Thursday, February 02, 2012

Adventures in Prenatal Yoga

One of my very good friends is about 12 weeks more pregnant than I am.

During the holidays, she and I decided to try a prenatal yoga class at Yoga Trek in Oak Park. At this point, my friend was well into her second trimester, and I was merely eight weeks pregnant. Despite feeling like I wasn’t "pregnant enough" to be taking the class, I wanted to try it and having a legit pregnant woman as my wingman made me feel like I had a reason to be there. I should have sported an “I’m with Preggy” t-shirt for the occasion. I’m sure my friend would have loved that. Do they even make those?

(For the record, I have never said ‘preggy’ out loud, or written it before now. I promise never to do that again.)

I was, without question, the least pregnant person at the class. I was so hardly pregnant compared to all the clearly-about-to-give-birth women that I asked the instructor if it was appropriate for me to even be there. Her answer was yes, but most women at my stage of pregnancy don't feel well enough to be working out, which is why it was unlikely that I’d see a lot of other ladies in their first trimester.

Did I feel well enough to take the class? Not really. But during my first trimester, I (somehow) managed to maintain my workouts between long sessions of couch moaning and full on puking my guts out. Sure, downward dog might cause some acid reflux, but what the hell, right? So I sat down on my mat and wondered of my bloated-ness might pass for being slightly more than hardly pregnant.

I’ve taken yoga on and off over the years, with varying degrees of success and enjoyment. Before I got pregnant, the yoga I enjoyed most was the kind where they crank up the temperature to 100+ degrees. Unfortunately, Bikram and other hot-type classes are not recommended for pregnant ladies because raising your core temperature can be detrimental for the baby.

I didn’t know what to expect from prenatal yoga, but I was pleasantly surprised this wasn't a too gentle, don't-break-the-moms-to-be class. I felt comfortable that I wouldn’t be asked to do anything unsafe, and yet I was challenged; I got to do several of my favorite poses, only slightly modified; and I definitely got a workout—in addition to all the great peace and clarity, yoga-y stuff. The instructor, also pregnant, provided lots of options for modifications based on your stage of pregnancy, which was helpful.

But even better than a workout, I experienced two unexpected benefits of deciding to attend prenatal yoga early in pregnancy. First of all, I spent much of my first trimester surviving. When you are focused on surviving--or at rather, when I was focused on surviving, the fact that I was growing a tiny person inside me was kind of an afterthought that, even when said out loud or considered, didn’t mean much. The quiet parts of prenatal yoga allowed me to focus on and become a little more connected with the baby.

The other (awesome) benefit was that prenatal yoga made feel better. First of all, I think one of the reasons I kept exercising during the first trimester is because while I was running or ellipticizing or lifting weights or practicing yoga, I felt almost normal. But for some reason, yoga had a lingering effect that the other forms of exercising did not. For a whole half day, then a day, then eventually two, after yoga, I felt less like a piece of crap and more like someone who could function semi-normally and without small bits of her last meal coming up every so often. I don't know if this seemingly temporary relief from morning sickness is a common benefit of yoga, but if it is, they should starts shouting it from the rooftops.

Unlike the city neighborhood I lived in, which is lousy with awesome yoga studios offering tons of prenatal classes, maternity boutiques, and other mom-to-be resources, finding this in the suburbs was a little more difficult. I’ve continued to attend this class and plan to for the long haul. Every week I feel like I talk to another new mom-to-be and learn something new about the journey I’m on. Plus this studio offers post-natal yoga and you can bring your newborn with you, as well as other events and workshops for new moms and moms-to-be. Oh, I’m finally not the least pregnant person in the class.

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