This article includes details of pregnancy loss. If you are affected by anything in this article, there are supports available, with several agencies listed here.

Jane Xavier says she felt the weight of cultural differences for the first time at her daughter’s funeral in Dublin.

She grew up in Brazil. “I had never attended a funeral [in Ireland],” said Xavier during a Zoom meeting on Wednesday 12 July. “I was like, ‘Wow, people don’t really cry.’”

Or not as much as she is used to. She cries a lot, she said.

When she feels besieged by sadness, she lets it all out, no matter where she is – at the gym or in yoga class, it doesn’t matter. “I like crying therapy.”

The virtual meeting on 12 July was the launch of Superwomen Everywhere, a new venture by Xavier set up to help women navigate grief to heal their pain without feeling burdened by cultural restrictions and exclusions.

At the heart of her initiative is the idea of making yoga classes in Ireland – which are often White spaces – more inclusive of women from minority backgrounds.

About 20 people logged in to the virtual launch of Superwomen Everywhere.

Among them was independent Senator Eileen Flynn, who’d tuned in from the courtyard of the Leinster House.

Flynn, the first Traveller woman to sit in the Seanad, joked about her perception of yoga as a pastime enjoyed and promoted by rich people.

Flynn recalled a conversation with Siobhán O’Donoghue, the director of the petitioning platform Uplift.

“She said I’m going to join yoga, would you like to join, would be great for the mental health,” said Flynn.

Flynn’s response, she says, now smiling, was a hard no: “No, Siobhán, yoga is only for rich people. It’s a load of bollocks and I’m not going to get involved in it.”

With Superwomen Everywhere, Xavier hopes to reach women like Flynn, who may avoid yoga because they feel out of place.

There’s one big challenge at the moment, said Xavier, on a recent Sunday morning, sitting in a tiny therapy room above a vintage clothing store on Fade Street in Dublin’s city centre.

She can’t yet find a venue where she can run them in person, and so is for now limited to Zoom.

She wants to keep them pay-as-you-can, she says. “I’m really considering keeping it online because there’s no venues, and it’s something that’s for the community.”

Navigating pain

In the back of Xavier’s therapy room is a massage table.

On the left corner of a mantelpiece sits a painting with a background of pink roses. It shows a Black woman in a blue bikini, with spiky pink hair.

Her eyes are closed. She rests one of her hands on her shoulder, and the other touches her knee as if she is seizing the moment to appreciate the splendour of her own body.

In the middle of the room, Xavier had her shoes off, crossing her legs on a chair.

She is wearing a green and purple headband and a yellow t-shirt with a photo of American academic and Black liberation activist Angela Davis, and a scrawled quotation.

“I’m no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I’m changing the things I cannot accept,” it says.

Xavier isn’t just a yoga teacher. She’s a social scientist and a certified postnatal bereavement doula. Doulas help people to navigate pregnancy and motherhood – and sometimes the pain and trauma of loss.

The latter, Xavier knows deeply.

In 2019, her first-born baby girl Beatrice died shortly after her premature birth. The loss was worsened by the physical and emotional trauma of her experience in the hospital, she says.

She went in with symptoms of infection but felt her concerns were dismissed by hospital staff, she says – an experience shared by many women seeking healthcare.

In September 2022, a general manager at the HSE’s National Women and Infants Health Programme said she recognised the overrepresentation of ethnic minority women in adverse maternity events in Ireland.

“Unfortunately, this is similar to the data in the UK and the US,” she said in response to a parliamentary question.

Xavier said midwives and doctors kept her out of the loop about what they would do to her body, and she couldn’t offer informed consent.

“My placenta got stuck, and they decided to remove it with their hands without telling me; I had a woman sticking her hands inside of me,” she says.

It didn’t work, so a man tried too. That didn’t work, either. She had to go to the operating room, says Xavier. “I felt invaded.”

When Xavier and her husband later returned to the hospital for follow-up about what had happened, she says, staff asked them to wait in the baby clinic.

Sitting among happy parents with their newborns paralysed her, she says. “I remember leaving. I said, ‘I’m not going to stay there. I want to cry outside.’”

Two years later, she had to terminate a pregnancy.

She was left to navigate grief again, which snuck up on her in the shower as she washed her swollen belly with a sharp awareness of its emptiness.

“You know the baby is suddenly no longer there. It’s so much to deal with,” said Xavier.

Finding respite

The pain became unbearable, she says, and seeing parents with their kids anywhere triggered deep grief.

“My body was holding on to a lot of emotions,” says Xavier.

A friend suggested lunchtime yoga classes. “Because they’re usually cheaper,” she says.

It helped, but she felt isolated and out of place in classes, said Xavier. “I just don’t want to be the only Black person in the room.”

The yoga class wasn’t trauma-informed either, Xavier says. Some poses can be triggering and exacerbate emotional pain if someone’s been through deep trauma, she says.

“I think it’s important for minorities because we go through so many traumas,” she said.

She trained as a yoga teacher herself, but one focused on and aware of people’s traumas, she says.

Once the classes take off, the pay-as-you-can yoga sessions will happen once a month, Xavier says.

Xavier envisions minoritised women of all body types being themselves, moving at their own pace, with poses that will help their bodies release troubling emotions and grief.

“My dream is going to a room that will be only Black and ethnic minorities, and we don’t need to be worried about, ‘Oh, is someone doing handstands?’” she said, during the Zoom launch. “I can’t do handstands.”

Shamim Malekmian covers the immigration beat for Dublin Inquirer. Reach her at

Join the Conversation


  1. A beautiful and strong message. Jane, it’s about time this world acknowledged everything women like you go through every day. You are a force of nature. Lots of love.

  2. So important and wonderful, you are incredible to bring this forward while navigating your own grief. This will be such a resource for the people who need it x

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *