Anne Nicholson Weber: 00:00 Welcome. This is episode eight. I’m glad you’re here. Today we’re hearing from three experienced prenatal yoga teachers about the many benefits of a yoga practice during pregnancy, and how prenatal yoga differs from other yoga classes, the empowering impact of connecting with your body during pregnancy, and how to find a teacher and a class that’s right for you.
Anne Nicholson Weber: 00:26 Welcome to the Birth Guide Chicago podcast, conversations about building your circle of support in the childbearing year. We connect you with experts in our community who can help you conceive, stay healthy during pregnancy, have a safe and satisfying birth, and embrace the joys and challenges of becoming a new family. I’m your host, Anne Nicholson Weber, and the founder of BirthGuide chicago.com, where every month, thousands of Chicago area families find relationship-centered care from preconception through the postpartum period.
Anne Nicholson Weber: 01:06 Today we’re talking about prenatal yoga, which is a popular and beneficial form of exercise during pregnancy. My guests are three Chicago area prenatal yoga instructors. They are Diana Zick from Cocoon Care, Jenny Barron Fishman from Sweet Pea’s Studio, and Kristin Simons from Grateful Yoga. Welcome all three of you, and thank you so much for joining me. So Jenny, maybe you could start us off with some of the key benefits in your view of doing prenatal yoga.
Jenny Barron Fishman: 01:37 Well, thank you for having us. Just as yoga is a beneficial practice for everybody, it’s an opportunity for a pregnant person to tap into what I often refer to as a listening state, to come into the experience of being in the body as it’s in a massively transformative time. So as the body transforms, as the life of the person is transforming during the pregnancy, or even probably before pregnancy, it’s important for them to have a connective tool, something to bring them home to themselves. So the yoga practice, even though it may differ from, you know, one teacher’s point of view to another, it’s fundamentally a way to bring yourself whole, to bring yourself into connection. And I think in the most fundamental state, it’s a way to connect to yourself as a human, as you create another human. And, uh, so I think when pregnancy is so physical, there’s so many descriptions of aches and pains and negative experiences, possibly, it’s an opportunity to have a delightful experience with your body, and to actually have something to do and take action — taking something that might feel like it’s happening to you and making it, transforming it into your own experience. So there’s plenty more, but
Anne Nicholson Weber: 03:24 <laugh> Well, that’s a wonderful start. Diana, I know that you, in addition to teaching prenatal yoga, teach other forms of exercise to pregnant women. So I’d be interested if you could contrast and talk maybe more about the physical, the bodily benefits that Jenny referred to, but didn’t enumerate as much, in your view of prenatal yoga.
Diana Zic: 03:49 Gotcha. Yeah, thank you for having me as well, Anne. Yeah, so I teach prenatal and postparumt yoga, but I also, since having a baby, took another layer and took another training, as far as more of a corrective exercise approach. ‘Cause many of us go into pregnancy already with some ailments. I feel like everybody has something, whether, for me it was like a low back thing going on. So that only got accentuated when I, you know, obviously got pregnant and added all this extra weight. And so what I learned from the exercise piece of it is, it’s kind of the same principles as far as yoga is slowing down, feeling into your body, but it’s also, being more corrective with, asanas in yoga, but exercises in, in the exercise world. So looking at somebody’s, alignment a little more thoroughly, kind of breaking down some of their weaknesses, which most of us do a lot of sitting prior to pregnancy. So we have weak glutes, weak core before we’re even pregnant. So all of that just gets super accentuated. And, bottom line is breaking down the asanas. Are we using the right muscles? Are you breathing in the right way? How is the posture in the pose? So it’s getting a little bit more technical, which is, why I love the smaller group setting really is you’re able to hit those notes with people.
Anne Nicholson Weber: 05:29 There’s about a hundred things to bounce off of in that answer, but let me just go back, uh, briefly to, talking about the physical benefits of yoga in particular. And I think what you were doing was contrasting this additional training you have, which gets even more technical about how to get those benefits out of yoga and other exercise. Is that right?
