New to the Prenatal class scene and looking for the low-down on how to get the most out of your class with your little womb buddy on board? Consider below a guide if you’re a practicing yogi newly pregnant who’d like to stick with your beloved regular yoga class (there will come a time when a proper prenatal class will be the only option, trust me!) or if you’re new to the yoga and pregnancy scene entirely, where a prenatal yoga class will be the safest starting point for you.
Keep a fertile baby garden
From the moment you see the double line on the stick it’s nice to keep things welcoming and open in the abdominal region. Even if you are still physically able to engage in twists because you’re early in pregnancy, a soft open lower abdomen sets the energetic tone for your pregnancy, acknowledging your wee ones pregnancy. It also helps you adjust your pregnancy more easily as you’ve done some prep work to accommodate the changes that are on the way. So refrain from deep abdominal twists and forward folds.
Decrease angles and depth as pregnancy progresses
The more your baby grows means more pressure on your muscles, joints, circulation, digestion, and breathing, to mention a few. The added pressure on your body will mean it’s likely some part of you (hips, low back and upper back are most common culprits) will ache regularly. Gentle, circular, fluid motion to maintain mobility and strength will get you through the pre and postnatal period. You’ll build your pre pregnancy strength and flexility once the beautiful hazy baby days are over, and your body will remember so don’t stress it!
Props = Friends
Balance, range of motion and pre pregnancy injuries mean you should not be afraid to use all the amazing yoga support on offer. You can still have a wonderful yoga practice without your hands touching the floor. Embrace your goddess shape and get creative with props that enable you and bub to find the sweet spot that will more readily encourage you to maintain safe and stable alignment and slip into your rest and digest zone, revitalising you for pregnant life beyond the mat. In addition to the yoga standards of props, blankets, bolsters, straps etc., chairs, walls, and kitchen counters will all come in handy as you bloom.
Work in a comfortable stretch – zone
Pregnancy hormones do some amazing work in preparation for childbirth — but don’t exploit this hormonal advantage into your yoga practice. Over-stretching during pregnancy can cause permanent ligament, joint and alignment damage after childbirth or breastfeeding. To keep your body safe for life, work within a moderate zone of “feeling” into the stretch and be especially mindful of this is you were hyper-flexible prior to pregnancy. You can return to the deeper yummy feels when you are a few months clear of childbirth or breastfeeding.
I offer suggestions and prompts, mainly verbal and possibly physical if warranted. However don’t let my advice stop you from taking the best out there, your own. As your body evolves with the pregnancy you’ll discover ways to make your body feel better. Trusting your own sensations and instincts during your practice will be great practice for the mothering journey that lies ahead.
Stop! when there is pain
Niggly aches and pains are common, sharp, searing pain is not. If this ever happens during a posture, come out as slowly as possible and let your teacher know. If may simply mean you need to chill out or an appropriate alternative can be found.
Take a break
Do not feel that every posture offered in a prenatal class is required in order for you getting a well-rounded practice. If you feel tired and need a time out or just want to use the tranquility of class to catch your breath, feel free to either take a milder version of the posture (half dog instead of full for example) or any restorative posture your beautiful mamma heart desires (child’s, seated, side lying) until you feel ready to rejoin the practice.
But don’t forget to embrace your strength
While it’s great to chill out, and you’re more apt to feel that way in the first and third trimesters, don’t be afraid to stay strong! With the exception of specific pregnancy-induced problems (which you should always tell your teacher about) there is no reason your amazing body that is making a human and preparing to bring it earth-side can endure a bit of an appropriate challenge on a regular basis throughout pregnancy. Aim to maintain strength and endurance by committing to the strengthening postures (lunges and squats for example). It will serve you well for labour, birth (both surgical and vaginal) and the postnatal recovery period.
Respect each posture, session and day as it comes
One day you’ll be flying high, feeling like the energetic rush will never end (very common after coming out of the first trimester) while the next day you will feel encumbered, heavy and just unambitious. One day you’ll feel wobbly and awkward as you adjust to your changing shape and the next you’ll feel solid, confident and stable in your skin. Take each day as it comes, incorporate the truth of what is happening for you into an appropriate yoga session, and marvel at the amazing job you are doing every day as your little soul prepares to come forth mamma.
