Center for Sacred Window Studies: How did you get into this work? What drew you to Ayurveda and to postpartum care?
Jess Gruber: So that’s kind of a long meandering story of my own reproductive health!
I was already practicing and teaching yoga when I decided to stop taking birth control. I immediately noticed that my hormones were all over the place. I had awful cystic acne, intense mood swings, menstrual cycles listing upwards of 70 days, and I was constantly exhausted.
As I learned more about how to balance my cycle with herbal supplements and Ayurvedic practices, I also discovered prenatal and postpartum yoga and began teaching perinatal yoga. I love how the philosophy of Ayurveda complements the menstrual cycle and perinatal health so beautifully. It’s a reminder of subtlety and patterns rather than a blanket ‘fix’ or a covering up of symptoms. It’s all much more subtle and intricate than that.
All of this inspired me to go back to school for my Master’s Degree in Yoga Therapy.
CSWS: What keeps you going in this work?
JG: I just keep falling more in love with it!
Especially now that I am in my own postpartum time, having my first baby on June 9th. There is so much depth and width here. In working with people through their perinatal health, from preconception to postpartum, there are a thousand and one ways someone can (re)connect to their body and spirit. And I find that most people crave a deep connection to themselves, their ability to create and hold life, but don’t know how to even begin.
I live and work in the Washington, DC area and the womxn here frequently work in high stress environments. So for me to be able to frame their physiologic need for rest in an energetic way that creates balance is often more supportive and purposeful than saying “just relax.”
CSWS: How does your work impact your community? What resources do you enjoy/strive to provide for your community? How do you define your community?
JG: My work provides people with the tools they can use to find the answers (and questions) that they already hold within themselves.
Before teaching yoga and becoming a yoga therapist, I was a preschool teacher. The best thing you can do for any person, of any age, is to support them in their innate desire to discover. This requires holding space, offering tools they can use to ask questions and receive answers for themselves.
My community includes anyone who has a menstrual cycle.
CSWS: How do you work towards health equity? What do you think are the most important things caregivers can do to work towards health equity?
JG: I want to preface this by sharing that I am privileged in many ways, including being white, able-bodied, cis-gendered, and in a heterosexual relationship.
I strive to be inclusive in my language so that no one who menstruates or births feels unseen. I also add education to my teacher trainings that focuses on reproductive and birth justice, as well as the medical history of gynecology here in the United States. This is so that trainees have an understanding of what BIPOC and LQBTQ+ people encounter in regards to their reproductive health.
CSWS: Which Mother Principle(s) do you connect with most and why? What does that look like in your work?
JG: I like the principle of simplicity the most.
Any time we ask a question of ourselves, I find the simple choice to be the best choice more often than not. The same for my clients. Overwhelm is common during postpartum, and usually whatever the question or circumstance, the answer is usually to eat nourishing food and rest.
CSWS: Do you travel for work?
JG: Right now I don’t travel for work both due to COVID19 and being postpartum.
CSWS: What’s your favorite resource to share with postpartum families?
JG: Anything by Kimberly Ann Johnson!
CSWS: Describe an inspiring caregiving moment.
JG: When I was working with a client during pre-conception.
She spent years taking pills, shots, and all the Western fertility protocols. And after 6 months working with me, a Mayan abdominal therapist, and an acupuncturist, she became pregnant! I am still so thrilled for her.
CSWS: What’s your biggest challenge as a caregiver and what would help create more support around any challenges you experience as a caregiver?
JG: Maintaining boundaries with time.
What would be supporitve…Childcare for my son when I do provide care.
CSWS: What’s your favorite postpartum recipe?
JG: Bone broth with turmeric and red pepper flakes!
CSWS: What’s your favorite bodywork technique?