August 25, 2015

Yoga for Pregnancy: What this Instructor Learned.

Flickr/J.K. Califf

Every time a pregnant woman has walked into my yoga class, I’m sure I’ve had a bit of a terrified expression on my face.

I knew the basics, but I wasn’t confident beyond that.

I wanted to learn more, so I signed up to complete my prenatal teacher training in May 2014, with Blooma. It was an excellent program led by Sarah Longacre and Stacy Seebert, who have trained thousands of women around the globe. This training opened my eyes to what yoga looks like during pregnancy and to the entire birthing process. I realized that I had been fairly naïve up to this point, but I was now excited about how much yoga could support women during pregnancy and labour.

My biggest take-away from the training was how one can still achieve a challenging flow practice, as long as certain poses are avoided during pregnancy. Some of those poses to avoid include:

  • Deep twists, because they put too much pressure on the uterus. (Try an open variation instead.)
  • Core work (think boat pose and crunches) can cause abdominal separation known as diastasis. (This isn’t the time to start working on your six-pack!) Extreme back-bends also fall into this category, due to the core work required.
  • Deep forward folds, with your legs together, can compress blood vessels and nerves. So be sure to separate your legs at least hip distance apart, and take a slight bend in your knees.
  • Inversions—there is quite a debate about this one. I recommend doing your own research and deciding based on the level of your practice, prior to getting pregnant. I have personally avoided inversions throughout, as they didn’t feel right in my body.

Fast forward to January 2015, when the double lines appeared on my pregnancy test.

Life (and my body) was officially about to change—and continues changing, as I’m not due until September. I’ve tried to practice what I preach (and teach) by keeping up a regular yoga practice throughout my pregnancy. I take regular classes, that I adjust with modifications, and prenatal classes.

Here are some of my biggest learnings and observations—from one pregnant yogini to another—and I realize that each woman experiences something different during their own pregnancy and within their own bodies:

  • I want to start off with an apology to all the pregnant ladies who used to come to my vinyasa classes. Even after I was fully trained in prenatal yoga, I couldn’t understand why someone wouldn’t want to lay on their back. Now that I’m pregnant, I know that even laying down for a minute can make me feel very nauseous. I always take savasana on my left side, with a bolster and other props to make me comfortable. Props have become my new best friend. The same applies for upward dog and other small backbends—I always assumed it would feel nice to stretch out those muscles during pregnancy, but I was wrong and really couldn’t understand this until I experienced it firsthand.
  • A recent experience—when asked by the teacher if anyone had any injuries, a fellow student pointed at me and said, “She’s pregnant.” Just to clarify, being pregnant is not an injury. Someone also asked if I could walk up the stairs to get to the class. I simply responded, “Yes, I’m not broken.” My body is changing, but I’m still me. I know my own body and don’t need anyone else setting limits for me.
  • There is so much value in breath, and in holding poses, to tap into inner strength and connect with a higher power. Concentrating on these two elements has helped me build confidence in my own body and realize that it is strong enough to take me through my upcoming labour. Holding poses for a minute or longer—the average time of a contraction—brings me to my edge. Asana helps prepare the body for birth, and the breath grounds me and brings my focus inward.
  • It’s super awkward when I have to leave class to run to the bathroom. As any pregnant lady can attest, your bladder always feels full. Pick a spot near the door so you can sneak out. On a side note, this is even worse when I’m in spin class and have to try and squeeze through the bikes (not always successfully) and make my way in the dark in front of 50 other students.
  • Find a yoga community with other mamas. In a regular class, people often put their mats down, practice and leave. In prenatal classes, there is usually a chance to connect with others who are also going through a major change in their life and can relate. Not only have I met new friends, but I have been able to ask so many questions to this beautiful community of mamas who are eager to share. There is something special about practicing with other mamas-to-be and creating a bond with these woman.
  • The power of squat pose—I’m obsessed with doing this pose every day, and I read that it can help open up your pelvis as much as an extra 30 percent. During my birth preparation class, we practiced squatting as a possible and potentially efficient position. I noticed that most of the woman in my class struggled to get into this, and I was thankful for my yoga practice. I highly recommend reading Active Birth by Janet Balaskas for more on this and other yoga-based positions for labour.
  • It’s a great time to acknowledge when to slow down and lose my ego in yoga. I don’t need to go up into crowchild’s pose is the perfect place to be—and I don’t need an excuse to chill out in a longer savasana. I always feel better after going to a yoga class, and this applies even more during pregnancy. Everyone feels differently during their pregnancy, and this is not the time to get into the deepest variations, but instead, to listen to your body. Your body is not only growing a human, but an organ too, and this is hard work.
  • The connection between the body, breath and baby. There is something special about placing my hands on my belly and setting an intention, with my baby in mind, that creates a bond between the two of us during my practice—both on and off the mat. When he gives me a little kick during this time, it makes it even better.

I’m grateful that I’ve had the opportunity to experience prenatal yoga while being pregnant, and I’m looking forward to how this will connect me to all of my future students.

I’m sure I’ll have even more to share post-baby, and I’m hoping my yoga practice continues to assist me with my upcoming birth.


Relephant reads:

Prenatal Yoga Do’s & Don’ts For Every Trimester.


Author: Jacqueline Misshula

Editor: Yoli Ramazzina

Photo: Flickr/J.K. Califf




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