I've done a lot of non-pregnant yoga in my life. I did Bikram yoga for years and also some vinyasa flow and some basic hatha yoga. Yoga always makes me feel better. No matter how reluctant I was to get up and get moving, I'm always glad I did.
That said, prenatal yoga has a special place in my heart. While I was pregnant with L, I was fortunate enough to be a part of a WONDERFUL prenatal yoga class. Some of the women from that class are still several of my dearest friends even though we now live thousands of miles apart.
What made it so special? Here is a bit of what I wrote after coming home from that first class over three years ago:
I went to my very first prenatal yoga class last night. It was more wonderful than I could have dreamed. It's part support group for all ladies currently preggo and part yoga class. Not knowing many people here (and definitely not knowing anyone pregnant) I was really hoping the yoga classes would be a place to meet other pregnant women. But this worried me. I've spent years hoping that I would make friends at yoga (not having a wide range of options for successful ways to meet people outside of work) and I was secretly afraid that it would be like every other yoga class I've ever been too--everyone comes in and either doesn't talk at all or only talks to the friends they brought with them. Fortunately, this was unlike any other yoga class I've experienced.
First, our teacher (who is also a doula) gave us an update on the latest preggo resources for the area (doula resources and contact info, upcoming prenatal partner yoga workshops, Prenancy and Mother's Milk tea samples, new pregnancy books in the lending library at the yoga center, etc). Then, we went around the room (I really couldn't believe how many pregnant women there are in this town--there must have been nearly 20 of us) and introduced ourselves, sharing our names, how far along we are, and how we're doing in terms of pregnancy support. It was unbelievably amazing to sit in a room full of pregnant women, all different shapes and sizes, in varying stages of expansion. One woman was only 8 weeks. Another was 39 weeks. Some go to my midwife, some are working with OBs. Some will be having home births, some are hoping the new birth center will be finished in time. But overall, everyone had the same goals--a healthy pregnancy and a support network.
I never realized how isolated I've felt up until this point. Not lonely in the sense that I don't have people who love and support me (you all know J is the best husband ever and we have wonderful, supportive friends and family spread all over the world), however, lately I've felt like the only pregnant woman in the Universe. I've been emailing with a few women I found through an online network and I talk with my best friend on the phone as much as possible (she's 27 weeks). But I've still felt a bit removed. I can't see them, I can't watch their expressions when we talk or write, we can't go out for tea. It's hard to really believe they're pregnant and that I'm not the only one. But, here I was, surrounded by a whole room full of women with bellies. A whole room of people who automatically positioned themselves comfortably on the floor just as I did, sitting cross-legged on blankets, hands on their baby bumps. It was fantastic. I never thought I'd go to a yoga class where it was normal and expected that everyone would get up and go to the restroom at least once...without anyone else in the class giving them dirty looks that say, "I'm good enough to make it through the whole class, what's wrong with you? Can't you hack it?"
The other revelation I had during the class was that I've become very careful with my body. I've gone from pushing my physical limits beyond what is healthy to feeling like I'm made of porcelain. Unconsciously, I've restricted my movements and actions out of fear of harming the baby. I think this is due, in part, to several factors: first, having complete strangers say, "should you be doing that?" when I'm on the elliptical at the gym really makes me second guess myself even though I haven't done anything that wasn't approved beforehand by our midwife. Second, my own subconscious fears. Will I miscarry if I run when I haven't run in a few weeks? If I get out of breath, will I suffocate our baby? Is it okay to arch my back or will it make me tear my stomach muscles and detach the placenta? Even though I've read everything I can find about exercise and pregnancy (much of it contradictory) and talked with our midwives about what type of exercise is appropriate, part of me is terrified. What if I fall? What if the baby falls out? It's completely irrational.
I didn't entirely realize how tense I was, how carefully I'd been holding myself still, until I got to yoga Thursday night. It was an amazing relief to see all these other women moving and stretching and not hurting their babies. It was as if a light bulb went on--"She's 39 weeks and has been doing this the whole pregnancy. She looks great! Her baby is healthy, alive, and kicking!!" It felt so good to let go of the tension and let go of my worries.
On top of everything else, all the women were so friendly and welcoming! It was amazing. Unlike the competitive, superior attitudes I've encountered in previous yoga classes, everyone smiled, everyone said, "hello", everyone said "congratulations". I didn't even have time to worry about how to approach people and introduce myself because people introduced themselves to me. It was wonderful. I wish I could go everyday. However, class is only twice a week--Wednesday mornings while I'm at work and Thursday evenings. Since I'll be out of town next week for work, I won't be able to go for two weeks. But, I'll be looking forward to it--and now I know some poses I can do at home.
Because of that class I harbor not-so-secret-ambitions to be a doula and prenatal yoga teacher when the kids are older and I venture out into the work force again.
As I mentioned a while back, I'm doing prenatal yoga this pregnancy. It's an very different experience since so far I'm the only one in the class who is pregnant (it's listed as prenatal/gentle yoga) but it's still wonderful. Today I went to class (and as always was torn about going to the class or spending time with my family on J's day off) and I was so glad I did. I've been feeling huge and out of shape and out of breath and achy. During the class I felt so strong. It felt so good to stretch and remind myself how much I can move even with a huge belly! It felt so good to really relax and focus on my body and the baby in my belly. The rest of the week my attention is divided among a million things but during the yoga class I can focus entirely on myself.
Leaving class today I realized I need to do yoga at home more frequently. Once a week in class and once a week at home is not enough. It's yet another experience to do yoga at home with a toddler but it's still worth it. It might not be very relaxing but it's always good for a laugh and it always feels good to stretch out. Just doing yoga with me once a week, L is becoming quite a little yogini. In addition to doing poses with me, we recently got two yoga for kids videos from the library: A Child's Way to Yoga: Introducing Children to Yoga Through Movement and Music and Pizza Party: Yoga Class for Kids.
I'm currently on the hunt for a prenatal DVD since the one I had been streaming on Netflix is no longer available and we'll see how many days of yoga practice we can fit in this week.
Did you do prenatal yoga? Do you have a favorite yoga video to use at home?