By Shannon Pacella
This week Shannon Pacella of the Pelvic Health and Rehabilitation Center interviews a yoga instructor about the benefits of yoga before and delivery.
- What is a typical Prenatal Yoga class like (length of the class, any specific areas of focus)?
Each prenatal yoga class can vary widely, depending on the teacher’s style, the general style of the studio, and the class length. Each class will also often vary based on the specific mamas on class. Towards the beginning of each of my classes, we do a “check-in” where each mom tells me (all of us, really) how she’s doing/feeling. In addition to “reading the room” as we move through class, this allows moms to get to know each other, and gives me an idea of what postures might be extra useful for that particular class. I incorporate postures that help mom stretch, build strength, maintain balance, connect with her breath, help ease any present discomforts, and work to prevent injury or discomfort going forward. We work with the entire body, even parts of the core that are safe and important to address during pregnancy. Classes include plenty of variations of being on hands and knees, postures for resting, standing, sitting, balance, side opening, safe twisting, hip-openers, shoulder/chest openers, pranayama (breath-control) and much more. Class lengths are typically 60, 75, or 90-minutes.
- What are the benefits of yoga throughout pregnancy?
Practicing Prenatal Yoga throughout the length of pregnancy sets a foundation for mom physically, mentally, and emotionally. It helps keep her strong and comfortable during pregnancy, and prepares her for the marathon of labor. It’s also such a great way to bond with her baby, get to know herself on a deeper level, and develop friendships with other pregnant women.
- Can yoga help with labor and delivery?
Yoga makes an incredible impact on how labor goes, from mental focus and comfort to improving body awareness to solidifying a relationship to breath. Mom’s physical health and strength level is a huge component, just as her mental and emotional relationship to her body and the birthing process is. Prenatal Yoga will help her develop all of these things. It also has an effect on her postpartum recovery.
- Does a woman need to be cleared for Prenatal Yoga by her OB or Midwife?
A women generally isn’t required to show any proof of clearance. It’s usually a small piece of the conversation with her care provider – if there are no complications, she’s usually encouraged to continue any exercise routines as long as it feels good for her. Prenatal yoga is something that is safe (and highly encouraged) for women to start during pregnancy, even if they don’t have an existing yoga or exercise practice. If there are complications, it just depends on what (and how severe) they are. Often, Prenatal Yoga is still deemed a great option.
- How are the pelvic floor muscles involved during Prenatal Yoga?
In Prenatal Yoga, the pelvic floor muscles are engaged in a variety of ways based on the poses that we move through. Some poses essentially give us automatic pelvic floor engagement by requiring the legs to work hard in supporting mom’s body in standing poses or while positioning and aligning the pelvis in a certain way. During other poses, I will queue moms to actively and deliberately engage their pelvic floors.
- Where/how would a woman find a good Prenatal Yoga class?
While it can be a struggle to find a Prenatal Yoga class in your area that works with your schedule, most yoga studios do now offer at least one Prenatal Yoga class. Doing an online search is a great way to find available classes in your area. I also recommend using the MindBody app, which allows you to search for class types across most studios and makes it easy to curate the schedules of your favorite studios right there within the app. You can also purchase classes and register for them there, while the class is sync’d up with your calendar (if you choose to allow that). Another great resource for finding classes is by word of mouth. Joining expecting moms/new moms groups on Facebook is one way to get recommendations for everything pregnancy-related! Many women find that the classes offered just don’t fit into their schedules, in which case private in-home prenatal yoga sessions are a great option. The price-point is quite a bit higher and there are several additional benefits.
- Does a woman need to be cleared to practice Postnatal/Postpartum Yoga?
I recommend that she is cleared, yes, but I’m more concerned with mom honoring how she is feeling. If her recovery is going well and she’s feeling good, it’s up to her whether or not to come to postpartum yoga. Her level of movement and engagement during class is always customizeable as well, which makes class beneficial for mom at any postpartum stage, really. Even just being there with other new moms, getting any small amount of movement and breathwork is so valuable. If a woman is having a difficult postpartum period, or just can’t find the time to get out to a group class, in-home postpartum yoga sessions are a nice way to really get a customized practice without needing to leave home.
- Are there ways to incorporate both mother and baby into yoga sessions after giving birth?
Absolutely. In a typical Mom & Baby Yoga group class, I don’t incorporate the babies into our practice all that often, especially if they’re comfortably hanging out on a blanket at the top of mom’s mat or asleep next to her in the car seat. The reason for this is that I like to give mom some time where she’s NOT holding her baby (which is a hot commodity in the postpartum period). It also allows her to flow through movements and connect with her own body, breath, and rhythm a lot more, in addition to giving her the opportunity for chest and shoulder openers (which helps to reverse all of the hunching forward that comes with constant holding/feeding of her baby). There certainly are times, though, where we’ll pick baby up and use him/her as added weight, or just a nice little yoga companion to move with mom through some poses. I certainly want this to be a bonding activity for mom and baby as well. If mom is practicing at home, there are ways that she can deliberately incorporate her baby into most poses.
About the Author
Emily Masnoon is a Massachusetts native – born and raised in a suburb of Worcester and migrated to Boston to attend and graduate from Boston University. She is a proud auntie of her sister’s three amazing children, is a dedicated daughter and friend to her parents, and is one of her brother’s biggest fans. Yoga made its way into Emily’s life in 2008 and she began teaching in 2010. She has formal training in Hot Power Yoga, Prenatal Yoga, Reiki, and Birth Doula services. In addition, she uses her training, experience, energetic nature, and soul gifts to teach Restorative Yoga, Mom & Baby Yoga, and Postpartum Yoga. She brings a mix of no-nonsense, light-hearted fun, and a sense of calm to every class she teaches. Her passion and love for inspiring, supporting, and nurturing her clients and students lights her up every single day.
When she’s not teaching a class, or holding a private session, Emily enjoys roaming beaches, practicing yoga, listening to music, singing, dancing, surrounding herself with flowers, sitting in solitude, laughing hysterically with friends, eating good food, being crafty, playing photographer, soaking up the sun, gardening on her little ‘Persian Oasis’, feeling gratitude for this wonderful life, and striving to improve herself and her gifts each and every day.
She loves making new friends and connecting with her students, so don’t be shy! Interact with her on Instagram and Facebook!