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Fit For You: The Womb Room

From fertility, pregnancy and birth, to postpartum and parenting life — all of these stages of life can be a rewarding, yet challenging time. Trying to keep up with an exercise schedule on top of that presents even more difficulties.

While there are plenty of yoga classes and studios to choose from, finding pre- and postnatal yoga can be tough. And for expecting and new parents, it’s often hard to coordinate exercise with childcare.

One local yoga instructor wanted to fill that void by creating a place for parents to come not just for yoga, but for community.

"Community is primary — yoga is bonus."

"For me the emphasis is on not just including a pregnant person in a yoga class in a way that’s safe for them, but creating community with other people that are in the same phase of life," says Amy Kranz. She's the founder of The Womb Room, located on W. National Ave. in West Milwaukee.

The basement space has been converted into part yoga studio, part children's play area, and part community living room. Kranz says her goal was to create a space to help young families, regardless of ethnicity, family make-up, or social circumstances.

Credit Alesandra Tejeda
The yoga group lead by Amy Kranz (center, holding child) sets up the area for yoga practice and with toys for the children.

What makes yoga at The Womb Room distinct is the sounds of young children playing and little feet running about as parents hold various poses and work through breathing exercises meant to help their bodies adjust to whatever stage of parenting they may be in.

It may seem counterintuitive to practice yoga with children in the studio, but Kranz says the practice of yoga isn't just meant for silent, dimly-lit studios. When parenting is your reality, it's not so simple to be able to change that setting.

"This is not meant to be a practice that we take outside of our lives and doesn't in any way translate into our lives," she notes. "We want it to translate into our lives, we want our lives to be from a place of more comfort and ease and steadiness."

Kranz says that pre- and postnatal yoga is about more than poses and breathing exercises: "At least in the focus of my classes, I try to sort of replicate the labor journey in the class so that the rhythm of labor is something that's sort of installed in them before they actually end up in the physical journey of labor."

Credit Alesandra Tejeda
Each yoga class includes an affirmation and a question for participants to reflect on.

The physical benefits of yoga have been proven and practiced for centuries, but Kranz says that parents who practice with their children and other parents present also experience acceptance towards themselves, their journey, and each other.

She says that for a lot of parents, their sanity hangs on every week. "They get that one time that they know that they can stop for a second, even if they're still in the midst of feeding their baby ... of parenting their toddler — they get that one moment to just stop and breathe."

As a parent of four children, a trained psychologist, registered yoga and prenatal yoga instructor, and a DONA-trained Doule, Kranz's approach to The Womb Room is based on treating the whole person — from  body to mental health, especially as that shifts through parenthood.

"I guess the big piece with the psychology is just the understanding that the body is the doorway in a lot of times to mental health issues, to the healing of trauma," she explains. "And so what better modality than to be including the body and listening to the body and trusting the wisdom of the body at the same time as finding some stability in our minds and in our hearts?"

"If we really know that creating community helps to give relief, it should be accessible in a broader way than it has been in the past."

However, Kranz says, there is still a long way to go in making pre- and post natal fitness more accessible. The number people being certified in of pre- and postnatal yoga instruction is low, which is why The Womb Room offers certification classes. There are also support groups offered for miscarriage and child loss, PMAD (perinatal mood and anxiety disorders) support, and Death Cafe MKE. Kranz says everything facilitated in the space hearkens back to creating community — for all stages of life.

Credit Alesandra Tejeda
Amy Kranz (center) leads parents in their yoga practice at The Womb Room.

"We joke that it should be 'The Womb to Tomb Room,'" she says.

As for Kranz's favorite part of teaching pre- and postnatal yoga classes? Shavasana. Also known as corpse pose, this position is typically practiced at the end of a yoga class lying down on your back, relaxing your body and mind.

"I like them to be in that space so I can tell them how awesome they are — that is bliss for me," she says. "I have an incredible amount of respect for being able to create that space and be able to be in that space with them."

Listen to the extended interview with Amy Kranz of The Womb Room.

Audrey Nowakowski hosts and produces Lake Effect. She joined WUWM in 2014.