Teaching Prenatal Yoga: What You Need To Know
Teaching Prenatal Yoga requires a mix of specific techniques of asana, pranayama, and relaxation exercises designed to lead the pregnant woman to a stage of mental balance, self-awareness, and physical strength.
Yoga means union within us. In pregnancy, the concept of union and bond extends to the life that grows inside the mother, therefore to the soul of the child.
Yoga is for everyone, and when teaching pregnant women you must always keep in mind that pregnancy can be a very risky moment for some women who suffer from special conditions, and it is a very special moment for all of them.
It is not necessary to have experienced pregnancy yourself in order to teach Pregnancy Yoga. What is required is practical and specific knowledge of the female body and of the changes and problems it faces during each phase of pregnancy.
At the same time, it is important to remember that you are not teaching yoga to people with physical problems due to sickness. In most cases, a pregnant woman is not sick. Pregnancy is no sickness. The women coming to your class are looking for a balance to help them to accept their new condition and the changes happening in their body and mind. For this reason, relaxation and rest breaks between asanas are fundamental. But we also do not want to treat the women with kid gloves. During class, we provide challenges, which are always adjusted according to the skills and condition of the individual woman.
As a thumb rule, you cand admit any healthy pregnant woman to participate in your lesson. Be cautious however with women who received special medical treatments, are required to rest a lot, and women with special physical conditions beyond your competence. In these cases, it is better to suggest they do not attend Pregnancy Yoga classes.
The Difference Between Teaching a Regular Yoga Student and a Pregnant Yoga Student
In my experience, future moms attending Prenatal Yoga classes are very attentive and focused. They have a great sense of higher purpose; the well-being of their child. I have seen that they are very regular in their attendance, very involved and curious in class and that they will very diligently perform the home assignments.
In a Prenatal Yoga class, there are physical aspects to always keep in mind, such as positions to avoid that can be unsuitable and, sometimes even harmful for the pregnant women.
What should you avoid when teaching Prenatal Yoga?
- Twists should be avoided, or replaced with very gentle twist variations.
- Any position that may cause pressure on the belly should be avoided.
- Avoid balance asanas that could put mothers in an unstable and unsafe situation. In my years of experience, in order to teach safely, I started to use the wall a lot as a support to release the weight and allow mothers to not tire too much.
What should you focus on during Pregnancy Yoga class?
- Focus on asana that work on opening the pelvic floor in preparation for childbirth.
- Work on the opening of the high back chain, because mothers tend to close their shoulders due to the greater weight of their breasts.
- Stimulate the elongation of the spine and teach variations that help create space for the belly and the baby; always check that there are no situations that could create discomfort.
Important to remember, and to remind your students of: The purpose of Prenatal Yoga is not to learn how to practice yoga, but to make the practice right and accessible in the present moment. We adapt traditional yoga to the moment of pregnancy and therefore we make it specific to the psycho-physical well-being of the mother.
How does teaching Pregnancy Yoga vary from trimester to trimester?
The three trimesters require a particular and differentiated approach: In general, belly compression asanas and twists are to be avoided while initial and final relaxation become more and more important. You need to focus on overcoming fear and acceptance. As a teacher, you need to carefully listen to what future mothers tell you, and any sign of malaise and discomfort in any asana must lead to variations and changes.
During the first trimester, many women feel normal and they look normal. They also feel that they can face every asana, but they shouldn't. Attention must shift to breathing, visualization, awareness of one's body, and gentle poses.
The second trimester is the best time because mothers feel better physically. Mothers in the second trimester have more energy and fewer fears about the health of the baby. Mums now begin to worry about the weight they are gaining and the belly which grows and prevents them from habitual movements. In this phase, the variations of the asanas are fundamental to create space for the organs of the mother and for the body of the developing baby. Always be clear in the explanations of the changes that occur in the body of the mother and baby and always be careful of the levels of tiredness of the mothers.
During the third trimester, the main focus becomes the relaxation of the body, visualizations of childbirth, and on the fact that by now the moment when mum and baby get to know each other will come soon. All asanas must tend towards the creation of space and openness.
