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Calgary Iyengar Yoga recently welcomed its newest yogi, Leo Alexander. His mother, Deanna Oliphant tells us about pregnancy and her yoga.
1. Did you find that your yoga changed with pregnancy?
Absolutely! I introduced modifications along the way for each trimester. The most common and general action I kept in mind during the pregnancy was how to bring length and openness to each asana I was in. For the first time in my practice, I felt work happening with the inner body as well as the outer body, which was a really interesting experience.
2. Were there asanas you set aside? Different ones you incorporated? Different approaches?
To my dismay (!) I set aside all abdominal strengthening asanas, along with jumpings. I had to find alternative ways to energize my practice and my body/mind. Often, I would begin my practice with a quick restorative asana – Savasana 2, Supta Baddha Konasana, Supta Virasana, etc., and take a variation where I could allow myself to fall asleep briefly. I found this gave me a bit of ‘pep’ before I began practice since I was pretty fatigued in the first and third trimesters. In the second trimester I had quite a bit of energy and felt quite well, so practising during this trimester was the most similar to my practice pre-pregnancy.
As I entered into the mid-part of the third trimester, the practice changed quite a bit. I used lots of support, focusing on opening the pelvis and opening the chest as breathing became difficult due to the compression of the diaphragm. I think I learned the most about prop use and supports in the third trimester!
3. How did your practice evolve through the course of your pregnancy?
In the first trimester, I was practising with more caution and curiosity. As I progressed into the second trimester, I gained more confidence and became more receptive to practice based on how I felt and the changes of my body and emotions. The third trimester practice was based on necessity and capability due to the extra weight. I was fortunate to be able to practise Sirsasana and Sarvangasana variations until quite late in the third trimester. These asanas helped bring a sense of normalcy and, dare I say, grace to the experience of being in this trimester!
4. Did practice help with morning sickness or fatigue?
I was fortunate to not experience too much nausea during the pregnancy. I did experience deep fatigue at times during the first and third trimesters and would take restorative/supine asanas (Viparita Karani was a go-to and especially helpful with swelling/pressure in the legs and feet) to help. Also, don’t underestimate a good ol’ nap during the day! That was definitely a necessity some days!
5. What has your continued practice brought for you during pregnancy (calm? serenity? ability to adapt to your changing body without or with less physical strain?)?
Beyond the physical benefits of maintaining strength, stamina, flexibility, etc., the continued practice really gave me a sense of courage, grounding and a connection to myself and the baby. I learned a deeper layer of the subject, experiencing physiological changes and exploring ways to access these changes with supports in a completely different way than pre-pregnancy.
6. Did you have guidance, from a teacher or a book, or did you simply follow your instincts to adapt your practice?
All of the above! The main source of guidance came from Corine Biria. I was lucky enough to take classes with her both before and during pregnancy. I have a deep respect for the depth of her teaching and knowledge of not only how to practise during pregnancy, but also her knowledge of the practice in general. I also received guidance from the teachers with whom I attended workshops and retreats: Jawahar Bangera, Eyal Shifroni, Marlene Mawhinney, Marlene Miller, Ty Chandler and Sharoni Fixler. We are blessed to have such a supportive and knowledgeable Iyengar yoga community. And of course, guidance from the source… books written by Geeta Iyengar were my go-to references:
- Iyengar Yoga for Motherhood: Safe Practice for Expectant New Mothers by Geeta S. Iyengar, Rita Keller, Kerstin Khattab, Dominik Ketz (Photographs), B.K.S. Iyengar (Foreword)
- Yoga: a Gem for Women by Geeta S. Iyengar
I’ve been taking it very easy in the practice department since giving birth and have only been taking Savasana 2 with a little Pranayama (mainly Ujjayi). Due to a c-section, it was recommended to wait at least eight weeks before starting a gentle practice.
Deanna Oliphant is a Certified Iyengar Yoga Teacher, and co-director at Calgary Iyengar Yoga.