OK second video attempt and slightly more natural this time! This is my practice at 32 weeks pregnant - a little flow I am doing most mornings to (try to!) encourage bubs to be in an optimal position for birth. At the moment, bubs is breech, so I am trying to lengthen through the muscles of my hips, pelvis and abdomen to give bubs some extra space and encourage movement. I am also practising a few gentle inversions making use of gravity to help bub flip into the head down position (only attempt these if you are an experienced yogi. If new to yoga, please seek assistance from your prenatal yoga teacher).
When pregnant, strong backbends are contraindicated. As the pregnancy progresses, the lordotic curve (inwards curve) of the lumbar spine becomes exaggerated due to the increased weight of bubs in the belly. If we then add a backbend to this already compressed lumbar spine, we could run the risk of spinal injury, vertebrae or disc damage.
Additionally, it is also integral to engage the core in all of our backbends to ensure proper pelvic and lumbar spine alignment. However, when pregnant, we are trying to avoid compressing the abdominal region where the baby is growing so it would be unsafe to attempt any strong backbends.
However, there are a few lovely backbends that are safe during pregnancy and ones which I tend to modify with. I have demonstrated these below:
Bitilasana (Cow Pose)
This is a great option for any prone asana (lying on the tummy) such as Salabhasana (Locust Pose), Urdvha Mukha Svanasana (Upward Facing Dog) or Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose) etc. Here we try to open through the chest by bringing the gaze upwards and opening the chest forwards between the upper arms. Usually, we would dip the spine toward the mat, however, this could cause hyperextension in the lumbar spine region so it is safest to try to maintain a flat lumbar spine and neutral pelvis here. It's also a good idea to try to relax through the rectus abdominus (our ‘six-pack’ muscles in the front of the abdomen) and try to focus on gentle engagement of the side abdominals (transverse abdominis and obliques) instead.
Ustrasana (Camel Pose) Variation
Here we still get the benefit of opening through the chest and front upper body but without compromising the lumbar spine and over engaging the rectus abdominis. If you feel comfortable the head can be released backwards for the cervical spine extension opening through the neck and massaging endocrine glands located in the neck.
Salambar Supta Baddha Konasana (Supported Reclined Bound Angle Pose)
Here, there is a gentle yet supported and restorative backbend with the added bonus of a hip opener. Hip openers are a great way to prepare the body and pelvis for labour and birth. This pose also opens through the chest and front of the shoulders which helps to counteract the common hunching posture we gain when working at a desk, driving, lifting kids etc. This chest opening and posture is also very important postnatally when there may be a lot of upper body endurance needed when picking up bub, breastfeeding, hunching to change nappies etc.
Salambar Matsyasana (Supported Fish Pose)
This is a little stronger on the lumbar spine and could be uncomfortable late in pregnancy due to the reclined position (2 bolsters in a T-shape would be more appropriate for the 3rd trimester) but is a lovely alternative to a regular Fish Pose. Here we are safely extending the spine with that added support of the bolster. Be careful when coming out of this pose, ensuring we roll to one side and then use the arms to support the body to sit up, rather than using the abdominals to sit up immediately from lying down - a good one to remember when getting out of bed in the morning as well!
So if you are pregnant but still want to explore that extension in the spine and some of the benefits of backbends, give these alternatives a whirl!
A few months back, I completed an extra 30 hours of training to be qualified to teach Prenatal Yoga. Whilst my training at Moksha included a whole module on prenatal modifications, this just further solidified my already thorough understanding of the female anatomy, nervous system and the effects that yoga techniques can have on a pregnant body both during pregnancy and birth. This combined with my Calm Birth knowledge, I feel so well equipped and ready to share and help other pregnant ladies with the challenges and intensity of:
1. the thought of becoming a mother
2. actually becoming a mother, and,
3. the challenges that may come after becoming a mother
And who better to learn prenatal yoga from than a pregnant teacher! I feel I have left my run a little late to try to gain specific prenatal classes in a Yoga studio, but for now, I can cover classes and use my knowledge in my own practice.
Here is my first attempt at a video - my Surya Namaskar A practice at 20 weeks pregnant, complete with prenatal modifications. I recorded this for anyone that is pregnant but feels attending a prenatal yoga class is a little premature. If you are comfortable practising in a vinyasa flow class, these are the modifications I make to my Surya Namaskar (a.k.a Sun Salutation).
We were recently in the Gold Coast, Queensland which I thought would be a beautiful backdrop (which it is!) but didn’t really think through attempting a Surya Namaskar on a short towel, on the uneven sand whilst trying not to engage my core too much. It was also a little off-putting having my 2.5-year-old shouting “MUMMYYYYYYY, WHAT ARE YOU DOING!!!!!” in the background but hey, that’s a mum life for you. (Don’t worry, he’s been dubbed over with some pleasant music for your enjoyment)
It was an enlightening experience actually watching myself do yoga, one of those ones you cringe as you peep between the fingers covering your eyes - much like a horror movie. So many things I would change if I was to do it again however Original Silence is all about authenticity so this is it! Enjoy.
Music credit: The Yoga of Dance by galacticwind
Following on from my previous post, I am now 23 weeks pregnant and absolutely loving every moment of my pregnancy. As I navigated through the conflicting emotions around excitement of pregnancy yet loss of control of my yoga teaching path in those early weeks, I have found it has opened my path up in new ways. Some would argue, perhaps paths I need to travel to become a more humble and truly authentic yoga teacher? The very foundations of Original Silence.
