Today we’d like to introduce you to Wendy Obstler, CYT, E-RYT and Deborah Anderson, PhD, RYT.
Wendy and Deborah, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I moved to Los Angeles 20 years ago in the pursuit of an acting career. Does that sound familiar to anyone around these parts?
Along the way, I started practicing yoga and in 2003 found myself in a studio in North Hollywood that, at the time, was owned by Brenda Strong. She was teaching a class called “Female Balancing.” That sounded interesting to me so I checked it out. Had I known that it was a class geared towards fertility, I probably wouldn’t have ever stepped foot in there! At that point in my life, fertility enhancement was the last thing I was seeking. However, Brenda’s teaching deeply resonated for me and I immediately fell in love with the work. The “sugar on top” was that this specific practice felt amazing to me. It provided me with tools for stress relief, moving my body and breathing in ways that honored my natural cycle as a woman and helped me feel more grounded. I attended that class over the next year and one evening Brenda approached me about participating in her upcoming Yoga Teacher Training. Up to that point, it had never even crossed my mind to teach yoga! Well, not only did I complete that training, but many others to follow. Ultimately, my time being mentored by Brenda changed the entire trajectory of my life “career.” Needless-to-say, I walked away from acting many years ago as I focused solely on yoga. I now specialize not only in yoga for fertility, but also pre & post natal yoga and I work daily teaching therapeutic yoga one-to-one and in small groups.
I met my business partner, Deborah, in one of the trainings with Brenda for the Strong Yoga® 4Fertility and Fertility Ball® Method. At that point, I had been teaching fertility yoga for several years and Deborah was deep in the midst of her own fertility journey. We became fast friends and the rest is history.
For over a decade now, I have had the honor to guide and hold the space for hundreds of women moving through the tumultuous roller coaster ride of fertility. I have also been through my own personal bumpy ride on the fertility wagon. After two miscarriages, I conceived my amazing son, Henri. My pregnancy with him was not without its challenges, but in the end I was blessed to have my “ideal” childbirth and delivery. I owe much of my ability to stay calm and trusting of my body to my yoga practice. And that experience drives me to pass that knowledge on through my teaching.
In 2009, I was diagnosed with a “severe” disc herniation in my low back. I used the practice of specific yoga approaches, therapeutically, to stabilize and manage that injury with no other medical interventions. So it brings me great joy to now share the tools of yoga with other individuals in chronic pain, recovering from injury, post-operative rehab and to help build an awareness towards injury prevention.
The one thing I wish women understood about both their body and their fertility is that each of us is different, and thereby everyone’s journey will be different. Two women may be the same age, have similar blood work numbers, embark on the same treatments, etc., but how, when or if we get pregnant can be very different because it is a multi-factorial mind/body/spirit process. I feel that one of the most important things we can learn on this journey is to receive whatever life has in store for us, and that may not always be the path we expected to take.
When I went to graduate school, I specialized in the field of Health Psychology, which was in its infancy at that time. It was very exciting to be studying mind-body medicine and the relationships between our thoughts, emotions and physical well-being at a time when many people still did not believe they were intimately connected. I loved being able to teach my patients how to use their breath, visualization, hypnosis and other techniques to change their experiences. When I first moved to Los Angeles, I dabbled a little in yoga more so for exercise purposes but in 2006 I felt a strong draw towards pursuing yoga teacher training and it was one of the best decisions I have ever made. I always say, “Being a yoga teacher has made me a better psychologist and vice versa”. When you read the yoga philosophy texts that were written thousands of years ago, you are reading good psychology. They figured out much of what creates good mental, physical and spiritual well-being a very long time ago and that’s why it has stood the test of time. Many of these ancient yogic techniques and principles are now routinely being used in the mental health field, particularly the practices of mindfulness and meditation. Transformation can certainly come from talking alone but there seems to be even more power when you combine the mind, emotions, body and spirit in the healing process. I love being able to teach these both in my private practice as well as in the yoga studio!
I came to fertility yoga because of my own fertility challenges. As I began to research what might help to optimize my fertility, aside from any Western medicine, I happened to find what was called, at that time, the Strong Yoga® 4Fertility program created by Brenda Strong. Brenda’s pioneering work in this field began as a personal journey to find answers and solutions to her own secondary infertility challenges. The next round of teacher training was scheduled for a few weeks later and it was in that class that I met Wendy.
We continued to study with Brenda and teach that work for many years, and in 2015, Brenda gave us her blessing to take this work and continue to expand the program. So in addition to teaching the in-person classes we offer in the Los Angeles area, we are creating a comprehensive on-line version of the work so that we may share it and help women and couples all over the world who are experiencing fertility challenges.
Has it been a smooth road?
Not always! But that’s part of the journey of being a human being and definitely part of what we teach – how do you find your equanimity, your center, when life is throwing you off balance?
Because we both were experiencing our own struggles with fertility at certain points during the past decade, there were definitely times when it was a challenge to hold space for our students while also trying to honor and take care of our own mental and physical well-being. But this has helped us to empathize with our clients at such a deep level; there is an authenticity that we bring to the work that would not otherwise be there. We know what it’s like to feel such grief and helplessness; we also know what it feels likes to move through that pain and come out at the other end feeling more empowered, even if the story did not end that way you originally hoped it would.
Another struggle we have faced is the lack of awareness about this work – both that it is available AND that comprehensive mind-body programs can positively, and significantly, impact your ability to get pregnant! Thankfully there is more and more science coming out demonstrating the efficacy of yoga practices (mindfulness, meditation, asana, breathwork) on mental and physical well-being across many medical and psychological symptoms/disorders.
