An Interview with Doula & Peri-natal Yoga Instructor Harriet Came
(Part I)

I was connected to Harriet Came a short while back and we met in her light filled Cape Town home to chat about women, birthing and pre-natal yoga in South Africa.
Harriet immediately struck me as a vibrant, energetic and creative woman and mother. She has a gentle yet strong kind of contagious vitality about her. Our conversation and meeting left me high and inspired.

Harriet runs preggie-yoga classes in and around Cape Town using various studios including The Shala, Hot Dog Yoga, The Source and Yoga Way. She also hosts pregnancy yoga retreat weekends from time to time.
Apart from specializing in pre and post natal yoga, Harriet is also a doula (but more about that in later posts).

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After our first meet I attended one of her pre-natal classes, filled with bulging bellies in the morning light.

The space was peaceful and evocative of the kinds of energy one would imagine perfectly fit for women growing and supporting their babies and themselves.

I noticed how many women had commented on Harriets facebook platform “Bloom Yoga” saying how they only wished they’d come to her earlier.
Being witness to this lovely morning class showed the reason why- it was an empowering and safe space for women.

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How did your journey take you from a Jimmy Choo wearing corporate in London to a Jimmy Choo wearing Yogi-doula?

Haha! If only I was a Jimmy Choo wearing yogi-doula!! Sadly I don’t have the lifestyle or the budget anymore – I am a mother of 3 children (Wilf (7yrs), Willow (5yrs) and Pixie (3yrs)).
Occasionally I do have the inclination though, so I’ll just pull a pair of (what are now vintage) designer shoes from my wardrobe and wear them for about 10 minutes before I get sore feet and then go straight back to my sneakers!

I have practised yoga now for about 20 years. On moving to Cape Town with my husband and having my son 7 years ago, I (encouraged by my yoga teacher here) started teaching pre natal yoga, and basically fell in love with the feeling I had in my body and mind whilst carrying a child and the energy that it created within me…. that which I could give to other women through yoga.

My teaching became my passion and work that I not only loved, but could fit around my family (now my largest priority).
Slowly my classes have built up (I now teach over 9 times a week all over Cape Town), and thankfully my reputation has grown.

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My students began to ask if I would accompany them at their birth (I believe there is an incredibly powerful link between natural birthing and yoga) and so I trained to be a doula with the South African organisation WOMBS.  I have been practising for nearly 5 years;- very seriously in the last 2 years since I stopped breastfeeding my youngest child. My on-going birthing experience hugely influences my style of teaching now, and vice versa.

I have always admired strong women. I have always had a strong sense of family. I have always liked to work and to help achieve great things.  I have always sought after beauty and admired clever engineering (I trained as an engineer).

Now I get to combine everything that inspires me: there is nothing more beautiful than a pregnant woman, nothing more natural and inspiring than a body doing what it’s designed to do and nothing more powerful than a mother bringing her child into the world, the magic of seeing a new life take its first breath and watch a family emerge.

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I loved this quote and was thoroughly amused when I read the following (taken from a link you shared on your facebook page via MindBodyGreen):

“The women in my classes are allowed to bring in snacks and munch throughout the practice. They’re allowed to drink and get tea as they please. If they want to pee 20 times I don’t care. If they accidentally pee a little bit in a pose, chances are someone else did too. I probably use the word vagina and pubic bone at least once per class. And eventually, almost everyone farts.”  

Tell me how prenatal yoga differs and what the advantages are?

When I started reading the above text I thought it was a quote I had given to you.  It could have been!  It sounds just like my classes!  In fact, I taught through all of my own pregnancies and often snacked through a lot of my classes!  I talk about hips, pelvises, pubic bones and vaginas a lot of the time.  We’re not so big on farting but the occasional one slips out, it has to be said…

In my classes my mums feel that they’re in a soft, feminine, safe place and they can do what feels natural and be completely themselves (the key to successful vaginal birth by the way).

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Pre-natal yoga is of course very similar to normal yoga in that we respect the techniques, asanas and philosophies of the ancient traditions, and we seek physical and spiritual wellbeing by practicing it.

However, of course, we’re working with an anatomy that is physiologically very different, and female emotions, hormones, energies that are heightened and different than at any other time in a woman’s life.

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 My attitude and way of teaching is very much that of  “less is more” and to maintain a high respect for body in this state.  I’ve been pregnant 4 times and with each experience I had more and more respect for my body.

With perinatal yoga (i.e. pre and post), we work in several different ways.

Firstly to strengthen and build those areas of the body which are put under strain during the 4 trimesters of pregnancy, thus making pregnancy and post natal recovery more enjoyable and easier.

Secondly to connect and bond with the baby and ones body during this time, this aids a more fulfilling pregnancy and an easier transition into motherhood.

Thirdly- to prepare body, mind and spirit for the birth itself.

Fourthly, my students create a sisterhood and support group through my classes which is a vital and loving lifeline at such a vulnerable, bewildering yet empowering time of their lives.

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I joined Harriet at an evening workshop which she ran a while later as well as a birth she attended (and I thrillingly was invited to document). More on this later.

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