If you’re pregnant in the Twin Cities, chances are good that someone has already gushed about Blooma to you. But what is Blooma? Just another yoga studio?
Meet Sarah Longacre, founder of Blooma, as well as a doula, childbirth educator, and certified yoga instructor. In this week’s Feature, she opens up about how her business began and what makes it special.
Ten years ago, Longacre was teaching prenatal yoga all over the Twin Cities – in church basements, hospital cafeterias, basically anywhere they could find a place. “I had this beautiful following, these amazing women … and we didn’t have a place to call home,” she laments. “We needed a place that prenatal yoga classes weren’t at 3:00 on Saturday afternoon. That they were taking precedence.”
So she invested, and created the safe space she was seeking. Today, the company has over 100 employees, plus franchises in Nashville and Mexico City, with more in the works. They also travel the world, teaching prenatal yoga and offering certifications.
While prenatal yoga was the basis of Blooma’s development, the center is so much more. Childbirth education, doulas, barre classes, massage, wellness, counseling, and workshops make the center a hub of prenatal and postpartum support. Even the yoga classes themselves are community-based and socially interactive. “We are literally teaching childbirth education on your yoga mat,” explains Longacre. “We’re talking about how much you need to be eating, how much you need to be drinking during labor, what are the best postpartum resources?” Attendees are encouraged to explore their fears and excitements about giving birth.
That education is the resource Longacre wishes more people knew about. “Our childbirth education is hands-down the best in the Twin Cities,” she declares, crediting their doulas who are “on the ground”, experiencing the changing birth landscape. “You’re not sitting at a desk with 50 other couples, you know? They’re really talking about ‘What are real expectations? And how do you set yourself up for whatever type of birth you want?'”
Blooma supports all types of birth experiences. “I think that people say, ‘Oh, yoga and childbirth education? Well, then I have to have a hippie birth at home with my patchouli’,” argues Longacre. “And that’s total bullshit. We love epidurals. We love moms that have their scheduled C-sections. Because they’re giving birth.”
“We have to start honoring every type of birth and we have to stop judging. If you want to have a natural birth, great! Kick ass. Do you have the support?”
Support is a key goal of Blooma’s. Like Victoria Welch of BlurBerry Buzz, Longacre believes modern America sometimes emphasizes “things to buy” for upcoming babies, rather than focusing on, “What does the mom need for support?”
Blooma works hard to build a supportive atmosphere, one that feels like home. “You don’t have to come in your fancy lululemon,” says Longacre. “There’s no mirrors, there’s no one-upping – it’s just come as you are, roll out of bed!”
Authenticity is the key to Blooma, says Longacre. “We really talk the talk and walk the walk.” Every Blooma employee is a parent, and almost all have kids under the age of 14. Many are former Blooma clients themselves. “When we hold space for other moms, it’s just beyond authentic because we’re going, ‘Yeah, I’m in it, too!'” explains Longacre.
“I think the big difference is that we don’t sugar coat it. We don’t say, ‘This is gonna be so great! You’re gonna have this amazing natural birth and everything is going to be so smooth!’ It’s hard, it’s gonna bring you to your knees, and we want to be here to support you.”
Longacre also points to the intensity of the prenatal yoga classes as a differentiator. Attendees with previous yoga experience are sometimes surprised that the classes are not just “yoga lite”, full of modifications and accommodations. Blooma’s aim is to prepare women for childbirth and their changing bodies, and that can be a tall order.
“Class are way harder than people would expect – but not in a scary way,” she assures me. “I am so sick of prenatal yoga classes being like, ‘slowly and gently’. Like, no! You have to birth a baby! Get in your body! Feel your focus! It’s not even that physical, it’s the mental components – #1, the breath. That’s going to be your anchor at birth.”
Before & After
Although pregnancy is their niche, there is a balance between pre- and post partum programming at Blooma. The need for support can be stronger than ever once parents are home with newborns. “It’s a very isolating time,” warns Longacre, so her goal is to help mothers “get out the door to connect with other moms.”
“I want to have that kind of environment where people can eat and cry and say, ‘I don’t like this today’. All of it. And their joys, too! ‘Oh my gosh, we had such a kickass night!'”
Cardio classes are the most recent innovation at Blooma, aimed at women seeking more of a workout. Over the next year, Longacre also plans to build out a doula program and seek more partnerships with hospitals. There is also a trip to Uganda on the horizon, to visit a birthing center that Blooma raised money to build in 2010. Finally, while a free New Moms group has been around for awhile, 2018 will bring a “Milk & Cookies” class, focused on breastfeeding and pumping support. Blooma provides the cookies, mamas bring their milk!
Whether you are looking ahead to your first baby, or looking for social connections beyond your own living room, check out Blooma for the parenting support you need. There are three locations in the Twin Cities, including one inside Yoga MN at 3900 Vinewood Lane in Plymouth. You can also email them at firstname.lastname@example.org or call the Plymouth location at (612) 223-8064.
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