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What pregnancy yoga can teach us about motherhood

Mon 2nd March, 2020

Reviewed by: Dr. Vamsee Thalluri

There are very few things that are dignified about pregnancy.

You throw up. You cry a lot. Everything aches and you get carpal tunnel. Your ankles swell and you need to pee all the time and you become clumsier as you adjust to the change in your centre of gravity.

As a 13-weeks pregnant mum-to-be looking for relief, I waddled into my first pregnancy yoga class hoping that the gentle stretches and deep breathing techniques might help.

A welcoming and relaxed space, the yoga studio was where I met many of the women who went on to become my closest ‘mum friends’.

The physical benefits of practicing yoga during pregnancy are well known. Under the guidance of an experienced practitioner, regular pregnancy yoga offers a safe way to strengthen your body and provide additional support for the weight of your growing baby bump.

I had also discovered, during the many hours I’d spent scrolling online parenting forums, that pregnancy yoga could lead to ​better sleep​ and ​reduced anxiety​.

But there are less quantifiable benefits of pregnancy yoga that are equally important, like the friendships and sense of community that can develop in class.

A welcoming and relaxed space, the yoga studio was where I met many of the women who went on to become my closest ‘mum friends’.

I went to yoga every week throughout my second and third trimesters and can recall almost none of the specific exercises we were asked to undertake. I have a vague memory of something called Warrior Pose, which involved quite a bit of giggling and farting, but beyond that the details have been lost to time. Instead, I remember an overwhelming feeling of calm that stayed with me for days afterwards.

Many of us were young, first-time mothers, full of anxiety about the many unknowns that lay ahead of us.

We wanted to know how much car parking cost at the out-of-town hospital, whether our bizarre food cravings would wear off soon, and what the best moisturiser was for avoiding stretch marks. We compared notes on which of the community midwives were most caring, and I encouraged everyone to seek out the kindly Irish woman whose supervision I was under because she always took a moment to warm the ultrasound wand before she pressed it to my belly.

Sometimes, we speculated about how far beyond our due dates we might go before we were induced, and whether any of the old wives tales for bringing on contractions actually worked.

I had heard that hot curries and long walks were the way to go. A classmate who already had two children – and was therefore the voice of experience – swore by raspberry leaf tea.

Sometimes, if we were feeling especially brave, we would debate the pros and cons of the different pain-relief options we would be offered in labour.

As the weeks went on, our group grew incredibly close. For all the wealth of information about pregnancy and birth that is available from books, magazines, and websites, there is no substitute for sitting in a circle connecting with other women.

As we waited for the kettle to boil after class we would sit and massage the knots out of each other’s shoulders. When our bumps grew too big to bend down we would tie each other’s shoelaces.

We were artists and teachers and researchers and bankers. It’s likely we wouldn’t have crossed paths in any other circumstances. One woman was expecting twins and knew that she would be having a planned caesarean. Another was hoping for a home birth and came to class one week to share the news that her waterproof sheets and canister of gas and air had just been delivered.

One of our favourite things as a group was when a classmate failed to show up. “Hurrah!” we’d all say. “She must be in labour...”

After everyone in the group had given birth and started maternity leave, we continued to meet regularly – usually for a morning coffee, with our babes in arms, but occasionally in the evening over a cheese platter and wine. It was good to be reminded that we were still women as well as mothers. We supported each other through breastfeeding and postnatal depression, commiserated about the sleepless nights, and reassured each other that our new babies were hitting all the appropriate developmental milestones.

Many of us have now moved on from the city where we first met and are spread not just across countries but continents too – but we continue to keep in touch and watch each other’s children grow on social media.

Occasionally, someone will start reminiscing in the group chat: “Can’t believe it’s so many years since those yoga classes.”

And someone else will chime in: “I know... how good were those biscuits?”