Pregnancy yoga class

Pregnancy is a transformative rite of passage for women. A life changing milestone where women are greeted with variety of physiological and psychological changes weaving in together to support the growing needs of the baby. It was through my fertility and pregnancy journey where I deeply realised the importance of self-care and surrender as I immediately felt the effects of hormonal changes in my body from the get-go. I have never felt so exhausted in my life, and as many mother’s would say I didn’t feel like myself, like there as a veil hanging over me. I experienced all of that in my first trimester, a sensitive time during pregnancy where our body is doing so much extra work to create life. My journey in pregnancy taught me the importance surrender and acceptance, lessons I have touched on my mat when I move with my breath. Women need space and a practice that celebrates softness, supports change, an accessible and nurturing practice that cares for both physical and mental well-being of a mother.

As a yoga teacher, and childbirth educator, I’ve been supporting prenatal and post-natal women through classes and workshops for over a decade. It’s beautiful to witness so many women transition from one stage of pregnancy into another, and to see them back with their babies in mums and bubs classes. Many, just like me, can attest to the benefits of prenatal yoga and how it aided them during pregnancy, birth and motherhood.

Here are some of the benefits of yoga during pregnancy:

1.) Yoga can help alleviate some of the discomfort and support changes that come with pregnancy.

As the body prepares to support the growing baby, the mother’s body changes inside out. Due to pregnancy related hormones women produce during this time, one of them would be the hormone relaxin, its effects can cause discomfort in the pelvic region, lower back and other areas. Yoga, through conscious movement, breath and proper engagement can help bring a sense of release, strength, stability and more importantly a connection to the ever-changing body during this special time.

The practice can be altered to meet a mother’s needs. If she’s feeling feel tired, nauseous, and have been experiencing sleepless nights, a Restorative Yoga Practice and a gentle breathing practice like Nadi Shodhana (alternate nostril breathing) can help relieve the tired body and mind. On days when mother feels energetic, she might feel inspired to move in a more fluid yet supported way, and a gentle pregnancy flow class might be suitable for her. Pregnancy yoga nurtures women’s unique needs which allows her to feel accepted and honoured.

2.) Yoga can help women decompress and re-connect with themselves.

Stress and worries can arise during this time. We live in a fast-paced environment, juggling various responsibilities. This can lead to fatigue, and a sense of overwhelm. Pregnancy yoga practice can be a space to de-stress, re-centre, a place to reconnect to the calm within. Women will learn relaxation techniques such breathing exercises, postures, meditation and visualisation practices, which will help towards slowing down, moving from fight and flight response to a more grounded, relaxed state.

The breath is an essential part of yoga practice - the breath brings us back to the present moment; the breath connects mothers to their babies in the womb. The breath is heart of yoga practice. When we can surrender to the breath we can start to let go of the “must do’s”, our mental lists, and start the journey back to ourselves. The breathing can bring a sense of ease in both body and mind. We allow the body and mind to re-set, and replenish, lowering blood pressure, heart rate and taming the busy mind.

3.) Yoga can help women prepare for birth.

Apart from preparing the body for birth, did you know that most of the yoga postures, breathing exercises, and meditation practices are tools that women can utilise during labour and delivery? The postures practiced in class can help women work through contractions, and according to research can even make the first stage of labour shorter. A growing body of empirical studies suggest that incorporating mindfulness practices – conscious movement, breathing and meditation - can help bring deeper awareness. This awareness can help women surrender to the unraveling that ensues during birthing. Leaning into her reservoir of strength she may discover parts of herself she’s never known before. Following our inner compass gives us ability to make informed choices that leaves us empowered no matter what the birth outcome maybe.

4.) Motherhood is the big yoga.

Yoga (“yuj”) means union. Birthing and motherhood exemplify union, a coming together, of two beings, forming a bond like no other. Motherhood asks us to open up to experiences and stretches us beyond what we thought we were capable of. It also takes us away from our comfort zone, asks us to reflect of past, present and future. It asks us to question, be brave, yet soft, to love unconditionally. When we parent from a connected space, we can pay attention to how we interact with our children, and parent from a space of love even when it’s difficult. Motherhood is yoga, it’s our practice off the mat where we can summon self-compassion, understanding and a sense of letting go as we support our children in many ways.

5.) Yoga and community.

Pregnancy and motherhood can be a lonely time for many women. Being with other pregnant women in a yoga class can foster a sense of community (“sangha”). I have witnessed lifelong friendships blossom in classes. A sense of connection can leave a positive impact in a woman’s overall well-being. When women share their experiences amongst each other it can be a lovely reminder that they’re not alone in their journey.

