avatar Anna Gannon Editorial Lead at Expectful

How can breath give us strength during difficult moments?

This question is something that today’s guest, Hannah Barrett is passionate about helping other woman discover. As the author of the upcoming book “Strength Through Yoga” Hannah helps to remind women that breath is not only connected to their physical well-being, but to their emotional and mental health as well.

On today’s episode, Hannah walks us through her experience with exercise during pregnancy, how the premature birth of her daughter changed the way she looked at mental health, and how breath and movement have allowed her to come back to herself time and time again.

About Hannah

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I was drawn to yoga in 2014 while pregnant with my son Jack. At the time, I had a stressful job in finance with long hours. I had always loved working out in the gym and had assumed yoga wasn’t for me. I could barely touch my toes, I didn’t think I was spiritual enough and I was convinced it wouldn’t give me a ‘real’ workout.

After my first class, what brought me back to my yoga mat time and time again was the strength I found inside. The mindfulness yoga teaches helped me to shift my outlook on life. And it made me sweat and work harder than I had in the gym!

Being a mother can be tough. My daughter Amelie was born in the summer of 2017, and her birth and start to life were very traumatic. I don’t think you can ever be prepared for having a child in intensive care, and I was hit with postnatal depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. It was at this time I was introduced to Expectful. Deanne gifted it to me and hand on heart I don’t think I would have coped through the birth and through Amelie’s time in intensive care without it. The meeting your baby visualisation in particular I remember gave me so much strength during a very uncertain time. This meditation coupled with the breathing techniques and physical practice of yoga gave me an outlet to cope and feel strong again in both my mind and body. And today my daughter is a beautiful soldier who loves nothing better than to sit beside me while I practice.

Through yoga I am happier and spend more time enjoying the present rather than living in the past or worrying about the future. Those days of wishing to be in ‘a future place where I am happy’ are gone. I’ve seen a big difference in my stress levels and the way I handle situations that in the past would challenge me. AND I’m stronger and more flexible than I’ve ever been.

I am so excited to be releasing my first book ‘Strength Through Yoga’ in the next month. I decided I wanted to write Strength Through Yoga after the birth of my son. I found the postnatal exercise advice confusing and lacking. I wasn’t clear what you could and couldn’t do, how long you had to wait after birth and what warning signs you should watch for.

About a year ago I approached Finola Burrell about writing it with me. Finola is a musculoskeletal physiotherapist and without a doubt the best Physio I have ever seen. I wanted to ensure the exercises included in the book were safe and effective and to help educate mothers on common postnatal issues. Strength Through Yoga is not just an exercise guide on how to get a sixpack and fit into your pre-baby jeans. In order to feel your best, we know you need to work with the mind as well as the body – the deep muscles as well as the larger superficial muscles. We have written a book that is bespoke and evidence based. Through it we aim to help mothers feel strong in both mind and body.

We have used our different experience and skills to devise a yoga inspired post natal exercise guide. It is set out to guide you in what you can do from day zero (think pelvic floor and anxiety reducing breathing exercises and meditation), to necessary strengthening exercises and vital stretches in those early weeks. Then, following your doctor sign-off, it sets out 10 weeks of yoga inspired circuits designed to increase strength, flexibility, and to help with weight loss. Each circuit is designed to take around 30 minutes, 3 times a week. A time efficient programme for busy mums! In the three stages of the book there is an intention behind every move that aims in take part in recovery and re-building strength safely over the whole body. It’s about learning how to move and breath on a functional level again without taking shortcuts.

In addition, we also provide advice on a number of common post pregnancy conditions and symptoms like diastasis recti and prolapse – shedding some light on issues which can be hard to talk about and giving you information on what you can do to help.