This is Part 3 in a six part series. If you are just tuning in start with Part 1, and I will meet you back here!
There was a considerable shift in the energy of the class today. After having seven hours to practice alongside and talk with one another yesterday there was a more intimate feel between my fellow yoginis. You could see the blossoms of friendships forming and the roots of relationship sinking a little deeper. It was like walking into a warm embrace, all of these women who are here to empower one another and grow in wisdom.
Class started with each woman sharing her birth story, or her inspiration for attending teacher training. It was an emotional and vulnerable occasion, with some mothers baring themselves in ways they never had before. What was especially remarkable to me was the fact that even though there were twelve women in the room, not one story was similar. Each woman had come from a different background, and had brought her children into the world in vastly different ways. There were stories of miscarriages, breach births, unmedicated births, deliveries with epidurals and forceps, and C-sections. Some women had several children, while other women only had one or two.
In theensuing discussion one woman brought up the fact that even though there were several different ways of bringing a child into the world, there was no right or wrong way. “Natural” gets thrown around a lot in the birthing community, but all of these births were natural to the women experiencing them. The bottom line is that all mothers are after the same goal: a healthy and thriving baby.
After our conversation we entered into the technical part of class and were led through a hour and a half yoga practice formulated for women entering their second trimester. The second trimester is weeks 13-28 of a pregnancy, and is the trimester in which women tend to feel the strongest and most energetic. This is the time in which women are more open to learning self-care: how to care for their changing bodies and spirits. The practice worked on building strength: there were more standing postures and large movements, while still including emphasis on range of motion: loosening hips and joints while strengthening the pelvic floor. Prenatal classes tend to be longer than the average class because there is more time between each asana: there is an emphasis on restoration and relaxation, and that requires time. It is unwise for a woman to be continuously moving while she is pregnant, rather there should be both periods of activity and rest.
Wrapping up the practice we broke for lunch, and I went with a few fellow yoginis to a food place downtown called Freshii. The restaurant emphasizes filling and nutritious food and juices: lots of fresh vegetables and whole grains. I ordered the Oaxaca rice bowl with chicken: it has brown rice, avocado, beet slaw, black beans and corn, all blended with a slightly spicy yogurt dressing and wantons. The serving size was generous and after lunch I felt full and energized, but not like I was weighted down.
After walking back to the studio we started the second half of the day with Yoga Nidra, or guided relaxation. It is a yogic sleep, or a state that is found between sleeping and wakefulness (imagine the moment right before you fall asleep). It takes the body about fifteen to twenty minutes to completely relax, and the Nidra is generally offered at the end of a prenatal class. In the practice the student focuses on the whole body: clenching each muscle and then releasing, to enter into a more relaxed state and tap into the parasympathetic nervous system, or the nervous system that helps to slow heart-rate and breathing, reducing stress (in science known as the rest and digest system). Guided relaxation helps to reduce trauma in the body and brain: whether it be from an injury or past experience.
To end the class there was a lecture on Ayurveda, or the sister science to yoga. Ayurveda is a five thousand year old system of medicine with Sanskrit roots (its translation means the wisdom of life), and it emphasizes daily practices and diets based on each person’s unique constitution or doshas. There are three doshas linked to the elements: Vatha is based in the elements of air and ehter (or space), Pitha is based in fire and earth, and Kaptha is based in the element of earth and water. According to the philosophy each person can be a combination of the doshas, and whichever one they align with helps determine the self-practices they should be including. For example: someone with a Pitha dosha has a fiery personality, and though they may be attracted to spicy foods and alcohol, they should seek out cooling foods like cucumber and melon to help balance out the element. The idea of Ayurveda is not linked to any one religion or ideology, but can be included in any practice.
My brain has been spinning with the amount of information I have been receiving over the last few days and I have no idea how I am going to process and remember it all. I feel like I have only begun to scratch the surface of prenatal yoga, and we are already on the second trimester! I have a deeper appreciation for all the women out there who are mothers or support mothers. I can’t wait to bring this information back to my community and help mamas grow. I was so fortunate in my pregnancy to have a large supportive network of knowledgeable and experienced women to learn from and seek advice from, and it is my humble hope that I can do the same for other mothers.
Continue on to Part 4 where we go over the third trimester and birthing interventions.
Question of the Day:
What dosha or elements do you most align with? Here is a quiz for you to find out. Like one’s Zodiac there is not one dosha that is preferred above others, it is simply who you are as an individual. In every test I have ever taken I align strongly with Vatha and Pitta.