Emily Behr felt isolated. A foot of snow blanketed the border of her home in January 2018. She stared out her window, feeling trapped inside with her 4-week-old baby, Poppy. There was a growing restlessness inside her, and she was overwhelmed by the incessant demands of new motherhood. Her thoughts were racing.
She had never felt this way before. Maybe the occasional loneliness, but not this constant worry. It was, she discovered, the first sign of postpartum anxiety.
“I said, ‘Oh, I do yoga, I practice mindfulness. I meditate. I shouldn’t be having these feelings,’” Emily says. “I wasn’t recognizing it. I wasn’t being mindful of it until it came to the point where I was like, ‘Wow, I need to really think about this.’”
Postpartum anxiety affects approximately 10% of women, according to Postpartum Support International.
“It’s tough having kids,” Emily says, “especially after you have a C-section, and you go from one kid to two kids. For me, it was being mindful that these things were happening and asking for help and being OK with allowing someone to step in.”
Not just for her mental health, but for her children’s, too. She never wants her two girls, Poppy, 1½, and Wren, 4, to experience the anxiety she had.
A couple months later, she launched Growga, a wellness startup for children and families to practice mindfulness through yoga and other activities. The business, which has a presence in American Underground, has 17 teachers with classes that take place across the Triangle and Triad.
But what is mindfulness, exactly? And how do you get rowdy children to sit down and focus?
“You don’t have to be silent to be mindful,” Emily says. “Andy Puddicombe [the co-founder of Headspace, a meditation and sleep app] said that mindfulness can happen anywhere. You can be walking and be mindful. You can be typing on a keyboard and be mindful. You can be talking to a friend and be mindful. You can be doing anything, and you can be mindful about it. It’s paying attention on purpose.”
Many of Growga’s classes involve high-energy games such as “musical mats,” a derivative of musical chairs in which kids do a yoga pose and take a deep breath when the music stops.
It’s important for kids to learn how to relax and take everything in, Emily says. Growga has taught her oldest daughter to identify her emotions and to work through them. When Wren is feeling anxious or angry, she goes to a designated safe space in the house and “blows out the birthday candles,” a kid-friendly breathing exercise.
“[Growga] really came out of me just wanting this in my own personal family life,” Emily says. “I really wanted a deeper connection with my daughters, something that we could really share and they can learn from. Wren comes to at least two classes a week with me. She is a big part of why I do it and why I want to continue to grow it.”