Sheryl Grunde is the owner of Honoring the Mother. She is a doula, massage therapist, and yoga teacher with two children of her own, and she is passionate about guiding women into deep connection with their bodies. We asked Sheryl to tell us a little bit more about herself and her work in this issue of LocalsGuide.
Sheryl, can you tell us a little bit about your business?
My business has evolved in Ashland over the last eight years, since I began teaching “Mama Yoga” classes here. I was pregnant at the time, and had just moved here. Soon after my son was born, I began a new class, postpartum “Baby Yoga.” My classes grew and women began asking me to come to their births. They felt relaxed and at ease in the prenatal yoga classes, and thought it would be helpful to have me present during labor as well. I pursued more training as a doula and became certified through DONA (Doulas of North America). I had also been trained as a massage therapist in San Diego, before moving up here, so my next step was to get licensed in Oregon and begin to offer massage therapy to my clients as well.
The latest addition to my business has been my webshop at www.honoringthemother.com where I sell ERGObaby carriers. I don’t have the intention to expand into a full retail shop, but was so impressed by the way these baby carriers support the mom(or dad!) and the baby in healthy posture that I bought a whole bunch of them and have been distributing them locally and online.
How do you see your business evolving over the next year?
I am now looking forward to networking with other birth professionals and creating the Southern Oregon Birth Network. We will be offering monthly educational offerings about pregnancy, birth options, and care of babies at the Bellview Grange on the Second Sundays of each month this year.
How does yoga benefit pregnant women?
I hear from my students that they feel better on many levels once they start coming to class. Breathing gets deeper, more relaxed. Back pain is eased or goes away. Sleep is easier too. The stress of the day is nonexistant by the end of class. Yoga can help with fetal positioning as well, which makes for a smoother labor experience. I often hear, especially from second and third (and fourth!) time moms that this is the special time during their busy lives that they really get to slow down and focus on the miracle of their pregnancy and the presence of their child.
How can yoga help prepare for birthing?
Physically, the stretching, moving, and deep breathing keep the body fit and comfortable to help prepare for the marathon of labor, but more importantly women learn to relax their bodies and focus their minds. If she can focus on her breath and release her fear, her body can relax and open naturally.
When did you first start learning yoga?
I began taking yoga classes when I was studying Human Development at UCSD in 1996. Its been an integral part of my life since then.
What are the benefits to the babies in mom and baby yoga?
I have designed this class to get the mamas moving and feeling good in their bodies, but throughout the class, we are using colorful scarves, making silly noises, singing songs, and playing with the babies. Moms come away with new ideas of ways to interact with their babies. Some of the movements we do with the babies have been researched to help with babies’ development. We use movements that cross the midline of the body, stimulating baby’s brain synapse connections. We also use rhythms to stimulate the musical, mathematical part of the brain. I am always amazed when at the moment we change our snapping rhythm, they all stop and pay attention! You can almost see the gears in those little brains figuring it out!
How do babies do yoga? (Are they natural yogis?)
Babies don’t “do” yoga. They are absolutely in a state of presence, not distracted by busy minds, but in awe of each moment and embracing each emotion as it arises, but releasing it just as easily, with no attachment or resentment.
Can you discuss the meditative qualities of yoga?
Yoga is practice for our minds. We are so easily distracted and disconnected from our bodies, that it is important to set aside time to practice focusing our attention on what it is to be in a living, breathing body. Any activity that can captivate your complete attention can be a meditation. Hatha yoga brings that focused awareness into the body and the mind, and through this practice we gain self awareness.
Can you share a little bit about your massage and doula practice?
I practice massage, not just for pregnancy, but for everybody, although I do love to work with pregnant women. Thai massage has been the modality that inspires me most. From my years of teaching movement and observing how people hold tension and release it, the movement and stretching along with deep, nurturing touch makes sense to me. This is how we let go. I share an office on Siskiyou Blvd, called Harmony Healing Arts, and have been involved in creating the Community Thai Massage Clinic at People’s Choice Acupuncture.
My doula practice is deeply satisfying work in my life. I know that having a calm, nurturing woman present at birth can have the incredible effects of shortening labor, having less need for medical interventions, relieving emotional and physical stress, and simply helping a woman to feel safe and confident throughout her experience. I am an employee of Ashland Community Hospital, where they have an amazing doula program. There is always a doula on call, and any woman in labor can request her presence, at no charge. I am also hired privately to assist at births. In this situation, we have a chance to get to know each other ahead of time. I will be on call to come to the woman’s house during early labor, and can assist her there, so that she doesn’t need to rush off to the hospital right away. Labor support can involve massage, suggestion for various comfort measures, position changes, hand holding, encouragement, support for the father to be….. This assistance can be invaluable in creating a birth experience that a woman can cherish.
How do you implement yoga into your life?
Yoga is a daily practice of being aware of my body and breath. It is a reminder to calm my overactive imagination and be present with what is real in the here and now. I enjoy waking up before the sun and stretching, breathing, sitting in stillness; it keeps me feeling young and light. When I think back to my own birth experiences, I know that my yoga practice of carried me through, and it continues to keep me grounded and positive throughout the challenges in my life. I teach at the YMCA, The Studio, and the Ashland Yoga Center, and I am deeply grateful to have so many opportunities to pass on what I have learned. It brings me peace of mind.
Sheryl can be contacted at 541-951-7474 for more information, and you can visit her website atwww.honoringthemother.com to find out more about her services and purchase ERGO Baby Carriers, classes and gift certificates.