We had the good fortune of connecting with Wendy & Deborah of Living Lēla and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Wendy & Deborah, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
Having a long history guiding women and couples through infertility and navigating each of our fertility struggles, we felt a strong pull to form our business to empower women throughout their reproductive lifespan. Reproductive challenges, pregnancy, and postpartum can all encompass scenarios that may feel isolating to those going through it. The mind-body practices we teach are ancient techniques applied to our modern world. These tools positively shift the human experience towards a space of learning to “control what you can and let go of everything else” and a greater sense of ease, peace, and equanimity. With various practices in yoga, breathwork, acupressure, psychology, meditation & mindfulness, and Ayurveda/Functional Nutrition, we felt inspired to offer a comprehensive methodology to health & well-being. Given our background and training with our teacher and mentor in fertility yoga, Brenda Strong and her blessing to move forward with her work, the next natural step for us was to expand her beautiful teachings. In 2015 we began the long road of evolving the in-person instruction to high-quality online content. There is a vast prevalence of infertility growing worldwide: Now 1 in 7 couples trying to conceive are up against some sort of struggle with it. The age of those with infertility is decreasing as we are witnessing much younger women (and couples) struggling than from a decade ago. Our great passion is to work with those on the infertility journey and reach all individuals across the globe who could benefit from the mind-body practices and virtual support we provide. People seem to be more familiar with the “physical” treatments for infertility (e.g., IVF, IUI, etc.) but may not know how important the mental and emotional aspects are and how they can negatively or positively impact the process. Stress, especially chronic stress, is a considerable contributor to disease and many just don’t have the coping mechanisms needed to help support themselves. Simple practices of breathwork, yoga, and mindfulness can shift oneself quite rapidly towards the relaxation response in the body and provide invaluable tools to navigate all the many ups and downs and uncertainties of life, whether on the fertility journey or not! We also strive to educate individuals moving through reproductive challenges and trauma to normalize the conversation and the shame that often accompanies it. “Taming” the shame associated with feeling imperfect or broken in some way (whether around the topic of infertility or anything else that makes one feel “less than”) is something we think is a critical component in healing the self. This aspect of the fertility journey has improved somewhat with certain celebrities (e.g., Chrissy Teigen) being willing to share their most personal moments of struggle and heartbreak around this topic as well as individuals creating their own emotional support systems through social media accounts. But we are still far from where we envision a healing space for this particular experience.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
Living Lēla is the parent company of Soulful Conceptions™. We chose the word Lēla (derived from the Sanskrit word Lila) because it means “divine play.” It is an invitation to engage in the play or delight of creation, joyfully embrace all aspects of our humanity (the joys and sorrows), love, be our authentic selves, and celebrate life. Thus far, we are best known for our in-person (pre-Covid) in Los Angeles and online Soulful Conceptions™ programs for those experiencing fertility challenges (as well as for those wanting to optimize their fertility before trying to conceive). The Soulful Conceptions™ programs have two main components: 1) Group support; and, 2) A comprehensive methodology of mind-body wellness tools including yoga, breathwork, meditation/mindfulness, Emotional Intelligence/Psychology, Ayurveda, self-acupressure (Fertility Ball® Method), and education about nutrition and environmental impacts on fertility. One of the biggest challenges and successes has been trying to normalize the conversation around infertility. Millions of people worldwide struggle to conceive, yet individuals and couples going through it often feel a lot of shame and do not share their struggles, even with friends and family. Infertility treatments are still not covered by many insurance plans in this country, adding an even greater degree of stress to something already so profoundly challenging. We find that creating a safe space to be seen and heard by others going through similar difficulties is such an integral piece of the healing process. These comprehensive mind-body “tool-kits” enable students to understand the innate connection between their thoughts, emotions, and body and how to move from fear/anxiety (“fight-or-flight”) into present moment experience and the relaxation response (“rest, digest and reproduce”). Some of the tools specifically bring awareness and increased circulation to the reproductive organs. We also teach tools and practices specific to each phase of the menstrual cycle (including the “dreaded” two-week wait) and for those who are going through assisted reproductive techniques (ART). Our programs are appropriate for those who are just starting out on their fertility journey as well as for those who have had long-standing challenges getting or staying pregnant. Our in-person and online classes are also unique because they are taught by both of us (Deborah and Wendy). With our varied backgrounds and expertise and our own experiences with fertility issues, we bring deep awareness and empathy to our clients. In the 15+ years we have been teaching this work, what we know to be true is that these mind-body medicine tools are practical and powerful for all people – no matter where you are in your life process. Learning to live life with a sense of empowerment, wisdom, and more peace can help propel us into a space of joyful longevity. We look forward to expanding our reach and are beyond excited to launch our Mindful Being Podcast in the spring of 2021. In a world full of doing, Mindful Being Podcast deconstructs how we can “be” more mindfully in an ever-changing, complicated world.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
- Hugo’s Restaurant (for anyone who has food intolerances and wants to know all of the ingredients)
- HOPE Vegan Thai restaurant – the favorite dish is the Pumpkin curry
- Century City Mall
- El Matador Beach (past Zuma on the coastline 101) – A collection of 3 small cliff-foot beaches with blufftop parking, a bit ‘remote’ with caves and beauty around
- Hiking in Griffith Park and Runyon Canyon
- Magic Castle
- Hollywood Bowl
- Greek Theatre
- Sugarfish Sushi
- Peace Awareness Labyrinth & Gardens
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
We would like to dedicate our shoutout to our mentor, Brenda Strong. Brenda’s pioneering work in fertility yoga began as a personal journey to find answers and solutions to her secondary infertility challenges. The public probably knows her best for her Emmy nominated narration work as the voice of Mary Alice Young on Desperate Housewives, Lillian Luther on Supergirl, or Mrs. Walker on 13 Reasons Why. And these are just a few among the hundreds of shows she has done over the last few decades. But we’ve known Brenda for almost 20 years as our teacher, mentor, and friend. Brenda is an experienced yoga teacher of over 25 years. She developed a yoga methodology for those going through fertility challenges called the Four Fields of Fertility™, which integrated practices such as Yoga4Fertility, Breathe to Conceive™ and the Fertility Ball Method®. We taught these workshops for many years, and this became the foundation for the expanded work we now offer through our company, Living Lēla.
Jen Castle Photography™