Diana Zick: 05:52 I feel like they overlap mm-hmm. <affirmative>, but this was like a PT approach, so it’s more like the western eyes versus . . . like looking how everything’s aligning, like bone structure, what muscles firing. Often in prenatal yoga that’s not as thoroughly discussed, I guess, at least in my opinion.
Anne Nicholson Weber: 06:13 Right. Are there particular discomforts, just to follow this track one more step? Yeah. Are there particular discomforts or conditions in pregnancy that you think yoga is particularly, or prenatal yoga is particularly beneficial for?
Diana Zic: 06:27 I think prenatal yoga is definitely great for alleviating low back pain. I’m speaking from personal experience, but also that’s what I hear from a lot of the students once they come in. I think it’s, again, going kind of back to what I just mentioned, it’s posture for most of us isn’t great. So just getting them to sit upright is almost like an aha moment and their back doesn’t hurt. You know, addressing some of like — not addressing but bringing awareness to like pelvic floor awareness and so forth. Mm-hmm. But I’d say back pain, a lot of gals later in pregnancy will have sciatica discomfort, maybe showing them things to not flare that up. Pubic pain, we can address pubic pain often, again with the right postures or exercises. Yeah, I think that’s on the physical level is what comes to my brain.
Anne Nicholson Weber: 07:26 So kind of building the whole picture, Jenny was talking about this notion of embodiment as such an important project of pregnancy. And then Diana, you’re adding kind of very practical benefits just to some of the discomforts of pregnancy. So Kristen, you, in addition to being a yoga teacher, are a psychotherapist, which I think is a fascinating combination. So I wonder what perspective that gives you on the benefits of prenatal yoga.
Kristen Simons: 07:57 Yeah, like we’ve all said, there’s so much to talk about here, but, one thing I want to add about the physical portion before I jump into the mental health piece is something I’m thinking of that I educate my prenatal students on a lot — uh, the hormone shifts that are happening during pregnancy and how that affects our physical body. So a lot of women, I’m saying women, but a lot of pregnant people, especially women, are already pretty flexible. And when they become pregnant, the hormones in the body create more flexibility. And so a lot of what I like to focus on physically too is just educating them about how much to stretch and oppose and how much strength to use, so that they’re not injuring themselves. And I think prenatal yoga is particularly beneficial for that educational aspect because I think a lot of people, if they’ve done yoga before, might come into prenatal yoga wanting to go into the full expression of a pose, when really we don’t need to do that when you’re pregnant.
Kristen Simons: 09:00 So I think there’s a lot of learning about your body to be had in in that specific way too. As far as the mental health piece, there are an enormous amount of benefits to yoga in general with mental health, our mental health. And that’s why I became a yoga teacher was because, as a therapist, I could just feel that my clients weren’t necessarily becoming embodied. And I think this is a really, uh, great way to do that. And so for the prenatal students, again, there’s a lot of education around how to practice mindfulness. There’s a lot of anxiety and nerves when you’re pregnant, especially for women who maybe have had losses. And so just the practice of breathing or sitting and having someone tell you how to move your body or how not to move your body can create a lot of ease for the pregnant person.
Kristen Simons: 09:56 And then a lot of the work that you do in yoga activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which is the calming or the “rest and digest” part of our nervous system. And that can be really beneficial for reducing anxiety and depression, and actually long-term postpartum can help reduce the risk of postpartum mood disorders, or at least alleviate it. You know, obviously there are other things that can help with that. But I think I do know personally, having had two children, and then professionally, that yoga has been a really huge help pre and postpartum for women who are predisposed to, uh, postpartum mood disorders.
Anne Nicholson Weber: 10:38 You know, you were talking about the anxious state of pregnancy and it is just taking me back to when I was pregnant, and I’m not an especially anxious person. I remember at lunch going out on the street and buying a piece of fruit from somebody who was selling fruit on the street and eating it and then saying, oh my God, was that washed? And like not being able to sleep because I had had this random piece of fruit that might or might not have been adequately washed. And I think there is a pregnant brain <laugh> that is distinctly amped up, let’s say. So it makes sense to me that yoga as one approach to kind of trying to keep the lid on that <laugh> could be, could be very helpful. Well, so I’ve been using the term prenatal yoga because in kind of research — I did not do . . . I have not ever really practiced yoga and I didn’t do prenatal yoga, but I do understand that prenatal yoga classes are kind of a subset and even a separate category than yoga classes because you’re dealing with a particular population.
