The hardest thing about prenatal yoga might be getting to prenatal yoga. It's no mystery that pregnancy can be a bit exhausting, but the awesome secret about doing yoga while pregnant is that instead of feeling more tired, it can actually and often times be a refreshing and rejuvenating practice. This Thursday evening prenatal class with Jocelyn Casey-Whiteman at YogaWorks Eastside was just the right blend of chillax and pick-me-up, and just what the midwife ordered.
Starting us off in a reclined baddha konasana propped by our bolster and blocks, Jocelyn made her way to each student to make sure we were all comfortably set up in the dimly lit studio. She had asked us to place a folded blanket under our legs which, besides being a nice cushion, would be put to another use shortly. As she guided us into a focused breathing meditation with her soft, soothing voice, I could feel my body begin to release and my attention turn inward.
We transitioned slowly into our first movements of the class which, maybe surprisingly, were some ab exercises. But not the intense ab exercises you might find in a core class. Instead, while still reclined, we bent our knees and put our feet flat on the blanket which we then pushed forward and pulled back using the pressure of our heels and the strength of our hamstrings and our lower abdominals. Even though we weren't doing any sort of sit-ups—a prenatal no-no—it's still helpful to keep our muscles active to support our growing bellies, Jocelyn noted. Plus, the leg workout was a nice bonus.
Speaking of growing bellies, once we came up to sit, we went briefly around the room introducing ourselves and sharing how far along we were, as well as describing any aches and pains we might be dealing with. Every pregnancy is different, and Jocelyn made it a point to give her full attention to each one of us as we spoke, offering suggestions and helpful tips whenever possible.
To get moving, we shifted onto hands and knees and rocked forward and back in any easygoing cat and cow. We extended our legs back one at a time for s stretch and then found our way into a wide-legged, bent-kneed down dog. Then after some low lunges, we came to stand in tadasana. Here Jocelyn asked us to keep our feet parallel and study our stance. She used her sharp eye and keen knack for anatomy knowledge to fine-tune a heel out of place or a foot slightly in front of the other. "It sounds like a tiny thing, but it makes a big difference!" she assured us.
In sun breaths, Jocelyn was specific about lifting our back ribs. With an increasingly protruding belly, the back is usually compromised. One gal in particular had mentioned pain in her upper back at the beginning of class, so Jocelyn gave her extra attention and a hands-on assist to help with the lifting and ease pressure on the kidney band.
We flowed through a standing sequence that included some warrior twos, extended side angle and triangle pose. Standing back in tadasana, we used a strap behind our back to open our shoulders and chest, two very neglected areas especially during pregnancy when exhaustion and added weight can take us on a trip to slumpyland.
Jocelyn mercifully led us back down to the ground which, to be honest, is my favorite place to be in prenatal yoga class, but it wasn't to rest quite yet. To continue our chest opening, space-making theme, Jocelyn had us take a modified gate pose to really open up the torso and spread the muscles between our ribs (as much as we could!) Sitting on our heels we took a modified camel pose lifting our hips up and our chests to the ceiling which felt fantastic after Jocelyn's expertly crafted sequence.
To top it all off, a special treat: the self-massage part of the class. Jocelyn brings to her prenatal classes a big bag full of therapy balls. When she handed a pair out to each of us it might as well have been all of our birthday (rather than our soon-to-be baby's). Taking to the wall we used the balls between our shoulder blades, our middle back and then our lower back leaning against the wall to create our own pressure. If there was nothing else attracting you to prenatal yoga class, this would be your number one reason for coming out. That and the much needed "me" time there's never quite enough of.
Finally, all stretched, massaged and ready to fully let go, we made our way into our choice of savasana. Jocelyn gave us several options and was quick to provide props or extra guidance to ensure we were all feeling supported enough to release and breathe into the extra space we created.
We closed class with a single "om", one hand on our heart and the other towards our baby. And though the weight of my belly continues to grow heavier, it was lightness I felt as I left the studio and floated back out onto the street. A breath of fresh air.
—Holly C. for Yoga Sleuth
Drop-in classes are $28 with $2 mat rental. New students can try two weeks of unlimited classes for $25. Online pre-registration required for this prenatal class.