If you’re an expectant mother and wish to keep healthy in body and mind, pregnancy yoga can address women’s needs, and more. It’s a match made in heaven.

Updated: Sep 30, 2018

Reflections on Motherhood, yoga and the practice of self-compassion

“There is nothing like motherhood.”. You might have heard of this saying coming from mothers before us. The depth and the breath of motherhood highlights the abundance of life and love. I’m a mother to a vibrant girl. Nothing has prepared me for all that comes with mothering. No book, advice, or planning has given me definite answers to what has unfolded in life in the past years. As she rested on my chest on our initial meeting I knew life has changed forever. I was responsible for this little human being from here on.

What I have come to realise is that motherhood is a crooked path full of surprises. There are days when it’s easy, and days when it can be overwhelming, confusing, and other times glorious, restful, organised, simply perfect. The eb and flow of this journey unpredictable yet most satisfying and possibly transformational if we allow it to be. It will change our lives whether we like it or not. It provides a landscape to explore our boundaries, get to know our deepest self, provide and receive love like no other – one that is unconditional.

Reflections from past, while planning for future has been part of my parenting journey. So much from childhood - how I was mothered, and how I blossomed as a child to adulthood - I reflect on some days. It is easy to get swept away with the stories and experiences from our past together with the daily mental and physical load we take on as mothers. It has at times left me feeling lost, and that I wasn’t good enough, or doing enough. The one thing that helps me feel grounded, centred, and allows me to step back and see stories and the mental fluctuations of daily mothering and life is my yoga practice. Through the movement with the breath (vinyasa), and in times of quiet contemplation in meditation, I am able connect to stillness. A sense of spaciousness where we are invited to simply be. Nothing to do, nothing to achieve. This has always been my sacred space where I can simply relax into my body, my breath, my thoughts.

Yoga, a rich, ancient, therapeutic practice can be healing. Practice has been a place of refuge for many as it has it has been for me. On days when life is overwhelming yoga practice has helped me re-focus through the breath. Mindful of movement and accepting of the healing gift the breath offers.

I have been teaching yoga for a decade and have been supporting prenatal and post-natal women. Many discover yoga and take their first class due to pregnancy, and what a lovely reason to do so. While others take their babies with them to attend mother and baby yoga and commit to attending class even when it takes a while and a lot of preparation to get from home to the yoga school. That is dedication! Apart from the physiological benefits of yoga , post-partum women come to yoga because they realise how isolating motherhood can be , and their time on the mat with others allow them connect not only with themselves but with other mothers too. Yoga brings women together, they move and breath together, fostering a sense of community and connection through the practice. Sharing stories, a cuppa, laughter and tears after class. I have witnessed meaningful friendships formed and strengthened during this special time. Students expressed how yoga practice has been a special time for them, a way to give back to themselves after those long days and nights. They recognise that it’s a special space where they can let go and experience clarity, and the emergence of their inner strength which they never thought they had before. These insights and revelations can be a pathway for self-study. The awareness we cultivate can inform our actions in daily living, encouraging us to connect with compassion, and gratitude for life itself.

I have always resonated with loving kindness meditation practice. It’s how I began my yoga journey. I was in my 20’s when my journey started, and at that time I was oblivious to what self-compassion truly meant. After many years, I returned home to this simple yet powerful practice over and over again and it’s something I share with students in class. In this meditation we send loving kindness to our loved ones, to ourselves, and the world by repeating the phrases,” May I be happy , may I be healthy, may I be safe. May you be happy, may you be healthy, may you be safe. May we be happy, may we be healthy, may we be safe”. We remember and honour our wholeness– our beauty, strength, the good and not so great days. Loving ourselves unconditionally and acknowledging that we are doing our very best as mothers. Through this practice we are given the opportunity to extend the same unconditional love, kindness, warm heartedness to our children and many others.

Yoga and mothering are life’s gifts. Both invite us to be open, receptive to how life unfolds day by day, breath by breath, and to be compassionate not only to our child but to look after ourselves as well with kindness. I love this quote from Myla Kabat-Zinn, co-author of Everyday Blessings, “Each difficult moment has the potential to open my eyes and open my heart”. Isn’t it so true? Motherhood is like an exciting, unpredictable, scary, fun roller coaster ride. Full of surprises. Our lives as mothers, as women, in our communities will be tested repeatedly. We must remember that the challenges, how difficult they maybe, are learning opportunities which can make us stronger, bolder than ever. It has a potential to lift us up and open our hearts and minds to this deep connection within ourselves and our children which paves the way for us to come home to our true essence which is love.

Sydney, Australia

© 2018 Michelle Papa - Inspired Path