By Nicole Huskey
Prenatal yoga helps women prepare for childbirth both physically and emotionally.
One by one expecting mothers walk into the large, open room at Swan River Yoga Studio in Mid-City. Ingrid Anderson, an artist and Uptown resident, sinks down onto her mat in the front row and rests her back onto her bolster. She looks around the room at the other mothers. Many look tired, seeming to carry the stress of the day on their shoulders atop the extra weight they carry in their bellies. The lights dim, soft music plays, and the yoga class begins. A sigh of relief washes over the room. It’s finally their time. It’s more than exercising and poses. It’s an hour to become one with themselves and their babies.
Ingrid says it’s the feeling that she gets that keeps her coming to the yoga class on Monday nights.
“It’s not just doing the motions,” she says. “It’s coming here and getting the smell of the room, feeling the presence of these other mothers and knowing there is double the people in the room, you just can’t see it. The energy is so interesting and powerful.”
The energy is what drives the heart of the class for yoga instructor and birthing doula Addy Meisenheimer.
“The focus of the class is for women to have a time and space to connect with their baby, to connect with their body, to release from the stress of pregnancy, to accept and appreciate how beautiful it is and honor themselves,” says Addy.
Prenatal yoga can be very beneficial for the preparation of labor. Instead of focusing on strenuous stretches and poses, it modifies yoga practices and concentrates on breathing, strengthening the legs, opening the hip muscles and bringing awareness to a woman’s body. Stretches are performed using bolsters, blocks and blankets to aid in support. Addy says women can use these techniques in their home using pillows to help find comfortable positions when lying down or when stretching on their own.
It is evident throughout the room as the class continues that the women are becoming stronger, more focused and aware of their rapidly changing bodies.
Ingrid says that she becomes “more aware of my body changing and preparing, especially with some of the stretches like warrior one.”
One of the most beneficial aspects of prenatal yoga is learning the breathing techniques that can be very useful in childbirth.
“Because I am a doula, I’m constantly giving advice on childbirth, especially the early stages of labor, and even with a cesarean you must go through the early stages of how to breathe, how to be faced with challenges and how to be comfortable with your breath,” Addy explains.
Sacha J. Wax, M.D., an OB/GYN at Lakeside Women’s Specialty Center, says that learning these techniques are very valuable.
“They use these techniques because it is a distraction from the pain. It’s good because it’s an internal mediation so you are able to enjoy natural childbirth,” she explains.
Dr. Wax says that natural childbirth is not for everyone. Even those expecting mothers that don’t plan on giving birth naturally can benefit from yoga, because it can help ease back pain, improve mood, help with leg cramps and help teach women how to relax during childbirth.
Some expecting mothers may have concerns with starting or having an exercise program during their pregnancy for fear of straining the baby and worrying with caloric intake, but Dr. Wax says that with the approval of a doctor, every woman should be exercising.
“The American College of OBGYN absolutely advocates exercise for people who are pregnant and can,” she says.
This does not include those women that have a high-risk pregnancy. This means women at risk for pre-term labor, anybody with vaginal bleeding, or anyone at risk for preterm premature rupture of membranes—meaning your water breaking early.
Ideally, Dr. Wax advises women to start an exercise routine before getting pregnant. And it is healthiest, if already pregnant, to begin prenatal yoga training in the first trimester. It is very important to maintain a comfortable fitness level, but to recognize the changes of a woman’s body during pregnancy and keep a moderate level of activity.
Addy keeps her classes safe for her students by modifying the poses to fit her expecting mothers’ needs.
“We don’t do any twisting. We don’t do anything that compresses the baby, so no lying down on your belly, and we try not to do any deep back bends,” she says.
Sarah Hess, a Mid-City resident and second time mom, has practiced prenatal yoga with Addy for both of her pregnancies.
“Physically you have to be strong for natural childbirth. I don’t think I could get through natural childbirth without learning the poses,” she says.
Sarah also comes to the classes for the connection she feels with other moms-to-be, herself and her baby. She explains that for some moms it is hard to have the realization of a child until they are out in the world and in your arms. But she says that attending the prenatal yoga classes helps her recognize that she already knows the baby growing inside her and that she can connect to him now.
“I’ll tell other expecting moms to do that for their well-being and their child’s well-being,” she says.
Empowerment passes from each expecting mother as they stand up-right with their eyes gently closed and their hands in prayer position over their hearts. Addy guides them to feel the strength and beauty of being able to experience carrying a child. Sarah and Ingrid agree that there is something special about being with other pregnant women, because they intrinsically understand one another.
As the lights turn back on and the expecting moms slowly get up to put their mats away, it’s an entirely different attitude in the room. Not of aching backs or swollen feet or the thousands of things they still have to do in the day, but instead of honor, strength and courage to take on what Addy calls the biggest thing in life: being a mom.
Nicole Huskey has her B.A. in journalism from LSU and works in New Orleans and the surrounding areas in early childhood intervention. This is her first article for
nola baby & family magazine.
Facilities offering prenatal yoga classes in New Orleans
Balance Yoga & Wellness, Mid-City, balanceyogawellness.com, 504.309.9618
Ochsner Medical Center (through Elmwood Fitness), ochsner.org., 1.866.OCHSNER l
Swan River Yoga Studio, four locations (Mid-City, Garden District, Marigny and Arabi), swanriveryoga.com, 504.566.4922
Wild Lotus Yoga (Uptown and Downtown locations), wildlotusyoga.com, 504.899.0047