After suffering a career-ending injury while playing in the NFL, Keith Mitchell turned to yoga to help him heal both physically and emotionally. And he used the practice’s same principles to help his partner, Russian pop star Sasha Gradiva, get through her pregnancy.
“I was into yoga for a few years, but when I met Keith, it became mandatory,” Gradiva, 37, best known as “Grammy Gun Girl,” jokingly tells PEOPLE. “What I like about yoga is the fact that it has something to do, not only with the physical body, but also it does something to you mentally, that you’re able to focus, to calm down, to manage emotions.”
This became especially useful when experiencing the physical and hormonal changes that go along with pregnancy.
“The meditation part of it, the calming aspect of it, is definitely very, very valuable when you’re pregnant,” she says. “It’s definitely a big stress for the body. Yoga helps the most to put your head straight and stay in a positive place.”
Mitchell, 41, says doing yoga together while Gradiva was pregnant helped them stay in sync as a couple.
“It’s been this platform that we can come to to create this communication,” he says. “That’s been the most beautiful thing about this practice, and why I think it’s needed for other couples to really find that balance, and find out what’s important, and check in with the emotional rush [that comes with pregnancy].”
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Now a father to 1-month-old daughter Uma, Mitchell credits yoga and meditation with making him a better partner and a better dad.
“Even as we were going through the pregnancy, I would wake up early to meditate, just to be able to handle that emotional ride that you go on, and to be able to be the support for Sasha and what she’s going through,” he says. “It’s [helped me] cultivate myself, to create this compassion and patience within myself, and allows me to extend that to Sasha and Uma.”
With a new baby in the house, Mitchell and Gradiva take turns practicing yoga, with Mitchell waking up at 5:30 to get his meditation in early in the morning, and Gradiva fitting in her practice before bed.
“Uma has become the biggest spiritual lesson for both of us, to practice patience, and just to sustain yourself in all kinds of situations,” says Gradiva, who credits her post-baby weight loss to incorporating the anti-inflammatory cowberry, also known as a ligonberry, into her diet.
Mitchell is already turning his baby girl into a future yogi.
“We [listen to] meditation music together to keep her calm,” he says. “It really works. When she has gas, moving her legs around in yoga poses allows her to release it. We do happy baby pose, we do some child’s pose. But we haven’t been able to do downward dog yet!”