not think that going to a mat to sit down without your phone would be stimulating, but it’s stimulating in a different way that’s very healthy. So I feel like a lot of times when you’re bored, postpartum with your newborn, the inclination is I need to go out.

I need to go out. I need to have wine with my friends. I need to turn it up. I need to go dancing cuz that’s what I used to do. And then you feel completely depleted. Yeah. And so this is a good way to kind of combat that boredom, I think in a healthy way. Yeah.

Deb Flashenberg: And I mean, it’s not just newborn. I remember when my kids were older and we would do tummy time or they were playing and I really made a conscious effort, not just to be on my phone during that time because sometimes it’s boring just sitting at home.

Maureen: Yeah. Mm-hmm. Absolutely. Mm-hmm. And like, I don’t, I don’t know. Even when they get older, you know, my lovely six year old, I’m still like, it took you 20 minutes to tell me a one sentence story.

Deb Flashenberg: And that’s where, oh my gosh, I get that all the time.

And like my daughter who’s eight. She still wants me to read with her at night, which is delightful. But at that time I’m also exhausted. So I give myself a mantra because that’s part of my yoga practice too. And my mantra’s like, at some point she will not want you here. Appreciate it. And so I, I try and like over and over, like, appreciate this moment, appreciate this moment. Because it’s not gonna be long until she’s like, don’t come in my room until I let you in.

And don’t look at me or, you know, it’s whatever teenager thing it’s gonna be.

Maureen: Yeah. It’s hard to be in those moments sometimes. Absolutely.

Heather: Well, I mean, you’ve worked with so many different types of postpartum bodies throughout this yoga practice as a teacher, but what is one of the most fascinating things that you’ve discovered about the postpartum body through all of your work?

Deb Flashenberg: I think it’s actually how resilient the body is. Mm. And then also that we need to give time and respect for it to heal, because I know I did not do that myself. Like I was the worst student. I’m so much better of a teacher than I am of a student. Like I, and this is a little embarrassing to admit, but like I was that person that was back at the gym like two weeks later, it might have me even 10 days, if I’m gonna be honest.

And it didn’t, it didn’t help me. Now I can see that, you know, there was a fair amount of anxiety around that, around the body image issue. But if we can give the body some time and respect, it’s going to heal better, but it is on the other side, the body is just like the shape shifter.

You know, I see students that are 40 weeks pregnant and then like a month or so later, they’re like, it looks like, it was a Photoshop, like the belly’s gone in their body, you know, it’s just, it’s just so resilient how it can reorganize itself. I’m always amazed by how our bodies can shape shift, but also let’s give it some time to heal.

Cause I wish I had done that and I, and when I do have students coming in a week later I’m like, let’s, let’s respect the journey you’ve been on.

Heather: So Deb I’m three and a half years postpartum. Do I still count as a postpartum yoga person?

Deb Flashenberg: Yes. Oh my gosh. Yes. So I tell the students all the time, once you have a baby, you’re always postpartum.

In fact, I always tell them that the student we had, Catherine, who she came until, her son was 11 years old, 11 years old. And she was like, at that point, she’s like, have you thought of doing menopausal yoga? And I’m like, no, no. And then I realized, I’m like, oh, she was heading in that direction because her son was 11 and it was her second marriage, whatever.

But we, I will never kick anyone out because I also think what we focus on for the postpartum body is really relevant for most bodies. So we, we focus on what I call the posterior chain, which is like the glutes and the hamstrings and the back. We focus on the core, the abs, the pelvic floor, chest opening, neck, shoulders, posture, good breathing and restorative, like that’s our main class.

And who couldn’t benefit from all of those things? So I think it’s good for everyone. In fact, the funny thing is when I’ve had some students quote, unquote, graduate they’ll come back. They’ll be like, they didn’t do any pelvic floor work in my yoga class that I wanted to. And I’m like, that’s because most places don’t. Cuz she’d only done prenatal and postnatal.

That was her introduction into yoga. So she didn’t realize how different it was from your general class. And I’m like, yeah, most places are not gonna pull out a pelvis with a pelvic floor and, and break down, you know, how your pelvic floor functions, which is something we do. So I think this class can be really supportive to pretty much any body.

Maureen: Sure. And I think there’s a lot of power too, in gathering in a community of people who are in the same, like season of life that you are. Absolutely. And just being together is healing in some way. I think so too. Yeah. And I think we wanted to. I had a curious question. Kind of related to that. Can you talk a little bit about the power of group vocalizations?

