What to Expect in a Prenatal Yoga Class
Pregnant and looking for a prenatal yoga class? Did your doctor suggest you give prenatal yoga a try based on some of the symptoms you are experiencing in your pregnancy? Maybe your friends who have kids raved about their prenatal yoga class and now you want to give it a try? You might feel a bit overwhelmed with what might happen in the class, but do not fret! Here is a sneak peek into what you will find in a prenatal yoga class!
**A quick note that many of the tips I have in here are based on my own experience of taking prenatal yoga as well as teaching my own class. You may have a different experience or have different preferences and that is wonderful!
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When you walk into a prenatal yoga class, you should feel comfortable. Even if the room is comfortable, I have fans blowing in my class to keep the moms cool while practicing. This past week here in New Hampshire has been a hot one, so the fans were much appreciated in last night's class! I also have dimmable lights give a soft ambiance to the room that feels relaxing and adds a nice touch since we are in the studio's back room and not the main studio. If you are in a studio's main space, the room may be brighter and make you feel more energized. I usually play a gentle playlist such as the one I mentioned in this blog post, but have recently been enjoying playing the Yoga and Meditation playlist on Spotify!
Prenatal yoga requires more props, especially since a prop can help a mom avoid heartburn, discomfort, or going too far in a pose. Typically you should see a strap, two blocks, a blanket, and a bolster either set out for you or available for you to use during your class. If you need to take more props, you will be welcome to do so, or you can always ask the teacher to get you an additional prop.
At the beginning of every prenatal class is a check-in period where you will tell the teacher and other students your name, how many weeks you are, and anything that you are feeling in the body. This will include any aches and pains, maybe a milestone or appointment note, or if there are any yoga poses that you would like included in the class. At least when I teach, I have a sequence of poses that I write out as a plan for the class and then based on what I hear during check-in, I may adjust those poses or throw something else in to give a mom a pose to help with her symptom(s).
Check-in is a great time to get to know the other moms (as well as before class!) and is a great time for the teacher to get a better idea of how you are doing. This part of the class is extremely important to the teacher because it also indicates what trimester you are in, which allows the teacher to keep in mind any issues that may arise based on that trimester. It is also a time for the teacher to assess how you are doing overall. I have students who come in every week happy as a lark, and other students who are really struggling. This check-in time allows the teacher to come up with words to use during class that can help lift spirits, relate to a mom, or (only when appropriate) add some humor.
When I see a mom who is struggling, I like to address during the class poses and tips to help find relaxation. It is a subtle way to share a tip with the class, but also to suggest ways this mom can find comfort and feel like she is being heard. For every symptom I hear during check-in, I introduce at least one pose to help relieve that symptom. I will also address is there is a modification for a pose in order to avoid agitating that symptom.
In a prenatal class, you should find that the structure of the class will follow a pattern. The beginning of the class will be warm-up poses on the mat, moving into standing postures, followed by restorative postures that use props, then ending in a modified savasana (final resting pose). That is typically the way I structure my classes so that we have some time to warm up the body and then give mom some full body exercise with standing postures with the class ending in plenty of rest.
One key element that I think is crucial to a prenatal class is mention of the pelvic floor. No matter what kind of birth experience you have, you will be using the pelvic floor muscles to push baby out or your pelvic floor muscles connecting to your abdominal muscles will be cut for a c-section. You will see pelvic floor engagement in poses like goddess, utkatasana flows, squats, and pelvic tilts in polar bear pose. Even cat/cow can be taught as a way to engage the pelvic floor! More on the pelvic floor in a future post...
Another key piece of a prenatal yoga class is breath. Breath is another crucial part of any birth experience and is universally beneficial to be intentional with. No matter what birth you have, you will be breathing and you will need to use the breath to get you through. I highly suggest watching Jane Austin's video here on the rose petal breath specifically, since it is a highly applicable breath for birth.
With the rose petal breath, you are releasing tension in your jaw, which then releases tension in your pelvic floor. This is because the muscles of the jaw and pelvic floor are connected and when you release the jaw, you release the pelvis. As you can imagine (or have already experienced!) giving birth can be quite stressful and we may tend to clench our jaw from that stress or from the discomfort. However, this does not allow the pelvic floor muscles to relax, causing mire tightness that will slow the process of baby coming out.
I found this breath extremely helpful during my own birth, since I tend to keep my stress in my jaw. I found that when I relaxed my face and pretended I had the rose petal between my lips, that the muscles in my pelvis would also relax.
If you are a new mama, your prenatal yoga class is really your first mommy group. This is where you could make some mom friends who are having babies around the same time as you. You all might be on maternity leave at the same time and can meet up in your community. It is a great place to make friends who know exactly what you are going through and might even have some fun mom hacks for you to try!
A prenatal yoga class should feel like a safe space to share how you are doing both by the students and the teacher. As a teacher, I tend to hang out in the classroom before class to answer any questions, chat, or be a support for my students. Since I teach on Mondays, I also have what I call "Mom Hack Monday" where I share a mom hack (see my last post for some of my favorites!).
How do you feel now? Do you have a better idea of what to expect when walking into a prenatal yoga class?
I love teaching prenatal yoga because it is truly a joy to see these incredible women walk into my class and share themselves with myself and the other students. It is a blessing to be a small part of their journey as they either start motherhood, or are continuing their mommy journey.
When you come out of a prenatal yoga class, you should feel relaxed and comfortable. It is a time for you to have some sacred "you" time before your little one arrives and it is a great way to take care of your body. Taking a prenatal yoga class will hopefully give you a better sense of your body and how it feels so that when the big day comes, you are in tune with yourself.