Saba Danawala has found her true calling in the work she does. Intrigued by the mysterious and beautiful process of birth, she went out of her way to understand the process like no one else. Her discoveries and passion to help the growing community of young mothers has translated itself into her passion project: Rise and Rebirth. This unique yoga experience helps women sort through not only their physical; but mental health conditions for the duration of their pregnancy and early stages of motherhood.
1) How did rise and rebirth come into being?
For years I was not sure if I ever wanted children. In response, all I ever heard was “haw haye” as if I was some sort of freak. I didn’t touch the topic and mostly avoided it – until I got married. I realize that the process of pregnancy and postpartum is quite scary. And the horror stories don’t help. I decided that rather than just listening to stories, I wanted to explore the world of birth more closely. With evidence from observing real labor (and so far, I have not fainted nor thrown up), and collecting data that backs best practices. I wanted to explore how women have been dealing with their pregnancies and coping with motherhood for generations; all over the world. I then wanted to combine this with factual evidence and take a more scientific approach towards the birthing process. It was in this exploration that Rise and Rebirth was born (no pun intended).In my prenatal yoga check-ins, women express similar feelings to the ones I had: not feeling as though they have enough emotional support during this overwhelming period; or feeling dismissed. And in many ways through them, I learned the power and gift of being able to nurture. We always talk about nurturing babies; but who holds and nurtures the mothers who carry them? And this is why I started Rise & Rebirth. So that it could be a space to nurture young mothers through this tough but beautiful time.
2) What are some of the qualifications and experiences you had to gain before launching a program
such as Rise and Rebirth?
I myself was born and raised in the US, but both my parents are from Karachi. I came to Pakistan only after I got married. Before moving here, I earned my master’s degree in public health (MPH) from the University Of Texas Health Science Center; and I’ve worked in the public health sector for almost 10 years on various health issues. But my passion has always been reproductive and maternal health. My first practicum was with a neonatal health intervention in South Asia. I am also a yoga alliance certified prenatal yoga teacher (RPYT-85) and a 200-hour teacher in hatha, Vinyasa, and Kundalini yoga from my home state of Texas! Currently I'm completing my training with CPPD London as a mental health counselor specializing in maternal mental health; and am seeing clients with clinical supervision.
3. What made you decide to combine yoga with mental health therapy?
Gradually more and more evidence has come about to point to a fundamental truth that we are only now starting to see: the body and the mind are not only deeply connected, but the body is an imprint of the mind. As well as all our past experiences, beautiful or painful. A job that focuses on both body and mind requires constant learning, exploration, and a deep understanding of what the body needs. I am still learning how to do this myself. My favorite work around this topic is by Bessel van der Kolk and the way his research has helped create the movement around trauma-informed yoga. I see yoga as a great avenue for connecting with the body, but it is by no means a substitute for the work that needs to be done in therapy. For too long, the conversational model of therapy has dominated the mental health space. It’s a pleasure to see more practitioners breaking that mold to incorporate more of the body.
4. Becoming a parent is a drastic life change. How do your classes help couples to prepare for this
Our classes help couples to build honesty with each other and actually acknowledge how they feel about the upcoming birth in a safe space. Being a parent is difficult on both partners and there are very few reminders that this is a team effort. These classes are about a relatively new change in our society- the involvement of the father. Fathers in our society have been seen with such a rigid lens during birth: to fulfill materialistic needs and leave the physical exertion to the woman. I find this more harmful than helpful, and it only perpetuates the stereotype that the birth process and childcare should be in the hands of women. I have even noticed two prominent scenarios: husbands who walk into my couples’ sessions are either very caring and want to support their wives. Or they are a little apprehensive and genuinely just need help and training on how to be there for their wives; that’s perfectly fine! The feedback I’ve gotten from these new mothers is that their husband’s constant reminder to breath, affirmations, and techniques of soothing go a long way in making the birth experience not a chore.
5. What are some of the best measures a couple can take to get into the right mindset to welcome
Acquiring knowledge and being open to the changes that take place in a marriage when a child is born. Couples must try to create the optimal environment for the baby even before it leaves the womb. Perinatal psychology points out how important it is to understand the circumstances around a child’s birth. So, a couple who prioritizes their marriage and builds that trust and team-effort- mentality is more likely to be able to cope with the difficult times.
