Womanly Yoga: A Quiet Revolution in Women’s Health


After being introduced to yoga at 15 years of age, it helped Nina Isabella navigate through life’s challenges and she was keen to continue while pregnant with her son. After a difficult birth and subsequent damage to her pelvic floor, she began reflecting on her prenatal yoga experience and realised that women needed a whole new kind of yoga practice to prepare them for birth. She went on to complete her training as a yoga teacher and childbirth educator and started Mamashanti, a yoga practice entirely devoted to supporting women through their birthing years. Here, she shares the passion behind Mamashanti and her business journey so far.

The passion: What inspired you to set up your business? 

I was introduced to yoga at the tender age of 15. It helped me navigate high school, university, moving cities, my career as a landscape architect, relationships and health crises – everything! When I fell pregnant with my son in 1999, I realised I had been practising yoga for half of my life. Like many women who love their yoga, I wanted to continue my practice through pregnancy with as few alterations as possible – staying strong felt like the most important goal for birth preparation. Late pregnancy, I did transfer into prenatal yoga classes; while these classes gave me superb tools in breath awareness, they focussed on modified classical yoga sequences that had little reference to birth preparation.  

When I birthed my son, tension through my pelvic girdle and pelvic floor made it difficult for my son to position favourably. I experienced an extended second stage that left me with damage to my pelvic floor. I couldn’t believe that I felt so lacking in skills to work with the intensity of labour. I had adhered to all of the messaging around preparation for birth – I kept myself strong and supple. Little did I know back then, this was a major contributor to my birth experience.  

When my son turned four, I began yoga teacher training, studying part time, and working three days a week while raising my son alone. It was an incredibly challenging time that compelled me to process my birth experience. In this time, I found a deep held passion for reclaiming women’s trust in their innate wisdom to birth and raise their children consciously.  

Reflecting on attending births; conversations with birthing women and my own experience of attending prenatal yoga, I felt strongly that women needed a new kind of practice; one created from the ground up – from birth up. A whole new practice to prepare them consciously for the real world challenges of birthing in the 21st century.  

The launch: How did you start out in the beginning?  

Early my second year of yoga teacher training, I covered a few prenatal yoga classes and I fell in love with being in a room full of gorgeous pregnant women. It felt very clear to me that this was the only kind of yoga I wanted to teach!  

In 2005, I completed training as a yoga teacher and childbirth educator and I established Mamashanti – a yoga practice entirely devoted to supporting women through their birthing years. Soon after, I completed birth attendant training with renowned educator – Rhea Dempsey – Birthing Wisdom.  

I took a bold leap, left my career as a landscape architect, started attending births and teaching in a small, local studio. It all began with very modest-sized classes – such a wonderful way to learn my craft by offering individualised care – something that remains central to my practice. I posted flyers everywhere and soon, word got around and the little space started filling up!  

Later that year, I received a call from the owner of a large studio who invited me in to run classes in her centre. I was over the moon with joy! I had a couple of conditions. First and foremost, Yoga for Pregnancy and Birth would be moved from the outer edges of the timetable to the centre; by regarding these classes as central to the studio’s offering, we became the first studio in metro Melbourne to offer four classes each week. Classes filled and soon they were overflowing – so many beautiful pregnant women one space! I augmented these classes with monthly Birthing Partners workshops and as these women were so lovely and so loyal, I started offering Womanly Yoga for postnatal support.  

The innovation: What was the biggest breakthrough for you with your business?  

Initially, I looked to the core needs of modern birthing women and pioneered a new mode of practice I call Yoga for Pregnancy and Birth – a practice that seamlessly integrates contemporary yoga, acupressure, breath awareness and nervous system regulation techniques with inspiring and on-point childbirth education. 

As I spent more time connecting with birthing women, I uncovered a very dark secret – women were being led into childbirth without meaningful techniques to support their pelvic floor integrity. I thought it was just me who missed some vital message! I soon realised the prevailing message given to women in preparation for birth continues to be “stay strong”. This persistent message has inadvertently developed the modern condition of the over-toned pelvic floor; this is where muscles that are tense and unable to relax may contribute to longer labour, higher rates of intervention in birth and pelvic floor damage.   

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