Month: February 2015

The Benefits of Yoga For Pregnant Women

An essay by Claire Palvetzian

Yoga is a spiritual and physical exercise that has many beneficial factors to the variety of individuals who engage in its practice. People of all ages, genders, and cultures are encouraged to participate in yoga not only for the physical activity aspect, but also for the well-rounded healthy lifestyle it promotes. In society women share many crucial roles, one of which is to bear healthy children. To do this, they need to eat well and take care of their bodies in which the developing child exists. Yoga has been proven to assist in the wellbeing of the growing foetus, as well as helping mothers through a successful birthing process.

Through the various postures and techniques of yoga, pregnant mothers can greatly benefit both physically and yoga postures can have many benefits applied to the pregnant mother as well as the unborn child. A growing fetus requires essential nutrients, constant blood flow, and protection. The postures of yoga including its many movements and various positions, encourages blood flow which transports much needed oxygen and blood through the mother to the baby. This allows the fetus to grow into a healthy baby.

Although it is a wonderful and beautiful process, the procedure of giving birth can sometimes be dangerous for the baby as well as for the mother. Mothers can suffer from complications during labour, which can lead to high blood pressure, mental stress, and further reproduction difficulties.

Certain precautions and lifestyle choices can be made by the mother in order to prevent this from happening. Eating properly, living a stress-free life, and most importantly, exercising, are all choices to reduce pregnancy related problems.

Women are discouraged, however, from lifting weights, or any other strenuous workouts in order to protect the baby from harm, therefore alternative forms of exercise are encouraged such as gentle, prenatal yoga.

A study done in India researched the effectiveness of yoga on pregnancy outcomes. Doctors enrolled 169 pregnant women in daily yoga classes, and 166 women in daily walks.

Results of all pregnancies were monitored and the results were as follows: pre-term labor was significantly lower in the yoga group, complications including intrauterine growth retardation, and pregnancy-induced hypertension were also significantly lower in the yoga group, and finally, the number of babies with birth weight under 2500 grams was higher in the yoga group (Shamanthakamani, 2005).

This study demonstrates that not only is yoga safe to practice while pregnant, but it should be encouraged to improve the well-being of the baby, as well as the mother.

In society today, I feel as though yoga is not targeted to pregnant mothers enough. These statistics from research studies prove that yoga is very beneficial, and should be promoted for everyone to participate, especially pregnant women. I believe that if women took their health into consideration while pregnant, and began practicing yoga, we would notice a powerful change in the health of the new generations of babies.

Another doctor who encourages yoga among pregnant women is Dr. Janet Balaskas. She is the author of the book, The Encyclopedia of Pregnancy and Birth, and wrote that, “The woman giving birth needs to learn to trust her body and its potential.” (Balaskas, J.) This sort of mentality is taught through yoga practice in that one must be able to trust their minds while meditating and exploring themselves. Balaskas also argues that a woman’s body is designed to give birth in an upright position in which the woman is squatting. To strengthen legs muscles without demanding workouts, a yoga-based program is recommended by Balaskas to “develop strength without overdoing it” (Balaskas, J.).

Stretching allows the body the move comfortably in all positions and would be beneficial for women giving birth when they are forced to use the strength of their legs and stomach. Strong abdominal muscles allow for a less forceful and smoother pushes when removing the baby from the woman’s uterus.

Evidence from scientific research and studies has proven that through the postures of yoga, pregnant mothers can assist themselves in the birthing process, as well as their growing baby.

Yoga can also have psychological benefits to expecting mothers. Due to raised levels of hormones, women can go through serious mood swings during pregnancy. These mood swings can cause mothers to feel self-conscious, unappreciated, and alone. Occasionally, prolonged mood swings can develop into mental disorders such as postpartum disorder, and severe depression.

A study done in Australia researched the perceived body image and psychological well-being between exercising and non-exercising pregnant women. Through self-reported questionnaires, research proved that the 25 exercising pregnant women found to have reduced frequency of somatic symptoms, anxiety, insomnia, and a higher level of psychological well being, compared to the 18 non-exercisers (Goodwin, 442). The exercises included activities such as yoga, walking, and swimming, which demonstrates that yoga can be very beneficial to the minds of pregnant women. Pregnant women face tremendous anxiety issues because their bodies are changing shape, they tend to gain more weight in places they are not used to, and therefore begin to develop confidence issues. This should be taken seriously because mothers have many responsibilities, and if their minds are not focused on their newborn children, they could bring harm to the baby and to themselves.

Yoga should be practiced after women give birth as well as before, to help the body get back to its normal state. The breathing techniques used in yoga exercises also teach expecting mothers how to relieve their anxiety and stress levels which is extremely important during the process of labor.

Deep, slow breaths lessen the stress on the heart and enhance the entire cardiovascular system. (Kappmeier, 39) This allows pregnant women to feel relaxed and stress free during the painful aspects of pregnancy. Practicing these breathing techniques before labor is especially important so that the body goes into a recognizable calm state that can be applied at any period of time.

The pranayama breath practiced in yoga is the breath that connects the mind and body with a shared consciousness (Kappmeier, 40). This allows the individual to focus on their breathing instead of the chatter in the mind, which in turn improves circulation, bringing more blood, oxygen, and fuel to the muscles, as well as enhancing concentration (Kappmeier, 40).  This is a great breathing style for pregnant women because they will be able to learn how to clear their minds from stress or pressures of labor, and focus on their task.  This research and these findings prove that yoga plays a crucial role in developing a strong mind in pregnant women.

In conclusion, the physical and spiritual practice of yoga is beneficial to all people of different cultures, genders, and ages. Yoga encourages a healthy body and the overall well being of the mind. Expecting mothers require both physical activity and mental stimulation, which is properly applied through the practice of yoga. Through the many studies and research, doctors have found that yoga is very profitable for pregnant women both before and after they give birth.

Through the various postures and techniques of yoga, pregnant mothers can greatly benefit both physically and mentally.

Balaskas J., Yehudi G. The Encyclopedia of Pregnancy and Birth. Retrieved from

Goodwin, A. (2008) Body image and psychological well being in pregnancy: A comparison of exercisers and non-exercisers. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, 40 (4), 442-447.

Kappmeier, K., Ambrosini, D. (2006). Instructing Hatha Yoga. USA: Versa Press.

Shamanthakamani N., Raghuram N., Vivek N., Sulochana

G., Hongasandra R. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. April 1, 2005, 11(2): 237-244. Doi: 10.1089/acm.2005.11.237

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Breathing And Pregnancy

Denise Davis-Gains


by Denise Davis-Gains



Many years ago, during my first pregnancy, I remember being a little arrogant and
wondering what I would learn in a prenatal class at the hospital. This was before I
became a yoga teacher. During that first session the instructor talked about breathing
and exercise, she talked about a lot of things, but breathing seemed to me to be the most
unusual thing to discuss in a prenatal class. Wouldn’t I just breathe normally? Why
would I need to breath in any special way to get through labor and delivery? She talked
about different breathing techniques and I felt rather silly blowing air out of my pursed
lips and preceded to file this class under “LATER” OR “WHATEVER” as my 13 year
old daughter would now say.

That first labor was 24 hours long with 5 hours of pushing and eventually forceps
intervention to help get my very large child out of my apparently somewhat narrow
pelvis. I held my breath and did not have a coach to remind me to breathe and I am sure
now that this slowed down the process much more than was necessary. While I managed
to deliver vaginally, it was an experience that could have been eased by some gentle
coaching with breath and sound.

In the year after the birth of my first child I decided to become a yoga teacher and took
him with me to nurse as I worked through basic yoga teacher training. I learned about
holding the breath and how as I held my breath pain would increase and how when I
released the breath, I could release pain in my body.

Practicing simple breath awareness during pregnancy can help during the labor and
delivery process at the end of the pregnancy and it can also help to make sure that
mom and baby are getting optimal amounts of oxygen during the gestation period.

Remembering that there is a miracle happening in the body. Through the coming
together of a few cells a child is forming. To maximize the growth potential of that child
we want to get as much oxygen as possible as that is one of the foundational building
blocks of a human being.

