by Margaret kirschner
When most people think of yoga, postures or asanas come to mind. In a prenatal yoga class, your back and hips will surely find some relief, posture improves, strength increases and tension dissolves. Beyond the physical benefits though, the emotional perks are often more impressive. For many women, anxiety during pregnancy can be at an all-time high. The need for a supportive community of women who understand what it's like to anticipate the arrival of a baby and feel simultaneously excited, scared, ambivalent, and super-sensitive is definitely reassuring. Sometimes pregnancy is uncomfortable and recognizing you are not alone is a welcome relief. There are so many emotional peaks and valleys that accompany the pregnancy journey and a prenatal yoga teacher who is also a birth doula understands that yoga can be fortifying on multiple levels. For example, the language and choice of postures can support a calm, concentrated mind. Women may be invited to hold an expansive warrior II posture and gently focus their gaze on a point in the distance while inviting the highest vision for their family, thus enhancing intuition and the courage to trust it.
The movements and mindful approach connects you to the miracle and mystery that knows how to create a baby, birth without excess fear and nourish the two (or more) of you. A prenatal yoga class offers many ways to open not only the hips and heart but the mind as well. Imagine holding your baby as you raise your arms in a Goddess shape and connect with your increasing strength for several deep breaths, smiling and softening even as the intensity rises. Confidence for managing labor increases as women explore the ability to be with feelings of discomfort while breathing smoothly and generously, calming the mind and replacing ideas of doubt with those of empowerment.
Research has proven through a multitude of studies that regular yoga practice appears to improve maternal comfort in labor and may facilitate labor progress. Pregnancy yoga is associated with a reduced perception of pain, reduced length of labor when compared to women who have not practiced yoga, reduced need for medical interventions such as assisted delivery (vacuum, forceps), lower requests for epidural pain medication, and increased satisfaction with the overall birth experience.
Yoga also seems to have an impact on the health and well-being of the baby. Complications of pregnancy such as pregnancy induced high blood pressure, intrauterine growth restriction, pre-term labor and prematurity were less frequent in the yoga groups. I encourage bonding between Mom and baby by including the child as a participant in the class with phrases like "hug your baby with your abdominal muscles" and practices that invite connection through sounds that resonate low and deep in the belly such as "aaahhhh."
One of the unique aspects of a prenatal yoga class as opposed to a gentle yoga or another style you may choose with a blossoming belly is the invitation to speak at the start of class. I offer the option for each woman to say her name and anything she may be experiencing currently or a request she may have for me. This gives each woman a chance to share what is in her heart and mind, which can be so valuable and supportive for her and others in the room. It allows for community building among women who may go on to establish a solid friendship and source of support for years to come. It also allows the chance to practice finding an authentic voice by asking for what they need or want directly and concisely, which famously happens during labor too.
I hope you will join me and other supportive Mamas in a prenatal yoga class at the NEW Asheville Mothership.
Wednesday evenings at 6:00 to 7:15pm (starting 5/25! Next Wednesday!)
What to expect in our yoga classes for women:
You will be greeted warmly and welcomed as you are. No prior yoga experience is necessary and all body shapes, sizes and levels of flexibility are encouraged to attend. Everything is optional and if a movement is offered that doesn't feel quite right for you, it is fine to sit it out, do your own thing or modify to honor your unique limitations. Margaret's soothing voice and precise instructions will guide you mindfully to a safe and healthy relationship with your body and breath. Connect with other Mothers, your own body wisdom and your capacity for a deeper, more peaceful breath. Please bring your own mat if you have one and if you don't we will provide them. Plan to arrive 10 minutes early to settle in for class that begins and ends on time.