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Interested in prenatal yoga? Start here

An interview with Leasa Wright

Leasa Wright has been practicing yoga and meditation her entire life. She joins us today to speak a bit more about the benefits of prenatal yoga, how to get started, and why she’s so passionate about making time for a prenatal yoga practice. When she was pregnant with her first child, Leasa says, “I fell in love with empowering pregnant people. They need to feel strong and safe in their bodies.” She’s been teaching a prenatal yoga practice weekly ever since. 

While movement in general, and yoga specifically, can be beneficial at all times in your life, there’s something different about prenatal yoga. “Once I realized I was pregnant, I felt a sense of responsibility for that little being,” says Leasa. Plus, pregnancy can be hard on the body and it’s common to feel very sore if you’re not moving around every day. Prenatal yoga is a great way to integrate that movement, connect with your baby, and form a community. 

A couple safety notes before we dive in:

  • Most people should wait until after the first trimester before starting a prenatal yoga practice.
  • If you’ve never practiced yoga before, it’s a good idea to be a bit more cautious when starting out. Check in with your provider to make sure it’s a good fit for you. 
  • To prevent injury, do all the modifications your instructor recommends and don’t push yourself. Especially if you haven’t practiced yoga before, it can be hard to know your limit, so go easy on yourself.

How is prenatal yoga different from a yoga practice for those who are not pregnant?

​​Prenatal yoga is a curated collection of customized asanas/yoga poses that cater to the shape of the pregnant body. A person’s center of gravity changes during pregnancy and they lose the ability to fold inward. This leaves a person with an unbalanced yoga practice if they continue to sit out postures in a traditional class. Prenatal yoga classes offer a balanced sequence of joint mobility exercises, seated postures, standing postures, hip openers, breathing, and relaxation exercises — leaving out the contraindicated postures, but still offering an overall, accessible, and whole body practice.

How can it benefit people during pregnancy (physically and emotionally)?

There are so many reasons to choose to participate in prenatal yoga. It offers the opportunity to connect with your baby and it gives you the chance to connect with other people who are making the same healthy lifestyle choices as you. It’s common to form friendships and build relationships in a class environment. And that community can help alleviate anxieties you may be having about becoming a parent. 

As far as physical benefits: prenatal yoga can improve your sleep, reduce stress and anxiety, and increase the strength, flexibility, and endurance of muscles needed for childbirth. Additionally, it can help to decrease lower back pain, nausea, headaches, and shortness of breath by lengthening the muscles around your rib cage. From your physical body to your emotional state, prenatal yoga can be a key ingredient to a healthy, happy pregnancy.

Where should we start?

For many, pregnancy is a time to make your health a top priority. Ensure you get plenty of sleep overnight, as a growing baby uses up a lot of energy. A well-balanced diet of nutrient-dense foods will also help to boost your energy. Finally, staying active is a key aspect of pregnancy self-care and can be extremely beneficial for managing certain symptoms associated with pregnancy.

Any advice for slowing down when the stress of pregnancy is overwhelming?

Try mindfulness, yoga, meditation, and massage to bring your mind into a peaceful state so you can cope better with the busyness of daily life. Take yourself to a place where your mind and body can be still, allowing you to focus inward and breathe deeply.

Simple things like getting enough rest, eating well, exercising regularly, and seeking support from trusted friends and family can increase your resilience in stressful times. And check in with your partner. You and your partner can act as a support system for one another during this time.

What about creating space in your day?

If you can, try to schedule naps during your day to get more sleep and restore your energy. Take catnaps during the day, even if you just rest your eyes for 15 minutes with your feet up. Book yourself regular pamper sessions at home. A night in with a favorite facemask is a lovely way to treat yourself.

Set aside time for the hobbies and activities that were a part of you before you became pregnant. And try to keep in touch with the friends who add value to your life by scheduling an assortment of standing dates with your circle. 

Any tips for integrating a prenatal yoga practice into your routine? 

A simple first step is to make sure you have correct posture at work by learning some good stretches to practice at your desk during breaks. 

Sign up for an in-person workshop at a local studio who specializes in prenatal yoga. And don’t apologize for making yourself a priority. If it’s easier, try an online yoga class so you can practice from the comfort of your own home. 

If you’re having trouble getting started or staying consistent, ask a friend to be your accountability buddy to ensure you show up to practice. 

How can people make sure they’re staying safe in their practice?

Start by asking your doctor, midwife, or doula for local recommendations. Always attend your scheduled prenatal visits and talk to your provider if you have questions or concerns about your pregnancy. They are a great resource you should take advantage of during this time.

If you’re wondering if a yoga studio offers certified prenatal yoga classes, call and ask if they are certified in prenatal yoga by Yoga Alliance, the organization that sets standards for yoga teachers nationwide. Knowledge of the dos and don’ts of prenatal yoga is one of the most important reasons you should seek out a qualified prenatal class. 

You should always avoid internal twisting, belly compression, and heated yoga classes. Any balancing poses should be done with extreme caution, against a wall.

How can I safely continue my practice postpartum?

The best way to ensure you’re ready to resume practice is to get the approval of your healthcare team first. The standard guidelines recommend waiting 6-8 weeks after birth before continuing your practice. Sometimes that can be longer, depending on your birth experience – ask your provider. 

What’s your favorite part of your yoga practice?

Community. I taught my first prenatal yoga classes during my first pregnancy and have remained connected to those mamas to this very day. You can expect to form beautiful connections with others during prenatal yoga. The bond you create with other pregnant people is one that carries into postpartum and beyond. If there’s anything a community needs, it’s to be full of strong, empowered, and supportive mothers.

Yoga has brought me strength, mindfulness, breathwork, and awareness of my body, which has helped my physical and personal growth tremendously. I am so grateful for this practice and how it has manifested itself into my life’s work.

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