I’m a qualified yoga teacher and I’ve done a prenatal yoga teaching course. I taught many yoga classes – but not one single prenatal class. And I’m so glad I didn’t.
Why? It’s hard. It’s so terribly hard. You’re teaching a room full of women who all go through the potentially most emotional period of their life. Everything you say matters so much. I’m now 5 months into recovery after giving birth and I still remember getting into a deep squat, with the teacher saying: ‘Keep going, you’ll need all your leg strength during these long hours of labour’ (what a lovely reminder). I also remember sitting cross-legged, stretching to the left…then the right…and left again, and – you guessed it – to the right, while thinking: I’m pregnant, but I’m not ill…?
Overall I’ve been struggling with finding suitable pre- and postnatal classes. Most of them are geared towards beginners, and that makes a lot of sense. Every doctor would say that prenatal yoga is beneficial, and consequently there are a lot of women deciding to give it a go. And while that’s great, it’s actually much harder to figure out what to do if you’re an experienced yogi who happens to be pregnant. If that’s you, prenatal classes can seem slow and non-challenging. But ‘normal’ classes feel fast paced without much time and room to accommodate the growing belly.
The solution I came up with is this: I took normal classes taught by an instructor who is also teaching prenatal classes, letting her know I’m pregnant. It’s been a perfect compromise: I was able to challenge myself while knowing that someone was watching me closely.
Over time (and 9 months is a long time) I also noticed how, again and again, my body was demanding certain postures and practices, sometimes even those that I disliked before pregnancy. Here are some of my *completely un-exciting* favourites:
- Meditation. Take time to sit and really just sit. Sit with your thoughts, all the stuff that’s going on, let things rummage around in your mind, and then, slowly, watch the dust settle.
- Mindful breathing (without breath retention as in Anuloma Viloma or contractions as in Kapalbhati)
- Gentle opening of the heart area and the side ribs to create space for the squashed lungs – camel with toes tucked under is the absolute maximum as back bending is not recommended during pregnancy
- Squats for strong legs (running felt uncomfortable towards the end even though most doctors say it’s fine to run)
- Chair pose for a strong back – the back needs to support the weight accumulating at the front
- Tadasana, trying to figure out the ever-changing weight distribution and reconnecting to the core after birth
- Gentle open twists without any pressure on the abdomen
- Cat & Cow to keep the spine moving and (re)connect to the core
The other thing to figure out is what to wear. I would strongly recommend a belt and yoga pants with a very wide waist band. Both are very flattering and gave me the feeling to be supported around the waist. In terms of top I found those with a built-in bra the most comfortable – it just fits (you know what I mean).
After all, pregnancy is an amazing time to experience your body in a completely different way while a little yogi is growing inside you. It’s quite an adventure and even though these 9 months were long, a few months after birth it all feels like a distant memory (luckily we took photos!).
Have you tried prenatal yoga? How did you adapt your practice during pregnancy? Please share your thoughts in the comments!