Good question! Why bother with Pregnancy and Postpartum Yoga? (Especially when you already go to a great yoga class, or have got this far through life without yoga).
You may feel perfectly happy continuing with your current practice if you are seasoned yogi and your teacher is able to take care of your needs throughout pregnancy/postpartum or you are happy doing your own research on pregnancy/postpartum yoga. I certainly know people who have taken that path. Similarly, you may never have felt called to do yoga or to attend a yoga class up until this point, so why start now? We all make different choices. Rarely is there a clear cut right and wrong with all things pregnancy, birth and postpartum. Often it’s more about tuning in to what is right for you.
Acknowledging that there is no clear cut right and wrong when it comes to this topic, allow me to share some of the reasons I’m passionate about providing specific pregnancy and postpartum classes for women.
My first reason is the logical reason of generalist v’s specialist. You wouldn’t usually see a GP, or an Ear Nose and Throat specialist for your specialist pregnancy care would you? You’d see a Midwife or Obstetrician. In the same way, for yoga, it makes sense through pregnancy to attend a class focussed on pregnancy, and similarly for postpartum. In fact basic yoga teacher training doesn’t often include pregnancy and postpartum yoga as part of the syllabus, or if it does it’s very basic. So unless teachers have taken a special interest in pregnancy and postpartum yoga (which your teacher may well have done), or have chosen to do specialist training, a teacher taking a generalist class may not be fully aware of the things to avoid (contraindications) during pregnancy or postpartum, nor do they have a pregnant or postpartum woman in mind when they consider sequencing. I say all of this, not to disparage yoga teachers who have not chosen to study pregnancy or postpartum yoga, not at all, we all have our areas of interest and specialism. I say this because the body goes through significant changes through pregnancy and postpartum and we want to be cognisant of these changes when we practice yoga during these times.
If you would like to continue with your regular class throughout pregnancy and postpartum, check with your teacher about the classes suitability. I’m sure they will welcome the conversation so that they can take the best care of you during their classes. It’s always good to let any teacher know of injuries or conditions that may impact on your practice anyway. Also please don’t be offended if a teacher respectfully asks that you don’t continue with the class. A teachers first responsibility is to ‘do no harm’ so if they decide that teaching pregnant/postpartum women is beyond their scope of practice (an admirable thing for any teacher to acknowledge about any limitation) or that the type of class is not suitable and ask that you find a more specialist class, know that they are looking out for your wellbeing.
Pregnancy and Postpartum are the perfect times to connect through yoga.
Despite how it may sound above pregnancy and postpartum are the perfect times to connect through yoga. Pregnancy Yoga classes and Postpartum Yoga classes are not only designed to avoid poses and practices that are contraindicated, they are specifically designed to take you through a practice which is OPTIMAL for pregnancy, and often include practices that help prepare you for birth. They focus 100% on what pregnant and postpartum women need. I LOVED going to a yoga class throughout pregnancy, even though I was already teaching pregnancy yoga throughout both pregnancies. Spending an hour or so purely focused on me and baby away from the busy of day to day life, and navigating mindfully around my emotions and my physical aches was BLISS!
Similarly, attending a postnatal yoga class with a group of other mums all going through the same things, being able to ease back in to yoga together without judgement, knowing that I was doing the most appropriate things to strengthen and stabilise my body post birth was so good for my soul. Going to a class focused on easing out the aches of the upper body from the hours of feeding and carrying baby, without the pressure to engage in deep hip openers and backbends that I knew were not what my postpartum body needed was just perfect. THAT is why I’m passionate about yoga specifically for pregnancy and new mothers.
Pregnancy and postpartum classes also tend to have a smaller number of attendees so there can be more attention paid to your specific needs for your practice. It’s not unusual for a teacher to take the first 5 minutes or so of the class doing a sharing circle, where they check in with everyone in terms of where they are in their pregnancy/how far postpartum they are, how they are feeling physically and emotionally, energy levels and anything else that the woman wants or needs to share before the practice starts. Not every teacher does this as a sharing circle but most pregnancy and postpartum yoga teachers in my experience have their own way of ‘checking in’ with everyone before class so that they can really tailor the class to your needs. How awesome to be provided with specific modifications depending on your trimesters or for them to sneak in a few specific postures to address an issue you shared at the start of the class. I also love the fact that in a small specialist class dealing with a specific groups of women it’s much easier to throw all class plans out of the window when you realise that actually everyone is feeling super sleep deprived and actually just need to spend most of the class in beautiful, nurturing restorative postures to calm the nervous system.
Dedicated pregnancy and postpartum yoga classes provide a valuable opportunity for women to connect and to create part of their much needed village of support. Often, unless you have friends who just happen to be pregnant at the same time as you, you might not really get to spend any time with other pregnant women until fairly late in your pregnancy, and then only if we chose to do an antenatal class or other birth preparation such as calmbirth, hypnobirthing or similar.
Attending a yoga class with other women going through the same thing is such a beautiful time to make lifelong friends or at the very least, be able to have a mutual gentle whinge about baby kicking you in the ribs throughout the night. I always joked with my first pregnancy that he was preparing me for the sleep deprivation that was to follow. And I have to say, as a sleep deprived new mum there is nothing more soul soothing than being around other mums in the same situation and having a little cry on each others shoulders or sharing some beautiful moments of wonder about your newborn.
Whether it's at a postnatal class where you get to focus 100% on yourself or at a mums and bubs class where you can move mindfully whilst baby watches with intrigue, or maybe even naps through the entire class (I never had one of those babies but I witnessed it plenty), being around other new mums helps to normalise all of the things that can feel anything but normal in the early days of motherhood.
So how about if you have never been motivated to attend a yoga class now. Why start now? My passion for yoga was in place some time before I had notions of starting a family, so I can only speak to what other women have told me about why they started yoga during pregnancy or once baby arrives. There are many reasons which have been shared with me. Some start because someone they know (often a friend or midwife) told them to. Some have absorbed themselves in books about pregnancy and birth and have read it’s a good thing to do. Some women come to pregnancy yoga to connect with other pregnant women. Some women started postnatally because they want to meet other mums. Some come to yoga to ‘get back to normal’ (not my words, and actually a whole other subject). Some turn to yoga to replace a form of ‘exercise’ they don’t feel comfortable doing whilst pregnant. Some women feel the need to connect with themselves and/or baby when pregnant in a way they hadn’t felt the need to do so before. ALL of these reasons are valid, along with many hundreds more.
In fact there is no wrong time to try, or reconnect with, yoga. So many people equate yoga with physical flexibility but it’s the flexibility and adaptability of yoga itself that makes it so perfect. Yoga adapts to your needs rather than the other way round. If you haven’t already, I encourage you to try it. But then, of course, I would.
Until next time…
I’m Anne, Mum of two, Postpartum Doula and Yoga Teacher specialising in Pregnancy and Postpartum Yoga. I run Postpartum Preparation Workshops and Yoga Classes on the Sunshine Coast alongside In-home Postpartum Support and Yoga for new mothers who don’t want to settle with exhaustion and overwhelm being their introduction to motherhood. You can contact with any questions or book my services by e-mailing email@example.com or click here: