Sanga Yoga | Yoga to prepare for birth and beyond
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Yoga to prepare for birth and beyond

I met up with Theresa, our main prenatal yoga teacher and one of the co-founders behind Sanga Yoga, to talk about pregnancy yoga, her classes, and the upcoming December mini course. Theresa has practiced yoga for nearly 20 years, and is a certified yoga teacher in Samayoga, a hatha-based Chinese elements-infused yoga style, as well as additionally trained in Embodied Yin/Yang and Embodied Mama style yoga.

Me: Can you tell me a bit more about your classes?

Theresa: During my classes I want my students to gain an understanding of how direct the connection between breathing and relaxing the body is. There are different aspects of the benefits of breathing. One is the mental and spiritual aspect; we can find our center and get back to the present moment in times when we feel worried or get lost in thoughts or emotions – before, during, and after pregnancy. It helps us cultivate a stronger bond with our baby and reconnect to our inner sense of strength and female wisdom. Another aspect is the physical one; breathing techniques that are focused on pregnancy and giving birth can be of great help during labour. I practiced a technique called ‘hypnobirthing’ during my pregnancy and labour, and often use that as inspiration in my classes.

Creating a safe space for the students

The difference between pregnancy yoga and ”regular” yoga is that during pregnancy yoga you meet a teacher who is trained to adapt the yoga class to the physical, mental, and spiritual needs of a pregnancy. The teacher has gained knowledge on how to create a safe space for someone who is pregnant.

Me: What if I have never practiced yoga before?

Theresa: Everyone is welcome! You don’t need any previous experience at all. In almost all poses and flows we use props for support. The focus is to strengthen, soften and support the body and mind during pregnancy, and to prepare yourself for what’s to come during birth and afterwards. My yoga classes are soft flow-based, layered, and accepting. We always move gently and safely in and between poses. As a mother, I know what it means to give birth, and also what it means to prepare body and mind through yoga and breathing for pregnancy, labour and the precious time afterwards, and my aim is to always hold space for all levels, emotions, stages and life journeys.

Theresa Harmanen prenatal teacher
Theresa often finds inspiration for her classes in nature. (Photo credit: Cenk Aytekin)

Leaning into softness

Today, it is quite common to take part in classes, lectures, and other birth prepping offerings where you live as a way to feel more ready for labour. More and more yoga studios offer prenatal / pregnancy yoga on their schedule, and more women are aware of the benefits of a regular yoga practice during this special time.

Me: Is it really possible to prepare yourself for the birth experience?

Theresa: Yes and no! That’s why pregnancy yoga is so beautiful. I work a lot with finding your center and your strength through the power of our breath. Through all situations, we can find our inner calm and acceptance. Accepting that some parts are yours to influence and positively affect, and some are perhaps not. For instance, using the connection to your breath that you’ve cultivated in your pregnancy to remain calm, open, and curious to the ride.

In my classes, the breath is strongly connected to movements, so during a class I’d like to say that we move in meditation. Leaning into softness, and finding strength from that. We learn how to always find the breath-body connection and through a regular practice during your pregnancy this can actually become like second nature during labour. The breath helps your body to relax, to soften and open up, which helps your baby move further down the birth canal and create the right conditions for an easier birth. Amazing right?

The fourth trimester

When you look at the whole timeline of conception, carrying your baby, giving birth and then starting a whole new life together, the actual labour process is quite short. That’s why Sanga Yoga finds it important to talk about and also prepare for the so called ‘fourth trimester’. The fourth trimester is the period that starts from the moment your baby is born and until 12 weeks after birth. Theresa says more:

“This time is very special – a time when your baby is adapting to a new world outside of the womb and you as a mother are adapting to a whole new phase in your life.”

Newborn baby
Photo credit: Alex Pasarelu, unsplash.com

Me: Why is the fourth trimester important?

Theresa: This time is very special: a time when your baby is adapting to a new world outside of the womb and you as a mother are adapting to a whole new phase in your life. We need to acknowledge the birth of the mother as well. It’s a time of transition, vulnerability and a loooot of feelings. A period of massive change. I think it’s important to speak more about this phase, and to allow new mothers to just be there with their new family member, their new body and all the feelings, thoughts and fears that may follow after a birth. We need to speak more about it to create acceptance around taking your time with everything and not rushing back to life as it was before.

When during pregnancy can I start doing yoga?

Unless your doctor has advised you otherwise, it’s generally safe to practice yoga throughout your entire pregnancy. However, yoga teachers often recommend new yoga students to wait until the second trimester before starting. Many of us have heard about waiting to announce the pregnancy to friends and family until the end of the first trimester, but I was curious to hear more about how this relates to yoga:

Me: Why do you recommend students to wait until the second trimester?

Theresa: This is because you’re in a very sensitive state in the beginning of your pregnancy, and during that phase you should be careful with any movement practices that you’ve never done before. But if you’ve practiced yoga before and are used to listen in to what your body is telling you, you can start even in your first trimester as long as you attend a class adapted to pregnancy. Make sure to have an open communication with your teacher about what stage you are in, and your individual needs during this time. This way, we as teachers can help you adapt your yoga practice to your unique pregnancy journey.

Still time to join the December mini-course!

The new mini pregnancy yoga course starts on Wednesday the 4th of December, and will run for three consecutive Wednesdays. Each class will be 75 minutes, and the focus will be on preparing for birth and the very special time after birth, ‘the fourth trimester’. Some spots are still open, more info in the black box below!

We are also opening up for private students starting from December: a great way to get individual guidance to cultivate your home practice. Check out our social media channels and newsletter for more updates on that!

For more info on the December pregnancy yoga course as well as our 2020 yoga course schedule, check the sangayoganorway facebook page or the booking page on Sanga Yoga’s website.

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