I spent many years dreaming of becoming a yoga teacher, but it was not until my first birth experience, when in those moments of surges, strain and disbelief yoga unfolded itself to me in a way that allowed me to move through the process with a sense of deep knowing and ultimately surrender. That one day was not just about a baby being born and the beginning of a new family, it was the day I became a mother, born into myself, a new way of being - and life as I knew it would never quite be the same!
And so 12 months later I signed on to become a Yoga Teacher at the only school in Perth offering a Pre-Natal Teacher Training Program. That was in 2009. I have been teaching pregnancy yoga ever since and can say that aside from motherhood itself, I have found teaching pregnancy yoga to be one of the most fulfilling aspects of my life! I feel incredibly fortunate to have found this path and believe this offering to be so powerful for women everywhere.
Teaching a pregnancy specific yoga class truly is an honour. Being the teacher often brings as much benefit as being the student; seeing first hand just HOW MUCH yoga can help to support and transform a woman during her pregnancy. As a teacher, it's much more than just practicing yoga postures safely, we provide a safe space for women to develop a deep sense of trust, love and connection within their bodies. We may also inspire women to become educated about the process of birth and beyond; such as choosing a care provider, making informed decisions about birth, sharing active birth techniques, helping to navigate physical complications such as sciatic pain and breech babies as well as preparing for life beyond the birth of their baby.
So what makes PreNatal Yoga so powerful and how can you be an awesome at it?
1. Build TRUST and belief
The yoga postures themselves are a small part of the whole experience. By incorporating pelvic floor awareness, active birth positions, relaxation and visualisation techniques for birth, using sound and understanding the process of surrender you are without a doubt going to make a positive impact on their birth experience whether it is a vaginal birth or a Caesarean birth, by their birth plan or not.
There are many teachers who train to become PreNatal Specialists, but do not bother to share all this important information with their students!? If you want to stand out and truly specialise, then offer your pregnant students the WHOLE package. And if you're not sure how to do this, find a mentor or experienced prenatal teacher who can provide guidance.
2. Create a Community
Women today are giving birth without family near by or even in the same country. At the beginning of each class include introductions so everyone can say hello and who they are. Classes also include time to discuss, chat and share as well as partner work to connect and support each other physically. Over the years, many friendships have been formed from attending pregnancy yoga classes and many times will these women be back on their 2nd, 3rd (and hey, even fourth) pregnancy together.
3. Explore both Effort + Surrender
Bringing a baby into the world requires a great amount of effort as well as the ability to totally let go and make space - both mentally AND physically. As a teacher it is our job to create a class that cultivates a balance of effort and surrender in a way that students can not only experience it in their body physically but teaching it in such a way that it becomes ingrained, not just in their muscles but also in the brain. Most students in your class are likely to be beginners, pregnancy is not a time to push or be forceful, so be mindful to offer a variety of classes that are more gentle in nature, but include postures that build strength and stir sensation balanced by some that encourage deep rest - all of which are anchored by an awareness of the breath. Rising levels of the hormone relaxin can cause muscles, ligaments, tendons, and joints to soften and relax more so teachers should demonstrate a gentle midrange variation of postures so that students avoid over stretching.
4. Encourage SUPPORT
PROPS in a prenatal yoga class are PARAMOUNT, and while they don't have to be expensive, they should be plentiful! A small amount of comfort in a pregnancy class goes a long way, using props not only provides support but can help to enhance the benefit of the posture and sometimes make more space for mum and baby! The use of physical props in class can also provide a discussion point for how important SUPPORT can be before, during and AFTER your birth.
4. Move Intuitively and With Repetition
The nature of women's bodies during birth is one of intuitive movement - small movements such as swaying and rocking to facilitate space interspersed with brief periods of rest. Rather than offering a class of just static holds, allow for movement that embraces the feminine: fluid, water like movements that can easily wrap around the breath. Keep it simple, repeat these types of movements often so that the students become familiar enough that they will naturally gravitate towards them throughout their pregnancy and during their birth; maintaining movement during labour can provide relief from the strong sensations of contractions. Encourage women to listen to their bodies, rather than pushing through or trying keeping up, allow space for them to acknowledge discomfort or pain and to speak up or seek an alternative option. Teachers should learn to adapt the practice as the students' pregnancy's progress; making modifications and providing variations for a variety of different bodies. Most women should ideally practice throughout their whole pregnancy, so provide the support for them to progress safely.
5. Smile, Laugh + Share
Let's face it, the prospect of growing and giving birth to another human (or two) can be pretty scary, so infuse your classes with a little bit of laughter! When we laugh and smile, our bodies naturally relax. Becoming a mother isn't all serious business, so encourage students to embrace their inner child and practice playful postures. Provide random fun facts (check these first though) about pregnancy and birth - not only will this encourage women to relax in class, talking about birth can help to normalise the experience of it for many women, which after all has been happening for quite some time now!
6. Be YOU!
What makes a yoga teacher great is their ability to embrace their own unique offering...your students turn up to see YOU, so make your time together valuable. Teach in such a way that it feels as though you're having a conversation with each and every person in that room - regardless of whether there are 5 students or 20! Use positive and encouraging language and remember to reinforce the many benefits of yoga - that it's just as beneficial (if not more so) for mothers as they transition into motherhood during those first few weeks, months and years, it can continue to provide an anchor for ALL women before, during and sometimes way way way after pregnancy.
I can honestly say that I have loved each and every pregnancy yoga class I have ever taught, there is an energetic quality like no other when women join together to laugh, support and share.
For more information about how to become an AWESOME pregnancy yoga teacher, visit Bloom's Pre-Natal Yoga Teacher Training page here and check out our prospectus.
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