A reminder of the seed that grew the flower
It has reminded me of the reasoning behind why I originally endeavoured to become a yoga teacher. It was to share my passion for birth and yoga and to become a prenatal yoga teacher. When I was 28 weeks pregnant with Master N, my husband and I took a weekend course in an approach to birthing called “Calm Birth”. This was life changing for us (and I mean us!). It taught us techniques that we could use for the birth but also just dealing with the challenges of life in general. It was an eye-opening experience and one that gave me such a thorough understanding of birth and the how the body works. I had a beautiful birth using these tools and one which has ignited a passion for pregnancy, birth and the mind/body connection.
Through the techniques I have learnt from Calm Birth as well as the wealth of knowledge from my yoga teacher training, I really feel I can help other mums-to-be through their pregnancy. To help those that are perhaps experiencing fear or anxiety around the birth and labour. To share the wisdom that was shared with me, give them an understanding of the mind-body connection and how powerful this could be. And lastly to give them some practical ways of dealing with the intensity of:
1. the thought of becoming a mother
2. actually becoming a mother, and,
3. the challenges that may come after becoming a mother
So being pregnant myself now, I have now completed some extra training to be able to teach prenatal classes - my initial dream is becoming a reality! And really, who better to have as your prenatal yoga teacher than one that is actually pregnant! If that’s not dedication to the job, I don't know what is. I have taught a few classes so far and they have been great. I particularly like the long relaxation / guided meditation I lead at the end of the class. It's about 15 - 20 mins of bliss and I usually leave the class feeling just as zen as the lovely ladies in there. There is more training I would like to complete, in particular, post-natal yoga as it differs a lot from prenatal, but that will come later down the track - just one thing at a time Lauren!
It's the motivation behind the OS blog
As I obviously won't be able to start any new teaching gigs for a little while, so it has spurred me on to start writing this blog. For the next 4-5 months, it will be a great way to keep learning and sharing the different aspects of Yoga with the world - just through a different medium. To share how I am using the teachings of Yoga in my life, my pregnancy and beyond - hopefully, my community might learn a new thing or two along the way.
Changes to my teaching style - for the better
I now realise that this is such a great thing for me. It is forcing me out of my comfort zone and I feel like this whole experience will make me a better teacher in the long run.
Our training at Moksha encouraged us to teach as though our students were blind. To rely on language to cue, move and adjust the students rather than visual demonstration. One of my main criticisms during my training was that I demonstrated too much and I still do rely on this a lot when teaching, particularly beginners. When pregnant, there are a lot of yoga poses that shouldn’t be attempted, especially when demonstrating. Not only could it be uncomfortable and disrupt the flow of energy around bub, but it would be difficult to demonstrate correct alignment and positioning in some poses - the cardinal sin of being a yoga teacher.
On realising this, it has caused me to change my teaching style dramatically. It is teaching me to express and guide the class using creative language and also to play around with cues until I find one that resonates with my students. It's proving to be an interesting and mindful process. It is forcing me out of my own head when teaching and to really connect with my students much more.
Onwards and upwards!
So there you have it, I feel like the background to the how and why of Original Silence is finally established. Now on to sharing more in-depth info on all things YOGA!
After graduating from an intense year of studying all fresh-faced and keen to start my new career as a yoga teacher… I celebrate by having a baby! Hooray and at the same time - Sod's law!
All joking aside, we are so excited to announce the news. We love how much richness and joy our little boy, Master N, brings to our lives. I count myself so honoured and privileged we have received the chance to do it all again. So I am now 21 weeks along, feeling great, still practising vinyasa flow yoga (with a lot of modifications) and teaching 2 classes per week.
It was planned and something we really wanted. We were obviously over the moon when we found out. In all the excitement and anticipation, I didn’t really think about the impact that this might have on my teaching journey. It is a challenge enough to get a break out there as a yoga teacher when you are freshly graduated, let alone when you also happen to be pregnant as well.
To be honest, when the limitations (yet only temporary) on my Yoga teaching career first came to fruition, I felt quite conflicted. Maybe it was all the extra hormones making me feel things that were so out of character for me, who knows? On one hand, I was so ecstatically excited and very grateful to be given the chance to bring another being into this world. But when I thought about Yoga, there was a small part of me that couldn’t help but feel a little disheartened. My teaching path was on a slight tangent for a little while.
It took me a good week or so to really make sense of these conflicted feelings and also move past the guilt for feeling them in the first place. I found guided meditations on acceptance helped things along here. I realised that with the desire, ambitious and determined parts of my personality, this naturally attracts some forms of disappointment and dissatisfaction. As morbid as it sounds, it is not. It is a natural reality of any situation. You can’t have one without the other. Much the same as having your cake and eating it! Buddha explains:
“We experience everything in terms of the Eight Worldly Concerns: gain and loss, praise and blame, pleasure and pain, happiness and unhappiness. We, of course, want gain, praise, pleasure, and happiness. But one always arrives with its opposite. One cannot be open to praise and not receive blame. One cannot experience pleasure and not feel pain. This is the nature of the reality that we know.”
As soon as I realised and accepted this I could make sense of the situation a lot more and move past it. Now I can concentrate on being wholeheartedly excited and the positives this brings to my yoga journey which I will explore in my next post - "Some exciting news! Part Two: Acceptance, Elation and Change"