Ante-natal yoga class (part two)

Well the pie is now eaten (not entirely by me I hasten to add, it has brought joy to a lot of people) so I can carry on about my ante-natal yoga.

The first week didn’t put me off and the second class was a lot less stressful. I knew where I had to go, how to navigate the car park’s one way system and how to use the secret code to get into the room. I knew where I liked to put my mat, that I’m still happy using one cushion and that none of it was as scary as I had imagined a week before. It was also bank holiday Monday, which meant that we were a small but perfectly formed class of three. One woman due about the same time as me and another who was 39 weeks*, keen to have a go at positions that might get things moving…

The majority of the session was spent squeaking about the wooden floor on our gym balls. Whilst I have owned a gym ball in the past, it soon became one of those forgotten good intentions of home exercise plans and was relegated to the back of the cupboard (well it lived at my mum’s house…). I’d bought one the week before and have found that at times it’s comfier than the sofa (although there may be health and safety issues with me doing my knitting whilst perched on it).

This class was a chance to have a go at some of the suggested birth positions that had been revealed to us in our comically hand-drawn ante-natal class worksheets. We lunged, rolled, bounced and swivelled our hips on the balls, all the while accompanied by a nagging sense that we were a collective of large round women sitting on space hoppers. The class rounded off with some breathing exercises. Now, there is an expectation that your ante-natal classes will cover breathing (and some of the posh non-NHS ones probably do, but I haven’t been to them) but what we had was the very pragmatic midwife telling us that, looking around she could see none of us had turned blue, so clearly we all had got the hang of breathing before we got there. When the big day comes, our midwife will talk us through exactly how they want us to huff and puff at each stage.

The breathing we covered at yoga was more to do with staying as relaxed as possible and breathing through contractions when you’re still at home (having had your paracetamol and a warm bath…) waiting for the green light to present yourself at the hospital (if that’s where you’re going). I was reassured that our teacher referred to ujjayi breathing as being “a bit like Darth Vader” because that’s what my usual teacher says, and that this offset all the talk of focussing on the sound of the sea or a child’s gentle breath (I need you to read those in a soft, calm Relaxation Voice that rises…and falls…with pauses………that don’t quite match…. the punctuation…of the sentence).

Despite my self-confessed rubbishness at relaxation and breathing exercises, I did find that the concept of ‘mountain breathing’ caught my attention (probably because it is short and practical). We had to visualise ourselves as being 7cm dilated (cue nervous laughter from everyone in the room) and having contractions about a minute apart. As the imaginary contraction started we breathed in and out through the nose, then in through the nose and out through the mouth as the contraction built, before it hit its peak and we breathed in and out through the mouth. We then descended the mountain in the opposite direction before returning to our normal breath and refocussing our thoughts (which apparently should be calmer and stiller than “oh my god, oh my god, oh my god…”).

So ante-natal yoga. Does it give me the same satisfaction and physical challenge as my normal classes? Not in the slightest. Does it cover stuff that’s relevant to rapidly approaching due date (four weeks today. Gulp)? Of course it does, that’s what its there for. Do I wish I’d gone a bit earlier? Kind of. I’m glad I kept up my usual yoga routine as it gave me a sense of confidence and normality (and appealed to my sense of sheer bloody mindedness), but I’m glad that my hand was forced into going to the pregnancy stuff too. There are people a lot earlier in their pregnancies who go to the class and they’ll have chance to perfect all these techniques and possibly have a lot more tricks up their sleeve. Having said that, the class is 4.15 on a Monday afternoon and is 25 miles away from where I work. I know I’m entitled to take time out to attend these things, but I would have felt guilty skipping out of work any earlier than a few weeks ago.

Today is the first day of my maternity leave and of course the class is cancelled. Instead, I have a breast feeding workshop, which I suspect will leave me pining for pigeon pose.

*39 week lady was still at the class the week after, for her sake I hope that she won’t be there next week…

Ante-natal yoga class (part one)

Ever since I found out I was pregnant, I intended on going to my normal yoga class for as long as possible. I wanted to be that woman that makes everyone nervous by being so heavily pregnant that they won’t put their mat down too close, just in case… Unfortunately my yoga teacher had other ideas and disappeared off to spend six weeks with one of her teachers (I’m filled with both pity and envy for the class when she comes back brimming with new knowledge. It will hurt). My plan had less to do with commitment and grim determination, and more to do with the fact that I’m very very comfortable in my class.

Personally, I think that yoga has a lot to offer to a lot of different people, it’s just a question of finding the right class with the right teacher. If you end up at a session that’s not right for you (see Hels’ experience during Juneathon) or with a teacher that you don’t gel with, inevitably you’ll not enjoy it as much as you should and I’ve known it to put people off yoga for good. I struck lucky with my teacher and it’s been kind of interesting to see how her practice has developed over the nearly five years I’ve been with her. I’ve always gone for a fairly physical class (though not as physical as her power yoga) but have been doing a slower class while I’ve been pregnant (stretchy pregnancy ligaments mean that it’s not safe to hold postures for as long).

This all meant that I was faced with the prospect of ante-natal yoga. I was dubious about ante-natal yoga. I was even more dubious about going to a strange class with a new teacher. I took a deep breath and emailed my teacher to find out (a) if she knew of any local classes and (b) they weren’t all going to be whale music and visualising my placenta were they? Luckily she knew exactly what I meant…

Work and anxious procrastination got in the way for a couple of weeks, but a couple of weeks ago I girded my loins, finished work a bit early and drove to a strange class at a leisure centre that I’ve never been to before. After not being able to get into the room and having to stand at the doors, rattling the handles and flapping my hands at whoever could see me, things improved from there.

Obviously, it was a class full of pregnant ladies and weird as this might sound, I’m still a little unnerved by being in a room full of pregnant ladies. At work and at home I am generaaly the only pregnant lady in the room, rock up to anything ante-natal (or Mothercare) and there’s bloody loads of us waddling around…. Anyway, I had had a long debate with myself about whether or not to take my own mat. On the one hand, I didn’t want to turn up with no mat and have to do the yoga equivalent of doing PE in your knickers and vest, but on the other hand I didn’t want to turn up with my mat and look like I was going “See, I do yoga me. I have a mat. And a mat bag. I am Serious About Yoga…” (this is why I tend to stay in my comfort zone). I ended up with my mat (mainly because it lives in the boot of my car) and explained to the teacher that I usually go to a normal class, but my teacher is in France for six weeks. Immediately she knew who I meant, which was a strange relief to me, and said “you’ll find that this is a lot more gentle than you’re used to”.

And she was right. For starters, we had cushions to lean on. I wasn’t so keen on this because I have a tendency to sit with a lazy slouch unless I pay attention to my posture and I’m still comfy enough sitting on just my mat. We did some relaxation breathing, focussing on being an “observant witness” to our bodies (handy if I need an alibi for the last two Monday afternoons). The postures were all familiar (if a little slower and more gently done than I’m used to) and there was no whale music to speak of (though we did get into a bit of a battle with our sitar and chimes trying to compete with the banging tunes from the fitness class next door). The only visualisation that we did involved seeing an emerald light enveloping our bodies and I did try to focus on this, but kept being distracted by thoughts of Lord Percy’s nugget of purest green in Blackadder II…

I enjoyed it enough to go back for a second week…