Sara Bracken is a Seattle-area stay-home mom and writer.
If yoga is a gift to be treasured, as I believe it is, then prenatal yoga is like a birthday-Christmas-Mother’s Day surprise all wrapped up in one. This practice is one of the kindest things you can do for yourself, both spiritually and physically, during pregnancy, when your emotions and body are in constant flux. Even if you were to just sit in the nurturing bubble of a yoga studio without moving a muscle, you would feel the benefits. The luxury of allowing yourself to be present with just your baby, without the distractions of work or family or to-do lists, is one to be savored.
I will admit that it took me five months to get my ever-widening butt to a yoga class. I enjoyed a disciplined practice with my first pregnancy, but like any mother of two will tell you, it’s a whole different kind of party the second time around. My first trimester was like being out on the high seas in a small boat; I got slammed with the eternal cold, a frenzied holiday season was quickly upon us, and ‘pregnancy brain’ had me showing up to class on the wrong days (honestly, my intentions were good). Oh, and I have a three-year-old son. So when I finally found myself on a Saturday morning sitting in a spacious, light filled studio with nothing to do but breathe and move my body for an hour, I was in heaven. What was it that took me so long to get here?
I arrived to class early, as I usually do, and rolled out my purple mat under an open window. It was an exceptionally warm winter day and the cool breeze was lovely. After introducing myself to the teacher, a sunny blonde with her feet planted firmly on the earth, I made myself comfortable with my bolster and blanket and just relished the quiet. I watched as women waddled in at all different stages of pregnancy and made their own little nests on the floor. There is something truly beautiful about all those big bellies existing together in one room. It’s like being a member of a secret club, a nurturing and embracing group of ‘fertility-mother earth-goddesses’ that kicks you out after nine months (but then, of course, you get to join an entirely new club). Aside from more gentle and moderated poses, I believe this strong sense of camaraderie is what truly differentiates a prenatal yoga class from any other.
After the last stragglers arrived, we went around the room and introduced ourselves. I was looking forward to meeting my mat neighbors. The list of aches, ailments and mini-dramas that came up would make good fodder for a comedy act. There was sciatica (that would be me), swollen ankles and feet and generally feeling like a stuffed sausage, wicked heartburn, lower back issues (as always), weird leg cramps, moving house with a two-year-old while seven months pregnant (fun), and detailed descriptions of the ‘nesting instinct’ (dusting book jackets, cleaning grout with a toothbrush, weeding the very tiny cracks of your front steps, etc.). After some good laughs and some helpful advice from our teacher, we started our asana practice.
I was surprised at how easily my body moved through the poses and at how strong and balanced I felt. It was amazing to be moving so fluidly, needing to adjust only slightly here and there for the bump, and to be breathing so consciously. It felt like coming home. When a partner pose was called for, I met and held hands with Sophie, and we squatted down with our big bellies facing towards each other. I had seen this woman just a few days before at our local library story time and we had quietly acknowledged each and our beach-ball tummies, and the fact that we both have boys of the same age. The warmth that flowed between us was palpable and we exchanged soft smiles.
The practice ended with a long and delicious relaxation. As I lay there with the sun dancing on my eyelids and listening to a beautiful chant, I felt my heart open wide to the wonders of the world. To all of the women, both in the room and elsewhere, who are carrying babies in their wombs at the very same time that I am, to our unborn children, to the circle of life that becomes so tangible at times. Next week, some women will not be here, some new faces and smaller bellies will appear. I know that I will keep coming until the day when it is my turn to hand over my membership card. With a deep sigh and an "om" I am centered and renewed, ready to face the day with a toddler, and already looking forward to the next class. Namaste.