I’ve recently restarted my pregnancy yoga classes after the summer break. And honestly, it’s such a joy to be holding space for a group of pregnant women again. It’s such an important time and I don’t believe this truth can be overstated.
Bird’s eye view
There are a couple of things I feel particularly strongly about pregnancy yoga. Mainly because they’ve been coming up as I start with a new group. I’ve developed these six themes as a way of anchoring me each time I turn up to teach. This is because certain things crop up time and again. That lead me to synthesising and teaching them in turn during my pregnancy yoga courses.
Firstly, pregnancy yoga is yoga for your pregnancy. It is not yoga with bits taken out because you’re pregnant. This is a crucial difference because you’re more than welcome to continue to take your yoga class as long as that feels the right thing to do. Additionally, you’re invited to continue with anything you already do which brings you joy for as long as it continues to do so.
Pregnancy yoga, however, is designed for your pregnancy. It’s designed to keep you moving, to help you with the niggles you experience and to help you prepare for your birth. It’s different and I feel strongly that the distinction be made.
Community and connection
Secondly, there are only a certain number of women who are pregnant at the same time and place as you. Pregnancy yoga classes are a fantastic way to meet them, with the added benefit that they’re likely to share some of the same interests and values as you do.
Almost every week I tell a story about someone who’s been in these classes because I’ve had an interaction with them recently. Yesterday, I went for a walk with a friend who was pregnant at the same time as me and bumped into someone else I taught during their first and second pregnancies. This is not an unusual occurrence. Mums will stick together and support each other.
Make it social
That means that my pregnancy yoga classes are a social affair. I encourage people to interact, share their stories and support each other in the practice. It’s good fun and anyway it’s always good to laugh. We have a WhatsApp group for the academic year and people will use this as a way to meet up during maternity leave. It also means I get to see the adorable baby photos really soon after a new baby arrives.
With that preamble my fourth major theme in pregnancy yoga is to accept that we know quite a bit about pregnancy and childbirth. And at the same time we know almost nothing.
I call this: known and unknown
We know a lot in general about pregnancy. It’s known that our gestation is around 40 weeks and there are three trimesters – each around 14 weeks. Babies develop in a similar ways throughout our gestation.
At the same time, we have no idea what our pregnancy is going to be like. Whether we’ll get morning sickness or grow to the size of a house almost instantly. There is a lot we just cannot know until we know it.
There are lots of symptoms which are really common in pregnancy. Bad back, sciatica, pelvic girdle pain, sickness and so on.
However, I cannot tell you want you’ll suffer with or whether you’ll get away with it. I can’t tell you for certain whether what you endured with your first pregnancy will be true during your second. There’s just no way to know until we know.
We know in general terms how a labour will go:
- Pre labour: this looks different for everyone but it’s the period before you’re in established labour. The point at which, if I live in the wild I’d be off hiding in a cave somewhere.
- First stage: where you’re cervix dilates and your body actively prepares to birth your baby
- Second: where your baby is born
- Third stage: where the placenta is delivered
- Postnatal recovery: the period of time after your baby has been born and your birthing muscles return to something like normal
There are loads of things we cannot know about any of the above:
- How long they’ll take
- If and how they’ll overlap
- What, if any medical interventions we’re going to need
And that makes preparation, to put it kindly: difficult. Or to put it bluntly: laughable.
We know that most likely we’re not going to get much sleep at first. That our hormones are going to be raging and that babies will cry, sometimes seemingly for no reason.
We don’t know the how, what, where, when of any of these things. And that increases are stress levels and ability to rest.
All of this lack of certainty causes stress. And stress often leads to erratic behaviours and difficulty sleeping. Which creates a vicious cycle.
Yoga teaches us to be in the present moment. It’s about learning tools and techniques that help us relax. It’s all well and good tell someone to calm down and relax because being stressed isn’t good for the baby. But saying that is most likely going to cause more stress and anxiety which will be less good for the baby.
If being calm was a switch that we could turn on and off that would be fine. We’d all do it. We’d buy a canister of oxytocin from the garage and be on our way. But we don’t work like that, we’re more complex. And when we’re in the process of growing a baby, we’re even more complex.
Ancient tools for modern woes
The good news is that this is what yoga does. That’s probably why it’s something that your healthcare professionals will most likely suggest. Yoga is 3,000 years worth of tools and techniques which have been tried and tested and shown to help you through all life experiences. You’ll learn the tools and techniques to know what we do know and accept what we can’t.