GJS Tries Antenatal Yoga

If you read my blog you will already know that I train hard. I’m talking red-in-the-face, drenched-in-sweat, I-do-not-look-pretty kind of hard. Or at least I used to. Exercise of that sort of intensity is just not safe in pregnancy.

Looking for alternatives to my usual circuits and kettlebell training, I found an antenatal yoga class near to me. I have done yoga many times in the past including ‘hot yoga’ where the temperature is cranked up to ‘hell’. So, I imagined antenatal yoga would be like a regular yoga class but made easier, enabling me to keep up my fitness. Not quite. This particular class is not about fitness it’s about relaxation, posture, poise and preparation for birth – All very important things but not enough to satisfy my gym junkie craving so I’ll still be hitting the gym.

There were six of us in the group and our mats were arranged in a circle with a huge pile of cushions and blocks in the middle. I was tempted to throw myself on top of it but this did not seem to be the etiquette. The class began with a round robin of introductions, how many weeks pregnant we each were and how our week had been. Then we were asked to make ourselves comfy on the mat. This is where the cushions came in; the more heavily pregnant ladies required several blocks under their bottoms and rolled up cushions under their knees just to sit cross-legged comfortably. Being fairly early on in my pregnancy and able to sit with ease, this alarmed me.

The instructor explained that as it was a hot day we’d be seated throughout the class. Apparently pregnant women can get a bit hot and fainty so eight rounds of sun salutations is not a good idea. The first stage of the class was ‘centering’, where we were encouraged to set our minds ready for the practise (proper word for a yoga class). This involved closing the eyes, placing our hands on our baby bumps and letting out a loud “ohm” on each out breath. I did feel a bit ridiculous at first but as someone who is constantly on the go, it was a pleasant change to just sit still and concentrate on my breathing. The instructor then sang a little prayer for peace in Sanskrit. I have no idea what the words meant but the lullaby effect was quite nice and with my eyes still closed from the centering, I was now feeling quite relaxed.

We moved on to some gentle twisting, stretching and neck rotations whilst remaining seated. This was not quite the sweaty warrior poses I’d had in mind but it did release the tension I’d been carrying from being hunched over at a desk. Next up was self-massage of the feet which involved the use of a spiky, squidgy thing the size of a tennis ball. I am sure there is a very fancy name for this bit of kit but I don’t know what it is. The instructor showed us how to roll it under various points of the feet to relieve tension and help reduce puffy ankles (a common complaint in pregnancy) this was done whilst sat in a chair.

We moved back to the floor, onto all-fours this time for more stretching. One in particular that I liked was ‘baby hugs’ this is where you pull your tummy up and in around the baby then release, repeating several times. Post natal women and those with weak tummies from births or hysterectomies would also find his move very useful. By this time an hour had passed (although it didn’t feel like it) and it was time for the relaxation.

I’ve been having some trouble finding a position to sleep in lately and the instructor showed me a way to lie down comfortably. It was similar to being in the recovery position but with the top leg propped up on the blocks and cushions I’d scoffed at earlier. Whatever happened next I cannot tell you because within seconds I was dozing and then the class was over! I’ve since invested in all sorts of oddly shaped cushions and can now nod off quickly, although there is no room for anyone else in the bed.

I wasn’t sure how I felt about the first class perhaps because my expectations had been for something different, something more workout orientated but I went again the following week. This time the practise involved more movement although nothing beyond a bit of swinging arms and bottoms. We also spent time working the pelvic floor which s always neglected in regular fitness classes.

The instructor bought along a skeleton of the pelvis and used it to demonstrate where certain moves were targeting and how subtle movements can contract or expand the pelvic area – very useful to know for labour. I managed to stay awake for the relaxation this time too and I left the practise feeling looser, relaxed and generally in a state of well being.

Whilst not a workout in the traditional sense there are definitely many physical benefits to be had from doing this type of class. If you are gym bunny, it’s just about adjusting your expectations and accepting that your body is different now that you are pregnant. That’s taken a while for me to get my head around but I’ve since signed up to the classes and am enjoying them (I still giggle when we “ohm” though). I’ve now been going for six weeks and although each session follows the same structure there s always something different thrown in and a new technique to learn.

My course is with Cat Morgans. You must be at least 14 weeks pregnant to participate, complete a medical questionnaire and pay a month in advance to guarantee your place. You can find out more on the website: http://www.bigandlittleyoga.com/page2/pregnancyyoga.html and I personally recommend it.

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