The statistics say that over 20 million people are practicing yoga in the U.S. Of that number, almost 90 percent are women who fall between the ages of 18 to 44. Let’s do the math: Odds are there will be lots and lots of new moms.
How should these women be taught? What can the yoga community do to support them?
This comprehensive pre- and post-natal training program is the first of its kind to look at the whole mother: from yoga practices of the newly pregnant woman—which include postures, modifications, and inclusion of the partner—to vitamins and birth plans, to postnatal care of the whole family. The program seeks to educate yoga teachers on how to deal with a large population of students that will go through this experience. YogaCity NYC's Lisa Dawn Angerame talked to Shields about why she is doing this program, and how it differs from others out there.
Lisa Dawn Angerame: How long were you practicing before you got pregnant?
Krissy Shields:About eight years.
LDA: Did you practice through your pregnancies?
KS: Mostly asana and some meditation daily through my first pregnancy. When I became pregnant my second time, I had just finished my 500-hour Life of a Yogi Teacher Training Program with Dharma Mittra, so I did much more pranayama and meditation, and less asana.
LDA: Sounds like things changed.
KS: Yes. I was much more into the physical aspect of the practice—asana—before and during my first pregnancy. But even then, toward the end, I knew I needed to build my mental stamina, which I learned through Kundalini and Hypnobirthing, a technique that uses meditation and visualization to ease fear and anxiety associated with birth. Then my training with Dharma Mittra took everything deeper. I found that practicing specific postures, along with the psychic development that he passed on, really helped me build a practice that came in handy for motherhood. Let’s face it—pregnancy is all preparation for parenting. The parent is the child's first teacher, and with that comes a huge responsibility. I believe that yoga teaches us to remain open and teachable.
LDA: How do you think a pregnant woman should structure her practice?
KS: Pregnancy is a glorious time, but also a time when you don't need to push anything. There are certain poses that are pretty important to practice daily, like squats and other hip openers—great preparation for birth—but also side-stretching is delicious. And the meditation practices are just as important.
My personal belief is that we can give pregnant mamas the abilities to listen to their gut instincts and to speak their truths. Part of that is allowing the woman to do what feels comfortable. This doesn't mean allowing them to potentially injure themselves for the sake of their "comfort." We need to be trained to know the difference. As far as speaking their truth, I think we can do that by giving them permission to do whatever they need in the time that you are together. This is a start. A scratch at the surface of what could potentially be an invaluable tool.
LDA: Why did you create Maha Mama?
KS: I created it because I have been teaching teachers for five years with Three Sisters Yoga, and I always covered the prenatal portion. I would light-up with a passion when speaking about this subject, and I could see it helping people. Years after trainees went through the program, I would get a emails about getting pregnant or after having a baby with a bunch of questions.
So, really, I believe this is my calling. I have been trying to figure out where I can best serve in the birthing community, so, after some time, I have decided to bridge my two loves in this training.
LDA: What can a yoga teacher expect to gain from your program?
KS: Well, the teacher will feel completely confident working with a pregnant woman and her issues or concerns. They will know how to create a prenatal class with intelligence, have a ton of fun and get to meet amazing people. Also our speakers and guest teachers are top notch in the field of pregnancy, including Cara Muhlahan, a midwife, and Abby Epstein, director of The Business of Being Born.
Most importantly, our graduates will know that they have done some good for pregnant women by simply enrolling. A portion of the tuition will be going to two amazing organizations: Choices in Childbirth and Ancient Song Doula Services, which both serve pregnant women and women in need. It's a win-win!