Dancing for Birth Classes in Canada!

DMTAC is thrilled to share this post by Alberta's regional representative Meghan Thom on her experience with Dancing for Birth facilitator Julie Frykberg of Timeless Journey Therapeutic! Read on to learn about Dancing for Birth and how you can get involved as a participant or even facilitator!

You’re pregnant with your first child; you don’t know what to expect; you step into a room witha pile of belly dancing coin skirts arranged in a colourful pile, and a swirl of affirmations cards laid out on the floor. What have you just stepped into? Dancing for Birth of course!

Julie Frykberg is a pioneer Dancing for Birth facilitator and educator in Canada. She is a women’s health and maternity care specialist in Innisfail Alberta, with over 30 years of experience supporting women through pregnancy and birth. Her many hats include being a registered massage therapist; certified infant massage therapist; Lamaze certified; Montessori educator (UK); certified doula (DONA); and – my favourite - Dancing for Birth instructor and educator.

Julie was one of the first Dancing for Birth instructors in Canada; and the second facilitator-trainer. The founder of Dancing for Birth, Stephanie Larson (featured in a short video below), calls it the “‘trifecta’ of birth preparation: feel-good prenatal fitness, childbirth education, and celebration of pregnancy, birth, and parenting, all rolled into a weekly 90-minute class that supports you from preconception through postpartum.” Julie confesses “I thought it was a little hokey at first” but after several years of teaching, it has become an integral part of her pre and post partum support for pregnant mothers.

While Dancing for Birth prescribes different movements and provides facilitators with tools like affirmations cards and music, Julie explains that the design of each class is up to the facilitator. As she describes a typical class the way she teaches it, her passion and enthusiasm for teaching seep into every word. She decorates the space according to different themes: Hawaiian night; belly dance night; welcoming a new baby night - and spreads a set of specially designed cards on the floor to spark conversation around pregnancy, birth, and postpartum recovery. She also provides a selection of coin-covered belly-dancing scarves for participants to wear while they dance. Julie likes to watch people’s faces as they walk in; they’re usually overwhelmed with how beautiful everything looks, or scared because it all seems a little on the far side. After the gathering circle, and some time for questions and answers, Julie provides some education on things like birth traditions around the world and optimal fetal positioning - and then the movement begins!

The core movements in the Dancing for Birth curriculum come from traditional dance practices from around the world, like Belly Dance, and all have specific benefits for pregnant, birthing, and post-partum bodies. These are incorporated into choreographed dances that participants learn through one, or multiple sessions; as well as free-flow dance. The session is completed with a closing movement ritual; a wind-down circle; more time for questions and answers; and affirmations cards with statements such as “My body knows what to do”. Julie notes that she likes to offer a snack at the end, and leave the moms to chat and bond. She has always hosted her Dancing for Birth classes on a Friday evening, even though people told her that was a foolish idea from a business perspective. As she explains: pregnant and postpartum moms generally aren’t spending their Friday nights at bars or parties anymore; this gives them a chance to have a fun Friday night out with the girls!

So is Dancing for Birth only for girls? It depends on the instructor. In Julie’s classes, pregnant mothers are welcome to bring their female partners; friends; female family members; and/or their doula, but it is designed from a feminine perspective, and its generally women only – except for Dad’s nights. Julie runs her sessions over 6- or 8-week blocks, and if all the moms agree, then they designate a Dad night and do some partner dancing, and hands-on comfort techniques for pregnancy and birth.

What are the benefits of all this bootylicious fun and frolicking? Apparently, many! Health benefits for mom and baby include improved circulation; and dancing through pregnancy and birth can reduce pain and shorten labor. Pregnant mom’s exposure to postpartum moms, who may be breastfeeding, supports their own breastfeeding success, and gives them a taste of what is to come when baby arrives! The combination of birthing education and hearing about other mom’s birth stories can reduce anxiety about birth, and increase confidence. The gentle movement also supports recovery following birth, and the sessions can reduce postpartum depression. Unlike prenatal yoga or fitness classes, moms can come to Dancing for Birth the day after their baby is born – and according to Julie they do! Having built a community and such strong bonds, mothers are often eager to show off their new baby and share their birth story. Some moms have even gone into labor in a Dancing for Birth class! And they keep dancing in the delivery room - even when they are 8cm dilated! Mothers are welcome to keep coming as long as they can comfortably wear their baby – but the friendships that are formed in classes last years beyond that! Julie’s favorite part about teaching Dancing for Birth is seeing the bonds form between parents and seeing mothers grow in confidence as they connect with and move their bodies.