Diana Mello started teaching prenatal yoga while pregnant with her now six-year-old son, Santiago. “It helped me with my breathing, as well as building strength and calming down my nervous system to prepare me for giving birth,” says the 41-year-old native Vancouverite who currently lives in Kitsilano.
Now expecting her second child, and grappling with the unpredictability of daily life in the midst of a global pandemic, Mello is leading prenatal and preschool yoga at West Point Grey Community Centre
“Because of COVID-19, a lot of centres have closed, and midwife and nurse prenatal clinics and group sessions have limited spots. So, I felt that now was a good time to offer programs through West Point Grey Community Centre.”
Mello’s classes share the benefits of yoga with other moms-to-be and young children. She’s also continued to practice yoga with Santiago, who has even had the chance to teach online.
“He became my co-teacher,” she says. “We were teaching classes through Zoom to parents and their kids, and kids loved following along with Santiago.”
“Kids can teach us so much because they are present; they are so in tune with the world around them. They are all about imagining and picturing beautiful stories in their minds. They also naturally take full belly breaths, which is really beneficial for the parasympathetic nervous system that helps us stay calm and centred.”
Mello has taught yoga in varying locales and languages for over 12 years. She started teaching yoga after moving to France to be with her husband in 2007. The University of British Columbia anthropology graduate then went on to complete her master’s degree in sustainable development in 2013, and founded a non-profit based on the Transition Network, which advocates for sustainability and minimizing humanity’s impact on the environment.
Mello’s step into the role of an educator partly stemmed from her strong desire to encourage sustainable and health-conscious practices, such as protecting the environment, eating locally and connecting with nature. The other motivator was her passion for physical activity and promoting healthy lifestyles.
“I love getting out in nature to camp, sail on our sailboat and kayak,” says Mello, who taught what she calls “Kayoga” many years ago through a local Vancouver-based kayak outfitter. “It drew from the techniques of yoga to help kayakers with their breathing and flexibility,” she explains.
A shared passion
After her family of three relocated from France to San Jose, California, Mello led classes in Spanish, which is one of her first languages.
“My mom is from Colombia, so I grew up speaking Spanish, French and English,” says Mello, who also speaks conversational Portuguese. “I feel lucky to have been exposed to so many languages during my life, and to be able to teach in all of them.”
In 2017, following many years of living abroad, Mello and her family decided that it was time to return to Vancouver. Back on home turf, Mello started teaching healthy nutrition classes and sustainability practices to young children, and jumped enthusiastically back into her yoga teaching practice.
“Yoga is so highly accessible; almost anyone at any age can do it,” she says. “It helps calm the mind, strengthen the body and achieve an inner peace. It’s a passion that I love to share with others.”