It seems that too many people either have no idea, or have the wrong idea about what Prenatal Yoga is.. and isn't. Prenatal Yoga classes are something really special and more people should know what they're missing out on! Prenatal Yoga classes are a time and space for pregnant women to find peace and quiet in body and mind so that they can nurture and appreciate their growing babies and changing bodies. Prenatal Yoga classes, like pregnancy itself, are transient. There is a special kind of space to be held - a place for women to embrace the transition from life driven by their own needs and desires to the life of Karma Yoga that is motherhood. Prenatal Yoga classes are a safe space for women to connect with their bodies, their babies, and other pregnant women, it’s a source of community.
Prenatal Yoga is not at all, what many people seem to think: it’s not simply a slowed-down, gentler version of a Vinyasa or other general Hatha yoga class. To begin with, physically speaking, we move in a more circular motion, as opposed to a more traditional linear plane. We are making space for the growing baby, making space for the mother’s body to expand through the movement; helping her to respect the changes happening in her body, to embrace them, and accept them gracefully. Her movement may be restricted as the baby gets bigger, it may be difficult for an experienced yogi to accept moving differently… more on this attachment in a future blog post…
Furthermore, we use breath work to connect with the muscles of the pelvic floor in Prenatal Yoga, (no, NOT Kegels, and not mula banda exactly). Learning how she can control these muscles using her breath will help the woman during labour and delivery. After learning these pranayamas (breathing techniques) and practicing them weekly in yoga class (and hopefully more on her own), the woman will be able to call on these practices intuitively to help her during labour.
It’s also for this reason that we practice asanas that are conducive to a comfortable, natural birth. These poses offer the woman’s body the space she needs to allow her pelvis to open and release for birth. Again, she will remember these poses intuitively during labour as they are exactly what she needs in those moments.
To sum up, Prenatal Yoga classes should, to some extent, be a preparation for birth. A well studied and experienced Prenatal Yoga teacher will offer knowledge and information to her students that will help her understand what is happening in her body during pregnancy and birth and reduce fears. These classes should provide a space for women to discover for herself how these changes are taking place in her body. A general yoga class in which she is doing knees-chest-chin instead of chaturanga, and doing open twists while the class does normal twist is a completely different experience.