February 27, 2018
On the campus of Temple University Hospital, it's not unusual to see Roschanak Mossabeb, M.D. walking around with a yoga mat tucked under her arm.
The intensive care neonatologist teaches a free pre-natal yoga class to expectant moms.
What draws her to yoga is its interesting dichotomy, that you gain a lot of strength through calmness and relaxation, the body keeps flexible and the stretching is good for your organs.
Yoga has been a big part of Mossabeb’s life since her medical school days in Vienna, Austria when a friend introduced her to the practice. She continued to practice during her three pregnancies, stopping at 20 weeks in her first pregnancy due to a challenging fellowship at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
It was during those pregnancies that she first discovered how prenatal yoga can really strengthen the bond between mother and child.
Despite believing strongly in the benefits of yoga, it wasn’t until she arrived at Temple eight years ago that she realized the good she could do by teaching yoga to others.
While working at Temple, Mossabeb, who lives in Newtown Square, started to notice that yoga and meditation places weren’t so easy to find near Temple's campus in North Philadelphia.
Knowing that her patient population faced high rates of teen pregnancy, poverty and drug addiction, and other high stressors, she wondered if making yoga classes available to them could help, especially the moms-to-be.
After polling some Temple mothers to see if such a class would be warmly received, she decided to create a prenatal yoga class.
“I thought it would be beneficial for our moms to have a safe place to come for an hour to reduce stress and relax and concentrate on the pregnancy. Because you are dedicating this time to your unborn child, you are strengthening the bond between you and your baby,” Mossabeb, 45, told PhillyVoice.
In addition to gentle yoga positions and breathing exercises, she also offers nutrition tips and health information in the relaxed setting.
Each mom gets a yoga mat to take home to make it easier to continue to practice. Not only does Mossabeb donate her time as teacher, she gets friends and colleagues to donate money to buy the yoga mats and other class materials.
Once she decided to start a prenatal yoga class at Temple, Mossabeb dived into instructor training, which she completed in a year. Classes started last spring.
A physician and researcher – and mother of three children – her plate was already pretty full before getting certified and developing the program. But if you have a passion for it, you will make it work, she said.
Before classes got underway, Mossabeb had to overcome her fear. “I am not a timid person, but teaching yoga is different; it is like a little performance you are putting together," she explained "You have to be comfortable talking to a group of women that you have never met before.”
Currently the class is held one Saturday a month in coordination with hospital childbirth classes –making it easier for moms to attend. The quieter hospital vibe on Saturdays allows for a more personal environment for the moms join in the class.
“It has been an interesting, but beautiful journey so far. The response has been great. I only wish we could have it more often but with working two weekends a month and having kids, it is not possible right now,” she said.
“I would love it though if one of the patients who have taken the class would go onto to become a yoga instructor and become an inspiration to other moms,” she added.