I had never taken a yoga class in my life before I was pregnant. I honestly didn't think I had the disposition for it — I wasn't "bendy" or "zen," and I was either going to do cardio or nothing at all. When a friend of mine suggested a prenatal yoga class, I was a sceptical, but pregnancy has a way of making us do things out of the ordinary, so I decided to give it a try. Not knowing the basics of yoga, I felt hesitant walking into my first class, only to find out that I didn't need to feel that way at all. There were other mamas-to-be at varying stages of pregnancy and varying stages of yoga experience. Individually, we were embarking on a practice of the mind and body that would get us ready for the throes of labour and the endeavour of motherhood. Together, we were embarking on a journey towards friendship that some of us would continue once our babies were born and beyond.
Class was a combination of empowerment, focus, and calm that was oh-so-necessary during this phase of my life. Every Wednesday, I would look forward to the sacred time to focus on myself and on the budding babe in my belly. Our instructor would profess affirmations for our pregnancies and would teach us about labour and delivery in a way that made us feel like warrior-posing-baby-delivering champions. We focussed on stretches and poses that would build strength, stamina, and flexibility in parts of the body I didn't even know I would need for labour. By the end of each class, I would feel like I had challenged myself at just the right level, whether I was in my first trimester or waddling through my third. Heading home, I would feel confident about braving the rest of my pregnancy and courageous about facing labour and delivery.
I initially anticipated yoga being a lone undertaking; however, my favourite part of the experience was the chance to bond with other moms-to-be. Each week, before class would start, we would excitedly chit chat about the latest developments in our pregnancies and compassionately empathize when a mama was going through a particularly trying time. After class, we would follow up with more talk of expectations of motherhood and dreams of our babies growing up to be friends. About halfway through my second trimester, my friendships within a smaller group began to deepen. Our little ones were all due around the same time, so we endured similar stages of pregnancy together. Our dream of our babies growing up to be friends has actually become a reality. We still get together, now that we have rambunctious toddlers. These little ones know they have a special bond — they've been friends since asana in the womb!
I was so grateful for my yoga experience once my water broke and the contractions set in. Giving birth was a whirlwind experience where so much of the mindset I developed in class came into play. The breathing, the affirmations, and the movements helped me get through a natural childbirth. I can't discount the sense of community I built in class, either. Two of my friends were in labour at the same time. One friend was at the same hospital as I was. The other delivered her daughter at a hospital across town, but with the help of the same doctor, and our daughters were born an hour apart! That doctor sure had a busy night, and our friend group got to share in the adventure together.
As a mom, I now try to tap into that calm confidence I cultivated in my prenatal yoga class, both when making parenting decisions and when modelling certain traits for my little girl. I've taken her to yoga classes for babies and toddlers, and she is thoroughly entertained, engaged, and empowered. So often she'll yell, "Mommy, look!" just for me to admire her tree pose or downward facing dog. I am looking forward to picking up my yoga mat again when I am pregnant with my next, and next time I'll have my toddler in tow, whether I'm practicing at home or at a studio.
I remember asking myself, "What could all of that bending and stretching possibly do for me?" It ended up being a game changer, physically preparing me for childbirth and mentally preparing me for motherhood.