I was recently contacted by a pregnant lady interested in joining Pregnancy Yoga Classes. She was confused, as the gym she’s a member of said they didn’t offer Pregnancy Yoga but said she could instead join their Regular Yoga Class. “Is Pregnancy Yoga the same as a Yoga class?” she asked. “No” I replied. “I thought so,” she said “as otherwise why would it have a different name?”
As a yoga teacher, I teach both Prenatal Yoga Classes and General Yoga Classes. Here are some ways how Pregnancy Yoga may differ from a General Yoga Class:
- During Pregnancy Yoga greater emphasis is placed on softening and releasing through the birth canal in preparation for birth. This means the pelvic floor is gently released upon exhalation. In a General Yoga Class, this is usually the opposite, the pelvic floor is engaged on the exhalation and often held in an engaged position for a long length of time.
- The pelvic floor is explored in greater detail with practices that help to strengthen and tone and also soften and release in preparation for birth. This awareness assists in the postnatal healing of this area.
- Breathing is key to all aspects of yoga. In Pregnancy Yoga considerable time is dedicated to exploring a variety of different breathing techniques, enabling a woman to discover her own intuitive way to breathe during pregnancy, labour and the birth of her baby.
- Pregnancy Yoga explores a variety of sound practices, to assist in pregnancy and birth.
- In a General Yoga Class you are usually taught to inhale and exhale through the nose. In pregnancy yoga, significance is placed on inhaling through the nose and exhaling through the mouth – in preparation for birth.
- During pregnancy, there are a number of physiological changes to a woman’s body. For these reasons Pregnancy Yoga is kept to a slower pace, for example, so that blood is not directed away from the placenta (which nourishes the baby) to support a rapidly exercising body (particularly in later pregnancy).
- Pregnancy Yoga posture sequences incorporate different ways to transition from seated to standing and vice versa. As the baby grows, these new techniques enable a pregnant woman to transition more safely and comfortably.
- Due to physiological changes, pregnant women may experience a range of common ailments. Pregnancy Yoga takes this into consideration offering yoga postures which are safe to practice until a woman gives birth. There may be a number of yoga postures offered in a General Yoga class which are not suitable for pregnant women.
- Pregnancy Yoga includes visualisation practices which are meditative techniques. They are often combined with breathing practices and not something usually offered in a General Yoga Class. The techniques are a powerful tool many women use to empower and support them during pregnancy and the birth of their baby.
- We talk. By sharing and listening we also learn from one another. Most importantly, we acknowledge the changes as they are happening in this special transition of time.
Many yoga teachers are happy to include pregnant women into their General Yoga Class and offer modifications/alternatives to postures which are not suitable for pregnant women. However to my mind, a Pregnancy Yoga Class substantially differs from a General Yoga Class, as it offers additional discussions, practices and techniques specifically designed to support women during pregnancy, labour and the birth of baby.