By Caroline Benveniste
Historically, the Village has not teemed with families. When I had my daughter in the late 1990s, she was the only child in our building. There were no play spaces in the neighborhood and only a dearth of spots to meet other new parents. Now there are seven children in the building and I see many more families around. And it is lucky for them that Neelu Shruti decided to open Love Child Studio and Collective.
Neelu, a West Village resident, grew up in India and came to the U.S. for college. She trained as an architect and spent a number of years working on high-profile projects around the City. But she found that she did not have much in common with most of her colleagues in this older, male-dominated field. She enrolled in a yoga training program and started teaching some classes in addition to her architecture work. Eventually, she switched to teaching yoga full-time and became particularly interested in pre-natal yoga, which she realized could be used as preparation for giving birth, in the same way as an athlete might train for a marathon.
Love Child started as a pop-up prenatal yoga studio in November 2015. A clothing store called Darling at 1 Horatio Street had a basement space it was not using and Neelu arranged to sublet it through March 2016. Since it was an instant hit, she extended her stay until May. She had already made plans to travel with her husband over the summer, but in September 2016, she returned and once again sublet the space. Expectant mothers flocked to the yoga classes, which included Baby & Me and Candlelit Restorative Yoga. Neelu noticed that afterwards, they hung around talking for a long time. This sparked the idea that maybe more than just a yoga studio was needed. Then, in January 2017, the owners of Darling realized that they were not doing enough business to remain open in spite of a well-meaning landlord who was willing to work them. This might have been the end of Love Child as well, but instead, the landlord offered to rent the entire space to Neelu. While this was all rather sudden, she decided to go ahead and give it a try.
Some of the activities she’s been able to add in the bright and cheerful upstairs space are crafts for kids, doula services (pre- and post-partum), miscarriage support, infant CPR classes, newborn care classes, opportunities to meet other new and expectant parents, baby-wearing demonstrations, birthday parties, drag queen story hours, and more. Babysitting is available for those taking yoga classes, and recently, Neelu has added bystander intervention training. An outdoor space will open in the warmer weather.
Access to programs at Love Child occurs through a membership model. There are different packages available for yoga classes (the unlimited package comes with in-home support), and a separate membership for activities in the upstairs space. I am jealous that nothing like Love Child existed when I was a new parent. It seems like a lovely and much needed way for parents and soon-to-be parents to make friends and get help during this sometimes scary time of life.
Love Child Studio and Collective
1 Horatio Street (just west of 8th Avenue)