Doula and Yoga Instructor
Leonora Willis is a birth and postpartum doula and yoga instructor living and working in Oakland, Ca in the San Francisco Bay Area. Professionally, Leonora has been an academic, teaching in post-secondary education as an English instructor. She completed her Yoga Teacher Training in 2010 under the direction of Leah Gillman. Cybele Tomlinson of Berkeley Yoga Center was her first perinatal yoga trainer in 2013, helping her to launch her life in a new direction -- teaching yoga to pregnant people. In 2018, with two other women, Leonora purchased the Yoga studio Barefoot Movement where she completed her teacher training, and where she currently teaches. Simultaneous to becoming a new business owner, Leonora completed her doula training with Roots of Labor Birth Collective, a POC centered organization that operates on the maxim that "everyone deserves a doula". It is with great humility and passion that Leonora approaches both, teaching Yoga and being a doula.
See what some have said about me
Leonora Willis is an amazing doula, an amazing prenatal yoga teacher, and an amazing human. I feel I have a unique perspective on her skills as a doula because I was not the birthing mother nor the supporting partner, who were both deeply immersed in the birth itself, but instead a close family friend who had more of a bird’s eye view of the long, beautiful labor and birth. I was with the first-time mother and her partner during much of the early laboring. As contractions became stronger they decided it was time to call their doula, Leonora Willis. With Leonora present, I watched as the mood in the room completely changed. Both mother and partner relaxed and the atmosphere suddenly felt calm and nurturing. I watched the birthing mother melt under Leonora’s touch, surrendering both to the contractions and to the relief of Leonora’s massaging, pressure application, and guidance. In the hospital, as the birthing mother acclimated to her new surroundings, I watched her focus on Leonora for stability and reassurance. In a labor that lasted 48 hours, Leonora continued to help this mama find her strength and believe in herself as well as helping her to rest and nourish as needed. Throughout the process the partner was also supported by Leonora, asking her questions and verifying that mother and baby were safe. It was so just so beautiful and powerful to watch Leonora work. Soon after attending my friend’s birth, I became pregnant (I’m still pregnant as I write this) and I began taking Leonora’s prenatal yoga class. Even over Zoom, Leonora is able to create community and attend to individual needs. She is so attuned to the pregnant body, I leave each class thinking “ah, that was exactly what my body needed.” She skillfully weaves stretching, strength, and mindful connection with baby. She has always made time for my questions and always makes participants feel that whatever is arising for them is valid and valued. I attribute much of my happy second trimester body to her yoga classes. If you have the opportunity to have Leonora Willis be a part of pregnancy, labor, or birth in any way, don’t let that opportunity pass you by. She is truly incredible.
In this interview, Leonora shares her role as a doula during COVID-19 as well as what pregnant people can do to create the kind of birth they wish to have in any time, circumstance and location. #everyonedeservesadoula
Interviewed by Women Lead Dr. Connie Wun #APPIwomenlead