Anne Nicholson Weber: 11:44 So that suggests to me that there are two groups of people who may do prenatal yoga, those who’ve done yoga before, and those who haven’t. And I’m interested, Jenny, if you just talk about how are the benefits different for those two groups, or do you approach them differently?
Jenny Barron Fishman: 11:59 I mean, the approach is different because, I mean, fundamentally the postures in yoga were designed by men for men, just plain and simple. The tradition comes from a lineage of men teaching boys, young men, boys. So, a woman’s body, let alone a pregnant body, wouldn’t have necessarily been welcomed or accepted. But then some of the earlier teachers, uh, here in the west brought a lot of those traditions into what was early discovered as prenatal yoga. So it was really a lot of just trying to figure out how to adapt this masculine bodied practice, a disciplinary practice of the body that was very athletic — but , you know, had all the benefits of relaxation and meditation and enlightenment, all of that — into this realm of women and particularly, you know, during the perinatal year.
Jenny Barron Fishman: 13:06 So, with that understanding of prenatal yoga as opposed to someone practicing yoga while pregnant, those are some different understandings. So instead of it being a discipline towards getting into the most evolved pose, we actually kind of may be simplifying or being very mindful about how we’re moving the body and poses. Because the body is transforming. In the addition of extra blood volume and the addition of the hormones that soften the connective tissue and the change of our thought processes because who cares about linear time when you’re growing a human? Right? So all of those things can be celebrated in a prenatal yoga class instead of just like, “oh, I can’t do this. My body is limited, my body is restricting me from normal activity.” Which is really giving it over again to this kind of male dominated thinking that the body is to be controlled and dominated rather than celebrated.
Jenny Barron Fishman: 14:14 And being soft with and watching it change in a very loving way or being part of its change with a different understanding of why that change is happening. So I was looking more to midwifery information, or for specifically in my classes, I teach birth poses as the yoga pose, you know, so how you’re in your hands and knees position isn’t just cat cow, it’s processing your labor for hours. How you’re squatting isn’t just strengthening your glutes and pelvic floor, it’s opening and allowing your baby to move through your pelvis. So there are things like that that are very specific to prenatal yoga. And then there’s that connection of that there’s another person involved that baby in your body. So always checking in with a . . .
Anne Nicholson Weber: 15:06 A big difference. <laugh>. Yeah. Yeah. Diana, do you want to add to that at all? Things that you think are important to highlight that are specific or different about prenatal yoga?
Diana Zic: 15:17 The only thing that I was thinking about the mental piece, mental emotional piece, is just we — I guess we kind of talked about anxiety and how much more anxiety that you have, whether or not you had it originally or not. So in classes we tend to try to address that on the mat. Like what’s your biggest fear about birth? I like to get them thinking, again, based off of my training, but more of my life experiences. I never liked — I’m like the white coat syndrome person, so the hospital birth wasn’t the best idea for me. And I, in hindsight, I wish that I would’ve, you know, sought out a different birthing center or something. But anyway, just thinking about those things, addressing fears. Are you scared of pain? Are you scared of — like, you, you were kind of just talking about Jenny — that man-dominated yoga approach of, you know, staying fit, you know, not gaining too much weight.
Diana Zic: 16:21 There’s a lot of that because the western yoga world is very much, you know, to be fit and be thin and power yoga and a lot of that. So when you do have somebody coming into your class that maybe perhaps was told by their gyne or whatnot, or midwife, oh, I think you should try to do this style of yoga, they’re shellshocked. They’re like, what is this? Like, we don’t do a whole lot of poses. We do more internal, you know, work, so to speak. So, yeah, I guess it’s kind of piggybacking on what Jennifer was saying, just working with anxiety around what’s happening in your body and what may happen and kind of losing, trying to let go of control. ‘Cause if I learned anything <laugh> about birth, I didn’t have a whole lot of control of what panned out. I mean, I thought I did, but <laugh>, right. Uh, yeah. So a little bit of that too.
