Womxn's Bodies Womxn's Wisdom: Interview with Haley Wall

Haley Wall

1. Tell us about yourself & why you do what you do.

At this moment in time that is a bit of a loaded question. To be quite honest I’m not fully sure of who I am or what I do. In November of 2020 I gave birth to my beautiful son whom I love more than anything, however becoming a mother has not been the easiest transition. So for now I’ll tell you about some aspects of who I am and what I do: I am a mother, I am an artist, I am a yoga instructor, a nature lover, a travel lover, a food lover, and a lover of finding joy in the small moment. If the past two years have taught me anything (aside from gratitude for occasionally getting to pee without my toddler watching), it is that life is fleeting. I used to often teach about mindfulness in my yoga classes and do my best to practice it myself, but it is now clearer than ever that you blink and its over. Gone forever. So take it in. Right now just stop and notice. You will be amazed by the wonder you can find in the LEAST extraordinary moments.

2. What is your source of motivation?

Right now my greatest source of motivation is my son, but more specifically the person I want to be for him. Of course I'd love to be a perfect person but the reality is that i'm human, so just like anyone I have my good and bad days. I try and take these ebbs and flows as opportunities to learn, and to be patient with myself. I also like to take a balanced approach to life ( when possible) and though he can’t understand yet, show my son that there are so many facets to living that are important: Together time, alone time, work time, play time, active time, rest time and so on. I have spent most of the last 19 months deeply connected to my baby but I will be traveling to Trinidad in July to teach anatomy in my first Yoga Teacher Training. I am extremely excited to be sharing something I am so passionate about with a new generation of teachers.

3. Favourite book ever written and why?

Hands down The Buddha's Brain. It is an incredibly insightful book that explains the neuroscience of happiness, love, and wisdom. This topic first crossed my path in 2016 during my first Yoga Teacher Training. I was instantly drawn in by the neuroscience of why yoga can have such a profound effect on the body. Yes, all “exercise” has an effect on the body, but it is the underlying theme of creating mindfulness that can make yoga so life altering. One of my favourite metaphors for the brain is this: Think of your brain like a dirt road, and your thoughts like a vehicle. Every time you think a specific thought, “I’m too fat” for example, the tire treads of that thought leave a more and more defined pathway in your brain. Eventually you will have created very deep groves in the earth which will make it very hard to stray away that pathway and think different thoughts. If you are mindful though, and every time you think that thought try to change it, eventually you will create new pathways (hopefully with better thoughts) and the old groves will fade away just like every abandoned road. This is a part of what we call neuroplasticity.

4. What (or whom) has had the most positive influence on your life?

That is a surprisingly difficult question to answer because I am lucky enough to have had so many incredible influences in my life. If I am to think back to a pivotal moment that truly changed the trajectory of my life it was in September of 2013. I had just moved from Ottawa to Toronto to start my BFA at OCAD University and like so many I felt extremely lost, isolated, and was in desperate need of community. I had decided to purchase a Groupon for a yoga studio near my residence to maybe give me that sense of home that i was missing. I walked through the doors of Iam Yoga on Yonge street and my life was never the same. That became my “home” for years to follow, and I eventually did my training there and taught yoga there too. So many of the other instructors (too many to name individually) guided me to where I am today and I will be forever grateful to all those who took me under their wing, or accepted me into their lives with open arms. I love you all.

5. Tell us about an experience that has shaped who you are today?

I think one of my most formative experiences was attending a summer camp in northern Ontario called North Waters. It is a girls camp where you go on a ten day canoe trip through the wilderness, you camp on different islands every day, and you learn the true meaning of bravery, self sufficiency, endurance, and your own inner strength. I went for the first time at age 11 and by the following summer I was already carrying the canoe on 1km+ long portages. These days on trail were often long and gruelling but they show you a side of yourself you maybe didn’t know existed. Partaking in these adventures (4 summers in a row), most certainly helped to shape me into the strong, independent, and empowered woman I am today.

6. Talk to us about becoming a mother.

I was very lucky to be a person who had a very easy time getting pregnant, but it sometimes has felt like that was one of the only aspects of this journey that was easy. After finding out I was filled with overwhelming joy, but days later it was followed by overwhelming nausea and almost none stop vomiting. Then again, days later, came the first lockdown of the pandemic and I lost my work when all studios closed. Over the following months I stared to lose all sense of self. I didn’t recognize my body, I didn’t recognize my life, and aside from my incredible partner, the support was practically gone. After 9 LONNNNGGGGG months came the birth. It was a beautiful, painful life altering experience. I was lucky enough to receive care from a number of midwives and to birth at the Ottawa Birth Centre, unmedicated, in a tub. I was instantly in love with my son but spent the better part of the following year barely holding it together. Looking back I can now recognize I had sever postpartum anxiety and depression, but there was no one around to help me realize it at the time. Eventually I started finding more joy in life again, and I was a bit more able to find ease in motherhood. Then when my son was one and a half years old I started experiencing immense cramping and intermittent menstral bleeding. I thought it was the return of my period (i hadn’t had one yet because i was still nursing my son regularly), but quickly found out I was actually experiencing an ectopic pregnancy. After a number of ER visits I was treated with Methotrexate (chemo) to dissolve the pregnancy. It was a devastating experience, and the aftermath was just as bad. I had to discontinue nursing my son because I was then considered toxic, and neither of us were ready for that. The last week has also been deeply emotionally disturbing as I have watched the Roe Vs Wade ruling be overturned. I am baffled that we are living in a time where again women have lost autonomy over their bodies. I am firmly of the opinion that there is NO reason why a woman should not be able to make this sort of decision for herself and am disgusted that so many think otherwise. A woman who is not ready to be a mother, or a woman who has been raped, or a woman who is experiencing a dangerous pregnancy should not be subjected to something so serous as bringing a life into this world. Abortions are life saving, not life taking. Period.

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