6. In a country where having a mental health illness is heavily stigmatized, how do you manage to break the ice and make your clients feel comfortable?
It’s all about the relationship; building that trust, respect, and being able to hold space for our clients. I don’t care what swanky technique you’re using or what big words you throw out, clients must connect to us as therapists – and as humans.
7. What are some of the most common problems your clients face in maintaining a positive mindset and what is your advice to combat such problems?
The last thing anyone who is feeling low wants to be told is “be positive”. Nobody can be positive all the time. Even to get near that level takes a lot of mental effort and clients would have to reframe limiting beliefs. They often face some tough situations in their lives: a stressful job or education, no support at home from family, societal pressure to conform to, and so much more. I refrain from giving advice because each client knows their truth better than anyone else could. What I encourage is that clients should take it slow. One day at a time. They should be around people and things that can take them out of their minds and into their bodies. They should really embrace the concept of continuous “healing” rather than wanting to be “fixed”.
8. Can you offer any advice to new mothers who may be struggling with postpartum depression or
with maintaining a healthy mindset?
Seek outside help if you aren’t getting the support you need at home. You aren’t crazy and it isn’t all in your head. And to all families out there: postpartum depression is not made up. It can be experienced by mothers AND fathers (yes, you heard that right). It includes good and bad days, and it is not the same as baby blues, so please refrain from comments like: “yeh sab ko hota hai”. If your loved one who delivered anywhere from 0-2 years ago is exhibiting any of the following signs, please don’t ignore them! Fatigue. feeling sad, hopelessness, and/or overwhelmed, trouble sleeping and eating, feelings of guilt and worthlessness, losing interest in things that you once used to enjoy, withdrawing from family and friends no interest in your baby, thoughts of hurting yourself or your baby.
9. What are some of the physical benefits that yoga can provide for pregnant women?
There are so many! But above all, the biggest one I’ve seen with my ladies is keeping prenatal anxiety contained. Here are some of the others:
-Improved sleep. Rested mama = happy mama
-Increase the strength, flexibility and endurance of muscles needed for childbirth.
-Acts like a relaxant to help the body undergo changes.
-Decreases lower back pain, nausea, headaches and shortness of breath.
-Helps you focus on yourself and your growing baby without outward distraction.
10. Pakistanis often feel that mental health issues are more prevalent in western countries; having spent time in the US do you think there is any truth to this assumption?
There is no truth to such an assumption. It is extremely painful to watch families deny mental health issues. If we can’t even talk about it, much less report it, then we can’t have a prevalence rate either (thank you, public health degree!)
11. Who would you recommend the rise and rebirth programs for?
Prenatal/Pregnancy Yoga: For women 12 weeks along into their pregnancies
Postpartum Support Group: For women anywhere from 0-18 months after delivery
Mindful Yoga: Perfect for beginners, those looking to reduce stress and/or COMPLEMENTARY
psychotherapy, and postpartum moms
Labor Preparation Workshops: For couples wanting to work through the physical demands of labor.
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‘Tere Saath’- a ballad of love and heartbreak
Abdullah Qureshi is back with another superb single, which is sure to become your favorite song of this season. The single titled ‘Tere Saath’ is Qureshi’s first collaboration with renowned music producer Eahab Akhtar. The song has been sung and penned by both the artists while Akhtar has composed and produced the music.
The song was recorded over two days after Qureshi got a call from Akhtar to give a listen to the new track that he had made. Things came together from that point on, and here we are with a beautiful composition that is fun, quirky, sad, and impactful at the same time.
The song comes as a breather of fresh air in the current times when everyone is confined to their houses because of the global pandemic. The song, written in English and Urdu, is a fusion of contemporary and pop music. It’s a happy-sad song, something that hasn’t been done before.
The song is about a lover asking his beloved the age-old question that people usually ask in love, “How could you do this to me?” The lover reminisces about the dreams he had for them, but they could never be fulfilled. He says there isn’t anything left to be said between the two of them and that things happen in life. According to him, the world is full of liars. That is why he wants to speak the truth because he isn’t like others. All of that is said through an upbeat melody that is sure to get you grooving.
The overall feel of the song is very western but retains its flavor and soul with the use of simple yet powerful lyrics in Urdu. The arrangement of the song is equally unique with the use of instruments such as guitar, drums, and techno beats that transform you into a musical world.
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