5 Ways to Get The Most Out of Prenatal Yoga (and my favorite online resources for at-home yoga)

I have lost count of how many times someone has told me in an excited whisper, "I'm pregnant!! Nobody knows yet... where do I start, what do I do? I should go to a yoga class, right?"

Many women and birthing people want to enjoy every moment of the pregnancy, especially if it was much anticipated. They also feel the expectation and pressure to be as healthy as possible for the growing life inside of them. A lot of the time fingers are pointed at prenatal yoga as a way to cover all of the bases: healthy movement, attention to breathing, calming meditation, and even better food choices. But how do you get from here to there (wherever that perfect pregnancy and OMazing birth is?)

A lot of people don't know what we actually do in my prenatal yoga classes. Often I've had women show up for class, looking a little more than lost or unsure, and when I ask them what brought them through the door I get an answer along the lines of, "My doctor told me I should come."

"Oh, okay great! Why is that?"

"I don't know... he just thought it would be a good idea."

Or the script goes similarly for the person who answers, "I just thought I should come and you know... be healthy."

There's nothing wrong with any of these answers at all, and yoga IS a great way to connect to your body and your growing baby in a healthy and supportive way. If you find yourself in that place between a positive pregnancy test and grabbing your mat, here is what to expect and how to prepare to get the most out of your class.

* Side note: I would also like to add that my prenatal yoga classes (and I can't speak for all of them, but I hope I am here!) are open to every family bringing a new life home. You better believe that every family who has adopted a child has had months and months of their own type of pregnancy. Surrogates, foster parents, seahorse Dads, both Mommy's, people who are a size 5 or 25.... don't overthink it. We will see you on the mat! Because you need this practice too~

 

1. Honor the pregnancy that you are experiencing, not the one you wish you were having

It would be amazing to have zero morning sickness, tons of energy and a little round bump for 9 months, and some people do! Good on you lovelies! I was not one of those people, and most of us aren't. Yoga is about meeting your body where you are at on that day and in that moment, so if you are really struggling through the first trimester, don't beat yourself up about starting a yoga practice in the 2nd trimester or even the 3rd. Yoga will be there when you are ready. But I do recommend gentle walking every day to help your body distribute and flush out any excess hormones that might be making you feel that way. Walking around the block in the sunshine is a great time to recite mantras or listen to an uplifting podcast. One of my favorite kinds of yoga.

2. Be a smart Yogi

Piggy-backing off of number 1, you really want to listen to your body right from the very beginning. Did your favorite Instagram influencer do inversions, twists and backbends throughout their pregnancy? Cool. I don't recommend that you do that. In the last several years of teaching I can count on one hand the number of students I have seen in my class who could probably have continued their pre-pregnancy practice. The reality is, your practice might never look the same.. but neither will the rest of your life. Roll with it and see how much richer and better it actually becomes.

3. Invest in Comfort

Yoga pants sounds super comfy when we aren't pregnant, but for many of us the lower part of the belly is the first place to grow, and before it is even noticeable from the outside, we can feel the added pressure of tight yoga pants. Suffering is optional in a yoga class, and yoga pants designed for pregnancy can be worn for a long time after. (I still teach in mine!) There aren't a lot on the market, but I love Beyond Yoga's line called Beyond the Bump. Be frugal everywhere else if you like, but buy at least one pair of good, comfy yoga pants, and you will thank yourself every time you come to class. (And every time you where them for your next Netflix binge.)

4. Plan Ahead

A prenatal class is usually an hour long, maybe a little more, maybe a little less. It doesn't sound like long, but your body is changing rapidly. I often encourage my students to bring more than just water to class. If you anticipate that you will be hungry, nauseous, dizzy, cold or hot, or any other number of crazy things that happen to use within the span of one hour, don't get caught unprepared and miserable. This is maybe one of the most understanding groups of people you will encounter! Some of my recommendations are to bring peppermint tea or essential oil for nausea or feeling slugglish, Nux Vomica tablets for feeling yucky, protein bars for sudden I-have-to-eat-right-now hunger, and even magnesium spray for cramping.

5. Expect to work, but take breaks when you need them

The balance of knowing when to push yourself and for how long while pregnant changes week to week. My advice is usually this:

If you need to take a 3 hour nap or get a headache after exercising, you pushed too hard.

If you are only reaching for the advanced posture because everyone else is but you can't catch your breathe... stop.

There will be competition in so many other places, so let your yoga practice be a safe and supportive space. But only YOU can really define your own boundaries and enforce them for yourself. I will guide you into some pretty challenging stuff! Sometimes that is a lot of fun, and sometimes even necessary to build helpful muscle. But if you are following every que at the risk of your own safety, then we've fallen off course. Think of this as your first opportunity to practice boundaries for your little one as well~ let those protective instincts take over and don't worry about what everyone else in the room thinks.

