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.
Apologies for the delay in posting. Her Royal Turd Bird-ness has been ill and I’ve been a bit preoccupied changing the site, which I could not have done without the help of a very smart and kind lady. More changes on the way as I play with the new layout.
Anyhooo, I finally got brave the other morning. Chiclet woke up in the middle of my early morning yoga routine, and I figured it was time. Once she was sorted with her baby and blankie I made my way back to the mat. I was impressed, and would call it a success, we made it 20 minutes! She even tried a couple of the poses (down dog and half moon) which was beyond cute. Even though it was a bit abbreviated, I felt ready for the day despite the staggered, scattered and lop-sided at times routine with a toddler running in between my legs and under my body.
Yep, mums and bubs yoga might just be up your alley.
I was never big into the mums and bubs yoga. I did try a few times but it just didn’t work for us, and I found I got much more enjoyment out of the yoga if I could do it by myself while she slept. If we have another I’d like to see if he or she would be game, maybe the second time around I would be in a different frame of mind for it, but I liked keeping practice as part of “me” time. It was what I needed during my first foray into motherhood, though I may need to get more creative if I’ve two little souls about.
There’s a common comment I hear from many fabulous and busy mums. One of the first things to fall or diminish with the new addition is the fitness routine. I get it, I definitely am not as free as I was to zip to the gym, or go for a run when the whim strikes, so I’ve had to work harder than usual to carve out time. Here are a few suggestions for getting and keeping your fitness regime going:
- Get started as soon as you can
Yes, six weeks post birth, in the haze of breastfeeding, sleeplessness, recovery and dealing with the myriad visitors who stop by to meet your little blessing, find time, if only ten minutes at first, to get back into it. Maybe it’s gentle yoga or a quick walk, but despite how tired you are you will feel recharged with a bit of physical activity. Gradually increase until you’re back to a pre-pregnancy duration. You will get there.
- Don’t look to exercise as something to get back your pre-baby body
A lot of mum’s worry about the changes post birth, but everyone is different, and if you’re feeding a little squawker, it’d be dangerous to deprive yourself (your baby) of much-needed nutrients. For the first few months of getting your groove back, view it as a mental health break as well as a practice towards re-establishing your life-long commitment to health. So maybe delay the marathon training for post-weaning and savour the time you can enjoy some walks in the fresh air.
- Get babe involved early on and talk about it
I’ve only just let the girl in on the yoga routine but from very early days I’ve kept up a walking and eventually running habit with her in the pram. I talk to her about this, and tell her that mummy is getting some exercise, we walk by the park and she points and I tell her that her turn will come when mummy’s walk or run is finished. And yes, this is a regular family outing too, it’s a nice way for our family to reconnect
- Daddy special time
Once you’ve sorted out the nap and feeding schedule, or as soon as you’ve put your little soul down for a rest, let hubby(or another family member) take over for an hour or more and head out the door, guilt free for a yoga class, gym session, or other physical activity. Having some true alone time, out of the house will have you coming back in a better frame of mind, which will benefit your whole family.
- Use the creche
A lot of community centres and gyms have affordable childcare that gives you both a great time out. Your kids get to play with some cool toys and new friends, and you take care of yourself. I felt more comfortable with this once my daughter was independently mobile.
- Re-adjust your girlie session
Made some cool mum friends? Great, catch up over a walk. Find a nice trail in your ‘hood and have a goss session while getting your blood pumping. As the kids get older stopping at a playground post walk rewards good pram behaviour.
We all know how important regular physical activity is, and regardless of how active your little cherubs are, running around after them should not constitute your fitness routine alone. For me, it’s important that my girl understands from an early age that daily exercise is just something that we do. It’s important you find something that you love, and share this enthusiasm with your kids; in time this will rub off and you’ll be glad you committed to this from the start.
I guarantee a good walk or work out session has put me in a better space on those challenging days when I wanted to call time-out on the whole mum deal. But I’m in it for at least a couple decades, and I believe in addition to eating nutritious food that regular physical activity is the best thing for everyone. I hope you’re inspired by this post, and would love to hear what other tips and tricks mums have managed to work into the routine.
It’s been over a year since our beautiful turd bird arrived on the scene. Only recently do I sense that I have my body “back”. Not precisely the same but a close facsimile to the pre-pregnancy version. It was a slower process than I anticipated, but I think it’s just the way my body is.
I’m not referring to the bikini-ready, People front page version, but the body that runs, jumps, dances and moves free of those interesting twitches and pangs post pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding. The version that I am grateful for with all of its imperfections, regardless of how it looks in a bikini.
Granted there are also many changes that occur on a mental, emotional, familial and spiritual level that are interconnected. But taking care of our bodies when we recover from the demands of pregnancy and childbirth while adjusting to parenthood is one ingredient for a happy family. Naturally, I think nothing helps you take better care than a little bit of yoga love. Whether you’re a seasoned practitioner, or have recently decided that you want to incorporate yoga into your life, the tips offered below come from my own experience as a mother and yogini. I’d love to hear what worked for you.
- Start with your centre and expand out. With patience.
Post birth, whether vaginal or surgical, expect your physical practice to be very limited. Pregnancy hormones still have a strong affect on your ligaments and connective tissues, and will do so for at least six months, longer if you are breastfeeding. Now is not the time to move vigorously or expansively. Tone down any asanas that involve deep opening of the pelvic or hip region, keeping muscles activated to prevent the strains, pulls and tears you are more susceptible to. Put simply, bring everything into your midline or centre, expanding over time and ensuring you feel no discomfort.
- Do what you can when you can.
Let go of the idea of a scheduled time for your asana, meditation or relaxation practice and allow it to fall into place where it will. In time, things will settle and you’ll figure out what works for you. In the early days especially I relied on some wonderful postnatal classes led by Stephanie Snyder on Yogaglo. Even now, there are still days where I press pause numerous times throughout the day before I finish a class. Sometimes I meditate amongst a cyclone of toys for 15 minutes while girlie naps. There are all sorts of new variations that were not my modus operandi pre-motherhood. Find yours.
- Listen to your body, aligning your practice to your needs.
Prior to bub’s arrival, at least later into the third trimester, I was a vinyasa fiend. While I still love a flowing practice I’ve noticed I am now drawn to a slower, deeper yoga experience. My upper back, neck, side body, shoulders, hips and psoas are craving juicy, long-held postures after carting around, picking up, setting down and swinging around her highness all day. Repetition of the same postures helps to gradually loosen those knots and tight spots. Right now, variety is not the spice of life; savouring the moment when my body can unfurl from the daily demands of mammahood is the current sweet spot. If you’ve returned to your practice be sure you return to what you need now. Respond to your body with your practice and see where it takes you.
- Yoga Nidra is your friend.
Particularly in the beginning as you slog through the sleep-deprived haze. Also known as yogic sleep, this powerful practice allows your mind and body to restore and heal. I’ve purchased a few recordings off iTunes of various lengths that I use when feeling really depleted or frazzled. Those days I know the game plan at nap time: throw the puzzles and blocks to one side – make room for the mat, bolster and blanket, grab the eye pillow and voila! Sometimes I fall asleep, other times I am able to sustain conscious awareness throughout the relaxation, as recommended. Either way, I always have a better attitude and more energy afterwards.
- Don’t do yoga, be yoga.
The other day I overheard a new mom complaining about how she is no longer doing enough yoga – hmmm wonder who that could be? Yoga is not just about zooming through asanas or sitting for hours in meditation. It can be about spending a mindful moment with your bambino – or stepping back from yourself, or detaching during times of parental frustration. You can be yoga anytime.
Stay tuned; I’ll expand on this topic in future posts.