How pregnancy yoga classes, online or in-person, can smooth the journey into motherhood. By Alice Veasey
Did you know there is a difference between ‘pregnancy yoga’ and ‘yoga during pregnancy’? In yoga during pregnancy, yogis continue their regular yoga classes while pregnant and adapt their practice to make it safe. Pregnancy yoga, on the other hand, prepares your body and mind for the upcoming changes and also for the birth and beyond. Being pregnant can stir up all kinds of worries and emotions, so these classes become education and preparation in order to give yourself the best chance of a natural, non-medicalised and painless birth.
The asana used during pregnancy yoga opens parts of the body that become tight due to postural changes and strengthens the areas that are needed for an active labour. There are also postures that can be used to help speed up labour, alternative ones that can slow it down and also asana to make the body more comfortable during labour. Breathing techniques are taught and practiced in each class, which can also be used in labour as well as helping with pre- and postnatal stress and anxiety. Relaxation during the classes is invaluable during pregnancy, providing a time to stop and connect with your baby. There’s also the opportunity to learn methods of self-relaxation that can be called upon during labour. These, along with breathing techniques, are useful for whichever turn your birthing takes.
I teach different forms of yoga but since undergoing my pregnancy yoga teacher training, I have developed a real passion for pregnancy yoga. One of the things I love is that whether you’re an experienced yogi or a complete beginner, everyone is in the same boat setting out on a special journey together. Recently, I was very privileged to teach while pregnant myself. Although this was my third child, it was my first since I began teaching pregnancy yoga. This was so special as I too had a strong connection with the group and was able to share my experience first-hand. I was my own student and was lucky enough to have a yoga birth at home with the combined use of asana, breathing techniques and affirmations; it was the quickest and least painful birth of the three, which I’m sure was no coincidence!
Along with many other teachers, the Covid-19 pandemic took my classes online. There were benefits to virtual classes: I found mums that had existing children at home, or other commitments, were still able to reap the benefits of the class from the comfort of their own home.
I’m still planning to continue the virtual classes alongside face-to-face classes for this reason.
Once pregnant, our body's needs are so different. During my pregnancy there were times when I craved a slow and nurturing practice, and other times when I felt I had more energy. I understood this when teaching the class previously but the appreciation for it was so much more real when I was feeling it myself. I have therefore provided access to pre-recorded classes (available via my website) so it’s possible to choose a class specific to your needs at any time of the day that suits you.
Family yoga is certainly the most fun class I teach! It’s a relaxed class where the focus is taken away from how to do the asana correctly, and instead, all about playing together, having fun, connecting, learning trust, communication... and of course at the centre of all these things is love.
Moving, connecting and breathing together has a powerful effect on improving relationships with ourselves and with our partners. When practicing with your child, it is beneficial for their development and it creates a trusting, loving bond with better communication and a stronger sense of empathy of each other’s needs, wants and abilities. This is achieved with games, storytelling via yoga poses and partner/ group yoga.
I often find that children (and sometimes the parents too) when first attending classes like to sit and observe for a while, but before long they are at the centre of it all with big smiles on their faces… especially when they see their parent(s) relaxing and getting involved. It brings out the inner child in us all! It’s a real privilege to be a part of. The classes also always involve learning relaxation and breathing techniques, which even the youngest of children are able to utilise. I always remember a mum stopping me in the street to tell me her three-year-old had been using ‘bunny breath’ to calm down within a tantrum!
As with the pregnancy yoga classes, the big advantage is practicing the classes at home and enjoying all the benefits with my own family.