So, you've heard that prenatal yoga is good during pregnancy. Perhaps your care provider, sister, friend, lady at the grocery store, and/or some pregnancy blogger told you that you should be doing prenatal yoga. Great, we all know that its recommended. But, why? What makes prenatal yoga so special? What makes prenatal yoga different from a "regular" yoga class?
Below, I've sorted through those questions and have provided you with answers! The results do confirm that prenatal yoga is special and different from the "regular' yoga classes and therefore, you should definitely take prenatal yoga classes during pregnancy if they are available!
Other Pregnant Women are in Attendance.
This is a bit obvious, yes, the class is full of other pregnant women. The thing is, its just pregnant women! No need to feel excluded or stick out in a room full of non-pregnant people. You get to be in a room full of women that are in the same life changing journey that you are. You get to talk to each other, support each other, become friends, and raise your babies together!
A Flow of Safe and Beneficial Movements for Pregnancy.
The entire class flow is created for pregnant mamas. You can go to a prenatal yoga class without worrying or being unsure that the movements you are doing are unsafe, not recommended, or going to cause challenges for you later on. You are not exposed to postures that increase diastasis recti or compromise your joints and you don't have to continuously look for modifications. In fact, if you do need to modify in a prenatal class for a particular pregnancy ailment, the teacher will be able to help you with that specifically. The movements presented in a prenatal class are beneficial, strengthening, and aligned for mamas.
Additional Practices Specific for Pregnant Mamas.
Have you ever been instructed on kegel exercises in a "regular" yoga class? While kegels are very uncommon in a regular class, pelvic floor exercises are a fairly standard in prenatal yoga. How about Keep Ups in a regular yoga class? (Uuuh, What's a Keep Up?) These exercises are specifically brought into a prenatal yoga class to prepare mamas physically and mentally for labor, birth, and postpartum.
The Teacher is Trained in Supporting Pregnant Women in a Yoga Practice.
The Yoga Alliance and other certifying yoga organizations have specific credentials and standards of training to become a registered prenatal yoga teacher. These credentials and additional education are important when looking for a quality prenatal yoga class. Have you seen that blank stare or look of panic from a yoga teacher in a regular class when tell them you're pregnant and need to know how to modify? The teachers with extra training smile and know just how to help you in class. (Note: Being pregnant or having had a baby does not count as a prenatal yoga teacher qualifier. While the personal experience is a great and can be educating, it can also be biased and does not substitute for an in depth training that fully prepares teachers to lead prenatal yoga classes.)
There are Prenatal and Postpartum Resources Available.
The teacher is equipped with updated local and online resources to support mamas off the mat with questions like... Who are some local OBs, midwives, and doulas? Are there Pelvic Physical Therapists that service this area? Is there an evidence based website that provides info on pregnancy? What are some childbirth and newborn education options?... And not only can you get resources from the teacher, but you better believe the other mamas in class are happy to share their resources as well. It would be pretty rare to find those resources in your "regular" yoga classes.
Space and Opportunity to Connect with Baby and the Journey into Motherhood.
Mindfulness, setting intentions, and creating connection is a big component of any yoga class. While many of the themes presented in a "regular" yoga class can resonate with you, in a prenatal yoga class the fact that you are carrying a baby and are in a major life transition does not go ignored. The opportunity to mindfully connect with your baby and journey to motherhood is special and can be incredibly empowering, soothing, and helpful.
I love to see communities, yoga studios, and yoga teachers support pregnant mamas by offering prenatal yoga classes, however, not all of those classes are created equal. If a local prenatal yoga class is available to you, wonderful, but be sure that you are not being exposed to a practice that may present challenges in your pregnancy or postpartum.
What should you look for in a quality Prenatal Yoga Class?
A teacher with prenatal specific education.
Space of non-judgment without biases towards any particular pregnancy or birth approach.
A welcoming environment that encourages mamas to interact and support each other.
Postures and movements that are specifically aligned for pregnancy; ones that do not compromise joints or increase diasatis recti (and a teacher that knows that term).
Encouragement to practice in a way that feels right to you each day, and not required or forced into anything that will "advance your practice."
Modifications, props, and opportunities for breaks are offered.
A temperature regulated room that is not too hot for mama and baby.
Time and opportunity to connect with baby and honor transition into motherhood.