The Importance Of Breathing And Pregnancy

During my second pregnancy, the midwife nurse exclaimed repeatedly that, “we should
be making a video of your breathing techniques.” I discovered how using breath
awareness alone could help with labor and delivery. It was amazing how just letting
the breath out during the contractions could allow the contraction and gravity to do its
job. I noticed if I held my breath that the contraction was not as productive. Experiment
with this concept by pinching your hand hard and firm, hold the breath, and notice what
happens. Do the same thing and let the breath out long and slow. Notice the difference.
Try it again and let out a long, deep guttural “ahhhh” sound and see how it feels. This is
the foundation of basic benefits of breath awareness and pregnancy.

Benefits of Breath work – Pranayama and Pregnancy

• Decrease in resting heart rate

• Decrease in blood pressure

• Decrease in respiratory rate

• Increased efficiency of cardiovascular & respiratory functions

• Normalized gastrointestinal & hormonal functions

• Increase in endurance and energy level

• Breathing exercises improve sleep and normalize weight

• Increased bodily awareness

• Improved mood and well-being

• Improved sense of self-acceptance

• Increased self-actualization

• Can reduce anxiety, depression and feelings of anger and hostility

• Increased attention span, concentration, memory and learning

The biochemical profile improves, indicating an anti-stress and antioxidant effect. Some changes include a decrease in blood glucose, triglyceride, cholesterol, and stress-
hormones.  These are some of the basic benefits of practicing yoga breathing during and after pregnancy.

Some exercises that might help to achieve these benefits include the complete yoga breath, watching the gap and alternate nostril breathing.

The complete yoga breath:

• Sit quietly

• Become aware of the natural rhythm of your breath

• Imagine inhaling from the bottom up, like filling up a pitcher of water.

• Inhale into the belly

• Feel the chest expand

• Fill up right up to the collar, the back of the throat and the nose

• Exhale from the top down

• Collar, chest, abdomen

• Allow the attention to follow the breath all the way in and all the way out.

• Notice if the attention wanders and without judgment or criticism bring the attention back to the breath when you are ready.

• Start with about 1-3 minutes and practice longer as your ability to pay attention increases to about 10-12 minutes

Watching the Gap:

• Repeat this same process as above

• When you have established a regular complete breath rhythm bring the attention to the space between the exhalation and the next arising inhalation

• Notice where the attention goes in that space

• Allow the gap to become wider & deeper without restraining the breath in any way

• Stay with this exercise for 1-3 minutes and build up to 10-12 minutes

We breathe predominantly through one nostril for 60-90 minutes and then the sinus
rhythm changes and we breath from the other nostril for 60-90 minutes, alternating
throughout the day. Take a minute and notice which nostril is dominant right now.
Many things can interfere with the sinus rhythm; allergies; environmental factors; colds;
viruses; pregnancy, and other conditions. One way to re-establish a regular rhythm is to
practice alternate nostril breathing.

Alternate Nostril Breathing:

• Start with the complete breath as above, establish a comfortable rhythm, about 1-2 minutes

• Prepare the right hand by folding the first two fingers into the palm of the hand

• Use the right thumb to open and close the right nostril (just gently lay it on the nose to close the nostril, no pressure necessary)

• Use the right ring finger to open and close the left nostril

• Inhale completely through both nostrils

• Exhale completely through both nostrils

• Close the right nostril

• Inhale through the left (short quick powerful inhalations)

• Close the left

• Exhale through the right (long slow drawn out exhalations)

• Inhale through the right

• Close the right and

• Exhale through the left

• Repeat for 3-10 minutes

It is a good idea to check with your primary health care provider before beginning any
new exercises or practices during pregnancy. It is a good idea to work with a teacher to
ensure that you are getting maximum benefit from these ancient practices.

Focusing on the act of breathing clears the mind of all daily distractions and clears our
energy enabling us to better connect with the Spirit within. ~Author Unknown

July Schedule

Denise Davis-Gains, a yoga teacher since 1993 and trainer of teachers since 1997, lives
and works in Cambridge, Ontario, Canada with her three children. Denise has had the
privilege to assist in the birth story of many of her students. She trains yoga teachers
in the yoga of fertility & bringing children into to the world consciously. You can find
out more about her at and she can be contacted at 519.240.9642 or

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Why Prenatal Yoga?

