When I was asked to write about Pregnancy Yoga, I thought, great, yes, I can whizz this out in no time sharing my love of Yoga and my fantastic experience of pregnancy yoga, why it’s so good to attend classes and teach them! But actually, when I started to reflect on where to begin, my mind uncovered the difficulties, exhaustion and complete trauma that I had experienced whilst carrying and giving birth to my first child.
Prior to becoming pregnant with my first, I had practised yoga since I taught myself at the age of 15. However, the self care and my practice disappeared when I became pregnant as I suffered with anaemia, sickness, isolation and exhaustion. I didn’t know how to cope with the symptoms, the changes in my body and mind and the sense of isolation I experienced, despite being excited about growing a baby inside of me, there was a part of me that just didn’t know how to deal with everything, leaving me overwhelmed.
The labour was 30 hours long, with sickness and every drug under the sun pumped into me, my legs straddled uncomfortably wide for all 15 or so people to deal with, creating a completely traumatic experience. I was obviously relieved when it was over and had my healthy baby safely in my arms… I immediately put this trauma behind me and fell in love with motherhood. What I did recall though is that it felt like I didn’t know how to manage anything during the labour, I went into “flight or fight” mode. Having realised this, I put this feeling to the back of my mind, got back on my mat and rediscovered my yoga practice, so much so, that I decided to train to become a ‘teacher.’
Yoga Teacher Training
During my second year of Yoga Teacher Training, I fell pregnant again with my second child. I knew that I wanted a healthier pregnancy and a less traumatic labour than I had with my first baby – fortunately I was in the perfect place to learn about techniques that would help me and my unborn child on this journey.
Thanks to some wonderful teachers at my yoga school, I was advised on books, diet and, the most useful of all, postures and breathing techniques for relieving discomfort in both pregnancy and labour. I also had the opportunity to study my pregnancy for my yoga project and benefited tremendously from combining the two: Pregnancy & Yoga. My second pregnancy was more manageable than my first and my labour was the most mind-blowing, grounding and spiritual experience that I could have ever imagined.
I was relaxed, confident and focused and gave birth using all of my newfound practises. I know that it was these tools that supported my very straightforward home birth – something I never would have dreamt I’d have the confidence to do.
Pregnancy Yoga Training
Due to my positive pregnancy and birth experience, I went on to study to become a Pregnancy Yoga Teacher with Uma Dinsmore-Tuli. I wanted other women to have positive, empowering pregnancies and births, rather than the horror stories that we often hear, and was encouraged by other yoga teachers to train with her. I found Uma to be a hugely creative and compassionate woman who inspired me completely – she opened the door to a completely different approach to yoga for me, deepening my understanding of pregnancy yoga. Many of the techniques she taught still inspire my non-pregnancy yoga classes today.
Pregnancy yoga in my experience, and teachings, has a distinct design to nurture your body and mind and your baby’s; this is completely unique. It is not about “keeping the weight off” or about transforming into a temporary “hippy” (though at times, I did lean in this direction if I’m honest!) Pregnancy yoga combines a series of practices that are useful for your body and mind to help cope and find comfort with the continual changes that you have little control over… yoga gives you the power to manage them. It provides you with tools to cope with the emotional upheavals, mood changes, natural anxieties that occur before, during and after the arrival of baby. How to cope with exhaustion, discomfort, breathlessness, indigestion, aches, pains, changes in your pelvic floor and bladder control, Braxton hicks, labour and how to manage postnatally. Pregnancy yoga helps you connect with yourself on a completely different level whereby you are able to respond to your body’s needs without others necessarily telling you how to. It teaches you to trust that your body does actually know what it’s doing and to have faith in yourself…women’s bodies have been carrying and birthing babies for ever, after all. It doesn’t promise you the home birth of your dreams, but the practice does arm you with tools to help you cope with the unexpected.
So what are these practices?
They’re a combination of:
Asana (posture) designed and adapted to suit your body’s needs wherever you are in pregnancy;
Pranayama (breathing practice) to help make space in your body (especially around the ribs in the final trimester), to calm your mind, to nourish you and your baby, to assist in pre-labour pains and labour itself;
Meditation & Visualisation to help you focus, create a positive headspace, learn how to release and let go of worries; adopt your own positive mantra, affirmations or visual imagery that suits you personally;
Yoga Nidra to completely relax and refresh you, to help settle or release discomforts both mentally and emotionally. For some, Yoga Nidra is the most nourishing part of their actual pregnancy, especially for those that have trouble sleeping.
Some may say that this is what the essence of all yoga practices offer, yes, I would agree. But pregnancy yoga encapsulates the practices and adapts to look after both of you and the immense changes that a mother-to-be has little control over, from the newly found softness and elasticity of muscles to the absolute and utter exhaustion. Pregnancy yoga creates an even deeper connection to the self…it connects to another living being deep inside. A variation on a regular yoga practice is absolutely essential for this to happen.
Pregnancy is transformational. Pregnancy Yoga is designed to assist with this transformation, to help create a journey that is positive, beautiful and accepting. Pregnancy Yoga classes also unite women and create a supportive environment at a crucial time in life, when women will possibly need it the most.