In the last few years I have trained in both Pregnancy Yoga Post-Natal and Baby Yoga, with the inspiring Uma Dinsmore Tuli (Sitaram.org)
What I learnt was far more reaching than I had ever expected, It has changed my own practice as well as my teaching, not only for pre and post-natal yoga students but all my female students beginners and advanced.
I started the post natal and Baby course as I was finding more and more women in my classes that wanted to get back into yoga or start some exercise after giving birth. A few were upset to leave their babies to go to the gym, or had to leave their babies in a corner while they did ‘adult exercise’. This didn’t sit well with me, although I have yet to have children myself, I can empathise through my close bond with family and friend’s situations.
The course itself was set in a beautiful Buddhist Centre in South London, a stone’s throw from the Walworth road in Kennington.
A room filled with beautiful energy and women all from around the country and world. There were different cultures, yoga backgrounds, ages, teaching and parenting experience. I could have been overwhelmed by the experience and confidence in some of these women, but due to the loving nature of the group I felt very nurtured, loved and my voice was welcomed. The space was made even more special by the involvement of a few of the women’s babies, whose gurgles and chatters emulated the whole reason why we were there.
I learnt that the postnatal experience was a very special time for both mother and baby, extending well into the babies 3rd year. A surprise to me and made me think of all those mum’s who race back to the gym before they have had a chance to physically and emotionally heal.
I now understand the importance of nurturing not only baby but mum, understanding her changing needs, the pressures on her from society and herself ‘to be and look the best’
Integrated Mother and baby classes are a beautiful way to feel nurtured with like minded women, and those that are going through the same pressures and stresses of early motherhood, whilst feeling empowered that you are doing an amazing job without having to compare to others including feeding and lifestyle choices.
For me teaching class structure has to be informal as we are dealing with the unpredictable! Having said that, the practiced involved in a mother and baby class, will include Asana– (postures) to aid postnatal recovery and stability, but also to re-energise, restore vitality and release stress and tension that builds up from day to day parenting.
To integrate baby into the practices they enjoy the holds, rhythmic movements and the incorporation of some baby massage techniques.
To take their practice home Mothers are equipped with fantastic carrying, soothing and feeding positions to use every day that will alleviate physical repetitive stresses of lifting heavy loads on their healing bodies.
Pranayama or breathing techniques play a crucial part of post natal healing, using the breath with their Bandas (energy locks) to get into the Pelvic floor, womb and stomach area to promote the immune system and get Prana-Shakti– vital energies flowing to this area, as many women feel ‘disconnected’ post birth.
In a normal yoga class you may experience some chanting, maybe at the least the odd Ohm, here sound practice comes into its own, there is the beautiful Sonic Massages, vibrating mantras onto the baby’s energy centres, watching them sooth or even giggle, like blowing raspberries on their bellies! But not forgetting the songs! This is a great time to remember and pass on your favourite childhood songs and actions, for example: whilst singing ‘horsey horsey’ the baby has a great time bouncing on the knees of mum (possibly even relieving some wind), who gets some alleviate some stiffness in the back!
So back on the course, whilst surrounded by once strangers, that now felt like close friends, their babies, toddlers and plastic dolls we come into to amazing relaxation techniques, great for a special bonding relaxation with baby, I definitely bonded with my fellow yoginis. In one we were led through a Yoga Nidra and cosy up with cushions, blankets and eye pillows, the baby next to me in her mother’s arms fell asleep for the first time. In another breathing relaxation ( breathing snake) each of us lay down, criss-crossing each other, as the next lay on the previous students belly, the effect was that as the first person breathed in the next’s persons head would feel the breath, in the end everyone starts to synchronise and breath in unison, truly beautiful experience.
These are amazing things I learnt about yoga from great teachers, mums, women of the world, sisters. Taking a step forward this course help me realise a few things about my own practice, my own place in the world and my Seva..My service to my world my teaching.
In my own practice, I am learning more about my own Prana-Shakti my primordial feminine energy, and listening to my own body during my the different stages of my cycle, adapting my practice accordingly. As through my yoga practice I now have the tools to alleviate PMS, cramps, been more aware of mood swings and how the ride and calm them.
In my classes I now teach some great joint releasing techniques that are invaluable for some of my students that suffer from arthritis, but also the work I do with Post-natal strengthening of the pelvic floor and core muscles has been a great tool when teaching those with lower back tension caused my weakness.
I now change Asana and Pranayama and meditation according to the moon cycles allowing my students to tune into natural rhythms and honour the different energies at play. But also reminding my students the true nature of yoga of bringing awareness to their bodies, mind and emotions, that change is constant and inevitable and to follow this change and notice and honour the seasons.by