There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t pass at least 20 people walking down the street in yoga gear, carrying their mats. And let’s not even discuss my instagram feed, which is full of yogi’s in gorgeous poses or on retreats, pushing their physical selves in ways I only dream of. Did I also mention that at least 10 of my friends are yoga instructors? As is my sister-in-law. Let’s just say I am constantly reminded of how I should be practicing more since I know deep down the physical and mental health benefits are immeasurable, especially during this time! With that being said, I did kick off my pregnancy practicing with my friend and teacher, Mika Oakes, but it’s been tough to keep up with. The truth of the matter is that working on my feet all day styling with clients doesn’t leave me with much energy for exercise. I know. Excuses, excuses!
Either way, I think about my practice, or non-practice ALL THE TIME! Prenatal yoga has countless benefits for expecting women, and while I myself have not been the best student over the last 29 weeks, I’m sure there are plenty of you who are way more disciplined than me. That said, I sat down with Mika and picked her brain about why prenatal yoga is so good for us, and to discuss all of the health benefits for mama and babe. I wanted her to lay it all out, answer all of our lingering questions and ensure we are practicing safely! Mika is a certified prenatal yoga instructor who teaches privately in the NYC area, and holds regular scheduled classes at Kula Williamsburg, Pure and Greenhouse Holistic. Head over to Mika’s site to check out her current class schedule, and be sure to schedule your one-on-one session! You will not be disappointed!
YOUR SOUL STYLE: Why should I do prenatal yoga?
MIKA OAKES: Prenatal yoga is an amazing form of movement during pregnancy. It can feel like a gentler approach to staying active while pregnant, and also offers a sense of community when you are practicing alongside other pregnant mamas. It is also a great way for a woman to familiarize herself with breath work and breathing in general, as these are important tools that come in handy during labor and birth.
YSS: What are some of the benefits of prenatal yoga?
Mika: It enhances strength and flexibility, promotes circulation and assists with neck and back pain that may occur due to extra weight gain. Prenatal yoga also helps quite a bit with breath and a woman’s relationship to her own breath. Breathing is one of the largest components to labor and birth.
YSS: If I’ve never done yoga before, can I start when pregnant?
Mika: Yes absolutely. For a woman that has never practiced yoga before pregnancy, it’s more important to stick to a prenatal practice (as opposed to taking a regular yoga class and modifying as one with an existing practice might do.) There are poses and breathing exercises that are contraindicated when pregnant, and every single pose offered in a prenatal class is not only okay to practice while pregnant, but also super beneficial. Prenatal yoga tends to move a bit slower, which is good for a beginner. One might also want to consult with their doctor before taking a yoga class having never practiced any form of yoga before.
YSS: Will it help me prepare for birth?
Mika: Yes! Breath for one and in most classes teachers will talk about releasing the pelvic floor, connecting with your baby and calming the mind. All useful during labor and birth.
YSS: How often should I be practicing?
Mika: As often as you feel like practicing is how often you should practice!
YSS: Should I worry about hurting the baby?
Mika: Prenatal yoga is a safe environment for a pregnant woman to be practicing in. With that being said, it is also an intuitive practice. Even if a teacher is offering a pose that is safe to practice, if it doesn’t feel right in your body, then it probably isn’t.
YSS: Can I practice all the way into my 9th month?
YSS: What can’t I do in prenatal yoga that I can do in my regular practice?
Mika: Poses that are contraindicated when pregnant are; belly lying, deep twists, deep backbends, most abdominal/core work and any sort of breath retention. It is also recommended that after 21 weeks, savasana (final rest) is taken supported by bolsters or via side-lying instead of on the back. Poses that are subject to individual modification based on previous level of experience are; inversions, arm balances and jumping through transitions in sun salutations.
YSS: What are 3 common pregnancy related discomforts that you hear about in your practice?
Mika: Lower back pain and sciatica, neck pain and aching joints.
YSS: What are the top 3 most beneficial poses to do regularly during pregnancy?
Mika: 1. Cat/cow are great poses as they help free up tightness in the pelvis and hips, and also help promote optimal fetal positioning. 2. Down dog is a great pose overall because it gets the whole body stretching at once. 3. Squatting is gravity’s best form of helping to open the pelvic floor, while simultaneously strengthening the legs.
YSS: What would be your number 1 rule of prenatal yoga?
Mika: Pregnancy is such an amazing time in a woman’s life. Like anything she does while pregnant, the most important aspect of prenatal yoga is to listen to your body and honor what it needs. That goes for exercise, food, sleep, etc. Your body knows whats best for you and your baby.