Yoga Mamas: Prenatal Resources

During my training to become a prenatal yoga teacher, I’ve come across a lot of helpful resources I’m sharing here for the yoga mamas in the ebb + flow yoga community. If you’re interested in trying prenatal yoga, but aren’t sure where to start, first check with your doctor. If they clear you for prenatal yoga, check out these resources. Remember, prenatal yoga offerings can vary greatly, so keep an open mind, ask questions and share your prenatal yoga experiences in the comment section here!

Article: The Benefits of Prenatal Yoga (link)

Check out this must-read on the benefits of prenatal yoga from one of the definitive sources: Yoga Journal. Written by Jessica Berger Gross, it shares her personal stories and introduces breathing techniques and an awesome yoga sequence to try at home by Jane Austin. The poses and explanations are easy to follow and the article gives meaning to the connection between yoga and pregnancy:

“Birthing a baby requires both great effort and the ability to totally let go. We cultivate this on the yoga mat so that we can take it off the mat and into labor and birth,” says Austin.

Prenatal Yoga DVDs

If you’re thinking about trying prenatal yoga at home, there’s a DVD that comes recommended by many of my yoga teacher friends called Pregnancy Yoga with Tara Lee (link). I checked out a preview online and it looked great (plus she has a sweet British accent).

Tara Lee has also written a book that I’ve found very helpful in my training called Pregnancy Health Yoga: Your Essential Guide for Bump, Birth, and Beyond. The book comes with a DVD of key practices (link).

Prenatal Yoga Online Videos

If you’d like to sample several different kinds of prenatal yoga to see which suit you, check out the 14 Best Prenatal Yoga Videos of 2015, ranked by Healthline (link).

Prenatal Classes in Local Studios and Hospitals

Many yoga studios and hospitals offer weekly prenatal classes, and you can sometimes sign up for a series of several weeks at a time. If you’re unsure of what’s available in your area, I’d be happy to help you decipher local offerings – just leave a comment or drop me a note at jane@ebbflowyoga.org.

Prenatal Class Analysis: What to expect in a prenatal yoga class*

(*Note: all prenatal yoga classes are different. This is one example of a class I participated in as part of my training. Have you participated in a prenatal yoga class? Please leave a comment to share your experience!)

Upon arriving for Anne’s prenatal yoga class, I wasn’t exactly comfortable. With so many women streaming into the studio, bellies round and faces serious, would I be an instant outcast without a belly, taking notes wide-eyed? I know the only way to cultivate my prenatal yoga teaching voice is to observe thoughtfully and draw my own conclusions. So I took a deep breath, strode inside, and left my expectations at the door.

Thankfully I needn’t worry: Anne, her assistants, and the students welcomed me heartily. I participated in the class as a student instead of just observing – realizing that feeling the class through my own body would help me experience it as the students do. From the student’s perspective, there were several elements of class that resonated with me, and as a teacher, I look forward to incorporating many of those components in my own teaching.

One of the first things I noticed was the class cards, which are index cards placed on each student’s mat with their name, due date, health conditions, and email address. I appreciated this immediately for its simplicity. There would be no need for the teacher to memorize exact due dates along with names, since all of the critical information, including health conditions, was easily accessible. With a class of more than 15 women, having this information in writing is invaluable: class cards save time and ensure student safety. Another great teaching benefit to the class cards is the ability to review them before and after class. Knowing the health conditions and current trimesters of the students can help the teacher prepare each class.

As the students settled in, they found their way into the “barcalounger” with blocks and blankets supporting their torsos, gently reclining and opening the fronts of their bodies. This is a perfect resting position no matter the trimester, and getting into the habit of this easeful posture is a great idea. Many women gradually feel more and more uncomfortable in their own bodies as pregnancy evolves, and having a home base in the barcalounger can be so comforting. I’ve already shared this position with my cousin who is expecting in April and she says it’s been so helpful and relaxing to rest in this position of ease.

Another key part of the opening centering practice I plan to emulate in my classes is the connection to the breath and to the baby. By having a student breathe deeply into her belly with her hands touching her growing body, she takes the time to recognize where she is in the current moment – which is the essence of yoga. It’s especially important to present the breath as a refuge for the mother, since she can always come back to it, during pregnancy, labor, and beyond.

In addition to the centering breath, incorporating self-massage is another element I’ll be sure to incorporate into my prenatal teaching. Rubbing the hands together to create warmth highlights the mother’s healing touch for her and for baby. By massaging her body with her hands – to the shoulders, up the neck to the occipital ridge, around to the jaw and chin and up to the eyes – the mother helps herself and cultivates a self-care practice that can help her throughout the pregnancy and into motherhood.

Another key element of Anne’s prenatal class that I plan to emulate is the discomfort practice. These segments hold challenging poses for long periods of time to create discomfort in the student. In preparing the mind to be uncomfortable, the students create coping mechanisms for labor. I found it particularly interesting how Anne accompanied the discomfort practices with her voice.

Each practice has three rounds, and during the first round, Anna spoke for the entire minute, explaining the importance of discomfort practice and encouraging students to gently engage the pelvic floor. During the second round, she spoke less, urging the class to focus on the breath and pay attention to the pelvic floor. For the duration of the third and final round, Anna barely spoke at all. I then realized the importance of gradually removing the anchor of the voice. Without Anna’s cues, the students were on their own – forced to engage their own coping mechanism – much like they will be when in labor, without a coach. I think the discomfort practice is one of the most important elements of a prenatal yoga class, since much of the class is intended to prepare the body and mind for birth. I can think of no better way to mentally prepare for such a discomfort as labor. In learning to breathe and to be uncomfortable, students are more likely to draw on that experience while in labor.

I was so glad to have the opportunity to experience Anna’s prenatal class as a student, since it gave me such helpful insight as a teacher. By putting myself in the student’s shoes, I experienced different elements of the class that I’ll be sure to share with my future prenatal students.

Jane Daly Danese