Tales of a Pregnant Yoga Teacher
My most frequently asked question in my pregnancy so far: “Are you still doing yoga?”
“But when do you have to completely stop doing yoga and/or teaching the “hard” stuff?”
Technically never. (Well, until I actually have the baby that is. Then, of course, I will give my body the appropriate time to rest and recover.)
Practicing and teaching yoga feels quite amazing actually. Without it, I know I’d have a lot of back pain. I also know that without my asana (physical postures), pranayama (breathing), and meditation practice, I would experience a lot more difficulty in my overall mental, emotional, and physical wellbeing.
My due date is August 31st. Sitting still is harder on my body than moving and breathing through a yoga practice. Driving in the car and sitting for hour-long sessions in my talk therapy role are also much more physically challenging tasks.
To provide prospective, here are a few things that are more challenging for me than practicing/teaching yoga:
Getting up off the couch
Getting out of bed to pee at night
Putting my pants on
Tying my shoes (thank goodness for slip on sandals and summer)
Trimming my toe nails
Weeding the garden
Existing in humidity
Watching someone else cry without crying myself
Bending over to pick something up
Sitting for extended periods of time
Getting through the day without a nap
Why are all of these things harder, you ask? Because yoga can be modified and adjusted to meet my personal needs. I can also teach a yoga class without actually doing anything, just talking you through it. Which, is what I do when it comes to postures on the belly, back, or when I find myself short of breath. :)
Yoga is feeling great, besides the occasional shortness of breath and constant heartburn, but I’ll take it. The biggest fear I have is no longer being able to move, so I’m going to keep on movin’ and breathing. It helps me feel so much better mentally, physically, and emotionally.
That’s not to say everything is unicorns and daisies over here. At night I feel quite exhausted and I can hardly imagine how my body can possibly expand even more over the next 5-6 weeks?! I also have anxiety creeping in about how my delivery will go and what postpartum recovery and life with a newborn be like. Will I turn into a monster when I’m sleep deprived? Etc. etc.
Teaching yoga hasn’t always been glamorous either. It’s constantly a task to find which article of clothing will actually fit me on a given week. Sometimes I don’t figure out until the middle of class that I made the wrong choice! Yes, even yoga pants can be unforgiving.
I’ve also had to adjust to the ever-changing capabilities of my body: props are my best friend! I use a block for forward folds, and to help myself stand up from the floor, as well as a rolled up yoga mat under my seat for comfortable posture. I’ve made adjustments in what I physically can and cannot do. I experience shortness of breath. I’ve also learned that while the experts say that the relaxin hormone currently running through my body to aid childbirth should make me more flexible, I certainly don’t feel that.
While I know students are well-meaning, of course I’ve had quite a few not-so-nice comments flung my way regarding the state of my belly and body. When out in public, I’ve had people verbally wonder aloud how I could possibly still being practicing/teaching yoga. “Can you still touch your toes?” Well no, but I don’t have to in order to do yoga, and neither do you. And yes, I’ve gotten the cliches: “Are you having twins?” “Are you due next week?” “You better nap now, because you won’t sleep for the rest of your life!” Yeah, I know, I got it.
I have not appreciated that so much, as I DO appreciate when people continue to encourage me, tell me I look/am doing great, and share their experiences in camaraderie with me. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again - unless you have something super nice to say to a pregnant woman, it’s better just to keep that comment to yourself. If you do want to share with me how amazing I’m doing and that it’s incredible to do this impossible marathon called pregnancy - then yeah I’ll take that.
In general, if a question is coming from a caring place, I don’t mind it. I appreciate that there is a lot more dialogue out in the world now about how every pregnant woman is different, and I think people are much more respectful than they used to be. Here are a few more commonly asked questions I get, that I typically think are kind of fun:
Do you have any weird cravings?
I’ve gone through phases. Right away I ate an absurd amount of green olives and drank a lot of chocolate milk. Right now I love watermelon, basically all fruit, and dairy (yogurt, ice cream, milk, cottage cheese). I also eat a bowl of cereal with fruit immediately when I wake up every morning and I’ve never done that in the past. I really like watermelon flavored gum.
How about food aversions?
I had a problem with meat and coffee for awhile. I haven’t been able to enjoy hot tea since I became pregnant. I despise brushing my teeth. I also hate the way my mouth tastes 95% of the time.
Do you drink coffee?
Yes, I drink one cup of coffee each day.
