The Perinatal Professional Healer Weekend Intensive in Austin 4/24/15-4/26/16

Ellen Stansell and I are leading a Perinatal Professional Healer intensive weekend in late April at Balance Studio in south Austin.  The workshop is appropriate for therapists, midwives, doulas, pre-and-post-natal yoga teachers, childbirth educators and pediatric and L&D nurses.  The focus of the weekend is to develop skills to hold mother through the attachment process with her prenate, neonate, infant or young child.  Each day, we will meet 4 hours, and assignments will be given for deep reflection between sessions.  Our intention is that together, perinatal professionals can raise awareness of the special journey of mother-baby dyads for the parents and communities we serve.

Ellen Stansell, PhD, RYT and Illysa Foster, M.Ed, CPM, LPA
Ellen Stansell, PhD, RYT and Illysa Foster, M.Ed, CPM, LPA

Ellen is a philosopher and yoga instructor specializing in eastern philosophy and yoga teacher training.  She is also a mom of two young boys whom she birthed with midwives.  You can learn more about Ellen here:

Throughout the weekend, Ellen and I will be guiding perinatal professionals through content and experientials designed to assist the caregiver in embodying and integrating eastern wisdom and developmental psychology and neuroscience into their practices.  For more info, call 512.809.3132 or email


Here are some of the areas that we will be exploring with participants over the weekend:

Introduction to Relationship Qualities in Developmental Psychology, Neuroscience and Clinical Care

Attunement and Empathy

Dyadic Synchrony Neuroscience and Mindfulness in Clinical Interactions with Perinatal Patients/Clients as informed by Clinical and Developmental Psychology/Attachment Theory.

Anatomy and Physiology for care of mother and mother/baby (lecture)

Developmental Models of Attachment

Neuroscience Research on Attachment

Case Study in Small Groups (Discussion)

Applications of ecological systems and caregiver sensitivity to client contexts: Ethics and witnessing in clinical relationships

Psychoanalytic Concepts and Clinical Applications

Best Practices for Perinatal Care

Ethical principles of yoga briefly introduced.

Apply ethical principles of satya (honesty), ahiṃsā (non-violence) and aparigraha (non-grasping).

Centering activity.

Theory of the five kośas. Theory of Sāṃkhya psychology, chariot metaphor, goal of yoga. Value of the witness consciousness according to Indian psychology.

Meditation through the five koshas to the witness consciousness.

Relationship of Krishna (ideal healing practitioner) and Arjuna (idealized student, client) in Bhagavad Gītā.


Moving meditation with a partner. Includes partner yoga postures.

Group Meditation.

The use of a tattva to focus you when you get distracted

Identify your tattva.

Lecture: The importance of home meditation practice

“What steps do you plan to take to implement what you’ve learned in your own practice.”, and  “How will this change the way you practice?”

Ritual Rhythm and Relaxation in Creative Mothers Group


Relaxation, rhythm and ritual (the 3 R’s) was first identified by Penny Simpkin, a physical therapist, doula, author and childbirth educator who describes these qualities in relation natural childbirth. Birthing women benefit from relaxation while in labor, which engages the parasympathetic nervous system and diminishes sensations of pain while promoting a cognitive state of ‘surrender’. Rhythm is utilized in labor to facilitate structure.  It requires adjustment as the stages of labor progress in order to meet the demands of the system homeostasis as pain and related need for pain-tolerance increase. Finally, ritual, gives the mother a sense of meaning to the “mad” state that labor can produce. Rituals remind the deeper consciousness that there is meaning to the process of birth.

The application the 3 R’s to a psychotherapy group for mothers is appropriate because mothers of young children are typically body-centered. The day-to-day work of caring for their infant or young child has kept them in contact with bodily demands. Yet, these demands are typically of the ‘other’, the small infant. Mothers in therapy can benefit from the safety provided by the 3R’s to begin exploring their own bodily needs in a compassionate manner. Here is my template for the 3R’s in this group:

We start with a sitting/ gentle movement meditation to calm and engage the group. This important first step engages the parasympathetic nervous system through relaxation. Following relaxation, a brief check-in provides a transition for entering the group experience.  This ritual can bring the group together through attunement.  The circle feels sacred, and the elements of structure and safety provide additional ritualistic-feel to the souls. Once centering and empathic attunement is established, I  provide an experiential focus from a theme that emerges from the group’s needs and interests. Then, I assist with its expression by use of creative imagery and developmental movement patterns, mirroring and witnessing. With sensitive leadership, the group process provides opportunities to extend the improvisation, promoting an indulging attitude toward play.  This extension may involve another form of creative expression, such as art or journaling so that the women in circle begin to come back to their own inner experiences of the experiential and process individually.  When it is time to close the experiential and inward process, we hold a reflection circle.  This closure provides ample opportunities for the group members to share and witness for one another, building group cohesion and deepening the group process.