Music, songs, and chanting are all powerful tonics to add to your yoga or meditation practice. Seventeen years into yoga and swapping musical faves with yogis and repeatedly approaching fellow teachers I have built my list of go-tos for those times a bit of music is a must for practice enhancement.
As an aside, if you can get yourself to a sound healing or a yoga class with live music and sound healing, hello amazing body bliss! I’m thrilled to see so many options to integrate modalities that take into account the full sensory experience of our bodies, and it’s another one to add to my bucket list of “more stuff I would like to learn”.
You bliss’n like me bub?
For the pregnant mammas, music is a lovely thing to incorporate into your practice whilst bub is womb-side as well as consider in preparation for birthing day. As music is such a personal thing, I highly recommend you spend some time browsing through iTunes or Spotify to find that musical sweet spot. Take some time leading up to the big day to listen and feel the tunes that really resonate for you and your bub. Goose-bump ripples of calm and soothing, a warm glowing feeling of heart happiness, as well as little kicks from the womb-dweller were usually the box tickers.
What I have found remarkable is how students and friends have always enquired about the same few artists and songs over the years. Below, are a few to get you started on your own little adventure down the rabbit hole. Oh, and word to the wise, if you’re off to the hospital to deliver the wee one, don’t forget the tunes at home. 😉
Super Magical Mamma Tunes – Craig Pruess & Ananda, 108 Sacred Names of Mother Divine
I fell in love with this at a little studio and was lucky enough to get my own copy. These tunes are blissful transportation regardless of your Sanskrit knowledge. Perfect for restorative, meditation and savasana.
Angel voice – Essential Snatam Kaur, Sacred Chants for Healing
I rocked and chanted with my girl in my womb to Ong Namo during meditation sessions prior to her debut. It was truly marvellous to see her little head turn once I played it after she was earthside. We still cuddle on to these when she’s not busy taking over the world or the lounge room. Many of these tunes were on my birthing day playlist.
If you just want a relaxed vibe, without the vocals, try Deuter
Sometimes this sounds a bit “spa-ish” to me but I find Deuter is pretty neutral to have on if I am feeling a bit overstimulated and need simple, soothing sounds. I have a few of his albums. Reiki Sound Healing is my fave. Nada Himalaya rocks during meditation sessions.
Sacred Earth = Australian Magic
Hmmm so blissful. A bit of mantra, gorgeous instruments. Feel the love. After all these years I still find Breathing Space, on the Call to the Divine album to be an amazing
Ambient, other-worldly chill’n try Divination by Akasha
I usually only listen to the first selection of songs that are more relaxing. Descent is a perfect 14:55 long. Just right for a nice meditation or savasana session when that’s all you have time for. The second suite of tunes is a bit robot doof-doof, but hey, perhaps you could use it for your next big rave after baby arrives.
In our prenatal yoga classes I ask mammas to load up with as many props as they can. As everyone settles in with their goodies arranged we begin, and as we progress without fail a mamma declares, “gee I really need some of these!” My emphatic response is always, “Yes you do!” Pregnant or not, here’s why we all deserve a little help from our prop friends.
Keep your yoga groove on
If you want to have an appropriate and responsive home practice, you need to get yourself some props, stat. I know there is still the odd soul who thinks not needing a block elevates the supposed complexity of a yoga practice, but let’s get real about our bodies and what they need from time to time. In my travels it has been extremely rare to see a yogi who can effortlessly sit cross-legged without a little support from a blanket to keep a natural spinal curve and open pelvis. Body proportions(and changes therein, meaning both expanding and shrinking), illness & injury all deserve respect so we can enjoy our bodies and practice for the long haul.
Safety before cirque de soleil
No one should contort the body into inappropriately strained, squishy, or stressed shapes for a posture’s sake. There are a million variations of any pose, and using a block, strap or bolster to keep your body in that just right “sthira sukham” zone is the real way to yoga for the vast majority of us who do not have gymnastic or dance backgrounds. Long term misalignment caused by lack of support leads to permanent injury and/or pain; so check your Yoga Journal cover shoot superstar ego at the door and be nice to yourself.
