Sitting cross-legged on sticky mats arranged in a wide circle, seven women inhale deeply, fling their arms wide, and turn their faces up toward the ceiling. Exhaling slowly, they round forward and wrap their arms around their big bellies to embrace their growing babies. The room, sea-foam green and mirrored, is pleasantly dim. Unstructured, relaxing music plays quietly in the background. It is a most like being underwater. Or in the womb.
Angela Gallagher, 35, another prenatal yoga teacher located in Winston-Salem, feels strongly that a sense of community is important during pregnancy. “I end class with a muffin, a cup of tea, time to talk, and sometimes different speakers, ”she says. She tells her students that if they don’t feel up to a class, they should come at the end-just for fellowship. Prenatal yoga classes can provide a chance to spend time with other pregnant women sharing experiences and concerns, especially helpful if a woman is feeling stressed, unsupported or fearful.
The process of birth is not a Hollywood script with harp music, diaphanous robes, and sweetly smiling cherubim. It is work made of muscle, sinew, sweat, blood, and love. By toning the body, mind and spirit, yoga can help a mother be present for the miracle of birth. “Yoga helps you prepare for the unknown by knowing yourself,” says Colette Crawford, mother of four, director of the Seattle Holistic Center, and author of the videotape Yoga for Pregnancy, Labor & Birth.
What to Expect
Experts Agree On some general rules for practicing yoga during pregnancy.
If you have never practiced yoga or have practiced very little before your pregnancy, you should practice only prenatal yoga while pregnant. If you already had a strong yoga practice before your pregnancy, you may be able to continue a fairly vigorous practice – with modifications – after your first trimester.
During the first trimester both beginning and experienced yogis should only do a gentle practice or none at all, as the fetus is still implanting and the risk of miscarriage is highest.
Many women who practice prenatal yoga and give birth at home, in birthing centers, or in any situation that they helped create, describe their labors as amazing. But both prenatal yoga teachers and their students say that when approaching labor, it is best to expect the unexpected. “A woman brings everything from her whole life to this moment,” Crawford explains. “You can not go into a birth planning what you are going to do. You have to go in empty, so that life guides you”.