The other ongoing challenge is trying to juggle modern-day life – having a full-time job, being a parent, etc., while trying to create a new company, especially some of the more “technical” aspects (i.e., which on-line learning platforms to use, building a website, etc.). We both look forward to having some of these latter pieces out of the way so we can focus more on the parts we love – creating new content to share with our students!
So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Living Lēla – Home to Soulful Conceptions™ story. Tell us more about the business.
Living Lēla is the parent company of Soulful Conceptions™ and was born from over a decade of our work with the Strong Yoga4Fertility program. Lēla (derived from the Sanskrit word Lila) means “divine play” – the play or delight of creation, to joyfully embrace all aspects of life, to love, and to celebrate life. All of the experiences of life (the joys and the sorrows) set the stage and serve to teach us to find this “play” in our day-to-day lives, so that we may discover and be true to our authentic selves, and share this inner light and creativity.
Thus far, we specialize and are known for our yoga for fertility and group support classes locally in Los Angeles, as well as the Four Fields of Fertility© workshops we previously taught for many years. We cultivate community by providing a safe space for women and couples moving through fertility challenges to be seen and heard. In doing so, we strive to normalize the conversation around fertility challenges.
What we offer is different from others in the industry for a few reasons: for one, it is not just a yoga practice. It’s a fully comprehensive methodology geared to enhance fertility, which includes Yoga asanas (poses), pranayama (breathing techniques), meditations, education on diet, nutrition and environmental impacts on fertility, as well as acupressure using the Fertility Ball® Method. It is designed to relax both mind and body in general, but also to bring awareness and increased circulation to the reproductive organs.
We will soon be launching our online program, Soulful Conceptions™: The Complete Mind-Body Fertility Program, which is based upon the original Four Fields of Fertility© and now has been expanded to also include Ayurveda for Fertility. This program enable students to understand the innate connection between their thoughts, emotions and body as they learn specific techniques that give them the ability to shift away from fear based anxiety to empowered presence. We teach tools and practices specific to each phase of the menstrual cycle, including the dreaded two-week wait, and for those who are going through assisted reproductive techniques (ART). Our program is appropriate and helpful to women who are just starting out on their fertility journey, as well as those who have had longstanding challenges getting or staying pregnant.
Our weekly classes are also unique because they are taught by both of us (Deborah and Wendy). With our backgrounds as certified Strong Yoga® 4Fertility instructors and our own experiences with fertility issues, we bring a deep awareness and empathy to the room. Our students can have peace of mind knowing that we offer expert instruction, including knowledge in reproductive endocrinology, and that any person undergoing any fertility treatment and at any stage within that treatment process can walk into our class and know they are in the safe hands of instructors who understand — on the physical & emotional level, as well as from a medical perspective of what is safe to do and when.
Another important component is the creation of community and connection. Our Soulful Conceptions™ classes offer a safe and serene environment where women can gather together to support each other in their journey while facing the often unpredictable path of fertility treatments.
It has proved to be a gentle and effective Yoga program for women trying to conceive. The practice supports the protocols of their health care providers (whether trying naturally or with ART) and also has helped countless couples facing the emotional and physical stress often present in the journey. While we cannot guarantee how your story ends, we can promise you that you will be transformed in some positive way after going through this program. And the beauty of the practice is it is specific and accessible to all levels, even those who have never practiced yoga or feel they are “out of shape.”
There are actually many proud moments we have as a company. It usually comes every single time we learn that another one of our clients is pregnant and/or we receive photos of clients’ babies or receive heartfelt testimonials. A couple of favorite stories we like to share: a 41- year old woman who was told at age 38 she would need to use donor eggs. She had never practiced yoga and took our four week workshop. She fell in love with and began integrating the work into her daily life and was seeing huge changes in her mind set and physical body. She decided to take the next 4 week workshop as she embarked on her 2nd IVF cycle. It ended up being a failed cycle. And although on many levels she was distraught and fighting off financial woes, she stayed grounded and committed to the work. She signed up for a 3rd workshop series with the intention that she and her husband were going to “take a break” from fertility treatments and get back to some normalcy in their lives. She got pregnant within the first week of that workshop, naturally, and she now has a 4 year old little boy.
Another amazing story was a woman, already in her early forties, who had tried everything and finally used an embryo donor. It worked and she had her sweet baby. Then, a couple years later she got pregnant naturally, and gave birth at age 46.
In fact, 6 out of 10 of the women we had in our weekly classes from 2015 have successfully given birth in 2016 and early 2017!
Part of our passion for this work is we witness positive results, again and again. We are constantly inspired by the women we meet and their courage to move through what for many of them feels like the most painful, often empty time of their life. As we guide them through the practice, we get to watch their eyes become brighter and their hearts fill with hope. Ultimately, we witness transformation in the clients we work with… What’s so cool about it is they are learning tools to enhance their fertility, keep stress at bay and feel more empowered on their journey. But what they may not realize, especially in the beginning, is that by the time that baby arrives; they will have become a healthier person.
We have found that whether our clients go on to have a child, adopt or in some cases choose to “parent” in a different way (i.e., be a great Auntie, volunteer with kids, etc.), this beautiful practice of mindfulness sets them up for success as they move through the many stages of life. Of course, for those that go on to receive their child nothing makes us happier than when we get the news that there is a baby on the way. And we love, love, love getting photos!!
- Weekly class costs $25/single class
- 4 classes for $88
- 8 classes for $168
- Address: Serving the Greater Los Angeles area and worldwide via Skype
- Website: livinglela.com
- Phone: 818-618-7575
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/living_lela/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/livinglela/
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/living_lela
- Yelp: https://www.yelp.com/biz/divine-spark-yoga-los-angeles
- Other: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC7YgQftfclswMxtKpLwbBEw
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