Explore your creative side
Those nights when I can’t be asked to stand on my feet any longer as I’ve had another full one of hide and seek and other shenanigans the little dragon has cooked up I look happily to my bolsters and ease my aching limbs over, around and on top. The extra support feels luscious and heavenly, acquainting me with some kinder, gentler me time. Though my passion for yoga was initially sparked with my love for vinyasa, I am a mamma who has had a change of heart with the bliss a restorative practice brings. Props are a necessity to let go and go deep; many of us would benefit from a slower, more supported practice once or twice a week.
Mix up your seating situation
I’ve been grooving on Katy Bowman for over a year now, enjoying her podcasts and adding her books to my long list of must-reads. Katy is a big proponent of getting more varied, or “nutritious movement” into our days. New flash: hanging out on the sofa all night isn’t really doing your body any favours. She recommends reducing your bum’s time on furniture, but if you want a bit of comfort while you experiment with new seating arrangements, bolsters and blocks can help with the transi
So what do you need?
At minimum every yogi should, in addition to a mat of course, own at least 2 bolsters of different shapes, a strap, two blocks, a firm thick-ish blanket, and a nicely weighted eye pillow.(those things are brilliant for insomniacs, trust) Check out the larger yoga studios in your area to get started with your purchases or ask your yoga teacher for a recommendation. Here in Oz I am a big fan of Stretch Now equipment, because it is durable and pretty so it can hang out in your lounge room un-offensively. Mandukha offerings always have me salivating – that would be my go-to if I were on the other side of the blue ball.
If you haven’t purchased your props yet, make the investment! You will open the door on so many lovely yoga adventures that I look forward to sharing with you in the weeks ahead.
Great news! In all likelihood your heart skipped a beat when you glanced at the double line or smiley face on your pregnancy test. And as the little wee embryo settles into your womb, you’ll start considering how to modify your wellness plan. I’ve had mammas connecting lately enquiring about attending Prenatal Yoga sessions at the Nest on Silas in the first trimester. While some prenatal yoga teachers prefer you wait until after first trimester before joining class, I like to err on the side of enthusiasm, and here’s why:
Prenatal Yoga is one of the safest forms of movement you can do.
Ok, yes there is much more to yoga than movement, but without getting into the other beautiful elements of a yoga practice I believe it is one of the safest things you can do for your body both physically and energetically while the pregnancy establishes. Prenatal yoga is designed to be safe for all pregnancy stages, and it’s much better to attend a specifically designed class from the get-go. If you’ve not practiced yoga regularly before, this is not the time to start out in a non pregnancy-specific environment. Established yoginis have to consider a few safety principles if they wish to continue their regular practice in the early days; I’ll post on that another time.
The longer you practice pregnancy yoga, the stronger those positive effects will be.
You can safely yoga in your first trimester.
The more consecutive weeks you attend class and incorporate elements into your personal practice, the more you and your baby will reap benefits through pregnancy and beyond. Breath work, mudras, relaxation, meditation and asana’s potency surges with dedicated focus and practice. You also get the extra juju of mamma magic being in the space with other pregnant ladies. With each class I try and disperse little seeds of advice with the intent that you keep the kernels that resonate, leaving you with your own little basket of self-informed wisdom to draw upon as needed.
You can build your mamma networks.
I love it when mamma bears discover they are at the same gestation with their wee ones. It’s even better when they are able to stay connected after the little bubs make their entrance. Having a network of like-minded women can be a sanity-saver in the early mamma years; making these connections before the birth will certainly take the pressure off when you have other things on your agenda.
A prenatal yoga session may help with mild to moderate nausea.
While pregnant with the girl I was teaching three classes a week. For about two months I was intensely ill; I had an unpredictable, rogue-style pregnancy nausea that could see me running for the toilet in seconds. Several times I would get ready to teach asking myself how I was going to get through it, dreading something that I once enjoyed.
But every time, without fail, I would start to feel better about a half hour into the practice, and the effects would last for a good few hours. I do believe that regular movement, and the kind offered through a pregnancy yoga class, can be a balm to those challenging weeks. So even if you wake up telling yourself you don’t feel like it; make sure you try once, and just see if it makes a difference.
