Our dear colleague Ania Witkowska died on 8th April 2019. Here we include writings from IBMT Founder Linda Hartley, her colleague Beverley Nolan and one of her IBMT Graduate Supervisees, Susanne Barry. Susanne also includes an excerpt from her Diploma Case Study, where Ania was so influential and supportive.
Linda Hartley writes:
“Ania was a dear friend and colleague to many, a gifted teacher and therapist, and a strong and vibrant spirit. She brought warmth, enthusiasm, wisdom and years of experience to all she did. I have strong memories of Ania smiling and laughing in her own joyful and special way.
After many years of creative work in dance, Ania studied IBMT in the Ashdon 2003-6 programme, and has since been developing her work with mothers and babies in Germany. She assisted me in the first IBMT programme in Lithuania, and joined the IBMT faculty in 2017. She contributed generously to groups of students, in workshops and trainings, in Germany, the UK, Russia and Lithuania. She truly was a woman you could not help but love.
Ania left behind her husband Nick, three children Martha, Nathan and Jango, and her mother, as well as many dear friends, colleagues, students and clients. She had recently completed a book which is to be published soon – it is some small comfort that her work will receive deserved recognition in this way, and some of her wisdom and experience will continue to be passed on to future generations of parents and students.“
Colleague & Friend Beverley Nolan writes:
“I met Ania on an introductory day for the IBMT diploma course at Chisenhale Dance Space many moons ago when the adults who are our children were little. I remember an enthusiastic conversation on the tube journey home as we grasped the overhead rails to keep our balance. Intelligent, funny, straight-talking and practical; this is Ania. We both graduated from the full training and watched each other grow into our respective work; and watched our families grow too. Then, and somehow finally, we discovered a way our work might converge. We collaborated over Skype, distracted only by our latest book ratings, film reviews and a shared exasperation at unfolding geopolitics. What remains of those now treasured encounters are my notes, scribbles and mind-maps gathered into a folder that I can’t quite look at yet, but when I do I will bring into form a fresh and somatically-informed approach to the training of yoga teachers working in peri-natal settings that honours Ania’s insights and experiences to the very best of my ability.”
Susanne Barry writes:
Ania worked with parents and babies for 20 years she took her diploma with IBMT in 2003 – 2006. I had decided for my case study to work with a mother and baby during their first year of life. I had little idea of how I would approach this and how the case study would unfold. I asked Ania if she would be my supervisor because I had heard of her passion and experience in working with parents and babies. We talked over Skype and I attended her Understanding Babies workshop in Vilnius over the course of a weekend.
Ania was instrumental in helping me get my case study together and with how I was to work with the mother and baby. I gained so much support from Ania over the course of my study, there were times when I felt totally lost and out of my depth as this was such a new area for me. Ania helped me to trust in my own knowing and intuition and pointing out my skills. She reminded me that the work is client led, and that I was accompanying them on a journey just to be present and aware, being open to what comes up and to follow that, and what a great gift that is to someone. She helped me develop a language for talking to Patricia (the mum) when I was at a loss of how to make sensitive suggestions. She was so passionate about working with mums and babies that she frequently got called “The Baby Whisperer.”
In her Vilnius workshop she talked to a group of mum’s and educators about how important it is to be embodied ourselves. With our own embodiment we have a greater ground to give support to babies/ clients. She explained if parents understand the developmental sequence they are more likely to know what baby needs and this knowledge empowers parents and makes their journey with baby more interesting. It was so helpful to hear her talk about how parents often feel the need to ‘teach or stimulate’ their babies, or try to bring them on the next stage. In reality all babies need is for us to be there with them.
She taught how parents help their babies self-regulate, just having baby in a sling next to your body. The importance of sling time, how this may help the baby transition from womb to world. The baby coming from being supported in fluid, having boundaries, no sensations for breathing or eating, muffled noise, darkness. To coming into being with the harshness of light, sharp sounds, the sensations on skin, smells feeling breath, hunger food, feeding. There is so much that a new-born master in a small time.
She spoke of the anxieties parents feel if baby is crying but if all needs have been met we can just hold space for the baby to get it off their chest offering comfort and holding. She said to listen as you would with a dear friend, giving comforting words and holding. I thought that was really helpful and wise, she used the analogy that you wouldn’t try to shut up a friend if they were upset, you would just be there with them in their distress and offer comfort and holding.
Ania helped so many parents in a fundamentally practical way backed up by her training with IBMT and her many years’ experience.
She is sadly missed.
Here is an excerpt from Susanne’s case study and how her experience and advice was so valuable and constructive.
“As baby grew, further challenges presented themselves with the amount of baby equipment available now; the use of baby bouncers and sitting babies up before they are ready – Propping . I was afraid of sounding critical and needed help in how to bring forth supportive interventions.
It was invaluable to talk to my Supervisor Ania regarding these very delicate matters, her experience in working with parents and baby was so helpful. She suggested that baby sit with his back to mum’s tummy so that his back muscles were not working too hard and that he had support rather than being propped (before the Protective Extension Reflex could support him to stop him falling or collapsing.) One day of doing this I had him sitting with his back in my belly, he had a red ball in his right hand, as I gently and rhythmically, rocked him to the right, he automatically transferred the ball to the left hand so that he could put his right hand out to stop himself from falling, I kept this gentle rocking from side to side up for some time in which mum and I were mesmerised, baby was attending to what was happening and started to anticipate the weight shift. It was a very quiet meditative time for the three of us the witnessing the folding of the reflexes coming into being; a new experience happening for him. I felt very privileged to have been a part of this facilitation, it gave me confidence that I instinctively did this and how baby instinctively followed. This gave me confidence to feel that I was supporting mum with interventions and ideas rather than being fearful about sounding critical.”
Susanne is continuing her work inspired by Ania, working with with mums and babies in small groups or on a one to one basis. Details here.