For starters, I’d like to briefly take up ‘what is yoga’ for the sake of those who are new to the subject, as well as why it has become so trendy, and how its application came to include women in pregnancy.
It seems like everybody is doing yoga nowadays since it has become very trendy. The typical yoga ad shows people doing difficult poses that seem like some form of contortionism. To some people, the thought of achieving that amount of strength and flexibility is very appealing and so they sign up for a class; for others it is completely discouraging, as one might say ‘I can’t even touch my toes and you want me to do what!?”
So what is yoga anyway?
No one really knows the exact date when yoga was born, but studies calculate that it came around the 6th and 5th centuries BC. It originated from India, and expanded to other remote regions like Tibet. The word yoga in Sanskrit means “to unite.” It was a practice that was made to create a balance and a union between body, mind and soul. As time passed these ancient practices expanded, and diversed, new forms of yoga were created and now we have a wide variety (almost tuti frutti menu) of yoga styles to choose from, (and it’s a good thing, there’s yoga for everyone.) It became popular during the 60s when people were searching desperately for spiritual experiences, gurus or teachers from India found their way to the United States, some westerners traveled to India as well, and in between here and there, yoga was discovered by the West and people loved it; many found what they were searching for. A practice that would connect you with your body, quiet the mind and fill you with a deep sense of peace. It was all up to you, it was nowhere outside, all this time what you are looking for is within, and that’s what yoga allows you to experience. That’s why it has become popular, and its popularity has kept growing.
“In this hustle and bustle modern life that we have, we often find ourselves sitting in front of a computer, or stuck in a traffic jam in the car. Long gone are those days when we used to climb trees and play freely beneath the clear skies and fresh air. If you live in a big city, you understand exactly what I mean.”
How can you achieve that sense of peace through yoga?
In this hustle and bustle modern life that we have, we often find ourselves sitting in-front of a computer, or stuck in a traffic jam in the car. Long gone are those days when we used to climb trees and play freely beneath the clear skies and fresh air. If you live in a big city, you understand exactly what I mean.
And so, the different movements and poses of yoga allow you to reconnect and befriend your body, so you make up for those long hours of sitting, even if you don’t work at an office, most of us spend a great deal of time sitting down, and we’re not aware of our posture, and the only time we might pay attention to our bodies is when we’re sick or following a diet. This is definitely a “What’s Out.” Yoga is not only a great form of exercise, but it’s a great way to start being friendly to yourself and respecting your body. Unlike the popular yoga advertisement, they won’t ask you to do crazy postures in class, you always respect your body and honor where you’re at, being nice is part of the philosophy.
Another part that is essential in yoga is the breathing focus. We are so stressed out that we even forget how to breathe, in each yoga class the focus on long deep breathing is key. And just an extra supply of oxygen into your body has a tremendous impact, you’re boosting yourself with energy, and long deep breathing comes with an immediate relaxation effect.
Why yoga during pregnancy?
You have the medical team making sure that you and your baby are healthy. But pregnancy is not only a physical condition, it is the greatest journey in a woman’s life, as she prepares herself for the extra-ordinary event of bringing a new being into the world.
What kind of preparation are we making? Is it enough to read 20 books on the subject?
I didn’t think too much about what a woman goes through prenatally until I lived with a spiritual community in India. They viewed pregnancy as a time of growth and transformation in a woman’s life – it was the highest spiritual experience one can have. Women there have a very different set of traditions passed on to them by their mothers and grandmothers, from special meditations, to different exercises, and diets, to enjoying the full support of the community they live in. They even have special ceremonies to celebrate the arrival of the soul, considered as a very joyful time.
I see that not all of us have that kind of support. Maybe our family is not close to where we live, or no one ever taught us what to expect. Unfortunately in the western world, pregnancy is viewed more like a medical condition than a time to enjoy and celebrate.
So this is when yoga really comes in handy. With what feels like an ever changing body, the yoga exercises really help you to cope with the physical changes that come; you get to feel like you do own your body, even if every day it looks a bit different. Thus it’s a practice that allows you to stay fit while being safe and promoting relaxation. The meditation and simple relaxation techniques really help address all the doubts and fears that naturally come.
Moreso it’s a great way to start getting to know yourself and your body in a deeper way, whether or not you’ve practiced yoga before, if you have a good teacher, you’ll be safe and you’ll probably love it. Also through the movement, breathing, sound and self-awareness you start bonding with your baby even before they’re born.
Anneke, one of my prenatal yoga students beautifully describes her experience this way: “prenatal yoga was instrumental for preparing my mind and body for childbirth. It helped me gain strength, flexibility and endurance. It helped me learn to listen to and trust my body. It provided me with a community of women who were encountering similar experiences, difficulties and emotions. Most importantly, prenatal yoga provided a space where I could take some time away from the craziness of life, so that I could connect with my new baby and my body and remind myself of the miracle of creation that I’ve been blessed with.”
And the journey continues after you give birth, nowadays there are postnatal and baby yoga classes so mothers and their families can continue to get support on their parenting journey. One such place that offer these classes is Urban Ashram Manila. You can visit our site to learn more.
So “What’s in”? This one definitely is! Yoga is about honoring and celebrating who you are. And in prenatal and postnatal yoga we honor, and celebrate the joy of motherhood and babies!