New Lenses for Life!


Traveling to new places and experiencing new cultures always awakens a new part of my heart and expands my psyche, stretching my mind to include new ways of living, thinking and being. 

Traveling to Uganda this spring for a prenatal yoga teacher training at Shanti Uganda was a life-changing experience on multiple levels. First and foremost, it changed my entire perspective on the birth process. I went from a fear-based mindset to one of excitement, wonder, and reverence in ten days! 

The training was held at a birthing center in the village of Kasana, about an hour and a half outside the bustling city of Kampala. The center provides women with prenatal care, prenatal yoga, HIV testing, and the option to give birth with trained midwife at the center in a peaceful and safe setting. 

A baby was born almost every day of the training which was a huge highlight for me!

It was such a gift to see women laboring on the grounds and a few hours later know that a baby was born just fifty feet away from me in a small open air building. I never heard a single scream; there were no visiting hours; women, families, and even animals came and went freely through the center.

While I won't say that it looked like the women in labour were having a ball, it also didn't look like anything I've been conditioned to think of in regard to the birthing process. Women were walking around the grounds and every once in a while, would stop hold their belly and breath deeply. The closest I heard to a scream was a small whimper of pain as the incredible Bobby Bessey, our teacher trainer and certified DOULA, led an expectant mother through some calming prenatal yoga and baby positioning exercises. 

It was such a powerful experience to learn or be reminded that birth is a natural process while seeing women give birth without medical intervention on a daily basis. In the US, we tend to treat pregnancy like an illness and regard the mother as a patient who needs to be fixed, rather than only treating a complication as such when it arises.

This experience completely dispelled the fear and imagery I've been spoon-fed my entire life by the mass media. I had so much fear built up inside me surrounding birth and I realized not much of it is based on fact but rather built around media hype. And it only took 10-days of reality to shatter that image! (Side Note - What a parallel to our current political situation! What if everyone was given a new lens to view the world for ten days that dispelled the fear-based communication of our news outlets? Let's invent these goggles!)

The experience was nothing short of transformational. Beyond the training, being in a rural village in Uganda was a superb reminder of how much I have and how little I truly need. Children run around freely and happily in tattered mismatched clothes, community exists between neighbors, family is more important than success, and people are smiling a lot more there than here in New York City. John and I both came back craving more simplicity, a stronger sense of community, a deeper connection to nature, and more laughter, drumming, and dancing in our lives. Please help us live life with these goals in mind. Come over for dinner and bring your drum and a smile. 

We ended the trip with a safari that was one of the most seriously amazing radical experiences of our lives!!! We both felt like we were in The Lion King and kept a sharp lookout for Simba and Pride Rock. Seeing these animals in their natural habitats, learning about their behavior from our guides and being able to observe it instantaneously in nature is such a gift. We hung out with a family of gorillas for an hour in Bwindi National Park, saw an elephant cross a road, and spotted a lion lounging around in a tree. If you ever find yourself in Uganda and need a guide, please let us know. Phennie is the man. 

Uganda was an experience unlike any other we have had in the past year on our travels. We hope to return and explore more countries in the continent. Any recommendations? Let us know!!

Taryn Vander HoopComment