Interview: Sarah Longacre of Blooma

SLongacreBloomaSTPWe recently had a chance to catch up with the lovely and phenomenal Sarah Longacre, owner of Blooma, a fantastic Twin Cities birth hub offering yoga, fitness, education, wellness and more for pregnant and new mamas and their families.  If you haven't heard of Blooma or been to one of their amazing classes, we recommend learning more about their many, many class offerings and workshops.  Read on to hear what Sarah shared with us on her business, the benefits of yoga during pregnancy, her advice for mamas, and much more.  A big thanks to Sarah for taking time out of her busy life to chat with us!

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Name: Sarah Longacre, owner of Blooma, yoga instructor, and birth doula extraordinaire

Hometown: Minneapolis

Current Hometurf: Minneapolis

Family: Married (Brian) with two step children, Levi (7) and Phoenix (4), and a baby due Fall 2013

How did you find your way into yoga?

I’ve been practicing yoga ever since my college years at Arizona State University.  I continued my personal practice through my 20s and I started integrating yoga into the births I attended as a doula.  I began attending births in 2000 in Portland, Oregon.

How did you incorporate yoga into the births you attended?

Really just the basic, basic fundamentals of yoga—mind, body, and breath—having breath be the foundation of a mother’s birth.  And then from there it is physically getting out of bed and moving and stretching and using really easy, gentle, basic poses to help moms open up space not only in their physical body, but also in their minds and hearts for the birth of their baby.

Can you tell us how Blooma came to be?

So I had been teaching prenatal yoga in half a dozen yoga studios in Minneapolis and I started realizing the priority of prenatal yoga for many studios was just not there.  You know, it’s challenging—you are working with an audience, a special population, that has a very short span of time and the turn over rate is extremely high.

But I felt very strong that there needed to be a place, a center, for women—not only to come and get education on yoga, but also education on childbirth and wellness.  And really connecting with others.  And at that time, in 2007, there were no birth centers or out-of-hospital childbirth education courses except for a few Bradley classes in churches and whatnot.  There was the amazing Childbirth Collective but, what the Twin Cities really needed with a home, or hub, for all of the resources women need during pregnancy.

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So we opened the doors of Blooma in October 2007 (this year we will be six!).  Our first location was on the edge of Minneapolis and Edina (44th and France). We were there for five years and we literally grew out of the space.  We just needed more and more yoga space and more childbirth education.  Our classes were growing.  The childcare we have at Blooma is one of our biggest perks.  Between all of those things, we knew it was time to expand and change locations.  Really what it came down to was looking at the demographics of our clientele and they were coming more from southwest Minneapolis as opposed to Edina.

We also used to offer classes out of Health Foundations’ amazing upstairs gathering space, but grew out of that as well.  So in 2012, we opened two new studios—one on Lyndale Avenue in Minneapolis and another on Selby Avenue in Saint Paul.  We also serve mamas in Shakopee at St. Francis's Hospital—we love to have the support of a local hospital!

What services does Blooma currently offer to pregnant women and new moms?

In terms of yoga, we offer prenatal yoga, BYOB (Bring your Own Baby) yoga for postpartum mamas and their babies, Vinyasa yoga for everyone, Barre classes for everyone and yoga for tots, kids and teens.  We also offer New Mama groups, which really support and provide community for new mothers as they make this huge transition into motherhood.  We also have baby weigh-ins and childcare offered during many of our classes.  This summer we’ve been offering yoga camp for kids.  We regularly hold special yoga workshops.

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In terms of childbirth education, we offer classes and workshops in Bradley Method, Birthing from Within, HypnoBirthing, and offer our own courses titled "The Blooma Birth Class," "Blooma Again, Childbirth Refresher," and “Blooma's Birthing Intensive for Couples”.  We hold workshops on diverse topics, including but not limited to VBAC, breastfeeding, postpartum, prenatal nutrition, and more.  We rent space for Mother Blessingways and offer personalized coaching for pregnant women and their partners/labor support.

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As far as wellness, we are proud to have many amazing practitioners offering acupuncture, chiropractic, massage (including Mayan Abdominal Massage), and belly + body art.

What are you most excited about when it comes to Blooma these days?

I’m hands-down most excited about our childbirth education.  We have the most incredible doulas that teach our classes.  And the thing I love most is that these doulas are at births every single day.  These women are literally out on the “front line” helping women at their births.  So when they teach childbirth education, they are teaching from such a real place and such a place of passion, and trust and intelligence for and about birth.

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Unfortunately, one thing I see way too much is women and families coming into childbirth education who are really full of fear.  I believe our teachers are so passionate about birth that they teach in a way that is so full of knowledge, but also really respecting every parent’s unique needs.  And parents do have such personal, individual needs.  It is hard to teach the masses as many hospitals do—you know they often have 20, 30, 40 couples in each class.

And so I am really very thrilled about our childbirth education.  We have a team of educators and classes coming up this fall that I feel very strongly are the best available in the Twin Cities.

What are some of the benefits of yoga for pregnant women and new mamas?

The physical benefits are unparalleled—when you are talking about your body changing and growing (gaining anywhere from 20 to 60 pounds) our bones, our ligaments, everything is adjusting and there is not a better way to learn how to strengthen, but also soften and breathe into, the places where we are feeling these constraints.

