The Upside of Downward Dog, or A Pregnant Pause

As a woman who recently had a baby, the past year was full of completely new experiences, some great, some not so much. One of the most wonderful things about pregnancy, though, was prenatal yoga. I have been practicing yoga for years, and wasn’t about to stop for 9 months just because I happened to be gestating a (potential) human being.

The yoga studio I frequent is located in a busy, hipster-y part of town so the classes are typically jammed-packed. Like mat-to-mat, staggering your standing postures packed. Oh, and its hot yoga. So you basically spend 1 ½ hours sweating next to strangers. As horrific as that sounds, its actually pretty great. So when I found out I was expecting, I was sad to have to hang up my mat (since hot yoga and preggos do not mix) or find a new studio.

Then, as luck would have it, the studio started offering prenatal yoga in a non-heated room! Amazing! Now, if you haven’t ever been pregnant (or are a man, do men read this blog?) you won’t know the very special joy of going to prenatal yoga. Its great to breathe and stretch and all that, but what is truly amazing is that the classes are small. Intimate even. Rather than 50 or 60 sweaty hipsters, I was now practicing yoga with 4 or 5 expectant mammas. And, this is the best, no one cares. At around 5 or 6 months you can’t touch your toes, by 8 months you can’t even see your toes and by 9 months your feet are so swollen you’re happy you can’t see your toes. There’s no comparing yourself to the hot yogi hanging out in a headstand for 10 minutes before class, and then feeling bad that you’re not “zen” enough about your yoga practice. If you’ve got gas, just let it go. You’re in a room full of pregnant women, everyone has gas.

In prenatal yoga the teacher learns your name and greets you at every class. You start to learn the names of the other expectant moms, and chart your progress before class, share stories and symptoms, complain about sore backs, sore legs, weight gain. Rather than the silence that characterises the start of most yoga classes, prenatal yoga was full of chit-chat and laughs. We’re all women, and we’re all in the same boat, and, for that brief moment, were able to share the experience with complete strangers and maybe feel a bit less alone and afraid. Because that is the other thing – childbirth is scary, and while yoga won’t take the pain away, it will make you feel prepared, and comforted that you’re not going it alone.

And then I had the baby, and that was great, and he’s great and I obviously didn’t go to yoga for a while. As the weather started to get colder and the baby started to get heavier I felt stiffness in my neck and pains in my shoulder and spasms in my back. And I knew it was time to get back on the mat. So to the studio I went, back to the hot, jam-packed, mat-to-mat classes. While I’m happy to be able to see my feet again, there is a part of me that misses the special feeling of those prenatal classes. But like pregnancy itself, prenatal yoga is a pause in the normal routine, and eventually you get thrown back in with the sweaty masses.

Main photo via flickr user Chickpea

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