While teaching her prenatal classes, Michelle Goitia often suggests that her students add some extras in their hospital bag for the big event – a yoga mat, exercise ball and essential oils to make labor easier, and feel more empowered while giving birth.
While some women use their mats to do chair or warrior poses I and II during early labor, others may do garland or a cat/cow Pose-to create space in the pelvis. And still others may settle down to do some breathing exercises, including lion’s breath to release tension. Partners can play a very real part in the process, offering support with a hip squeeze, knee press or sacral pressure with their hands, or by massaging essential oils onto the legs, shoulders and lower back.
Yoga, pranayama, movement and mediation are all tools Goitia teaches in classes for labor and delivery. And, her workshops help students “find comfort in their changing bodies”. She uses chairs to teach women how to keep their legs strong, while the rest of their bodies relax. This can be very can be very helpful during labor, when women tend to be scared of the pain, and in turn tense up during a contraction instead of just letting them happen, which is exhausting. During class, holding chair pose for a minute allows them to work on releasing tension, and helps them to do the same during labor.
Besides building strength and flexibility, yoga has real health benefits for pregnant women, such as enhancing circulation and digestion, while reducing lower back pain, and easing joint swelling. But the asanas aren’t just for the physical body Goitia, says, she also sees yoga as a way to help women to build their confidence, so that they can be prepared for labor and delivery and becoming new mothers.
Michelle Goitia is a self described “birth junkie,” But her 15-long career didn’t start out that way. Until five years ago, she was a corporate executive, specializing in marketing and sales at Grassi Associates and didn’t really like to exercise or go to the gym. Then a friend convinced her to take a yoga class at a New York Sports Club in Hoboken - and from that moment she was hooked.
At first, it wasn’t the physical aspects of yoga that grabbed her attention; it was the peace she found on the mat. This was something she had not experienced since moving to the East Coast from New Mexico, where she had experienced that same feeling on the back of a horse, and why she was an avid equestrian.
Rediscovering that peacefulness had a profound affect on Goitia, “I knew I needed to teach yoga” she explains. One thing led to another, she took her 200-hour teacher training in Bright Spirit at Devotion Yoga. Shortly afterwards she took prenatal teacher training at Integral Yoga with Beth Donnelly Caban because she knew this highly respected studio would help her to become a better teacher.
While that was certainly true, it turned out to be much more than that. “I was fascinated learning what the body is capable of doing during child birth.” From that moment, on it was all about mothers and babies for Goitia, and she knew exactly what she wanted her life to look like – teaching yoga to pregnant women and kids. So the day after graduation, she went back to work and resigned – and never looked back. “I was so happy to discover what I needed to do,” she says.
She has stuck to her word and so in January she brought prenatal yoga classes to the Jersey City Medical Center, because the hospital is working toward becoming baby friendly. They are also welcoming doula's into the birthing equation, something that gets Goitia excited, since she's recently become one herself “Adding doulas into labor and delivery helps women become more empowered, and allows them to take charge of their own birth,” says Goitia who is with her clients and their families both prenatally and in the birthing room. “We must be guardians of each mom’s birth story.”
“Birth Junkie” is clearly a role she loves – whether it is teaching women to prepare or helping them right through the process, and it's pretty clear that she’ll be doing it a lot longer than corporate marketing.
Along with teaching prenatal yoga classes this winter at Devotion in Hoboken, Goitia will be doing a Yoga for Labor and Delivery workshop at Devotion on January 19th and March 8th. To make a reservation, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.