I have two pregnant friends right now which has given quite a few opportunities to discuss how much I love prenatal yoga. But clearly not enough or I wouldn’t feel the need to bring it up here.
Being pregnant had its magical moments but overall I can’t say I loved it. Going to prenatal yoga was one of my favorite things about being pregnant if that says anything.
When I shared my excitement for my weekly yoga outing at work, they were… skeptical. They told me to keep my patchouli and mantras to myself. But I just can’t! I must admit, there have been times in the past and in prenatal yoga that I wasn’t wild about. I can only Om so much before you’ve lost me. In a past life the yoga studio I attended played fun, retro music while we worked through poses. It was hip to the max. My prenatal studio, Longwave Yoga in Wilmington, was more traditional with what any skeptic would describe as new age, world music.
You have to move past all that.
- At a certain in pregnant you begin to deal with a lot of physical discomfort and mental anxiety. For me the mental anxiety began almost immediately. Here’s a brief synopsis of my brain during pregnancy:
- First trimester: Are we making the right choice? Am I going to lose all my freedom? What’s going to happen to my identity?
- Second trimester: We’re going to be terrible parents.
- Third trimester: I have to give birth?! I changed my mind.
It was something like that. Physically, my pregnancy was relatively easy but it was still hard. I felt sore, uncomfortable, weak. I started waddling pretty early on. Yoga was the only place I felt I could clear my mind for a few minutes and relax my body. I went every week from about 28 to 39 weeks and eventually it didn’t relieve my physical discomfort anymore. At that point though I had very little motivation to get off the couch and it provided what I needed to get out of the house.
2. When you’re pregnant, all of the sudden you don’t quite fit in the world. Pretty much everything is labeled- pregnant women should use caution or avoid. No alcohol, no hot tubs, exercise class instructors get nervous when you walk in and so on. My work chair was painful no matter how many pillows I brought from home. Prenatal yoga was the only place where it was meant for me. I surrounded my mat with bolsters and blocks to make my poses easier and support my big ol’ belly. The instructor knew what modifications to make to help me and she also knew what was on my mind. It was a safe place to cry through my poses when I needed or just hold my bump and breath for a little while.
3. Even though I was 30 when I had Haines I didn’t know many other young moms or pregnant women. I was desperate to be around women who were going through this same experience or who had just come out the other side. It was so nice to be around women who all understand some element of what I was dealing with, even if just for one quiet hour a week.
4. This is the kicker- the breathing I learned in yoga is the only reason I could survive my contractions. I had wanted to have a natural birth and Haines turned out to be on board for that. He was able to keep things under 12 hours from first contraction to his appearance in the world and I didn’t reach my breaking point until about 10 1/2 or 11 hours. While all the exercise and poses I learned in yoga definitely helped me for the incredibly physical intense experience of delivery the breathing got me through the pain. With each contraction I breathed in slowly silently saying “Let” and then exhaled slowly “go”. Over and over again this was the chant that got me through it. Not the heating pad, not the bath, not the tennis ball on my back, not my husband’s encouragement, not music, nothing but “let go” and slow breathing. Well, that and the living room recliner where I labored and squeezing Tyler’s hand when things got bad.
Obviously yoga isn’t for everyone. Neither is natural childbirth…or childbirth at all for that matter. But if you’re pregnant and looking for relief or even remotely considering non-medicated birth, it’s worth your time to check it out. It’s been a year since I last went and I still think about it often.