Yoga is one the best ways to prepare for labor, delivery and motherhood in general.

prenatal yoga atlas studio cambridge

The general benefits include, but are not limited to:

Stress & Happiness – the practice of yoga reduces stress and clears the mind through stretching, breathing and meditating

Flexibility & Strength – gentle stretching in your current range of motion and challenging muscles within the current level of strength helps to maintain physical fitness and encourages blood circulation for you and baby.

Swelling, Inflammation, Immune System – flowing exercises that stimulate circulation and movement of the lymphatic system help to reduce swollen feet, ankles, hands and fingers and improves the strength of the immune system for you and baby.

Labor – Yes, yoga can help to prepare you for labor.  Breathing exercises and tension
releasing practices leave more oxygen for you and baby. Learn techniques to help move the
baby down the birth canal and to manage the pain associated with childbirth.

Back Pain – Reduce or avoid back pain through regular yoga practice and improve posture and the ability to carry the growing weight of your child.

If you have specific questions about your and your pregnancy or would prefer private yoga
sessions contact Atlas Studio at 519.240.9642

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5 Ways to Reduce Stress When Getting Ready for Labor & Delivery

prenatal yoga 02 atlas yoga studio

This is our five step list for what you can do when getting ready for labor and delivery, which should make the entire experience more enjoyable and less stressful.  🙂

1. Make list – what to take to the hospital

Making a list

– Your birth plan, write it down

– What your partner has to do when you go into labor

– Phone list and when to call each friend and family member

2.  Get baby’s room ready

baby's room

3.  Get bags ready for the hospital

pregnant lady packing bags

4.  Plan time for rest, pampering and one-on-one time with your partner

pregnant lady resting

5.  Hire a private yoga instructor for the last week before labor 

hire a private yoga instructor

– Splurge and have a experienced yoga teacher come and guide you through deeply relaxing and preparatory postures, breathing exercises and mantras for easy labor and delivery

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Diana – Goddess of Childbirth

Diana, the daughter of Jupiter is called the goddess of childbirth because her mother bore her painlessly.

diana childbirth goddess

She is usually depicted with bow and arrow that her father gave her as a young girl, symbolizing female strength and power.

diana childbirth goddess atlas yoga studio

To invoke the protecting power of Diana – or the aspect of the divine that will protect you through labour and delivery – on a moonlit night…

“Diana please help me shine brightly like you.  Assist me in releasing anxieties about the health and well-being of my child and myself.  Let me fully experience this gift without fear.  Take me to a higher place where I may best serve humanity as a shining example of one who listens to her inner wisdom, love and guidance.  Let this experience be full of life, love and light.  Thank you.”

Doreen Virtue

Inspired by Doreen Virtue’s notes on Diana in her book, Archangels & Ascended Masters: A Guide to Working and Healing with Divinities and Deities.

diana childbirth goddess

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Protected and Precious: Consciously Parenting Through Prenatal Yoga

Atlas Studios

Article written by: Beth Murch, MA

pregnancy mantraConscious parenting begins long before that special day where you finally hold your precious baby in your arms. You instinctively know that there are certain actions that you must undertake in order to reassure your growing infant.

In fact, you have been communicating your love for your child every time you caressed your belly in response to her flutters and kicks, each time you had your partner read the Dr. Seuss classic Oh, The Places You’ll Go into your navel and even by eating healthy foods that ensure your little one receives nutritive-rich blood through his umbilical cord.

There is another way that you can express your feelings for the new life growing within you, prepare your body for labor and ready yourself for motherhood – through the restorative, energizing and relaxing practice of prenatal yoga. Through gentle movement and meditative exercises, you will gain a greater awareness of how the temple of your womb houses the jewel of our planet’s future and enrich your understanding of your own body.

prenatal yoga 04

Prenatal yoga offers a wealth of benefits to you and your baby. First, and perhaps most importantly, attendance at a weekly yoga class or even following along with a yoga DVD from the local library creates a liminal space in which to retreat from the hustle and bustle of Life and concentrate on the energy thrumming within you. A yogic practice places stress from bills, tension from work, the blasting of car alarms and the complications of family life on the threshold of reality for a brief, blessed moment and provides you with a mini-vacation where you can indulge yourself and acknowledge the joys and fears of your pregnancy.

prenatal yoga 02

In North America, we as a society are busier than we have ever been – even when we are no longer at the office or on the assembly line, we are constantly interrupted by cell phones, e-mails marked “urgent” and text messages as we frantically attempt to have dinner with our families, drive our children to their after school activities and complete our household chores. Imagine creating a space where you can set aside any non-essential emotions and activities, and allow your mind to be present only in the moment. Sheer bliss!

