Jessica Jennings, MS, ERYT, RPYT
Founder, Ma Yoga® for Pregnancy, Motherhood & Beyond
A friend dragged me to yoga in 1998 because my chronic neck pain had gotten so bad, I couldn’t turn my head. I thought it would be boring. When yoga healed my neck within a month, and made me a happier person in general, I became fascinated and a little obsessed: why does yoga work so well, physically, mentally, and emotionally? What is it about doing these poses with conscious breathing that makes pain and suffering feel like a thing of the past?
I was particularly interested in physical aches and pains, since my dad had chronic back pain his whole life and I watched him be powerless when it “went out.”.
I signed up for a 2-year certification program as a Health & Fitness Instructor at UCLA because we got to study cadavers. I taught yoga at Cal State LA, and also got my Masters in Exercise Science there. But the alignment principles I learned in my yoga teacher training in 2000, and from my many yoga therapy teachers, were exactly what I was looking for:simple biomechanical as well as energetic alignment actions we can do to relieve musculoskeletal aches and pains, to build strength and mobility, and to shift our emotional and mental experience of being constricted into one of freedom and contentment.
After my first teacher training I was asked to teach Prenatal Yoga. I knew nothing about co-creating babies (except the basics) and stumbled my way through helping relieve address aches and pains, until I realized that I was missing a huge opportunity to help people step into their highest potential during this potent time.
I found that many of us have all new motivation during this time to listen inward and honor what we hear. We want to do what’s best for baby! We are often able to make changes we’ve been meaning to for years, because we know baby’s going to be learning by watching how we live. And the challenges can be so great, that with a little guidance and inspiration, we can learn to step into our deepest power, wisdom, and nurturing energy.
In 2004 I teamed up with the Ob/Gyn staff at Kaiser Permanente Los Angeles Medical Center and developed a group prenatal medical visit program called Pregnancy in Balance: Group Visits, Community & Yoga. For six years, I led group discussions side by side with doctors and nurses at Los Angeles Medical Center, and after the check-ups, we all got to do Prenatal Yoga. I learned that Prenatal Yoga is a wonderful complement to Western medicine. But I also learned that the women loved having other moms-to-be to go through the experience with, and often kept their friendships going long into motherhood.
In 2010, I found myself longing to create a community with other like-hearted teachers who felt drawn to help pregnant women find both support and yoga. I re-connected with all of the graduates of my trainings over the years. My vision was to help create a “MAma Circle” in every neighborhood in the world,partnering with pregnancy and mom businesses nearby to offer Prenatal Yoga and New Mom Yoga.
Now, I am so excited to be part of this growing, global community that has supported over 5,000 moms so far and has over 11 locations in Los Angeles and Orange County – and now has an online component, www.MaYogaLivingRoom.com. We support each other and the moms, moms-to-be, birth practitioners and babies in our community by offering inspiration, resources and our own stories on our Facebook page and on our website.
I love helping women become the moms they want to be, with both on and off-the-mat practices. In addition to teaching yoga I coach mamas in making simple lifestyle shifts – what I call MAyurveda – pared down food, daily rhythm, and nurturing practices that take very little time but open us up to a flow of creativity, energy and radicla vitality we might not ever have experienced before.
I feel so grateful for the teachings I’ve received from just about everywhere: science and art, West and East, the physical body and the creative mind, outside teachers and inner wisdom; and I hope to get to share them with you!