Do you waddle yet?
Can I help you with that?
Do you have to pee a lot?
Yes, but it’s also something I’ve been actively working on and noticing improvements. I’m a big believer in taking care of your pelvic floor. I highly recommend the book Pelvic Liberation. I will not just take the old “oh you will just pee when you sneeze/cough now, it’s normal” as an acceptable thing. There is something to be done about it, but that journey is different for everyone. One of my favorite practices for pelvic floor health is make sure I’m only using the bathroom when I have a stream that is at least 10 seconds in duration. If it’s not that long - then I really didn’t need to go!
Did you find out the sex?
Nope! Waiting to be surprised!
Do you have a feeling if you’re having a boy or a girl?
Right away my husband and I were both thinking girl. Then we were both thinking boy. Now I kind of feel girl and he feels boy. Who knows - 50/50 right?
Can I touch your belly?
Typically yes, thank you for asking. I know this is a sensitive one for many, in general I’m surprised that I’m not bothered by it. I think this is mostly because it’s a loving question and I’ve only had people I know do it.
Are you applying lotion/body butter daily to prevent stretch marks?
I don’t actually like this question. I think it kind of implies that we, as women, are to blame somehow for something that has been deemed by society as unsightly. Since we didn’t religiously lotion our bellies, now we are stuck with stretch marks, and that’s so horrible? No. When in fact, our body has stretched and been a home to a human so why wouldn’t there be visible record of it? And if there is, it’s common, and why does it have to be shameful/unwanted?
I read an article that said that while many people believe in lotion/body butter for stretch marks that in fact genetics more likely play a role. So if you’re gonna get ‘em, you’re gonna get ‘em. No one is to “blame”. It’s just a thing! You grew a human. For the record my mom did not get stretch marks, and yes I do apply body butter after showers, but also yes I have some stretch marks! I really don’t feel like stressing about it or blaming myself. I’m more concerned about what it’s going to be like going to the bathroom after giving birth.
Do you have a name picked out?
We toss names around sometimes. We are not committed to anything. We want to meet this little human first.
What kind of delivery are you doing?
We are delivering at the hospital.
How far are you from your hospital?
Are you going to hire a doula?
Yes! My husband says he likes the idea of a doula because it’s like a fishing guide, except for birth! HA! I couldn’t agree more. Why not hire someone that can guide and coach us through this thing that is quite mysterious to us no matter how many courses, podcasts, and books we consume? Some hospitals have doulas that work on staff, however our hospital does not. I researched private doulas, and when/if they weren’t available for my time frame, they referred me to other local doulas. A very lovely process so far really.
Are you taking maternity leave?
I plan to take two months off and slowly bring myself back into teaching yoga and taking talk therapy appointments part-time/at a pace that works for us. My husband is a fishing guide and will be staying at home with baby this fall/winter when I head back to work. We have two yoga retreats at the end of Oct/beginning of Nov that I plan to attend, host and teach at. I will be bringing baby too (with the help of husband, grandmas, and friends)!
How are you feeling?
Generally as good as can be expected. It’s been a really smooth pregnancy besides the typical aches and pains. That’s not to say this is easy. This pregnancy thing is NO JOKE! Holy cow I cannot believe this ladies - we are capable of amazing things. The expansion of the body alone over this period of time, and the internal physical pain, as well as emotional and hormonal rollercoaster is just….wow. And growing a human? Wow.
I experienced all day nausea and fatigue during the first trimester and a little into the second. There was a period of about 2-2.5 months in the second trimester and into the third where I felt like I was getting the hang of this whole pregnancy thing! I really loved it when I started to feel movements from baby. Then around 32 weeks it started getting hot and humid and my confidence started to wane. My body is gaining new pains and challenges each day. Pregnancy is so physically and mentally challenging. Don’t get me wrong, I’m very grateful to be able to do this, and I know in perspective it’s a short period of time. But man… it’s hard… yoga is a lifesaver.
I’m trying to take everything in stride. I know not everything can, or will, go as planned. Yoga definitely helps with that. A sense of humor does too. My husband and I are busy preparing for life with a baby. I’m also doing my best to slow down and appreciate the peace and quiet now. Taking time for reflection, self-care, and yoga is a big piece to that puzzle for me. And naps!
Bryana Cook is a yoga teacher, talk therapist, and co-owner of Boreal Bliss Yoga Retreats. Read more about her and the other BB gals here.