Secondly, prenatal yoga addresses many of the physical concerns of pregnancy: morning sickness, backaches, muscle tension, leg cramping, inflexibility, aching Achilles tendons, gas, weight gain, etc. Each asana (posture) performed “wakes up” the major muscle groups and encourages the body’s circulatory system to pump fresh blood through the veins and causes the eliminatory system to excrete toxins and waste.

Often, the unpleasant sensations of pregnancy can be reduced simply through focused motility, increasing muscular strength and realigning chakras (the focal points for the transmission and reception of bio-energies). Prenatal yoga is an ideal way to heal the body because it is a non-competitive and low-impact activity: virtually anyone, regardless of body type or fitness level, can participate in a non-judgmental atmosphere…and there is no “failure” to achieve goals. Each asana can be modified or omitted with the guidance of an instructor in order to make the experience pleasurable and safe.

As well as providing an opportunity to exercise, prenatal yoga presents a space for meditation and concentration. By focusing on the way you draw and release breath, you become aware of your life force and your unique presence in the universe. Your mind becomes clear and you will find it easier to focus on your priorities. Your baby feels the good, clean air that you are taking in for the both of you and senses the peaceful state of your mind and body and intuits that she is safe, protected and a welcome presence on
this planet. He realizes that he lives under your heart for a reason – so that he is closest to the strongest source of love and light radiating from your anatomy.

prenatal yoga atlas studio 05

Prenatal yoga is an easy and comfortable way to effectively prepare yourself for the physically and psychologically demanding hours of labor that are involved with birthing your baby. It is easy to become overwhelmed with the pain of contractions and the fear of opening wide tangibly and spiritually to bring forth new life.

Through using the introspective techniques you developed through prenatal yoga, you can ground yourself by releasing tension through deep breathing and guided imagery. Much of our experience of pain is colored by our anxiety: if you see your contractions as hugs from your uterus that are loving your baby out and into your arms, they will be far easier to manage than if you see your contractions as frightening, unendurable and inherently negative.

Prenatal yoga also increases flexibility and allows you to maintain positions that work with gravity to draw your baby down the birth canal, such as: squatting, standing and kneeling. These are poses that women from all cultures have used throughout the ages to bear their children but have fallen out of use in our Western world. In our society, we no longer squat to wash our clothes in the river, rest on our heels to defecate or kneel before a fire to prepare our meals – therefore, we must train our muscles to remember the visceral work they did for our ancestors. In this way, we can prevent prolonged labors, unnecessary medical interventions, and avoidable caesarean sections and reduce postpartum recovery time. A healthy labor also ensures fewer health issues for children, making it less likely for them to be whisked away by doctors for extended periods of time, compromising the opportunity to establish a breastfeeding relationship immediately after birth, universally considered to be the optimal time for doing so.

prenatal yoga 01 atlas studio

Another special benefit of prenatal yoga is the enhancement of the bond between mothers and babies. Your somatic gestures create a sweet rocking sensation for your unborn babe, soothing him to sleep. She also benefits from the tender energy that flows through your body as you form a compassionate relationship with her through internal dialogue, gentle touch and positive actions. Prenatal yoga encourages mothers to be aware of their babies long before they are born, so that when they finally hold them in their hands, they do not see strangers, but rather, people who they have already had a relationship with for nine months. This not only decreases the likelihood of women suffering from postpartum depression, it also creates happier children because each infant is born with the knowledge that they are protected and precious.

There are many reasons to pursue a prenatal yoga practice and each woman will find her own meaning on the mat. As you consciously parent your unborn baby, consider the rewards of yoga – gifts that can last you and your child a lifetime.