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And of course, the reality with any yoga class is that not every class will be for you. The first prenatal yoga class I ever took as a first time mom was a hilarious horror story that I suffered through for a couple of months before finally throwing in the towel and sticking to my yoga DVD at home. You may need to shop around and find "your person". If you find yourself at home and looking for a way to practice yoga consistently, I have found these online classes and websites to be great!

For the daily feel good all over practice~

This practice is just under 30 minutes and can be done in any trimester whether you have any yoga experience or not.

For the seasoned yogi~

Bri has a strong practice and she speaks to those that do also. Her flows for the different trimesters on the Cody App are challenging in a good way.

You can find her class bundle here

For all yogis~

I really fell in love with Yoga Work's online prenatal classes during my own pregnancy for their variety and teachers. I especially enjoyed shorter sequences taught by Patti on days when I knew a stretch would feel good but I wasn't energized enough for a long practice. If you are in the area you can also check out Yoga Works schedule and Patti's own schedule at Uma Mother.

For Yogis in Southern California~

If you are looking for a treat near the beach, check out U & The Mat in Lagina Niguel and their amazing prenatal yoga teachers and various workshops. With a Whole Foods right across the street and the beach just minutes away, it really covers all of the bases for a perfect day!

What to Expect ~ Prenatal Yoga

   Teaching my prenatal yoga class every Sunday is one of the highlights of my week! I love getting to watch the students grow, change and then eventually make the transition from woman to mother. It's inspiring and fun, and truly a joy for me.

   If you are pregnant or planning to be pregnant, here are some things to keep in mind when preparing to join us for class:

(note: I love that my prenatal yoga class has always been open to all! If a baby is on the way but not necessarily in the womb, this class is for you too! Adoptive parents, parents and their surrogate, people going through the IVF process, supportive partners, and even sisters and grandparents are all welcome to join us. My class is every Sunday at 11am at Inner Evolution Yoga in Redlands CA)

  • Many of my students in a prenatal class are there because it was either recommended to them by their doctor, or they are looking for a safe way to move their body. Rarely do I get a seasoned yogi with a strong practice, but it does happen! What I am trying to get at is that I have all levels and experiences in this one class, so you will fit right in! If you are brand new~ don't be intimidated, you are not the only one. And if you still want to keep your strong practice, welcome! You will fit right in.
  • How do I cater to so many levels and experiences? Modification! I offer alternative poses and easier or harder variations all throughout class to meet everyone's needs and body. I can give instruction on this, but ultimately it is up to YOU to listen carefully to your body and simply do the thing that makes the most sense to you.
  • Do not expect to be able to move like a non-pregnant person... I know. This seems so incredibly obvious, but sometimes the quick changes that happen in our bodies can take us by surprise. You will find yourself thinking, "Wait, what? But I can always touch my toes here!" or you will want to take that extra chaturanga, and find that the fatigue you experience after class just isn't worth it. I hear often that pregnant women aren't broken or weak, and I agree! My class has the potential to be a very strong class for those of you who want it. BUT, you are pregnant. And while you may not be weak, there are changes happening daily that will throw you off your balance (literally) and that is the perfect place to be in to practice some real internal yoga. Be okay with backing off, doing the easiest version of a pose, pausing to breathe... lessons you may find useful during motherhood as well.
  • Listen to your body and intuition. In most yoga classes you are instructed to find stillness in a pose. I ask you to do the exact opposite. Have you ever watched a woman giving birth? Often her eyes are closed, she's moaning, breathing, and rolling her body, almost looking like she's in a trance. Do you know why? Because it feels good! I want you to have the same internal dialogue with your body, and I hope to create a space where you feel free to drop your inhibitions and move freely.
  • Similar to the above, listen, listen, listen and move with intention to avoid injury. We want a sustainable practice that builds strength, creates space and benefits you throughout your pregnancy and beyond. If you push into a pose and hurt your knee... well, that's definitely not going to serve you now or after your little one is born.
  • When we are pregnant sometimes we find we've developed an aversion to physical contact. There's a deep, instinctual voice that feels protective of our body and our space, and having someone in your space creates more tension than happy feels. I almost never give adjustments in class to "correct" a posture unless I am fearing for someone's safety, simply because I want you to stay in the realm of "feel good" vs being concerned about looking like a yoga model. However, sometimes I will give adjustments that are meant to feel good, or push on a pressure point to release tension. If you know you do not want to be touched during class or in savasana, feel free to tell me before class begins, or stop me if you see me coming close. I won't mind at all!
  • Overall, my classes have the potential to be a challenge. Everything that I bring to the classroom with me is filled with intention and I share it with you, knowing that it will benefit you during pregnancy and beyond by building strength, helping you find connection and stretching tight muscles. I have trained with and learned from pelvic floor physical therapists, knowledgeable prenatal and postpartum yoga instructors, and my own pregnancies. Expect to release tension and leave feeling good, but expect to put in a little work as well.

