In this post, Frankie explores how pregnancy has changed her practice and how she has chosen to alter it to help her to prepare physically and emotionally for motherhood. She continues on to explore how expecting mothers can continue to benefit from yoga throughout pregnancy and beyond, and gives her top five tips on how to approach pregnancy as a yogi.
Frankie will be teaching her Mindful Mum-to-Be workshop in January – find more information on the workshop here.
Writing this at 31 weeks, it’s a lovely chance to reflect back on my practice throughout my pregnancy, which so far I feel has gone by surprisingly fast. My relationship with my practice has been constant in terms of calling upon it regularly to support me, to tune in to my body and to boost my overall well-being, however it has definitely adjusted along the way as I moved through the months, edging ever closer to motherhood.
Looking back, at 11 weeks I travelled down to London for a workshop with the amazing Annie Carpenter. Her advice for my practice at this early point:
“No jumping! We want to keep it in there!”
I thought this was quite a funny thing to say, but I stopped jumping back and forward in my vinyasas and never looked back – jumping around didn’t really appeal anyways. I also had to change my practice by not using the ‘bhandas’ and by avoiding core work – I had to consciously omit these from my practice remembering to allow the body to make space for baby, but I didn’t feel any less supported.
I had a mini-meltdown that weekend when a discussion topic came up that triggered something within me and I had to leave the room for a teary moment. I haven’t really had many emotional ‘wobbles’ as a result of pregnancy and at that point I never made the link until another teacher came up to me afterwards who teaches pregnancy yoga and suggested the connection. It made me be more mindful about my reactions to things and reminded me of the emotional changes as well as the physical ones.
Once in the second trimester, having not had morning sickness in the first, I never experienced the huge boost of energy that is associated with that phase of pregnancy, but I still felt good in my body and wanted to continue with my practice. At times I felt frustrated at suggestions to take much gentler options in class. However as time went by, I found that continuing the pace that I’d been used to previously just didn’t feel good for my body – not always immediately, but often afterwards my lower back would feel tighter, as would my hips.
Learning to slow down has been a progression, not necessarily of ‘letting go’ or of ‘surrender’ but of acceptance and honouring my body for what it’s doing to create a cosy, healthy home for my baby. Treating this experience as a little miracle or gift has helped me to love practicing with a different approach. Moving slower, excluding certain postures and practicing for shorter periods of time has all felt really beneficial. I recommend adapting your practice for different times in your life as it is a great opportunity to develop your practice and, consequently, always teaches you something. Here are my Top Five Tips for enjoying these changing times as you and your baby travel along your journey towards motherhood.
- Honour your body
Nothing mind-blowing, but not as easy as it sounds. Often it’s hard to let go of the physical practices that we’ve been doing. Instead of feeling like you’re giving things up or not able to be as physical as before, try shifting your mindset to tuning into what your body really needs. It’s not the time to start amping things up or to work towards ‘peak poses’ (I put any asana ‘goals’ on hold – the asanas will still be there for you to explore on the other side) but instead I introduced a lot more shoulder work to my practice which felt great. I considered the benefits of what I could do, not just for now, but to stand me in good stead for labour and beyond.
- Take a pregnancy yoga class/course
I was a bit unsure about this as I wanted to actually do yoga and had heard stories about a lot of classes consisting of chatting, cuppas and biscuits. Nothing wrong with any of that, especially if that’s what your after – it’s lovely to have group support and time to open up and share with others. However consider what you are looking for from a class and maybe try a few. I enjoyed practicing with in a group setting and also being led by a teacher, especially through lovely visualisations and pranayama practices. Being guided through a slower paced practice helped me to bring that into my home practice and it never felt like ‘less’ of a practice. These classes therefore supported my shift from ‘asana’ focused practices to ‘what would support my body and baby best’.
- Simple does not mean ‘inferior’
Simple things are not ‘lesser’ – I really believe this. Can’t do full chaturanga? No probs – bring your knees down onto the mat and do a supported chaturanga that will still build arm strength and won’t feel easy! How good does Cat/Cow feel for everyone, not just in pregnancy?! This is a great time to re-visit postures that you perhaps practiced as a beginner and to come back to those asana gems. Not going to your maximum and taking steps back from poses – shorter and wider stances in Warrior poses for example, gives you the opportunity to explore familiar postures in a different way. Let wherever you’re at actually be enough – it is and you are!
- “If you want to conquer the anxiety of life, live in the moment, live in the breath.” – Amit Ray
I’ll admit that I got a bit more ‘uptight’ about things – I’d find things got to me more or I would find it harder to move on from something that I found irritating (I still do!). Instead I would re-run things through my head and they would grow arms and legs. However this didn’t happen when I was on my mat. I didn’t feel agitated or anxious in my practice and instead I felt like I could soften. Restorative postures encouraged this as did some seated meditation during which I focused on my breath. A simple breathing practice you might try to ease this is to breath in for the count of four and out for the count of eight. Slowing down the breath helps to trigger the parasympathetic nervous system therefore creating a relaxation response. This can also be useful during early labour.
- Take your baby along for the ride
As you move, your baby is being swayed, perhaps lulled and soothed. There are many postures to benefit you and baby – poses that may help to ease symptoms such as heartburn, restless legs, along with those that encourage baby into the optimum position. Your practice is now benefitting two people! Again, it is therefore no less and should not be a gruelling practice but a nurturing one for you both. You can also use this time on your mat to connect with your baby. Brahmari or the ‘buzzing bee breath’ is a lovely one to try as you imagine drawing the sound vibrations towards your baby. You may like to try sitting in mediation and, as you exhale, you send a message to your baby, being open to receiving one back on the inhalation.