Meet Anna Starikov
Kirkland Yoga Instructor
A note from Emily Fontes, Owner of Puget Sound Placenta:
Having been active in the Seattle birth community for over 14 years, I’m proud to have made many amazing connections with local family support professionals. This blog series gives me a chance to introduce you to providers that I know and trust. This edition features Anna Starikov of Blossoming Yogis.
Give me some tidbits about yourself. Why did you choose to become a yoga teacher?
I am a mom of 2 (13 year old girl and a 10 year old boy) and started practicing yoga in the late 1990’s when I was living in NJ and working in the financial industry. I had a super stressful job and someone suggested that I try yoga to help unwind, clear my mind and relieve stress. I have to be honest that I wasn’t instantly hooked, but did notice that it helped, so I stuck with it. It became especially helpful after 911 as a way to manage the anxiety that came with that terrible time. I really got hooked on yoga when I practiced Prenatal Yoga when I was pregnant with my daughter. I loved the way the movements felt in my body while pregnant and really found that it helped me to connect with my baby.
My birth experience with my daughter was not what I had expected it to be and both my daughter and I had a lot of issues adjusting after her birth. She had reflux and was colicky and my husband and I tried many different things to help to calm and sooth her. One day, during an especially rough night, I placed her down on the bed and just tried to move her body around in ways that I would move my body in yoga if I had digestive issues and she stopped crying! It was amazing! She eventually fell asleep and so did I…I recall having a dream where I was leading a class of parents and babies through these movements. When I awoke, I knew that I had to find a class to take my daughter to. When I looked it up, I found the Itsy Bitsy Yoga program and sadly, realized that the closest class was in CA. That’s when I knew what I had to do!
So, I went to the trainings (there are 4 certifications you can have for Itsy Bitsy Yoga and I completed all of them) and Blossoming Yogis was born. I started on my yoga teaching path by learning to teach Baby, Tot, Tyke and Little Family Itsy Bitsy Yoga first. Once starting to teach those classes, I realized that the parents needed some yoga too, so in order to be able to work with them more safely, I embarked on a 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training. I completed that and became a Yoga Alliance Registered Yoga Teacher and then continued to study Prenatal and Postnatal Yoga with Colette Crawford (I’ve had over 150 hours of training with her) becoming a Yoga Alliance Registered Prenatal Yoga Teacher and then attended multiple Kid’s Yoga trainings to become a Yoga Alliance Registered Children’s Yoga Teacher. I have been teaching for just about 10 years now and love it more and more every day.
How has yoga enriched your own family’s life and health?
Both of my kids have practiced yoga off and on for most of their lives. My daughter enjoyed it as a baby, but then didn’t enjoy it much when she was in Preschool. She has recently come back to it as a teenager – she’s a volleyball player and finds that yoga really helps her get a good stretch after practice and helps her to get stronger. My son, on the other hand, has alway loved yoga and I know it will continue to be a part of his life. I think that practicing yoga together has been one of the ways that we stay connected and continue to stay active. Even my husband has brought yoga into his life as it helps him with his flexibility. Yoga has also helped my kids to have some additional tools to help them stay grounded and manage stressful situations.
What are some common misconceptions about prenatal yoga?
Let me start by saying that every teacher approaches teaching prenatal yoga in different ways. Some people think that prenatal yoga is “easy” but the reality is that even though we’re not doing vinyasas or Sirsasana (headstand), it’s still a challenging practice because of how we’re engaging muscles in the body – finding ways to open, stabilize and build strength.
Some people think that prenatal yoga is hard. It can be for some who don’t have an established practice, but it’s still accessible for everyone as I like to offer lots of variations so that people can find the right practice for their bodies on any given day.
Some people think that if you practice prenatal yoga, you will have a faster, easier labor or are guaranteed a “natural” birth. As you know, there are a lot of things that effect the labor process and one can’t generalize. With all of that said, the self-awareness that’s cultivated by practicing yoga can often help women to know what they need and how they need to move to help things progress. All of the answers are already inside of us – we just need to learn to trust and listen to our inner voice.
Some people think that prenatal yoga can be dangerous. If you work with a trained and certified instructor, you should be safe. In general, you are the boss of your body, so if something doesn’t seem safe or feel right, don’t do it! I always tell my students this.
How can new moms make it easier to get to a yoga class postpartum?
Find a Mom and Baby yoga class! These are postpartum classes that you can bring your baby to. You can also practice at home with a DVD or if you had a regular yoga practice before your pregnancy, you can take any extra time you have (while baby’s sleeping or playing) and just do a few poses. It doesn’t have to be a whole practice. Sometimes just getting even one pose in is a victory. And don’t be afraid to practice with your baby – it’s a great opportunity for bonding!
