This week I restart my pregnancy yoga class after the summer hiatus and that has led me back to thinking about how I reset these classes after COVID-19. You can read about that reimagination here and why I find it particularly useful to run the classes in this way.
Now I return to those six themes which I believe form the backbone of my pregnancy yoga classes. I like to think about it in this way because it holds as a structure and makes sure that I don’t forget some important topics. It takes around six weeks to cycle through these themes and the practice we enjoy in every class. That’s a nice balance between a solid foundation and not too much information to overwhelm, when we’re probably already feeling pretty overwhelmed from this being taking residence in our body.
What to expect
You’ll find adapted asana (poses), pranayama (breathing), meditation and therapeutic yoga in each and every class. I also leave space for anyone who’s experiencing the typical nigggles of pregnancy: bad back, tightness, fatigue and so on. However, the weekly theme means that there’s a different spin in each lesson because over and above all of this, I want to convey that pregnancy yoga is really yoga for pregnancy, not yoga with bits taken out because you’re pregnant. Because for me, makes a crucial difference and it’s based on experience of teaching and being pregnant.
More on the themes
The themes are non-hierarchical. Sometimes I switch the order around because of some external factor or something someone’s experiencing. It also means that you can start my classes at any point and we’ll cover the themes together.
The third theme
With that preamble, the third theme is adaptability. I’ve taught this particular idea several times now and each time there’s a few ways of thinking about it. Fundamentally, when we’re pregnant and when we become a parent we’re expected to adapt. Adapt to our changing body, the changing demands on our time, our changing priorities in life. All of this change impacts us on many different levels. And adapting to change is not necessarily something which comes naturally to many people.
First of all, know who you are. Maybe you’re someone who embraces changes and is all about getting stuck in and figuring it out as you go along. Maybe you’re someone who resists change at all costs. Probably you’re someone who slides somewhere along those two extremes depending on a whole variety of variables.
Once you know pretty much who you are, spend time noticing what’s playing with that baseline at any given point:
- Were you told something about your pregnancy that was unexpected?
- Has your little one become poorly?
- Have you work circumstances changed?
- Did you get a particularly annoying email?
These are just pointers, there’s probably a hundred more floating around on any given day.
Then cut yourself some slack because it’s a lot.
Start at the beginning
I then always suggest to my students to do what you know. Maybe there was something which felt really good in a previous class or just something you love to do generally. Go to that, however long you have and touch base with it again.
Downward dog is a fantastic all round pose, there are a tonne of variations and you’re going to stretch all of the major muscles.
Taking a couple of minutes to breath deeply is going to have a impact on your ability to see things more clearly.
Get out in nature and clear away the cobwebs. This is a big one for me, maybe one day I’ll just Forrest Gump it and keep on going!
Again, all suggestions. You’ll have your own. Being able to relax is a crucial skill when you’re pregnant (and at any other time) and you need nobody’s permission to do it. It’s good for you and it’s good for your baby.
When you’re pregnant, your body is doing a tremendous job and if you think you or your body respond in the way you did before then you’re probably setting yourself up for a fall.
When you’re thinking about your daily life, there are a few things you can consider:
Exercise: and I’m including yoga in this, take the options, slow it down, do fewer reps. You’re making a human, it’s ok not to be working on a pose or beating a personal best. These things will come back, I promise.
Movement: We’re designed to move and that’s not just when we’re pregnant. I’m in the middle of this post and what I’m really thinking about is that fact that I’ve been sitting here a while and I’m going to need to move soon. When baby’s here, you’ll adapt to what their needs are but that doesn’t mean you can’t take a walk or a few stretches. Infact, baby will love it. Start now.
Breathing: When overwhelm kicks in, often breathing is the one thing that I come back to. When you’re coming near to the end of your pregnancy, it’s sometimes the only thing you have capacity for so take the breath practices you’ve learnt and five minutes to embed them. Or simply deepen your exhalation.
Meditation: 5 minutes of quiet reflection is a way of slowing everything down and allowing yourself a bit of a reset. I often think of it like a magnet pulling out all the sticky thoughts in my head and placing them in a box somewhere. There are many meditation practices to try so do what you’ve learnt in class or investigate some of your own.
Probably most important for me was to accept that my life was not ever going to be how it was before. Once I let go of the idea of “getting back to normal” I was a lot happier with it all. And that continues to this day, things are changing all the time and I have to respond to that. Sometimes that’s completely overwhelming and I’ve had to entirely shift what my expectations are. Those can be dark places and dark times, I’m not going to pretend they’re anything else and part of us will always be marked by them. I don’t really buy into the idea that just because we came out the other side of something we’re a stronger person. We’re different and the more we can accept that we’re going to be different based on all of our experiences the more content we’re going to be.
Something to hold on to
The thing about pregnancy is that we’re constantly being bombarded with changes and not knowing (more on that soon), that’s why there are six themes I work with. They’re interrelated and they support each other. They create an holistic understanding of this life-changing experience in a way that’s grounded in my own embodied experience. Although I recognise that I always have to tread a fine line in terms of what’s generally the experience of pregnancy, my own and experience and the women who come to my class. We can learn from each other but ultimately, our experience is our own and blended with our story so far.
Each change brings with it physical, mental, emotional and spiritual impacts. Trying to parse these and offer tools is really where I begin and end with this theme.