Before I was pregnant, yoga class was an aspirational experience.I am many things, but Stretch Armstrong isn’t one of them. Thus I would spend a good portion of most classes being “adjusted” by teachers with varying levels of tolerance for inflexibility. Sometimes the adjustments were gentle and supportive. Other times, the teachers seemed downright pissed off that a person with such pathetic tissue control would set foot on a yoga mat. The foot thing, too was a problem. I take a certain amount of care with my physical appearance, but let’s just say my priorities don’t start at the bottom of my body. Who has time for constant pedicuring? There was more than one time I skipped a yoga class for shame of the state of my feet.
But still, I liked the idea. And when I got pregnant, I was eager to give the prenatal version of yoga a try.
Well, my first class was a disaster. I was expecting gentle stretches and collective belly appreciation, based on a video I’d seen. But from day one, it was clear that this class was not letting pregnant women off easy.
I had heard great things about this yoga studio and its great prenatal teacher. But what I didn’t know is that this studio was famous for being hardcore. How were these women able to do this? My legs were shaking after 20 minutes. I got a little bit dizzy. I almost gave up. I was sore for two days after the first class.
But something kept me coming back. The teacher was amazing. Besides being a superstar prenatal yoga teacher, she was a prenatal massage therapist and birth doula. She read to the class from Ina May Gaskin’s new (at the time) book and discussed her personal experiences with pregnancy and birth. She bolstered our confidence about the capability and power of women’s bodies.
And it worked. Despite my aching quads, I was compelled: If these women were strong enough to do these poses through pregnancy, maybe I could get strong enough too. I went back. After a couple of weeks, I was doing the class easily. (Well, not easily, but easily enough.) Then I was hooked. The yoga made me feel great, powerful and strong and capable. I went as often as I could for the rest of my pregnancy.
I met other women due around the same time; we went out for lunch and talked pregnancy complaints. I got to do big-bellied sun salutations along with three of my girlhood movie star idols: Molly Ringwald, Jennifer Connelly and Brooke Shields. Not all on the same day. But still, this was strangely satisfying. The most satisfying part of prenatal yoga, though, was what it did to my body and my mind. I went to that first class feeling unsure of my ability. I walked out of my last class, two days before giving birth, feeling ready for anything.
See my breakdown of 10 Benefits of Prenatal Yoga for more on the good yoga can do during pregnancy.
photo: Lululemon Athletica/flickr