During the week I met with the ever so lovely Vanessa Mitchell from Bring It On Baby, an antenatal education business she runs with her midwife sister Kate. While Kate takes care of the birth, Vanessa prepares women for the exciting and sometimes anxiety ridden experience of pregnancy and labour. Vanessa does this through yoga.
Working in Marketing for 17 years, in the Fast-Moving Consumer Goods (FMCS) sector as an International Marketing Manager for hair and beauty, she started doing yoga to calm the stress that was surfacing in her job. Recognising the holistic life benefits once she started practicing yoga, she decided to study this ancient Indian practice so around 12 years ago became a Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT) with Yoga Alliance® Australia. Specialising in hatha and vinyasa, Vanessa is now a certified pre-natal yoga instructor which is my main focus in this week’s blog.
I don’t know about you but when I think of yoga and the benefits of staying in a downward dog for 5 minutes, I think of flexibility, strength, heavy breathing, flatulence (you know I’m right!), the feeling of being ‘zen’ after the hour is done and depending on the class attended, that lovely hot herbal tea at the end.
But to Vanessa, yoga has a more important benefit. Yes it is all of the above but it is the connection within yourself - the chance to come back to our true essence that is the real life changer. In today’s world, we focus on so many external things, there is a constant call for output and the ongoing giving to others of our time and energy and we forget to give time for our self. Yoga gives us the opportunity to pause and reset and from this centred place we learn to change our reactionary habits and come back to what nourishes and serves us.
Then of course, there is the physical health benefits of yoga - calming of the body by aligning breath with body movementresults in lowering blood pressure, regulation of the Central Nervous System (CNS) and the switching on of the relaxation response. Yoga promotes strength, flexibility and balance, and the healthy “take-away” – no not food – of changing behaviours off the mat. When we feel frustrated or uncomfortable in a pose we pause breathe and reset, this becomes a new way to face stressful and uncomfortable situations in life.
So how does Vanessa extend these benefits to expectant mothers? A prenatal yoga practice provides all the physical strengthening and toning benefits of a regular practice while also promoting a beautiful way for mothers to make a connection with their growing babies and tune into their own body wisdom. Vanessa connects with each mother before her class to get an insight on how they are feeling physically andemotionally. We may become fearful of what is coming ahead, especiallyfor first time mothers, Vanessa guides women through this fear andinstills confidence in their ability to nourish, grow and birth their baby naturally.
With any exercise practice, there are do’s and don’ts so here is what expectant mother should avoid in their yoga practice:
* Deep twists – seated open twists are great for opening the upper thoracic and shoulders, however closed twists are a no-no
* Lying on your stomach
* Inversion positions (headstands, handstands, supported shoulder stand – these positions are for experienced yogis and you may be at risk of falling)
* Lying on your back - this can compress the vena cava a large vein in the back. Since this vein transports blood from the lower part of the body to the heart, best to lie on the left side with a towel under the right hip.
Lastly, there is a style of yoga around town commonly known as Bikram, or Hot Yoga. Some yoga loving woman enjoy this style. When pregnant a heated practice should be avoided. Although a woman is aware of her own body temperature, they are not certain of their baby’s and cannot regulate it as easily as their own so it is highly suggested that they turn to a different style for the term of their pregnancy.
It is always recommended that Medical Clearance should be given when starting a prenatal yoga practice, as a general rule per say, it is best not to practice yoga for the first trimester of your pregnancy (ie. first 12 weeks)
Is yoga for anyone?
Absolutely! There are many forms of Yoga however for people starting out, Vanessa suggests a beginners, or Essentials, class so you can learn the fundamentals and breathing techniques. Then try different forms until you find your groove and teachers you connect with.
Pregnancy is a wonderful experience that can be made even more enjoyable when yoga is built into your weekly routine. In saying that, it doesn’t have to stop after you have given birth. Vanessa guides post-natal yoga classes where you strengthen your pelvic floor and reconnect with your body. This can be done with your newborn or not.
Although Vanessa’s yoga classes are predominately for expectant mothers, partners are invited to attend their antenatal birthing classes where they learn about providing a calm and safe environment for their partner to birth. A partner supported birth is calmer and often moves more efficiently - they teach partner involvement through acupressure, pre-natal massage therapies, supported yoga positions, partner breath work and birthing positions; natural pain relief techniques that soothe and centre the birthing mum.
If you are 30 weeks pregnat, or more, their 4 hour birthing workshops are a great way to educate and prepare couples for birth. These workshops offer the most practical and pertinent information to prepare expectant mothers and their partner on labour, birth and early parenting. The next one-day workshop is Sunday 6 December 2015 in Bondi Junction between 9am and 1pm. If your baby is due next year you can check out the 2016 dates here.
It is important for our bodies to be taken care of and this includes some flexibility into our weekly routine. Yoga is the perfect form of exercise (to tone and strengthen) and meditation (to calm the mind). Try it out, but don’t just stop at one class, try different forms to see which one your mind and body gets the most benefit from.
Stay Active in the Season you are in
PS. Dried fruits are a great way to preserve nutrients. Throw in some nuts and you have a Fruit and Nut Loaf. Toast it and a spread raw honey on top and oh my goodness – such deliciousness!
Recipe by FoodFixUp
Photo by Tara Jayne