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.
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!