Anne Nicholson Weber: 17:20 Yeah. Yeah. That surrender. So yeah,
Diana Zic: 17:23 Surrender, a better word.
Anne Nicholson Weber: 17:25 So Kristen, talking about — , I, it’s my impression that many women start yoga because they’re attracted to the idea of prenatal yoga and then maybe continue to practice. I don’t know. Is that, is that your experience?
Kristen Simons: 17:41 Yeah, I think there’s different types of students that come into a prenatal yoga class. There are some who have a yoga practice already and they’re just kind of transitioning into prenatal yoga from, you know, Hatha or Vinyasa, what they were practicing before. I would say a lot of the students that come into the classes that I teach do not have an established yoga practice. Maybe they have done some YouTube videos or they’ve gone to a yoga class here and there, but they’re not like yogis. But they have heard from their friends or their doctor or walked past the studio and just saw like, oh, this might be something good for my body. My body is hurting right now. I feel like I need to stretch. And I think there’s benefits to both, you know, for somebody who has an established practice, there’s benefits to them kind of being a little bit more aware of their body already and knowing some of the poses. And then for people who are brand new to yoga, it’s really an opportunity for them to connect more with their body, like what Jenny was saying, and be able to celebrate that the changes are happening for a reason. And our body is really beautiful in that way and adaptive. So yeah, I think there’s varying types of students and I think there’s a lot of benefits to being a beginner or being somebody who has experience with yoga coming into prenatal yoga.
Anne Nicholson Weber: 19:11 And it’s fine to have them both in the same class or do you in any way separate?
Kristen Simons: 19:17 No, nope. That is absolutely fine to have them both. I don’t think unless you were to ask the person or if they were to volunteer the information, likely you wouldn’t really know that or the other students wouldn’t really know that. And the way that most prenatal teachers lead the class is accessible to most anyone. It’s very gentle and, like what Diana was saying, you know, a lot of it is about kind of moving internally, less about finding the perfect pose.
Anne Nicholson Weber: 19:46 Right. So less performance oriented,
Diana Zic: 19:49 I think I’d add on —
Anne Nicholson Weber: 19:50 Yeah, Diana.
Diana Zic: 19:52 Sorry Anne. I think we’re all yoga teachers, we’re thinking about it. But I think one thing that’s also visually and physically different is we use props. I mean, I use the hell out of props and that could be difficult to some practitioners where it’s like, “well, no, I don’t need a prop!” for whatever the pose that they’re used to always doing. So open mind. With the meaning that practitioners that already have a practice, it is asking them to be kind of — what we’re already talking about, the theme of being more gentle. But you’ll see a lot of props, <laugh>, yeah, yeah. Bolsters, blankets, straps, you know, you name it. And sometimes it’s the ego, you know, asking them to drop their ego and pick up a block or or use a chair, when they get further along or maybe even early. . . .
Kristen Simons: 20:40 Or back off a little bit.
Jenny Barron Fishman: 20:42 Yeah, I found that you can have someone who comes in and will explain to you that they already have a pretty robust practice. And, you know, just like when you try any new teacher’s class, it’s an opportunity to, again, listen to your body in a new way. But I think, like you were saying, Diana, the second you start bringing out a variation of a pose, you know, it’s an opportunity to re-engage with your practice in a new way.
Anne Nicholson Weber: 21:14 So you’ve talked about you have students of different levels in the same class. You also have students at different points in their pregnancies in each class. So that seems like an awful lot of variables. Kristen, how different — how much do you have to adjust the practice as you go through pregnancy? And therefore, how much do you as a teacher have to adjust for each of the students in your class who might be at a different point in their pregnancies?
