Yoga with Extra Potty Breaks
BY DEBBY SIEGEL, MSA, RYT & JESSICA CULELLA, E-RYT200, RPYT
PHOTOS BY JESSICA CULELLA
Whenever I hear someone say “I just love(d) being pregnant!” my reply out loud is “Oh yeah, 9 months without a period. I gotcha.” Cuz that and getting to see that dessert menu for a second round (once your prego is showing) is about all I can come up with for my reasons I loved being pregnant. Inside my head my conversation goes a tad differently. Something like… “Huh? Are you nuts? The hormones, feet the size of hot air balloons, heartburn, melasma, stretch marks, sleep issues?…” and I go on sometimes but usually the out loud conversation continues so I have to halt my monkeys. To each her own.
Don’t get me wrong. Bringing another life into this world is the most amazing thing I’ve done. I’ve had three full term pregnancies. At 19 I became a birth mom after almost 10 months of pregnancy. At some point during that pregnancy I knew I would be ending my relationship with my baby / fetus upon his day of birth, as I was placing him for adoption. That gave me a slightly different perspective on this very young experience. Plus, I weighed just a tiny bit more than a toothpick before it, and had all the body messaging most 18 year olds get handed to them going in. So that 1980s pregnancy was vastly different than my two later on in my 30s. However, had I known anything about breathwork, yoga & meditation back then, perhaps my internal voice would have allowed me more appreciation during my second and third go rounds later. Who knows… I do know that my life has been impacted immensely by the powers of yoga and mindfulness in the last 5 years, and I’m completely certain it could hugely benefit anyone carrying around a little one inside her, and most definitely during childbirth.
If you ever find those two little pink lines covered in your pee staring back at you, and have been gifted the opportunity to try your hand at parenthood, may you also have the opportunity to start (or continue) a yoga practice. You will find a multitude of benefits. Those who participate in a regular prenatal practice show better emotional and physical outcomes after delivery, increased lung capacity, increased optimal baby positioning, shorter labors, and increased strength and stamina for labor, delivery and recovery. Plus, you can find even more connection to this extension of you prior to your wee one’s arrival and after.
To gain a less tainted impression of pregnancy and how yoga might influence this 40 weeks of one’s life, I sought out words of wisdom from a mom friend who not only corrals two boys under the age of five, but guides women in prenatal yoga classes conjunctively. My friend, Jessica Culella, started teaching Prenatal Yoga about 4 years ago. She describes it as “immensely rewarding.” Jessica feels, “It doesn’t get much better than witnessing the difference this practice makes in the physical and mental wellbeing of these mamas.”
Here’s some of Jessica’s wisdom:
I like to start prenatal yoga practice with a group discussion, my favorite part of the class. I strive to create an open, non-judgemental environment where ladies can ask questions or share their experience on a variety of relevant topics. We may discuss anything from diapers to childbirth to postpartum depression. So much wisdom and support is cultivated during these conversations. It’s beautiful.
I build the physical practice around breath, space, strength, balance and knowledge.
The breath holds so much power. With it, we can cool the body, calm our minds and draw in energy. Weaving pranayama such as nadi shodhana, ujjayi, or the humming breath into the practice brings a sense of calm and deeper mind-body connection to my students.
Creating space in the body, and in life, is vital during pregnancy. Many expecting mamas experience a shift in energy, priorities and how they view the world and themselves. I encourage my students to view these shifts as preparation for making more space in their lives for a new little one to join them in this world. With a growing belly, many things begin to change in the practice of asana (physical postures). Many postures get kicked to the curb, or modified. This can be a difficult transition for those with a strong practice. But this new space in the practice gives so much opportunity to explore new ways to safely twist, lengthen and engage.
During pregnancy, we need strength in the legs, glutes and transverse abdominals (inner core) to keep proper spinal alignment and alleviate low back pain, one of the most common discomforts in pregnancy. Building strength in these key areas helps these ladies feel more capable throughout their pregnancies and ready for childbirth. I also like to incorporate mental stamina exercises into the practice to help prepare them for the emotional marathon that is childbirth.
The changes that happen in the pregnant body can feel disorienting. (Ok, so Jess & I agree…) It’s not uncommon to feel disassociated with the body as it rapidly changes. We work in class to stay connected to what’s happening inside, the reasons behind these changes and and how they affect the whole person. Specifically, balancing the uterine ligaments (round, broad and uterosacral ligaments) through various postures really help my students to feel more centered (literally). The round ligaments (there’s one on each side) can stretch from 4-5 inches to 18 inches during pregnancy, and can easily bring an imbalance or discomfort into the body, even affect baby’s position. I encourage my students to build a practice of self inquiry to better acknowledge any imbalances, and provide them with the tools and knowledge to resolve it.
There are so many amazing connections to discover in the pregnant body. For instance, if the jaw stays relaxed during contractions, the pelvic floor stays more relaxed, making delivery go faster. Also, there are certain movements to do to open the middle opening of the pelvis wider if labor slows or stalls. Whoa! Giving these mamas the knowledge of what’s going on inside their body, how their pelvis works or what postures and movements can help their specific challenge is just an amazing and empowering thing to share. (Well, had I known this at 19 in that Mesa, AZ hospital while flopping all over like a fish out of water for what seemed like an eternity, I might’ve attempted to relax my pelvic floor as well as my entire freaked out body!)
Having the honor to guide these women during such an amazing, transformative time is truly a gift. I’m excited to be part of this community in St. Louis, offering Prenatal at Urban Breath Yoga in Maplewood, as well as Prenatal and Parent/Child yoga (Yoga with your Littlest Ones) at Yoga Six in Des Peres.
So if you find yourself on that path of having to give up drinking, yet getting to shop for new clothes more often, may you find the time to include some self care in the form of yoga and mindfulness. And if so, Jessica would make an outstanding guide.
Jessica McGee-Culella is an E-RYT200 and RPYT (Registered Prenatal Yoga Teacher). Her yoga journey started in 2002. Initially, yoga was a supplemental aspect to her other fitness endeavors. It became clear as time passed, that yoga was a more sustainable and effective method to strengthen her body and calm her mind. Delving deeper, she expanded her practice and realized the truly centering and connecting powers of a yogic lifestyle. Strengthening her body through asana encouraged empowerment in all aspects of her life, and as a teacher, she loves bringing this feeling to her students. She enjoys leading creative classes that are fun and powerful.
You must be logged in to post a comment.