You know, I know a lot of classes do like a big group Om at the end. Yeah. Do you, you know, why, why does that feel good? Why does it feel good to sort of sing chant with other people? And is it good for milk flow? Is it good for chest opening? Like what’s going on?

Deb Flashenberg: All right. So this is just my speculation.

Although I did read a study a while ago that came out of Thailand about prenatal yoga and oming and chanting. And what they said about that was it the vibration releases endorphins. So that’s going, that’s gonna make us feel good. And so again, I don’t have data back this up. This is my thinking about that, that if we are releasing endorphins and we’re relaxing the throat, I think that would increase oxytocin, which would be good for milk flow.

So that’s me just connecting the dots of what happens when we can have an open om. So this is also coming from when I was a singer, cuz I was my musical theater background and I remember my teacher having me move my hips when I was reaching for a note, that was well within my range, but I was freaking myself out.

So she had me move my hips and then my throat just really opened and the sound came tumbling out. And so then I came up with this saying open throat, open vagina, which is great for birthing, but we can also think about as a group om that openness of the throat and that vibration in the chest is releasing softening where we don’t need to hold tension and releasing endorphins.

So. I don’t, again, I don’t have the data, but I would think it’d be good for milk flow. If we have our endorphins and oxytocin flowing, what do you think? Absolutely.

Heather: I think that I’ve had different om experiences and groups of people. Like there are some days that I just feel like I’m crushing it, you know, and I go to class and I’m like, oh, I feel really good about myself.

And I’m probably the strongest om in the room at that time. And, you know, I feel really connected. I feel really good. And then there’s been other times that I am having a very bad season, I would say and, and when it’s time to do the om I almost feel like, oh God, I like can’t even, I don’t even have a voice to do this.

And I usually start out really low and, you know, just don’t feel like I have a lot of power behind it, but I honestly feel the group lift me up with their oms. You know, I feel more is possible. You feel less alone when you’re sharing that sound with other people. Mm-hmm even if it’s just for a minute. And I have cried through oms when I have that experience where it’s just like, Ooh, actually did find my voice.

Didn’t realize I was trying to not speak because I didn’t want to cry. And now you have opened up the flood gates and now I have to experience this and at least I’m not alone at the drive through at Sonic and I’m with you guys, you know. So that’s been my personal experience with it.

Deb Flashenberg: Yeah, I think there’s something really special about coming together as a group and then coming together with our voices.

And I know that some people feel weird or pressure about oming. So I always offer someone can om or they can hum, which still gives the vibration or they could just mark the om with a breath. But what I have found is just some kinda looking around and listening that when someone starts with a breath, they usually end with some sort of sound. I don’t know if it’s peer pressure or just the invitation to open up. I don’t know, but that’s, that’s just a, an observation.

Heather: That’s really cool. I, I really like it, you know, even the times that I don’t think I’m gonna like it, I end up being like, no, that was good for me. Yeah. Well, you know, speaking of surprises.

In your yoga practice, what’s something that you have seen with postpartum yoga practice that was incredible? That blew your mind; that most people would never expect because you have this insider track. You know, we only know our own practice. So what’s some incredible stuff that you have seen?

Deb Flashenberg: I would think what pops into my mind is the community that is formed.

I think a lot of people show up just for a practice for themselves. Like, okay, it’s time to get on the mat. But I think what they find, because as we said earlier, everyone’s in this common place. I think it’s about people showing up and feeling seen for where they are on their journey. Where they are.

And that no one’s judging them and it can be a place that they can express frustration and joy. And it’s just so much more than fitness, right? That has been, I think, one of the most incredible things that I have seen from a postpartum practice. And then people also finding their confidence again.

Maybe they, maybe their bodies really took a beating from their birth or from maybe they were on bedrest for a lot of their pregnancy. And then they’re starting to get familiar with their body again. And like it’s like meeting an old friend. So I’ve just seen so many different things show up from being open to being on the mat, postpartum and coming together as a community.

I love our postpartum community. It’s actually my favorite class to teach each week and I have to often reign them in and I’m like, okay, we gotta start. We gotta pull it in. Cause the, the parents can be just so excited to, as you said, like be outside the house and talk to another person. It’s funny because you know, here we are in New York city where my studio is based.

And even though we do these classes online as well, you know, New York city has millions of people, but it can feel incredibly isolating. Mm-hmm. Yeah. So, and especially because most people that end up in New York don’t have family, like most people show up to New York for a reason, and it’s not usually like their family.

