I was pregnant once long ago! Thirty one years ago as I write I was expecting our first, and as it turned out, only baby. We were living in Kericho, Kenya which is 7,000 feet above sea level! Brooke Bond Tea Estates surrounded us and in order that tea grows there is a need for rain! It rained every afternoon, without fail, at 2pm. It could be cold and miserable, blankets and large sweaters were vital. Meanwhile, the father of the babe-soon-to-be-born was supervising the building of a road from the Mau Escarpment down to Lake Victoria and spent most of his time striding around in shorts and a bush hat in deep heat and humidity. Such are the extremes of that splendid country sitting astride the equator.

Looking back from this distance I actually think my pregnancy was relativity healthy. Being pregnant was something of a surprise as for months nothing had happened. A visit to a specialist in the UK, whilst on leave had left a bad taste in my mouth…a rude man with absolutely no social skills and a large bill. It simply confirmed that maybe life was going to progress with simply myself and my husband making up our section of The Slater Family in Africa! 

We lived in The Tea Hotel until a house was available and I made friends with some of the wonderful Finnish women whose husbands were building the road. The gorgeous, blond, smiling Stina looked at me one day in the sauna (compulsory for healthy living even in the back ends of Kenya!) and stated unequivocally that I was pregnant! A test at The Brooke Bond Hospital confirmed this and so the next part of our journey was upon us….

My story will continue at a future date because this is really all about The Gorgeous Cassie!

Cassie started coming to my yoga classes about four years ago. She had not done any yoga before. Over the weeks and months she and some friends kept coming and kept practicing. I watched them all grow stronger and steadier. I asked a lot of them and they all breathed strong and dug deep! They were and are still to this day a joy to me. 

Let it be said now that as I approach more mature years and wonder about retiring, Cassie and friends pop into my head, I smile, breath in and step out to meet them on their journey through life. They and lots of other super people infuse my life with joy and huge purpose.

I then went off and did my month-long training with Ana Forrest and on returning wondered how I would use all that I had learnt from Ana and her great team. I began gradually by teaching a tiny few who were willing to give it a whirl! Cassie, Catherine and Chris were instrumental in me carrying on and they were the ones I ‘practiced’ on. Chris tentatively joined our little gathering and her smiles and huge enthusiasm are always a major part of our time together. Slowly, slowly our gathering has grown. 

We began with relatively easy classes to introduce the various concepts and components of Forrest Yoga. Over the months I became more confident and developed a stronger and more intense practice.

Skip forward two years and our Forrest class is larger and the practice is strong although we have not had a venue where we can amp up the heat that Ana likes to incorporate. Cassie came up to me mid way through last year and quietly told me she was pregnant. She most certainly wanted to continue her yoga classes and I gently suggested that my slightly gentler Open Yoga sessions would be beneficial but she smiled sweetly and assured me that Forrest Yoga was absolutely the way to go! 

I have to be quite honest at this point and say that being pregnant was a distant memory and I had only had brief learnings into yoga during pregnancy. However, the universe seems to have its own plans, as the year before Cassie’s pregnancy I had taught Jessica throughout her pregnancy but in my gentler sessions. 

Teaching Cassie was an absolute joy and a privilege. To be part of such an amazing episode of a woman’s life is truly special. Cassie trusted me and I trusted her innate self-knowledge. She knew what was right for her and her baby and required no special considerations. We discussed what she should not do and looked at adapting some of the poses. There was a bolster nearby if supported rest was needed and she knew it was absolutely fine to not do something if she needed to rest.

Very early in Cassie’s pregnancy she took part in a workshop with Jambo Truong, one of Ana’s main teaching assistants in Europe. The subject was ‘Arm-balancing’ and by its very nature intense. Cassie with the loving support of her friend, Catherine and assistance from the gorgeous Thuli, another Forrest teacher had a great afternoon. It was not easy, Forrest Yoga rarely is, but she did it and herself proud! 

Perhaps it was in February that Cassie said she was going to try a Pregnancy Yoga class and I most certainly encouraged her. I felt that maybe she would find a slightly softer practice more suitable and also, from a very personal point of view it felt right that she be taught by someone more knowledgeable. Uuummmm, the following week a smiling, slightly weary but very healthy Cassie walked into class. Seemingly Pregnancy Yoga was not for her! Somewhat bemused, she explained she had not done any actual yoga poses and spent most of the time on cushions doing very little. 

Not having experienced this type of class I could say nothing. However, I was very happy to have Cassie back with us. She and her baby of course grew and it was obvious that weariness was a feature of her days but at the end of every class she looked relaxed, and her back pain had eased out. She was happy. 

The weeks went by and at 37 weeks Cassie turned up as normal! John, who can be seen behind Cassie in some of the photos, was only a little concerned, mainly because any birth experience for him was many moons ago. He felt confident that as a group all would be well!

All the photos you see were taken during that class…Cassie was almost full-term. She did a standard Forrest Yoga class as outlined in my Forrest teaching. She did everything and still she smiled! 

I asked Cassie if it was ok with her for me to write this post and she gave me her wholehearted permission. She felt then and still does that her strong yoga practice made a huge difference to herself throughout her pregnancy. 

I was away for the following two weeks and she carried on her Forrest practice with Catherine using one of Ana’s DVDs. 

I have put many photos on this blog because I really want women to see what they are capable of! Being pregnant and giving birth are two of the most powerful and intense activities a woman’s body will have to do. It takes stamina and strength. It helps to really understand how to breathe and relax. It is a time of huge change both physically and emotionally. Doing any yoga is hugely beneficial. 

I did not have the benefit of yoga all those years ago in Africa but I did teach myself how to use the breath and that learning has most certainly informed so much of my journey up to now! It’s thanks to Sheila Kitzinger that at least I had a modicum of control over my own body…thanks to her book and cassette tape I did the best I could. 

I am aware that Cassie had a very strong yoga practice before her pregnancy and obviously Forrest Yoga is not for every woman but yoga is worth being part of your life during this stage.

Baby Luca was born on May 10th and weighed 7lbs 8ozs. Cassie was in labour for under eight hours and the main labour took two hours. Six weeks later Cassie joined us again in our new venue, Blush Dance Studio, to practice Forrest Yoga. Her smiling presence is a joy and I do encourage her now and again to rest. She is a wonderful woman and Luca has a super mum…

Six weeks ago Kim who has attended my classes, and is a friend of Cassie came and told me that she was pregnant! So, having had three super women become pregnant I am very glad that I have finally decided to do some training specific to being pregnant. On Monday I am off to take part in Sally Parkes’ latest Pregnancy Yoga training in Wales.

My huge thanks to those wonderful people who come along every week to our small, but growing Forrest Yoga class. 

My gratitude especially goes to the lovely folk who were present in class when all these photos were taken; Catherine, John, Sam, Evonne, Paul, Lisa, Chris, Suzanne and the star, Cassie! They have walked with me through this time of learning, feeling and changing.

Anna’s wish is ‘ To Mend the Hoop of The People’ and in our tiny way we are doing just that every Tuesday evening at Blush Dance Studio in Stockport which is the vibrant space belonging to wonderful Becky (a super, strong and positive young woman who empowers so many others).

May We All Walk in Beauty. Breathe deeply, feel how you are and step forward into the next moment. My love to you all xx

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