A downward-facing dog, even for this fair-weather yoga enthusiast, is a fairly standard yoga move but on this particular occasion there is something different, almost off-balance about it. It is as if there is something in the way. Could it be… ah yes, that’d be it – the enormous baby bump protruding below me.
I am halfway through a prenatal yoga class at Triyoga in Soho, something I’d read could be helpful for expectant mothers. Having practised yoga intermittently for several years, but not for the last two, I was somewhat wary about trying again with the added encumbrance of that third-trimester weight, but wanted to do some form of safe exercise and something that would benefit me and the bub-to-be. As it turns out, I made a pretty good choice.
The classes are very much along the restorative yoga lines – more about gentle stretching, breathing and relaxation than achieving or seeing if you can out-tree pose everyone else in the room. Each class begins with round-the-room introductions; everyone says their name, whether it’s their first baby, how far along they are and if they’re experiencing any problems.
There is a nice unity about this process, some people smiling or nodding along in recognition at common niggles. Class sizes tend to range from four to 10 people, with women of all stages of pregnancy – from the keen starter in her first trimester to the serenely zen 38 weeker (who only has to stop at one point, near the end of one session when she gets a bout of Braxton Hicks, or ‘practice’ contractions).
Some of the teachers are mothers themselves, and have handy tips about breathing techniques which can help you (I’m clinging onto this hope) through labour. One teacher, Deanne, who is also a doula – a kind of professional ‘’mother supporter” – tells us to visualise a tiny white feather floating in front of our lips, then imagine blowing it very gently and steadily across the room and out of the window.
This method slows your breathing down; I have actually found it very calming when experiencing breathlessness – at thirty-five weeks I am starting to find Junior is taking up rather more room than I’d like, i.e. space usually allocated to my lungs – or general feelings of anxiety.
But it’s not all breathing and ‘smiling inwardly at your baby’ (although there is a fair bit of that) we also do a lot of floor-work including lunges and cat stretches, plus exercises designed to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles. The latter is essential for a mum-to-be such as myself who suffers from pelvic girdle pain, caused by a softening of the pelvic joints.
There are back-strengthening exercises, energising poses and I have to say, by the time the session is over I really do float out of there, feeling relaxed and refreshed. The feeling of community is also a bonus; there is something nice about being surrounded by pregnant bumps for an hour, twice a week – and afterwards in the café, I find myself bonding with a fellow preggie who has just spilt soup down her front (we compare notes on how inelegant eating now is with our new Mr Greedy-style figures).
I am not one to believe I can ‘breathe myself through the pain’ (an earth mother I am not) but if I can hang on to even an ounce of this zen-like feeling of chilled out-ness, perhaps labour won’t be quite the horror-show I’m expecting. AND breathe…
Photo Credit: Triyoga
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