Kristen Simons: 21:40 Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, that’s a good question. I’ll speak, you know, for me personally, the way that I teach, you know, if there’s a new student that comes in, I always check in with them about how they’re feeling and their body, if there’s anything coming up for them. So I kind of have a baseline understanding. And, you know, like what we’re talking about, I’m mindful of all the students in the class, you know, so if I see that somebody is struggling or somebody needs a modification or a prop or something like that based on their ability or their stage in pregnancy, I will offer that. I’m also — I’m hopeful that my yoga students are also being mindful of their own bodies too. And not everybody knows about their limitations and like what we’re talking about, there are some either advanced yogi practitioners or maybe somebody does CrossFit or, you know, some intense exercise that might not be aware of what’s helpful or not helpful for them in a yoga practice. And that’s, you know, my job as a teacher is to kind of help them with that. And also trust them that they can let me know if they need some assistance or they can kind of, uh, find that within themselves to know like, what is too much and what, what feels good. So there’s a lot of trust as the teacher and then trust that the student is also listening to themselves. It’s kind of this delicate balance.
Anne Nicholson Weber: 23:05 And as a teacher sending that message, that listening to yourself is the place to begin. Right. Yeah. Two things that I want to be sure we cover that come out of that. And one is how to choose a prenatal instructor. And another, a topic that I had no notion that would come up in this conversation, but this, uh, idea of agency and, through listening to your body, having information to offer your caregivers throughout your pregnancy and your birth, and trusting that you know some things they don’t, which it suddenly is occurring to me could be a benefit of this kind of physical work during pregnancy. But let’s go first to the simpler question, which is, Kristen, you know, how would you advise someone who says, oh yeah, I want to do prenatal yoga. Where should I go? What would you tell them to look for or what questions to ask?
Kristen Simons: 24:03 Well, I know — so in my first pregnancy, I just did regular yoga, and that was really helpful in a lot of ways. But I realized in my second pregnancy how important it was for me personally to try prenatal yoga, separate from just yoga. And I think it’s helpful to find a teacher that is either prenatal yoga certified or has experience, you know, in education teaching prenatal yoga classes. Not everyone does. It’s not something that is taught in your 200 hour yoga teacher training. There might be a little bit about it, but not a lot. I think it’s helpful to find somebody who is really compassionate and gentle hearted because I think during that stage of your life, there’s a lot of — like, we’ve talked about — a lot of anxiety, a lot of stress, a lot of change, and in that space of not just the community, but being led by someone as you know, the yoga teacher, I think the students really want to feel held and like it’s a safe space.
Kristen Simons: 25:10 It takes a lot for someone to show up to a prenatal yoga class. And so I think that trying out some different yoga studios, trying out different yoga, prenatal yoga teachers, different prenatal yoga communities and see what feels best. Because what feels good to me, you know, I could recommend something to a friend or somebody who is pregnant, but it may not feel the same for them. So I think it’s important to, you know, on paper, find somebody that’s certified or has experience, and then also for that person to go and experience it themselves and see what feels like a good fit for them.
Anne Nicholson Weber: 25:45 Yeah, I love that. As you know, BirthGuide is all about finding a good fit with all of the people who support you throughout the childbearing year. And the notion that prenatal yoga teachers are fungible seems very obviously wrong, <laugh>, but honestly it’s not something I had thought about. So I’m really glad you pointed that out. So Diana, uh, Kristen mentioned kind of credentials or certifications and, my question is, are there particular certifications or particular training that would, in your mind, point out teachers who definitely had real expertise? or are there other ways to measure that, would you say?
Diana Zic: 26:26 I’m not a huge, like, credentialed person per se, but I do think that it’s useful to seek out somebody who’s registered. Often you’ll see like “registered prenatal yoga instructor”, it’s from the Yoga Alliance. They have a certification program, which means that you, you know, did so many hours, you submitted it and, and you’ve got your like sticker, so to speak. I mentioned the course that I had taken, which is a certification as well. So that wouldn’t be yoga related, but a corrective exercise specialist in pre and postpartum bodies. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. ,
Anne Nicholson Weber: 27:10 So the important point is not that there’s any particular stamp of approval that a teacher needs, but more just that there’s someone who has paid attention to the difference between pregnant bodies and non-pregnant bodies, and who has an interest in creating a community of people who are going through pregnancy, and adjusting not just, it sounds like, not just the poses, but even the purpose of yoga to that audience, let’s say. Well, let me ask a, I think, simple question. At what point in one’s pregnancy is it a good time to start prenatal yoga? And Diana, why don’t you take that one too?
