Prenatal Yoga is very special for to me, it was a massive a-ha moment in my life when my practice shifted and moved to a whole new level, becoming a daily ritual rather then a sporadic practice simply used to compliment the other physical activities. For the first time in my life I was able to be genuinely present and without expectation. I quickly realised that I wanted to be able to share this experience with other women, in the hope that they could gain even just a little of what i did from it…
So, why is yoga so amazing during the prenatal period? Often women are referred to class as a gentle and effective form of exercise to ease the common discomforts associated with pregnancy and help reduce stress and anxiety during this time. Of course, this is very true, but in my humble experience and opinion prenatal yoga can and does provide so much more! Stepping aside from the physical aspects of practice, prenatal yoga can provide genuinely the perfect opportunity and platform to begin genuinely preparing for birth and beyond.
I like to very much take this practice away from a space of pushing and rushing, drawing it back into the feminine, a time to soften and bring movement/asana into a intentional, aware and conscious place, allowing time for the women to settle and find themselves in each posture. Pregnancy is the perfect time to separate your yoga practice from your workout. When you are looking for a strong, dynamic and physical workout, do just that, go for a brisk walk, swim or engage in another suitable physical exercise but seriously consider using your yoga time to delve deeper, peeling back the layers that hold us from living in our present.
I am often asked when is the best time to begin a prenatal practice. Many women with an established yoga practice tend to cross over around the 20 week mark when they start to really feel pregnant and many postures in their normal class become unavailable, awkward or uncomfortable. In reality, there is no specific start time. It is important to note that some linages will refuse students in the first trimester and it is not uncommon for women to naturally avoid this time in favour of rest anyway. Generally, I trust that a women will honour herself and begin class whenever she feels physically ready and also emotionally ready to begin preparing for the impending birth and new motherhood. It is never too soon to begin preparing for birth, just as an marathon runner would never attempt a 42km event without proper training behind them, it seems crazy to me to go into birth without ‘training’ e.g. education and time spent tapping into that more primal part of our brain.
For many women a prenatal practice is the perfect place to begin learning how to move/synchronise body and breath, and to get comfortable with the concept of effective use of breath and sound for birth (really useful to have practiced before labour). It also greatly assists in learning one pointed focus (Dharana): the ability to stay present, to direct focus and hone attention to one point. When we regularly practice things like movement, breath and awareness in a supported environment allowing the body and mind to be relaxed and in tune, we are laying down pathways between action or environment and a response (physical, mental and emotional). These pathways can then be accessed and replicated even during the demands of labour or during pre for surgery when a c-section is chosen or required, helping the mother to remain calm and focused. In these classes we work safely and effectively providing support while building strength both in mind, body and spirit.
The other thing a prenatal class naturally creates is a space where a group women, all moving through this specific sacred experience can come together. Each will experience the journey of growing a baby differently, but together they will bring a wealth of experience and knowledge. Within a class there will be women moving through pregnancy and into new motherhood for the first time sitting alongside women with a number of other children and years of parenting experience. Although each will have their own story and history, none will know exactly where this current journey will take them. Most of these women will have come to class to prepare, empower and sometimes even heal before this great rite of passage. This congregation of women can help provide what is often lost in our society: a place of deep support and education previously provided by sisters, mothers and village elders. In our modern world (particularly in the west), for most of us our first experience of the birthing process is that of our own babies. The knowledge and experience of birth by firstly seeing and attending the birth of other women from within our “village” has generally been lost. A prenatal yoga class can provide a place of positivity, connection and opportunity to build deep and profound relationships not only with yourself and baby but also with these women sharing your journey.