 

What should you bring to class?

Start by wearing comfortable clothes that won't dig into your belly. They don't have to be "yoga clothes" if that isn't what you have on hand, but I do love the maternity line by Beyond Yoga called Beyond the Bump. Their leggings are so incredibly soft, and the rouched belly band can be folded over post-pregnancy which makes them wearable long after baby is born.

Water! Don't forget to bring a water bottle and feel free to sip as often as you need to during class.

If you are struggling with nausea, especially early in your pregnancy, having Nux Vomica and Sea Band bracelets are a great way to make sure you feel comfortable during class. (I usually bring homeopathics and essential oils to class with me for vomiting emergencies.)

Bringing a yoga mat seems obvious, but if you do not have a good, solid, grippy mat I recommend using one of our studio mats. Many women experience wrist pain during pregnancy and think that using a thick, squishy yoga mat will help, but it can actually worsen wrist issues. The squishy surface is unstable and sometimes even slippery, which can be unsafe, or at the very least, distracting during your practice.

And a small snack. Having low blood sugar while pregnant is no fun, and class ends right around lunch time. Have an easy to grab, healthy snack on hand or in your car to get you from class to lunch so you aren't starving. Here's my favorite post-yoga snack while pregnant~

 

A last note on our Sunday yoga classes~ I always show up to class at least 15 minutes early and stay a few minutes after to answer any questions you may have! Show up early and enjoy the Earth Mama Angel Baby pregnancy tea that I bring along with me every class. Our studio supplies paper cups and hot water, but on especially cold and cozy days I have brought my own favorite tea mug.

I'm looking forward to seeing you there!

If you have any questions about private lessons for pregnancy or postpartum, please feel free to contact me here, or email jasminerosedoula@gmail.com ~ private lessons are available in person or online using Zoom.

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(This blog post contains affiliate links to some of my favorite products. Everything is something that I personally have used and loved! Purchasing the items for yourself using these links will help to keep this website running and is received with infinite gratitude~ at no cost to you!)

Lightening Crotch- what it is, why it happens, and how to stop it

   One of the most common complaints that I hear in my prenatal yoga classes is a sharp, shooting pain in the pelvis~ otherwise known as lightening crotch. Unfortunately this can happen at any time during a pregnancy and it is extremely uncomfortable!

   Pregnant people might experience anything from a quick flash of pain once or twice during their pregnancy while moving funny, an ache and pain any time they move positions in bed, or some people experience pain every time they move. Ouch!

   If you are experiencing a pain in the front of your pelvis, what you are feeling is the pubis symphysis. The pubis symphysis is located in the front of the pelvis, and is thick fibrous cartilage, about 1 cm, that joins the two pubic bones. It is technically a joint in the pelvis, and during pregnancy we are flooded with a flow of hormones that facilitate greater movement and stretching in our joints to allow for more space for the growing uterus and an easy passage for the baby when giving birth. Pain comes when that mobility and stretching goes too far. Normally your joints, especially the ones in the pelvis, have very limited mobility. (Keep in mind that these hormones linger in the body for months after giving birth- so giving yourself time to heal and moving with intention is very important to not aggravate any problems that have come up during pregnancy or create new ones.)

   Having mobility in the pelvis during delivery is something we can be grateful for! While typically the distance from the coccyx (your "tailbone") to the pubis is somewhere around 9 cm, during delivery it will expand to reach 11 to 12 cm!

   While we can thank nature's design during delivery, lightening crotch feels a lot more intense than it's silly name implies. This can be an inconvenient, distracting, and downright tear-inducing experience, but unfortunately once it has begun, there's little you can do to reverse it.

   What we want is prevention.

   Lightening crotch, or a stretching of the joint between the pubic bones is caused by too much mobility in the pelvis. The fix is pelvic stability.

   Stabilizing your pelvis can also be practiced after symptoms of lightening crotch have begun, to lessen the frequency and pain moving forward, but it should be practiced by all pregnant people- especially those with a yoga practice!

   Gasp! Is this an example of a yoga practice doing harm rather than good? Unfortunately, yes. Pregnancy is a time of hyper-mobility and for the majority of the pregnant population, there is more tension and tightness in the muscles (thanks modern-day lifestyle!) but more movement in the joints. Sound like a recipe for disaster? For some of us, it is.