Diana Zic: 27:50 Hmm. I say immediately because, as we were laying the foundation here, prenatal yoga isn’t just a physical approach. There’s mental pieces, emotional pieces, that you can practice. So say you’re like — often women or pregnant persons are sick at the beginning of their pregnancy and aren’t really feeling like — they’re gonna go down dog and throw up, right? Because I think that you could use other tools that yoga has to offer: breathing techniques, mantra work, meditation, self-awareness, techniques, not asanas per se. So there’s different layers of it.
Anne Nicholson Weber: 28:32 And Kristen, would you have anything to add to that?
Kristen Simons: 28:35 Yeah, I would agree that I think, you know, yoga is not just the poses, it’s not just the physical practice. So you can start yoga at any point, whether that’s, you know, doing a meditation or even just some stretches. But I will say that I think most pregnant people probably don’t come to a yoga class until probably like the second trimester, because a lot of times people are feeling sick or they’re just discovering they’re pregnant and their body isn’t really hurting or anything yet. I think a lot of people start to feel more of the aches and pains and the body changes towards the second trimester, and that’s when a lot of people decide like, “oh, yoga would help me to feel a little bit better. I need to stretch my body.” Or “I want to connect with other moms.”
Anne Nicholson Weber: 29:22 So one more question related to choosing a class, and I personally have found it intimidating sometimes when thinking about yoga that there are these different schools of yoga and which one is right for me and what are the differences? Does that — is that true as well of prenatal? And maybe Jenny answer to that?
Jenny Barron Fishman: 29:40 I mean, I guess it would depend on how the person teaching the class is, what lineage maybe they’re coming from or what type of teaching they’ve been trained in. But, for example, I studied at the Korean Yoga Temple, so it was a very Hatha Yoga approach — Hatha is kind of the umbrella practice of mindfulness and movement and meditation and all of those things. And then, several of my teachers there studied quite a lot of Iyengar, his teachings, which were very — like you were talking about, Diana — very much about the body in alignment and very specific posing, understanding very clearly what the body is doing. And then there might be someone who’s studying with another teacher that does the very fast movement-based yoga, which is often described as Vinyasa. So it’s good to know where those come from because they do inform the point of view of like, is this right or is this wrong?
Jenny Barron Fishman: 30:51 I think we hear that quite a lot of like, “oh, well you’re not really doing yoga because you’re only lying on the floor and pulling your knees into your chest.” And I, again, I don’t think that’s useful, <laugh>, I think that’s, you know, it, it leaves a lot of people out and it was designed to do so. But in prenatal yoga, probably what you’ll see more so is a Hatha style yoga, which is more slow and mindful and methodical and kind of boring for some people because it’s not hot room, it’s not fast, it’s not athletic, you know, necessarily — because maybe that’s not the most useful thing at that point in your body’s experience of <laugh> being a body <laugh>.
Anne Nicholson Weber: 31:46 So I think it would be fair to say from what you just said, that I don’t, if I’m a pregnant woman and I think, uh, yoga sounds good, I don’t have to go deep dive into the different schools of yoga before I pick my prenatal yoga class.
Jenny Barron Fishman: 32:01 No, not necessarily. But previously you asked about, you know, is prenatal yoga going to start a practice for somebody? And I think that happens a lot. One student, one time, I saw at a different studio, which was a very, you know, kind of a very athletic style studio, and she was clearly, she’d been practicing for a while, but I hadn’t seen her in years. And she’s like, oh my God, I took my first yoga class with you in prenatal yoga, and it was my gateway drug to yoga <laugh>. So it was just kind of like, okay, I get that. It’s an introduction to the body. It can be so — it’s just so delicious to be in the body. And then if you want to kind of push it or learn more about it or, you know, evolve with it, with these ways of movement, that can be very exhilarating as well. That’s kind of the point, sometimes, about yoga. It has this reputation of being all about flexi, bendy pretzel, but really it’s about an exploration of edges. It’s an exploration of where am I going now? Can I stay here for a moment or two? Am I uncomfortable, but I’m comfortable, but can I . . . ? It’s a questioning always. It’s that listening that I was talking about that maybe if I try a little bit more and if . . . oh yes, I can get into a headstand I never knew I could. So those type of things.