And so it can feel really isolating. So I think it’s just incredible how, how the community supports one another.

Heather: Well, and I think honestly, when I was prepping for this interview I was really thinking about how similar a group yoga practice is to the way we used to feed our babies anyway. Like women would gather, birthing people would gather in groups and they would have community all the time.

They would feed their babies in groups of people. And if it wasn’t working right in that moment, you had somebody right there to be like, oh, Hey, adjust this way. You do the same thing in yoga. Oh, Hey, you know, your pose would be a little you know, I don’t know how you would say it actually. But you know, like minor adjustments that you help to, that you use to help people get better in their practice and more efficient in their practice.

Same with feeding. So, and we are so isolated in the way we recover from birth and even the way we parent our children. So that’s really cool that you’ve seen that magic in group practice for your postpartum people.

Deb Flashenberg: Yeah, you know something just seems so powerful about that. They’re also vulnerable at that time.

And they’re allowing themselves to really be seen with each other, like showing up with the baby, cuz sometimes people bring their babies. They don’t always have to but showing up with the baby for a specific amount of time, an hour and a half class, I know people like sometimes running down the streets. Like they, they allow themselves to show up as they are, you know, they’re not getting all dressed up to go out.

Like there are a messy moments of parenthood that they let each other be seen. It’s just, they come together and I feel like they don’t judge each other and it’s an opportunity to take away comparison. Mm-hmm. Because it’s, I feel like it is so easy to compare ourselves to other parents, especially on social media that happens.

And I feel like it’s an opportunity in class just to be vulnerable and messy without comparison. And we always tell the students that if your baby cries, no one cares, cause it’s not theirs. So, you know, don’t be upset. Baby’s crying, you know, Susie on the mat next to you could care less because her baby’s sleeping or her baby’s not there.

She doesn’t have to take care of the crying. So there really is magic, I think, in coming together and seeing each other.

Maureen: I love that. Well, as we wrap up our discussion, I’m curious, what is the experience you want people to have postpartum when it comes to their whole like mind, body, baby, what are the words of wisdom we wanna leave people with?

Deb Flashenberg: I guess that they’re doing the best they can.

Is that again, it kind of goes back to that comparison. Isn’t there a saying comparison is a thief of happiness. I think that’s the saying.

Heather: The thief of joy, but same thing. Yeah.

Deb Flashenberg: All right, that’s good but thank you. I think just that they’re doing the best they can and maybe to even slow down and appreciate the challenges of postpartum then to be kind to themselves and not compare themselves to others and just remind themselves again, they’re showing up for themselves.

They’re showing up for their mind and their body and their baby, and they’re just doing the best they can.

Heather: I am today doing the best I can. Yeah. My, my three year old tells me all the time, just do the best you can, Mom. And it must be because I tell her that all the time. So I’m glad this message is just going around the house.

Yeah. Yeah. Well, Deb, where can people find you if they wanna learn with you? If they wanna take your classes. I know you have workshops available. So tell us about all the stuff that you do.

Deb Flashenberg: Oh, my gosh, I have, we have, we have many hats at PYC. So PrenatalYogaCenter.com. We actually just launched a brand new website.

I love it. I’m so excited. So I can find pretty much everything there. So we’ve got online classes, we’ve got on demand classes. We have in person classes for the folks that are in New York city. Then we’ve got teacher trainings. If anyone’s listened to this and they are a yoga teacher and they wanna get really deep into the whole perinatal world.

I’ve got my podcast, which you guys will soon be on, Yoga Birth Babies. And then everything on different social media is just Prenatal Yoga Center. It’s just pretty straightforward. Good SEO. So yeah, Prenatal Yoga Center. You can find us there.

Heather: SEO gold.

And by the way, I don’t think I told you this, but when I was reading up on you, as I do, I saw that you actually studied with Cyndi Lee and I did, I did yoga teacher training in Morgantown, West Virginia, and we used her textbook for class. Oh, wow. So the fact that you trained with a person whose textbook I used, I was like, oh my, that is so awesome.

Deb Flashenberg: Cyndi’s pretty great. She was my teacher many years ago when she had OM Yoga in New York city. Honestly, OM was a big influence on Prenatal Yoga Center because they had an amazing community and it wasn’t a place where you just pop in and out for classes. Like they really, they had this section where you could sit in on the couches and chill.