Beth Murch with Ophelia

Beth Murch is an Antenatal, Labor and Postpartum Doula in Kitchener, Ontario. She provides loving support to families during the entire childbearing year, including: assistance with creating a birth plan, providing comprehensive labor care and breastfeeding guidance. Beth also designs Blessing way Ceremonies and belly casts. Her website can be found at:




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Raindrop Technique

Raindrop Technique ® | An Aromatherapy Massage To Remember

young living essential oils 03Using an ancient Tibetan version of reflexology on your feet to start, this technique leads one into a state of bliss.

reflexology foot raindrop technique

Moving to the back, this technique uses a  gentle gliding touch as therapeutic grade essential oils are applied up the spine and to tired muscles.

back massage

These oils are then “feathered in” using a spine-tingling technique inspired by the Native American body work, combined with massage. Let us pamper you!

Young Living Essential Oils

About Raindrop Technique

Raindrop Technique is an exciting modality, which can be performed on both people and animals. In addition to being performed as a technique in its own right, the various elements of Raindrop Technique can be used to complement most other modalities, including massage (all forms), reflexology, bowen technique, shiatsu, chiropractic and physiotherapy.

shiatsu massage

Raindrop Technique derives its name from the art of dripping unadulterated, therapeutic-grade essential oils onto the body from a height (like rain), so that the oils interact with the physical body as well as the energy field. This was inspired by the Native American belief that raindrops falling from a height may purify and cleanse the body and spirit. Because the essential oils easily penetrate the skin and muscles, the technique works on deep levels of the body without requiring hard pressure or force.

raindrop technique

Raindrop Technique was developed by essential oil researcher and naturopath D. Gary Young (read his personal blog by clicking here) following research showing that many forms of spinal misalignment are caused by muscle spasms and inflammation-producing bacteria and viruses that reside along the spine.

D Gary Young

The Steps of Raindrop Technique

Raindrop Technique is conducted in silence. Undistracted by sound and talking, the recipient is able to sink into a deep state of relaxation and self-connection. In this receptive state, the space for deep healing is created.

There are four steps to Raindrop Technique. The first step is very simple, and is an Energy Balancing step.  The Young Living Essential Oils’ blend of Valor is applied on the feet, and the feet are held. This step may take 5 to 10 minutes. Valor is designed to help balance the electrical energies in the body and the aura, promoting a deep state of relaxation.

young living essential oils

Raindrop Technique then uses Vitaflex Technique, the Ancient Tibetan form of reflexology, in conjunction with various Young Living essential oils. Vitaflex technique originated in Tibet thousands of years ago, long before acupuncture was developed.

Unlike reflexology, Vitaflex Technique is designed to send an electrical pulse along the nerve pathways of the body. This pulse reaches areas of the body where there is a break in the electrical circuit caused by toxins, damaged tissues or loss of oxygen.

Vitaflex Technique involves a distinctive movement of the hands and fingers, and sends the receiver into an even deeper state of relaxation as the essential oils combine with the electrical pulses to uplift the body and mind, and release tension, congestion and imbalances.

raindrop technique

The third step of Raindrop Technique is where it derives its name. The recipient is positioned face down, and essential oils are dropped onto the back and spine from a height of approximately six inches (15cm). This means that the oils are interacting with the body’s energy field (its aura) even before they contact the physical body, producing an intensified effect. The oils are then massaged into the back using a variety of modern massage techniques and Vitaflex moves.

The recipient then positioned face up, and for the fourth step their head is cupped and their body is rocked using a specific movement of the fingers around the occiput (back of the head), where the skull joins the neck. This movement effectively pumps the lymphatic fluid of the body.

Young Living Lavender Fields

The Young Living® essential oils used most commonly in the technique are Oregano, Thyme, Basil, Cypress, Wintergreen or Birch, Marjoram and Peppermint, and the blends Valor and Aroma-Siez. However, other oils may be added or substituted as appropriate and as needed, including oils for supporting emotional balance.

Because of the importance of using only the highest quality essential oils and the correct chemotypes, Raindrop Technique is taught and performed with Young Living essential oils.

If you would like to book an Aromatherapy Massage with Raindrop Technique with us, email Denise at,  subject line “Therapeutic Sessions”.

young living essential oils 01

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Atlas Yoga Studio
18 Ainslie Street South, Unit B
Cambridge, Ontario, Canada
N1R 3K1


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Director: Denise Davis-Gains
Phone: +1 519-240-9642