Anne Nicholson Weber: 33:23 Yeah. Yeah. Well, so, I’m very interested in this concept of listening to the body, particularly during pregnancy. And it suggests to me that there are many ways that prenatal yoga could impact how your birth experience goes. And we haven’t specifically talked about that. We’ve talked more about pregnancy. So, so Kristen, do you have anything to say on that topic?
Kristen Simons: 33:50 Yeah, I think that, you know, something I was thinking about earlier today was how prenatal yoga, in my own experience and then being a prenatal student in the class with other pregnant people and then being a teacher, I’ve really seen and experienced a lot of, like confidence-building, which I think is really interesting. You know, being in a prenatal class, you learn a lot about your body. Uou kind of hopefully open yourself up to going more internal and not just the anatomy, but kind of like being pregnant, you know, and what that phase of life is like and what that feels like, that connection to and your baby. And I think that there can be a lot of confidence-building going into labor day, you know, and being able to know that you have some skills to help yourself through it. Because there’s a lot of pregnant people who feel very scared of labor and delivery.
Kristen Simons: 34:49 And so I think having a yoga practice can help prepare you and say like, okay, these — which, you know, you learn from if somebody uses a doula as well — , but these are some breathing techniques I can use. Or like Jenny was saying, this is a position that I can be in that might feel good when I’m having contractions. I can feel confident knowing that my body is more primed because I’ve been strengthening and I’ve been practicing flexibility and mobilization through my yoga practice. So I think one of the biggest things, and one of the unique things about prenatal yoga is building that confidence for that person to go into labor. And it’s gonna be hard, you know, labor is hard, but it kind of gives them this foundation of success, you know, going into that day and maybe some empowerment.
Anne Nicholson Weber: 35:38 Great. Yeah. The other thing that we’ve touched on several times, you’ve touched on several times, that seems important to me to discuss a little more is the function of prenatal yoga classes in creating a community of women and people who are going through the same experience that you are. Diana, what’s your observation about that?
Diana Zic: 36:03 I feel like pre covid it was much better. I don’t know if anyone that’s in the studio world thinks the same, but, yeah, there definitely is camaraderie that occurs, you know, they’re going through the same thing, they tend to bond like, “ oh, I, I had this happen or, and this is going on.” So they kind of chuckle about that. So there’s some of that too. And then some, being in Chicago, often people aren’t from here. Because I’m in the city, often people are coming from different states, so they don’t maybe have a lot of friends or family here. So that’s a way that they can connect with moms. And then, from there, you know, they have their babies around the same time, so then they end up hanging out. When I used to offer baby and me class, that would really be a good community afterwards, like somewhere to leave the house and safe space to have the baby and you, plus your community. So yeah. Yeah, I think that’s really an important piece. ’cause when you go to the gym classes — like, we were going back to what you were asking, like the different classes that you can go to — and not that there’s anything on its face about going to the gym class, it’s just you’re not going to get that attention that you’re likely needing, not everybody, and maybe not all that support that you need, and understanding of what your body is going through.
Anne Nicholson Weber: 37:34 When you think about building your circle of support — which is a phrase that I use a lot in that BirthGuide is about building your circle of support in the childbearing year — it’s not just your teacher, but it’s also the other students that might be in a class. Now I know that, Diana, you also do one-on-one and some virtual classes. Am I right about that?
Diana Zic: 37:57 I’ll have one-off, private clients, especially postpartum. As I think we all can attest, it’s hard to leave the house when you have a baby that’s napping constantly or you have the blowouts when you’re trying to leave the house. So that’s where I think it’s super beneficial to have that option for like the new moms. But then also like the first time moms are really busy, if they’re workers, they can’t dedicate that time to get to the studio, then those people benefit from the option of just, you know, turning off their email and turning on Zoom to practice.