And I knew that’s what I wanted for a place. So that is so cool that you studied her work.

Heather: I know I, I did not take the final because I never planned on teaching yoga, but I wanted to be able to help my birthing clients be able to you know, achieve better posture and positions and just kinda work through prenatal stuff a little bit more and just understand the body in a different way, which I got out of that, for sure.

So if any of you out there would like to do teacher training and don’t actually wanna teach yoga, that’s fine too. And yeah, I highly recommend it for sure. So Deb, thank you so much for coming on the show. This has been really helpful and just lovely to talk to you. Thank you.

Maureen: Thank you so much.

Heather have I told you about my new favorite place to get nursing bras? Ooh, tell me, it’s called the Dairy Fairy. The Dairy Fairy offers bras and tanks that try to solve the challenges that come with nursing and pumping. They’re ingenious intimates are beautiful, supportive, and can be worn all day long.

Oh, you’re allowed to look good and feel good about yourself while wearing a nursing bra? Absolutely. And they offer sizes up to a 52 G. Oh, amazing. I’m so glad a company has finally realized that a D cup is not a large.

Absolutely. And I it’s so affirming to feel included in sizing and not feel like I’m asking for too much, that clothing fits my body. Well, what else do we get? Well, if you guys follow the link in our show notes, you can use the code MILKMINUTE at checkout for free shipping on all domestic orders. Oh, thank you so much, Dairy Fairy.

Absolutely. Once again, that’s the link in our show notes and use the code MILKMINUTE for free shipping on all domestic orders.

Well, that was a whole lot of fun.

Heather: I honestly think I would like to go to New York city and go to Deb’s classes.

Maureen: Well, you know, next time I go visit my family. You can come.

Heather: Well, we could also just do the grand tour and visit my family too.

Maureen: Yeah. Since we, you know, we are together. We are one. In so many ways we should just meet the family.

Heather: We should and go hang out with Deb who is also a curly girl, by the way.

Maureen: So, oh, nice. Mm-hmm. Yeah. Well, I hope you guys had some fun and also like learned some important things. Maybe reframed the way that you’re thinking about your body to a more positive light .

Heather: Yeah. And know that it’s not too late. I mean, I’ve been a little hesitant to get back on the mat myself.

I just don’t like feeling like a failure. And I also don’t like seeing how far my body has gone in a different direction than I’d like it to. And I promise I will do it if you do it. So if you’ve been holding yourself back, I promise I will hold myself accountable. I will do it. Even if it’s just 15 minutes tonight at home by myself, I will do it for you if you promise to do it too.

Maureen: Okay. Well, I think it’s time for an award in the alcove.

Heather: Award in the Alcove!

Okay. Today’s award goes to Morgan Duncan from Morgantown, West Virginia. Yay. Morgan says I would have to say a win for me this week is that I’ve been able to pump more milk out for my baby. It’s still not all she needs, but definitely increasing in the right direction.

Even my shitty titty is helping out a little more. Nice. Nice job. Yeah. And she’s one of our patrons by the way. And so she’s been messaging us back and forth, just trying to, you know, figure this out and we couldn’t be happier to help her, Morgan. We’re gonna give you the Fabulous Flow Award.

Maureen: Oh, I like it.

Heather: Isn’t that nice. She’s working so hard.

Maureen: You deserve every bit of praise we’re gonna give you and you deserve everybody in your life to just tell you you’re doing a good job, Morgan. It’s amazing.

Heather: It’s amazing. Keep it up. Yeah, absolutely. Thank you guys for listening to another episode of the Milk Minute.

Maureen: The way that we change this big system that is not made for lactating people is by educating ourselves, our friends and our family.

Heather: And maybe doing a little bit of yoga.

If you found value in this episode today, and you would like to donate to the show to help the sustainability of our project, you can meet us over on Patreon at patreon.com/MilkMinutePodcast and choose a one-time donation or a monthly donation of 5, 10, 20 bucks, whatever. And that all goes to pay for our audio engineer and our transcriptionist and just the general software and stuff.

Maureen: Yeah. All of it, all the stuff that costs money. Y’all can help us with.

Heather: Thank you. And we thank you. Thank you so much.

Maureen: Thank you so much. You make this podcast possible. Thank you for listening all the way to the end of the episode, where you get treated with a little affirmation. You’re amazing. I think you’re doing a great fucking job and you can tell us all about it. If you email us at milkminutepodcast@gmail.com goodbye. Bye.

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