~ By Melissa Savoie
It’s Saturday morning in East Austin with sun lighting up the gold curtains and warming the cork floor. Six women in varying states of pregnancy move about the room, unfolding their mats and gathering blankets and blocks. The class begins with eyes closed, one hand on the heart, one on the belly. Focusing on the growing and changing new life inside and to the breath that connects mother and child from the very beginning.
Prenatal yoga classes give students the opportunity and the place to connect to their community and their changing body. At the beginning of each class, women are asked to share where they are in their pregnancy as well as any symptoms or experiences that are pressing at that moment. These discussions are sometimes also focused more on the emotional and social experiences of pregnancy. Being able to share these common symptoms, emotions, worries and joys help women feel connected to the other mothers in the class and to normalize their experience. Prenatal yoga class is a great place to begin to build relationships with other mothers that will continue after the birth of the baby.
The movement in my classes often ends up being more therapeutically focused. We try to relieve the common discomforts of pregnancy, including leg cramps, low back discomfort, upper back tension, ligament pain and even allergies. In addition to contributing to the relief of these symptoms, yoga can also increase circulation, improve sleep and reduce stress and anxiety. We also practice strengthening poses to prepare the body for labor and aid women in their postpartum recovery. These include full and half squats, modified push ups and gentle core strengthening exercises. These poses are great for building strength but also help women to feel strong and confident as they prepare for birth and parenthood.
We work on connecting the movement to the breath, which helps to focus the mind. Also, practicing restorative poses or resting poses helps to relax the nervous system and calm the thoughts. Practicing progressive relaxation techniques, breathing techniques and vocalizing is also applicable to labor and delivery later on, but help women stay more relaxed and calmer during their pregnancy. Studies have connected the practice of prenatal yoga to shorter labors with less pain. In general, being able to relax the body and mind is useful preparation and beneficial through the entire prenatal period.
Yoga supports awareness and mindful decision making. The practice offers the opportunity for self study, which supports the transition into parenthood. Any positive practice, which supports the mother, whether it’s healthy diet, meditation, yoga, or exercise supports the baby as well. Yoga helps to make that connection between the health of mother and baby more clear and present, hopefully supporting mothers to continue to practice self care as they move into early parenthood.