A Guide to Finding the Right Prenatal Yoga Class for You
Congratulations on your pregnancy mama! This is such an exciting time, and you are in for a magical experience, especially since you are considering adding prenatal yoga classes to your pregnancy experience. Whether you have practiced yoga before or not, finding classes that are appropriate for pregnancy might be intimidating.
Just like a yoga practice outside of pregnancy, each practitioner has unique wants and needs for what a yoga practice can bring to their life. Some people prefer a Westernized version of yoga that focuses mostly on the physical aspects of the practice, while others prefer a more holistic approach that is more based on tradition, which encompasses the spiritual side of yoga. Whatever you’re looking for, you are certain to find what works for you as prenatal yoga grows in popularity.
Benefits of Joining a Prenatal Yoga Class
While you can certainly practice prenatal yoga online with certified yoga instructors (like me!), there are advantages to finding local prenatal yoga classes as well. If you are new to the practice, it can be very helpful to begin practicing yoga with a certified instructor who is trained in prenatal yoga. They will have an understanding of the pregnancy experience, the pregnant body, and what is needed in order to prepare for labor. They should be able to modify postures for pregnancy and help you learn the basics for a foundational yoga practice.
Many prenatal yoga classes are in the format of a multi-class series or workshops. A community element is more typical in prenatal yoga than in standard yoga classes, as the attendees are all going through a unique life experience together. You may find a new mama support group that can all support one another through pregnancy, birth, and even after.
Factors to Consider When Choosing a Prenatal Yoga Class
Location and schedule
Obviously, the availability of classes is key. First do some research in your local area on websites such as Facebook, Eventbrite, YMCA, etc., or ask your birth team, and put together a list of available prenatal yoga classes. Depending on the size of your community, you may have many options or you may be limited. This availability of specialized classes could be your deciding factor, but you won’t know until you look!
Some yoga teachers may have prenatal yoga training, but they will likely not be catering their teaching to pregnant mamas in their regular classes. You will get a much more personalized and specific approach by looking for prenatal-specific classes. Any yoga instructor teaching a prenatal yoga-specific class or workshop should have an additional 85+ hours of prenatal yoga training.
I have over 100 hours of prenatal and postnatal yoga training, which is half of what I spent in my standard yoga training! In 100 hours, you learn a lot about the pregnant body, preparing for labor, comfort measures for birth, and pregnancy and birth-specific anatomy. It can be very beneficial to find a prenatal-certified teacher when looking for classes.
Class size and atmosphere
Another advantage to finding prenatal-specific classes is that the class size is usually much smaller than a regular yoga class at a gym or studio. You are much more likely to receive one-on-one teaching, even in a class setting with multiple students. There is also probably going to be more time to connect with the other students before and after class, as well as time to ask the instructor any questions you might have.
Finding a qualified instructor, as well as looking for smaller prenatal classes, can be important when considering safety. It will be much easier for a yoga teacher to modify postures and help students individually when they have the appropriate training to teach pregnant students, as well as having a smaller class size.
You should always do what feels right and good in your body, but you might be in your first pregnancy and you might not feel comfortable with how far you should or shouldn’t go in yoga classes. A good and qualified instructor will be able to answer questions and help you navigate your prenatal yoga practice.
Style and approach
There are many different styles of physical yoga practice, such as ashtanga yoga, hot yoga (formerly Bikram), vinyasa, yin yoga, and restorative, just to name a few. Each of these styles of yoga asana, or physical practice, has different qualities that serve the yoga practitioner in different ways. I believe that all yoga can be adapted for the pregnant student, but you have to find the right teacher.
There are certain contraindications that occur with each of these styles as well, so doing some research on what type of yoga you want to practice and whether or not that is available in your area in a prenatal style, can help you make your decision. In the case of the styles I listed above, here are my recommendations:
Ashtanga yoga – a more physically challenging yoga practice. Can definitely be modified for pregnancy, you want to learn from a certified Ashtanga yoga teacher.
Hot yoga – not recommended for pregnancy. Confirm with your birth team, but most medical professionals will advise against overheating the body while pregnant.
Vinyasa – yoga postures practiced with breath and movement connecting together (most modern, Western yoga practices fall in this category). Most prenatal yoga classes will include elements of vinyasa.
Yin yoga – works to relax the tendons and ligaments and help energy flow through the body’s energy centers. Okay to practice in pregnancy, but only go to about 50% of your normal capacity as the body is already relaxed due to relaxin, so it’s possible to over-stretch.
Restorative yoga – helps to calm the nervous system, uses lots of props, and holds postures for 5+ minutes. This is a very good and relaxing practice for pregnancy!
Researching and Evaluating Prenatal Yoga Classes
As you begin researching prenatal yoga classes online, you may come across reviews on Google or on individual teachers’ websites. Searching for reviews is a great way to see how the community has experienced certain yoga classes. You can also ask for recommendations, as mentioned specifically from your birth team, as well as family, friends, or mom groups online. To know if a class or instructor will be right for you, do not be afraid to ask them a lot of questions.
If you find individual yoga instructors teaching prenatal yoga-specific classes, here are some questions you may ask:
– Can I observe a class to see if the style is right for me?
– What is your training in prenatal yoga?
– How much experience do you have working with pregnant students?
– How long are your classes?
– What style of yoga do you teach?
– Do you modify all of your postures for pregnancy?
– How do I communicate with you if I have any specific concerns?
If you can’t find an individual instructor but want to practice yoga at a studio, you can ask these questions:
– Do you have any yoga instructors who are trained in prenatal yoga?
– If not, what classes do you offer that would be appropriate for pregnancy?
– Do you have any safety recommendations for pregnant women attending your studio classes?
Trusting Your Intuition and Making a Decision
After you’ve done all your research, and maybe even asked some of the questions above, it’s time to make a decision and begin your practice! Trust your intuition here. If something feels right, give it a go! If something feels off about a teacher or studio, pause and keep looking. You can always leave a class as well, or change your mind later on. You may also try multiple different classes from various instructors or studios before you find the best fit for you and your pregnancy.
Enjoy Your Practice!
You’re on your way to a more peaceful pregnancy by adding in a prenatal yoga practice to your experience. If you do the research, have some patience, and trust your gut instincts, hopefully, you will find an instructor and community that is right for you!
Until you do, you can always practice with me for free online here:
Purchase the Soulful Pregnancy Journal here for guided weekly classes, philosophy lessons, journal prompts, and more!
Heal the mothers, heal the world.