   But fear not! Let's look at how to stabilize the pelvis and prevent this issue from happening or getting worse.

 

   First of all, give some love to your muscles. Your pelvis is a big, heavy set of bones, and it is supported by some of the bigger muscles surrounding it. The core (no, not your six pack abs- the muscles that surround the trunk of your body, including the low back and sides of the waist), your glutes, your deep hip muscles, and the muscles on the insides of your thighs (also known as the adductor muscles).

   Imagine for a moment that your inner thigh muscles are very tight, tugging and pulling on your pelvis. Your glute muscles are "turned off", meaning they are not doing much work, because they typically don't have to. These weaker muscles are not supporting the pelvis while sitting and standing, leaving the pelvis to the mercy of the tighter muscles surrounding it. Your hamstrings become shortened and tight thanks to the sitting you do much of the day, and this adds to the tension in the back of the body, pulling your pelvis further out of alignment. Your heavy belly pulls on you, with no help or support from a weak core. Does this sound extreme, or maybe even a little mean? Don't feel bad, if this is you, you aren't alone! (And to be honest, it's probably most of you.) While yoga can help to counter some of these alignment and muscular issues, during pregnancy, if proper attention isn't paid to really supporting the pelvis, you can see how things can get pulled and pushed into unintentionally painful places. We can start finding more stability by gently finding more flexibility in the hamstrings, and building strength in the core and glutes. (Bonus, this also greatly benefits pushing during labor! Win-win!)

   To take our pelvic stability further, and onto the yoga mat, you can imagine that everything must always "come back to center". What does this mean? I want you to imagine the bowl of your pelvis. It has 4 bony points on the bottom, the two "sit bones" as I call them in class, and your pubic and tail bone. On the top are the two bony hip points that you can feel, and the crests of the pelvis, that make up the top of the pelvis. Now imagine for a moment, that your goal during your yoga practice, is to keep your pelvis from tipping too far in any direction. Perhaps it is filled with water, and you want to end class with about the same amount of water you started with. When folding forward or lying on the ground in a pose such a pigeon, our pelvis isn't spilling any water if the spine is in line with the pelvis the same way it would be while standing. In other words, your low back isn't rounding and the tailbone isn't over-tucking. How do we make sure this happens? We use our thighs and glutes to actively bring our pelvis back to center. We activate our core muscles in the lower belly, the sides of the waist, and the back to help level out the pelvis. For example, maybe you can try this right now. 

   Stand up tall with your toes pointing forward, your knees right over your toes, and your hands on your hips. Feel for your bony hip points, and find your own body's neutral space. Ask yourself, are you tucking your tailbone? Or lifting your tailbone too high? Would water be spilling out of the top of your "bowl" in any direction? Okay, now step back into a high lunge with the right foot forward and your left foot back, or Cresent Pose. Your back heel is lifted and your chest is facing forward. Keep your shoulders right over the hips, and keep your hands on your hips. Did your pelvis move? Now can you actively engage your right thigh and draw it back slightly. Imagine the large bone in your thigh, and plug it into it's socket in the pelvis. Now engage the left thigh muscles, and do the same with the left leg, but this time you will be pulling it forward. Notice if the back left hamstring is so tight with the leg straight that your pelvis tips forward. Try bending that back knee slightly until you feel the pelvis level out and come back to an upright position. Is this hard? Good! That means you are working! Hold this for 3-5 breathes and then move to the other side.

   You want to apply these same actions in many of your yoga postures during class, especially anything with the legs separated wide. Think your warrior poses, straddle folds, seated stretches with open legs, etc. And the most painful thing of all- don't push into your flexibility. I know, I know.. most of my students hate this. Yoga is about being flexible and bendy, right? But for the next year or so (9 months for pregnancy, and several months after), your goal is to be strong and create a sustainable practice. That means giving 80%, and sometimes coming out of the poses a little instead of being all in. And this is a very personal thing~ yoga is all about self-discovery after all! There will be times when you can melt deeply into a juicy pose, and that's perfectly fine. But always be listening, and paying attention to what the body is telling you. If you find yourself hanging into your joints, never engaging your muscles and experiencing any pain in your knees, ankles, pelvis, etc. then it is time to check yourself and what you really want to get out of your yoga practice.

   I hope this helps you, and if you have more questions about this- some of the specifics or how-to's, don't hesitate to ask! Put your questions in the comments below, or email jasminerosedoula@gmail.com. And for those of you that are local, I will see you on the mat! I'm at Inner Evolution Yoga every Sunday at 11am.

Be Well Yogis and Yoginis!