by Elise Bowerman
You've heard all about prenatal yoga from your friends and colleagues. "You gotta take prenatal yoga now that you're pregnant," they say.
When you ask, "Well, what is it - what do you do?"
They reply with how it made them feel, rather than actually tell you what 'it is' or what they did.
Feelings are one of the most valuable takeaways of the practice. There's a reason we often talk about how we feel about something rather than what it actually is. We remember how someone made us feel than what they said or did.
That brings me to the first key element about what prenatal yoga is.
1. Prenatal yoga honors the 5,000 year old practice of yoga with allowances and is curated for the time of pregnancy.
Yoga aims to achieve freedom of our human suffering, while on earth.
It is a spiritual practice to connect to the higher self (big 'S') or sometimes called Universe, Source, Divine, God, Allah, Love, etc. Simultaneously, cultivating greater self-awareness (little 's') which often leads to self-compassion and tolerance.
No matter anyone's belief system, yoga is a practice for all to benefit from.
2. It is a guided meditative physical and mental practice to bring about greater self-awareness.
This is where we (as participants) are cued to notice our physical body and emotions in a way where there is time to explore.
When we bring more attention to how our individual body and mind operate, we can then gain a better understanding (or self-compassion) of our own self... and honor others for who they are.
A seasoned teacher will guide with clear direction, options within those directions, and most importantly - not rush.
Be prepared to sit, stand, squat, and increase your range of motion.
2.5 An understanding of mind, body, and the essence of who we are (sometimes called spirit or soul) are mindfully brought to light as separate states of being.
Through point #2 of physical and mental exercises - an even deeper awareness arises.
Once someone is able to feel their body and witness thoughts and feelings with kind attention, then an openness occurs to get in touch with the observer. The essence of who we are bears witness to our mental chatter and physical being.
This is the truth teller. What we know to be true about ourselves and the life we need to live in order be our whole self.
The benefit of this awareness in prenatal yoga is that it can provide opportunity to truly understand and honor the energy of our baby(ies) and ourselves as birth-givers... with a reverence of human existence, and our personal role within humanity.
Within this are techniques to re-pattern thoughts that may no longer serve us well, or may not be true at all. For instance, breathing exercises to calm the nervous system are explored with affirmations to stimulate new reassurances to the subconscious mind.
3. This transitional phase of life - creating new life in the womb - is celebrated.
Out in the modern world birth-givers may feel lonely, like their 'medical condition' is one of being broken, or uncertainty about all the fears being marketed will happen to them and their baby(ies).
Prenatal yoga embraces the growing body to move with strength and awareness. No one understands how hard we 'work in' and 'work out' in pregnancy until one attends prenatal yoga.
Additionally, the connection between parent/fetus is nurtured. Recent scientific studies prove most of our wellbeing is formed in the womb from the mother/birther's nervous system. Nurturing confidence to care for self and baby is vital in the wellness of everyone - and it starts in pregnancy.
4. Preparation for childbirth is incorporated within the practice.
Prenatal yoga teachers understand the importance and value of celebrating pregnancy, but also preparing for childbirth and parenthood.
The wonderful thing about the ancient practice of yoga, is that it already filled with postures, meditations, breathing exercises, and affirmations to support childbirth; whether vaginal or abdominal birth.
All information gained from childbirth education courses will be put into practice in prenatal yoga. From a teaching perspective, it is obvious those who are learning and gaining knowledge outside of our yoga class to put into practice what we do on the mat. Their attention and ability to actively discuss in class and turn their attention inward deepens their ability to accept the pregnancy and birth as it unfolds.
5. New friendships are created... even when you're not looking for a new friend.
Sometimes you'll find your new best friend or at the very least a group you can bounce questions and ideas off of in group texts or in our online community.
Being around other pregnant people is vital to normalize this phase of life.
In this space there's a sense of relaxation on the topic of pregnancy and childbirth. Laughter, loving support, brainstorming, emotional releases, and informative options occur unlike any other yoga practice.
Prenatal yoga is special. It's impactful on how well you embrace this phase of life. As I write this, I'm 12 years post my first prenatal yoga experience with my son, and I still recall the tender care and comfort my prenatal yoga teacher provided.
There are wonderful benefits of a prenatal yoga practice. You'll get the most out of what you put in. My best advice is to attend a class and teacher three to five times - as each class is unique. If it doesn't feel like the right fit after a handful of times, then visit another prenatal yoga teacher.
You'll find your circle of birther-givers. Be vigilant. They are waiting for you.
In the meantime join me for online classes right here in the comfort of your home.