Challenging Postures for Pregnant Women
Every woman is different, everybody is different and everyone's experiences are different. In Prenatal Yoga classes, you need to make sure you know each woman well so that you can offer support and variations.
When you face with specific situations, you can offer private lessons in which to adapt everything to the individual circumstance. You must know how to adapt the poses and exercises to make them less intense. Your goal as a Prenatal Yoga teacher is to promote the feeling of lightness, to develop more healthy breathing patterns, and to guide the mums to experience meditation, visualizations, and breathing techniques.
Every day is a different day with its specific changes and needs that depend not only on the body that adapts but also on external factors such as the succession of the seasons, for example.
Body parts that need extra attention in Prenatal Yoga class
During pregnancy, women often experience stomach discomfort, acidity, and pain in the lower back, general posture problems caused by the shift of the balance center and the additional weight they have to carry.
It is necessary to focus the practice on the pelvic area and the hips and on the problems of incontinence and constipation that pregnant women often face.
The growth of the belly and breast also causes problems in the phase of rest and sleep which are disturbed by the growing difficulty in finding a comfortable position and by concerns about the imminent arrival of the baby.
Props for Teaching Prenatal Yoga
Before starting the lesson, make sure you have the following necessary supports, for each student:
- 2 supports (cushion or bolster)
- 1 belt
- 1 chair without armrests
- 2 bricks
- 1 blanket
Weights are optional but highly recommended, those filled with sand are fine. It is also important to have illustrative material that relates to anatomy and the changes that take place and will occur in the body of mothers and their growing child.
Including the baby
Always remember that when you teach yoga during pregnancy, your audience is at least double than what you see in front of you. The growing child can hear your voice and is influenced by it, just as it is influenced by the sensations and movements of the mother. You must be able to guide women towards accepting the changes that take place in their bodies and to follow with them their child's growth.
The Goal of Prenatal Yoga
The purpose of yoga during pregnancy is to bring the mother to the awareness of her body and the changes that take place. The goal is also to teach them to relax and listen without fear, to find the time to accept the changes, and to give themselves time to live these nine months following their own rhythm and that of the child.
Another purpose of yoga during pregnancy is to create space and teach mothers how to connect with their inner wisdom and to accept and trust the normal course of nature, in this way they will know how to trust their instincts and they will be able to calmly make the right choices for themselves and their baby.
The importance of feeling calm
We live in a very fast society, full of demands and duties. Yoga gives the mother the time she deserves to enjoy the creation of the life in which her body is engaged.
Feeling calm will help mothers to concentrate deeply, to let go of tensions, to face the fear of change, and doubt; to reduce anxiety; to take care of body and mind. Feeling calm lowers the heart rate and heightens intuition, puts us in contact with our subconscious, improves emotional connections with ourselves and with others.
Supporting her to feel strong and develop trust in her body
Yoga brings calmness, strength, and balance to the adventure of pregnancy and the class adopts yoga poses to satisfy every phase of pregnancy. In this way, mothers develop courage, strength, and the decision to face childbirth and labor. Mothers take the initiative to not suffer through childbirth passively, but to take control of it and become an active part of it.
Work on improving body awareness and strength
The energy level of mothers changes day by day. In Prenatal Yoga a pregnant woman learns how to listen to herself, to exercise safely, and to choose a soft rather than intense practice if and when needed.
The important role of breathing
It is very important for the mother to understand that she has to take care of herself and create a new positive habit regarding posture, exercises, and breathing. The better the mother breathes, the healthier the baby will be. With a lot of oxygen and nutrients, the baby will grow healthy and strong. The same is true for mothers, who need to receive enough oxygen and energy through breathing and pranayama exercises to experience a vital and peaceful pregnancy.
Offer mothers breathing exercises that they can practice daily at home. Remember that in yoga during pregnancy, breath retentions are not used in any way.
The Take-Away: Teaching Pregnancy Yoga
Teaching Prenatal Yoga classes is very rewarding. You help mothers develop through one of the most challenging and beautiful periods in their life. I experience it as an immense privilege to be able to assist them and really care for them during their pregnancy and beyond. After they have given birth, they can continue to come to Prenatal Yoga class for around 3 months (6 months if they had a difficult birth, with a c-section for example). After that period they can join your regular classes again.