Prenatal yoga will not put your pregnancy at risk.
A conservative estimate for the miscarriage rate is 25%. In my own travels I would say that rate is likely higher. And as awful and devastating as a loss is, prenatal yoga is not the reason a pregnancy doesn’t work out. Having experienced two losses myself, I look back on those pregnancies and know that while I was a mama to the little souls who didn’t make it earth-side, that by engaging in a regular pregnancy-specific yoga practice I was creating a loving environment for them while they were there physically. I believe mammahood begins before conception; taking care of yourself and respecting your body with appropriate movement and nutrition is a major component. While my heart goes out to every woman and family who have experienced pregnancy loss, I think that if anything, a safe physical practice would be better than nothing regardless of how an unpredictable pregnancy might go. And if you, goddess-forbid, do lose your beloved, call upon the relaxation, breathing and gentle yoga postures you learned in prenatal yoga to ease your aching soul.
Whether you’re seven or 27 weeks pregnant, I would like to cordially invite you to a luscious little practice in an intimate space full of amazing resources for you and your family. Prenatal yoga sessions at the Nest on Silas run from 10 -1130 on Saturdays.
Much love to you mamma, I hope to see you on the mat soon!
Experienced yoga mammas I would love to hear from you! What was your prenatal yoga pregnancy practice and when did you start? Do you believe it helped or hindered?
If there’s one bummer about being a Prenatal Yoga teacher it’s saying good bye to the cool women I get to know over the months as their bellies blossom. While I’m sad to see mammas go, I know they are embarking on a wonderful phase of life which I am honoured to be a small part of. Notably, those final weeks can become a bit wearing on anyone, and as the due date approaches and passes, some mammas become disheartened.
You’re more likely to not have your bub on this day love.
When this happens I take a trek down memory lane, and the good ol’ days of waiting for a spontaneous labour that began at 41 weeks and 7 days nearly three years ago. Our perfectly healthy, 7lb, 5oz girl obviously needed just a little more time in the oven and was born at 42 weeks. This was four weeks after medical staff suggested that opting for a scheduled elective caesarean would be the safest and most convenient option for our footling breech baby. I shudder to think how unprepared for life on the outside girlie would have been had we agreed to those recommendations. I believe it would have been more harmful than the inconvenience of the, to be honest, at times insanity-inducing wait we embarked upon.
Barring the occasion where a pharmaceutical induction is deemed medically necessary (and perhaps these instances are far fewer than the number performed) there is no reason to go into panic mode if you pass the 40-week mark. It is a false predictor and there can be huge variation in gestation length. There is not one woman on the history of this planet who has remained pregnant forever. Labour will happen, so why create unneccessary stress and anxiety?.
Obsession with this mythical ‘deadline” has been a huge disservice to many women and their babies. As I’ve said in class, assuming that all pregnant women should go into labour by a specified date is as absurd as designating an age when every teenage girl should start menstruating or nominating stringent and exact days for childhood development. Nature has its innate intelligence and rhythms, and sometimes we are best to leave things so divine design can do its best work.
In The Caesarean, Michel Odent refers to the traditional belief in Western Europe; “A baby in the womb should be compared to a fruit on the tree. All the same fruits are not ripe at the same time. A fruit that has been caught before being ripe will never be very fit to eat and will quickly go bad. It is the same with a baby.” (127-8)
No you won’t have a rotten baby; but could we consider there is important fine-tuning that happens in those final days in utero that we eschew in the name of impatience, false fear and health provider convenience. Research has even postulated that gestation is linked to mamma’s unique metabolism. And if that has been proven to be the case can we assume that there is an intimate and unique dance that takes place between mamma and bub as the birthing day arrives?
Lastly, if you are planning a surgical birth and there is no medical reason to schedule, consider waiting for labour to commence before going to theatre. Giving your baby the opportunity to choose his or her birthday is one of the best gifts we can bestow as mummies.
By refusing unnecessary medical interventions, very likely avoiding the cascade of intervention that results from it, making educated decisions for your body and trusting your baby you will be setting up a positive parenting pattern. Let’s develop a little more patience towards the “need to know now” world we live in, and surrender to the mystery and magic of this rare lifetime experience.