In my own pregnancy, at 30+ weeks, I can tell you I have never felt better physically in my whole life, but I have never needed yoga more in my whole life until now.  I’ve known the power of yoga, and I know the power of birthing, but until this part of my journey, I’ve never been so 100% sure that prenatal yoga is the best physical activity for pregnancy.

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While these physical benefits are huge, to me, one of the biggest benefits that people don’t often talk about is coming together in community.  With all the pressure moms have in 2013 in being mothers—from how to give birth, to cloth diapering, to "do we breastfeed?"—the pressure that is put on women to raise children a certain way!— to "do we go back to work?", to "what do we have to give up?"—it’s a very scary time and it’s a very isolating time.  I felt like I was the only pregnant woman on the planet during the first 15 weeks of my pregnancy because I felt like no one else could be experiencing what I was going through

Until I go to Blooma.

When I go to Blooma, and I get on my yoga mat, when I look around at all the other women in our classes, I see women who absolutely have the same fear, the same excitement, the same challenges in their marriage, and challenges in their own hearts, and I realize that I have a tribe, that I have sisters, and that I am not alone.  And that, in itself, is worth stepping onto your mat.  It is worth coming and taking a deep breath in a circle of other women.

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Whether you take a class that is mostly talking or more of a movement based class, Blooma is a place for all women to come and connect with their breath, their body, and their community.

What are your favorite poses for pregnancy these days and what are the benefits of such poses?

{Laughs} Hands-down, savasana!  Resting pose at the end—I mean, to me, it's like birth—that feeling women get towards the end, after all the hard work...“I just want my baby in my arms!” in yoga it's similar—“I've worked so hard, I just want to lay down and relax!”  I say this half-jokingly but I also think it is so important to take the time to relax, especially in pregnancy.

But personally, for me, I love standing poses—I love warrior poses.  Because warrior and goddess poses make me feel bigger and larger than life, they open up space for me to extend and expand, but also really get grounded.  Getting grounded is key, I think, in pregnancy to having a sense of being in the present moment.  To get super grounded to the earth through your legs and then open up your heart to the sky—those poses have become so beneficial to me in prenatal yoga.  So it’s a good balance of standing poses, and yeah, I SO look forward to the end of my yoga practice when I am soft and curled up and I can feel my baby—there is just nothing better than that.

And for postpartum mamas, what are some juicy poses?

Definitely heart-openers—we spend so much time as new moms hunched over—whether we are breastfeeding or bottlefeeding, carrying baby, etc.  So poses that lengthen out the side body, draw the shoulders back and engage the core, help to lift the heart in a way that moms need more than ever.

Do you have any advice for expecting mamas? 

The biggest advice I have—and I feel like I have said this before but I mean it now more than ever—to be so loving, and so kind, and so gentle to yourself.  The pressure that is put on pregnancy and women—it’s huge.

One of the big things for me in my first and second trimester is—you know, people would say to me “Oh my gosh, are you so excited?! Are you so excited?!” and “This is such a blessing, this is such a gift” and it didn’t feel that way to me.  Because I was really starting to wonder, “How am I going to do it all?” And I was already mourning the loss of the life I have known.  And that is when I am called into the present moment and to trust that this child 100% chose me, this child wants to be with me and this child was given this opportunity to come into my family.  And I get to learn. I get to learn from my baby—I get to learn so much. 

Overall, I think that we don’t teach ourselves to love ourselves unconditionally.

I feel nothing but compassion for the pressure that women feel.  I can be in a class of 30 moms and ten of them couldn’t be more excited about being pregnant—they’ve been waiting and trying for years.  Another ten of them, they are scared out of their minds.  And ten of them, they go in between.  And there is nothing wrong with any of that.  I taught just this Saturday and half my class was in tears because they couldn’t even wrap their heads around: “What is it like to be a mom??”  And I am not just talking about first time moms, for some this could be their second, third, or fourth—and you know, they need the yoga more than anyone.  And many of them know the importance of stepping onto their mat to take care of themselves.

The other thing I would say is not to feel intimidated by yoga.  A lot of women are coming to yoga in pregnancy or even in postpartum for the very first time, which is awesome. So many women are intimidated, they think they have to be a certain way or look a certain way or be able to do certain poses—but I just want to break that myth down—you don’t have to be decked out in yoga name brands and look perfect throughout the entire class.  Here at Blooma, you know, we are all about crying babies.  It’s important not to feel ashamed or discouraged from coming onto your mat after having a bad day—that is actually when you need it the most.

And for some moms in the postpartum, they don’t love being a mom, they don’t know if they chose the right path and they are struggling with their relationship with their child—and how normal is that?  But we don’t talk about that.  We DO talk about that at Blooma.

At New Moms group, this is a key place, because there is more talking and sharing.  And this is a place where it's okay for new moms to say, “I am scared” or “I feel alone” And if you do BYOB yoga before that, you open up a place in your body where a lot of that energy may otherwise get stuck.

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Any other advice you have for new mamas?

I would say New Moms group is the best place to start, especially after a C-section or otherwise difficult birth, for mom’s that aren’t ready yet for physical movement—New Mom’s group is a wonderful resource.  And, hey, come back in November and I’ll give you more advice for new moms.

Do you have anything else to add?

Yes! I want to extend a BIG thanks for the Birth Community of St. Paul and Minneapolis. My staff of 60+ and I could not be here without all of the unconditional love and support they give… and I pray we give it right back to them!