What is your favorite class to teach and why?
I love all of the classes that I teach, but I have to say that the Baby Itsy Bitsy Yoga class is probably my favorite. There’s something so sweet about this class that I can’t even put into words. I think it has something to do with the fact that they’re just that little for a short time. After a few months, they become mobile and that’s a game changer. The first 9 months is just such a formative time to learn about your baby and bond with your baby. I so enjoy watching new parents gain confidence in their own innate parenting skills by sharing yoga movements with their babies – it’s really magical! And let’s get real – who doesn’t love babies? I get to enjoy being around babies without having to have more of my own. How lucky am I? Of course, it’s always amazing to meet the babies whose Moms had practiced prenatal yoga with me for months. Some of them even recognize my voice!
What other training or experience do you have that you feel makes you a more effective yoga instructor?
I mentioned some of my trainings above, but I am constantly trying to grow my knowledge base. I feel like there’s still so much to learn and I want to continue to learn and grow so I can be at my best for my students. I have taken a lot of advanced classes on Anatomy, which I find very helpful for all of the classes that I teach. I am also a certified Dancing For Birth (DFB) Instructor and love to incorporate the DFB movements into my yoga classes when appropriate. Finally, I have taken many childbirth education workshops and although I’m not a certified Child Birth Educator (CBE), I find that knowing as much information about labor and delivery as possible helps me to teach both my Prenatal Yoga classes and Couples Yoga for Labor workshops.
Tell us about a typical class. What can a yoga newbie expect?
This is why I don’t I teach prenatal and postnatal yoga classes separately since a Mom’s body while pregnant versus postpartum has very different needs. This allows me to know what’s going on in each of my student’s bodies and what they need out of the practice that day so I can tailor the class to them. It’s also a great opportunity for students to learn from one another, as well as a time for me to share some information about why they may be experiencing what they’re experiencing and how yoga and movement might be helpful. The more information that they have, the more empowered they’ll feel during their pregnancy and labor, and hopefully have the ability to tap into and trust their intuition.
Once we’ve completed our opening circle, we spend about 10 minutes on pranayama (breathing exercises.) I weave in some breathing techniques that can help during labor, but also ones that can be used at any time (especially while you’re parenting!) I try to integrate some meditation and visualization techniques as well – all tools for these Moms to use in the future.
After the pranayama, we move onto the asanas – the poses themselves. I build the class on the fly based on what I feel people need after checking in and my own observations – I don’t think that I’ve ever taught the same class twice to be honest. It’s important to me that each student feels like the class was individually crafted for them and that is why I love to teach these classes – it’s a challenge for me to sequence the poses in a way that will benefit each student. Often, I’ll offer a few students some alternative poses if the poses that most of the students are practicing aren’t appropriate for their bodies at that time. We also move in and out of poses slowly and hold poses to build strength. We don’t do Vinyasas (a flowing sequence of poses) as the relaxin hormone in the student’s bodies can make it easy for them to get injured if you move too fast and not focus on engaging muscle groups and alignment. There are lots of contraindicated poses in pregnancy and we stay away from these poses. This is why I don’t I teach prenatal and postnatal yoga classes separately since a Mom’s body while pregnant versus postpartum has very different needs. I offer a lot of variations so women can decide the level at which they want to practice – if they are ready to kick it up a notch, I give them options for that, or if they need to keep things basic, they have that option as well. We also help them focus on building strength so that they can birth their babies in the position they want and feel strong and empowered. And of course, as I mentioned before, sometimes we dance! I have lots of props available to them like bolsters, blankets, chairs and blocks to help support them in their poses and meet their bodies where they’re at along every step of the way.
Finally, we end the class with Savasana (corps pose) where we rest, connect with our babies and allow the practice to integrate and the body to rejuvenate.
How do you recommend people integrate yoga or yogic principles into their everyday lives?
Ideally, everyone would be able to have a daily yoga practice, but that’s not always possible. We should find our yoga wherever we can – sometimes that means taking yoga off of the mat. Applying key yogic principles, based on Patanjani’s Yoga Sutras, such a Ahimsa which translates roughly to “do no harm – don’t harm others or yourself.” Wouldn’t the world be a better place if everyone practiced that principle? I think what’s important is that people apply whatever speaks to them in yoga whenever they can – whether that’s the physical practice, the pranayama (breath) work, some of the yogic principles or even chanting.
Interested in Prenatal, Postpartum or Kids Yoga?
Contact Blossoming Yogis
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