I studied with a very experienced prenatal yoga teacher Indra Mohan recently. She learned from Krishnamacharya during the later part of his life, although many don’t know her name here in the West. Was quite amazing to sit and talk in a small room of women who teach prenatal yoga in the DC area. What I liked was you could she is proud to be a woman and isn’t trying to offer yoga based on a specific style. Instead she teaches from a place of what is right for that student or individual. I know this can be hard as here in the West we have very large classrooms. She does more one on one; and part of the reason I prefer smaller prenatal groups of 10 or less myself. Indra talked about certain postures and breath being done; many that don’t help women at all. Actually some can cause harm to women and even miscarriages. Much can be taught in the name of yoga that isn’t helping the function or body type.
She discussed a lot of the positions she suggests for prenatal. What I liked was taking a step back and examining the health reasons to do the posture. Instead of doing what is ‘classical’ based on a specific style, we examined what helped women who are pregnant. For a long time yoga wasn’t taught to women, muchless those who were pregnant. I saw pictures of Krishnamahcaryas wife and the yoga she did that was different than that of her children or her husband.
I say this knowing I’ve seen many come to prenatal yoga with either a yoga or an exercise practice, and they know they have to do something else. First off, it is great when we stop trying so hard and let go. We find we give ourselves what we need – not what we want. Although when our body is changing it can feel very much like a form of punishment; almost as if your body has been taken over by an alien. Also society comes in and treats you a certain way and may think that all expecting mom’s feel beautiful, blissful or happy; yet maybe the mother doesn’t feel that way. Maybe she feels tired, bloated and ugly. Hard to let go of what society has told one to feel and yoga will give you a moment to just be as you are now; not one or the other. I believe this helps after the birth just as much. All so hard when you find the attention going towards the baby and if it is directed towards the mom, it is to have a stranger rub the belly or give you a special parking spot. Being pregnant is not an illness and yet many treat it as a medical condition.
During this journey prenatal yoga will do far more than simply get you ready for the labor. To be honest, nature takes care of the delivery. Women have given birth for a long time and physically the body is preparing for this; we just have to get out of our own way. How do we do that? Breathe. Keep it long, cool and smooth. Why? For one major reason – it helps the nervous system and therefore our brain function. This way we can learn to be in situations, learn, observe, breathe and pause. Our mental choices may be different than we originally thought. After all those first reactions often want to take over and we panic. So prenatal yoga allows you to do postures that are healthy for you and learn how to use them as a tool with the breath. Physical posture/body is a tool – quite different from having an expectation of what we thought we would look like and making it fit that.
There are many postures the expecting mom’s may like or be able to do, however I ask them to consider why they are doing it. Again is it healthy or best for them? How do we know? How do you feel on the inside? How is the breath? There are many postures one may be drawn too; however it may not help the function of your body. For example some may like reclining bound angle pose (Supta baddha Konasana) even with the bolster at a 45 degree angle. However how is this helping their low back or tailbone? They may be drawn to it because they are used to the collapsing shape in their low-back from their lifestyle. Instead sitting up in Baddha Konsana may be a healthier option; lifting out of the low back.
Today, there are so many birthing options, books, internet sites and the problem can be information overload. This can leave an expecting mom unsure of which direction to take and finding time to be ready. I see those with ‘birthing plans’ and although it is good to have an idea, I really want them to deal with now and deal with the labor when it comes. Creating awareness is not easy and many find themselves in labor yet not aware; we are used to pushing thru discomfort. Instead I want them to work on removing the judgment, disappointment, failure and make the best choice in the posture right then; watch the breath and decide from there if that means going further or doing less. Surprise yourself in either choice. Learning to let go of the fear.
Being in a Prenatal Yoga class allows the expecting moms to be around other moms; you just don’t get this in a video. The stories each of them share are amazing. I had one who shared that she found it useful to use the image of a Mother Cat giving birth and the face and expression of that cat was one she used first in class and then in labor. She found herself taking from nature and applying it.
I’ve seen so many different body types and equally many different delivery stories. Some have truly amazed me that they were able to pick a repeating positive word, sound or focus and this made them calm in the midst of a crazy situation.
Many come to prenatal because a friend, doctor, mid-wife, spouse referred them. They were told it will help them in labor, create strong legs or help them breathe. It does this of course, but yoga does so much more than many are aware of. For this reason many come even after a long day or week because they know that prenatal yoga is allowing them sleep well, feel great and just be nicer to those around them.
Smile from the inside and it will be seen.