Natalie Flood had always used exercise to lift her spirits.
Getting to classes became difficult after her son, Leo, was born: they were too expensive when combined with the cost of a sitter, and the timing didn’t suit his demands.
Figuring that others might have similar problems the fitness instructor and dancer will launch a mom-friendly fitness centre next month.
Shamana Circle Studio will offer classes at times best suited for mothers of young children and provide care for kids under three years old.
“There are not a lot of programmes for new moms in Bermuda, especially if you are someone who likes to move,” said Ms Flood, whose son was born a year ago. “You can’t just drop your kid off and take a class without an exorbitant plan.”
Shamana Circle is not about making money, but about starting a village. She hopes that the classes will not only give moms a chance to exercise, but also time to socialise and talk about their issues in a friendly, non-judgmental space.
“When I had Leo I started to suffer from postnatal anxiety,” the 32-year-old said, explaining that she would be fine during the day but overcome by anxiety in the evenings.
“I used to say that my super power was sleep but after Leo came I forgot how to rest.”
She would lie awake listing all the things she needed to do and imagining the baby was crying when he wasn’t.
“I felt very alone,” she said. “My husband Jonathan is a police officer and was often on shift work. My family were in Canada. I only had my mother-in-law.”
Ultimately, she found help through counselling apps and reached out to mothers who were prominent on social media. She also used cannabidiol oil, which “took the edge off the anxiety”.
But for six months she largely did nothing but watch Leo. She had always planned to start a fitness studio but thought she had wait until her son was older.
“The idea came to me why don’t we just incorporate childcare so that Leo can be with me,” she said. “Then I can teach class, which is what I really wanted to be doing. Then I just built it.”
Shamana Circle will offer yoga, Pilates, fusion, and cardio classes.
“There is childcare offered for classes in the morning and at 2pm,” she said.
“Of course you don’t have to be a mom to take one of my classes; we have a class at 12 for the working women in town. That one has no childcare.
“If you look at any services on the island, everything shuts down around 2pm. For a movement professional, that is their time to get lunch, grab a coffee and maybe go home and rest before the evening after-work shift starts.”
She’s hired two full-time staff to look after children; a third person will work part-time. The health department has required she hire a separate nanny for her own child. Andrea Barker and Fajr Bashir will also teach classes.
“People are super stoked,” she said. “I sent out surveys and got back over 50 responses from people filling out times and dates they would like. I have a big client base just from being here for the last five years or so. This seems like what everyone is looking for.”
One thing that will be a little different about her studio is that there won’t be any mirrors.
“That’s mostly because I spent from the age of four until I stopped teaching ballet at 28, in a studio with 360 degree mirrors for sometimes eight hours a day,” she said.
“You can’t help staring at yourself. You develop this weird ego thing where you are very aware of the image that is staring back at you. As a ballet teacher I noticed it in myself. I would wear baggy sweatpants or sweatshirts to class.
“I was seeing sometimes seven and eight-year-olds standing looking at themselves in the mirror in bodysuits and tights, picking at themselves. They would be doing their hair, and making sure there was nothing on their face.
“Sometimes they get right up to the mirror to pick and poke at themselves. So you know it is something that develops really young.
“What that turns into, as girls get older, is not wanting to wear bodysuits and tights, and wanting to cover up.”
It wasn’t until she took her first yoga class in her twenties that much of her self-consciousness melted away.
“The studio I went to in London, Ontario did have mirrors but I was laying on my back for 90 per cent of the class,” she said.
“I found I was able to zone out and do my own thing. That is when I started to listen to my mind and body. I could figure out what was happening in a more visceral way rather than what it aesthetically looked like.”
The name Shamana was inspired by Witch, a book by Lisa Lister.
“It is a neat, supportive book for women who feel more pulled by nature,” she said. “Shamana is the female version of the word Shaman which means healer.”
• Shamana Circle Studio opens April 5 at 99 Front Street. A single class is $22 plus $24 for childcare.