Anne Nicholson Weber: 38:34 So depending on your situation either could be — either a virtual class or a class of other people offer different benefits, but there could be reasons why either one would make sense. And Kristen, I remember you talked about the idea of shopping, not just for the teacher — shopping is a bad word, but, uh, investigating alternatives — not just for the teacher that you like, but for the community that feels right for you. And it sounds like prenatal yoga can be almost another version of what often happens in childbirth education classes where you create this little mini community of women who are going to be delivering around the same time and become support over time for each other. We’re almost out of time, but I want to ask, uh, at least one more question, which is, are there common misconceptions that you hear from women who are considering taking a prenatal yoga class that you would want to kind of address in this forum? Anybody?
Jenny Barron Fishman: 39:37 I mean, first off, I’d say probably that people think they have to be good at it, <laugh>, they have to be good at yoga. They have to — I hear that a lot. People come in and I ask what their experience is with yoga and they’re like, well, I’ve taken a class or two, but I’m not good at it. And It’s just like, well that — it’s a practice. So there’s that. I think it’s also maybe the misunderstanding that you’re supposed to be able to know what you’re doing. I mean, which I guess links to that idea of being good at it. It’s an exploration at the time, so it’s not about making sure you know how to do it and then you’re done. You’re always learning about what’s going on with your body and your life and it’s, again, like a tool.
Jenny Barron Fishman: 40:30 So that’s one of the most important things. I think too, if you are coming from a very athletic-based or, you know, coming from a gym yoga class or, you know, something that’s very hot, those hot classes — that it won’t be the time that you’ll do this, but that you can do it again. It’s not gone forever, that type of class, if that’s your favorite style, if you really, really enjoyed that sweat. It just might not be appropriate during your pregnancy because of the extra, you know, extra fluids in your body and the heat that’s already generated and it’s maybe not so healthy for your baby to get that hot <laugh> as well, you know, so things like that. So just a greater understanding of like, just because you’re having to adapt some things now and you might find it joyful now, but you’re always able to move forward into other behaviors.
Anne Nicholson Weber: 41:29 I always tell my children, life is very long.
Jenny Barron Fishman: 41:32 I think also, and just to add on that too, Anne, real quick, it’s like there’s that moment that everyone says, “I want to get back into my body, I want to get back into my exercise program, I want to get back into who I was.” And it’s pretty important to remember again that no one goes backwards. So going, thinking forward into the next moment, not necessarily in that frantic, anxiety driven way, but mm-hmm. <affirmative> in that my movement of thought is reflective but also, you know, adaptive into the future self that I’ll be with this baby.
Anne Nicholson Weber: 42:08 Well, is there any question I didn’t ask that anybody thinks we should talk about very quickly before we close?
Diana Zic: 42:16 I think I would just add kind of to go back to what we talked about, the question about misconceptions is, again, you’re not gonna step into a prenatal class and it’d be all about the physical body. I think that’s the key thing that differentiates it. I think that people should understand that you’re going to learn breath techniques to bring to the birthing center or hospital, potentially mantras that are helpful tools for the mind. ‘Cause birth is much more than physical, right? It’s a mental marathon <laugh>. Yeah. So I think that’s what really I think in my brain is that it just — just knowing that yoga is not just the asana practice.
Anne Nicholson Weber: 43:02 Yeah. Yeah. And Kristen, anything else you want to toss in here at the very end?
Kristen Simons: 43:08 I don’t think so. I think there’s probably a lot more I could say, but to not get into the weeds, I think I’ll just stop right there. We’ve done a great job, <laugh>.
Anne Nicholson Weber: 43:16 Great. Okay. Well, so, I, I am so interested in the notion that has come up over and over that prenatal yoga is not just an exercise class and that it’s about community and it’s even most of all about a different relationship to your body at a time when your relationship to your body is already different. So adjusting to those changes and having something active you can do instead of just having this passive thing happening to you. So I think this has been a super helpful and valuable discussion and I thank you all for joining me to talk about it. Thank you.
Kristen Simon: 43:55 Thanks.