Workin’ on my fitness: Prenatal Yoga

Last week, I regaled you with tales of my triumphant(?) return to running and I’ve previously promised to tell you all about how pregnancy changed my yoga practice. And then I dropped off the face of the planet. But now I’m back and ready to talk yoga.

Please Note: This is not me. It’s just a super cute tank you can get here.

A little background about me and yoga before we get started (read more here). I started doing yoga when I was in high school. Now, in southeastern Kentucky, I’m pretty sure people thought this was a little weird, but I didn’t care. I kept up the yoga (with my trusty Denise Austin video) through college and law school (albeit sporadically) and, by the time I graduated from law school and was preparing to take the bar, I had a pretty much daily practice. With some work, I’ve managed to keep that up after I started practicing law, so it’s no surprise that when I learned the happy baby news (see what I did there? It’s punny because it’s a yoga pose too.) I was concerned about how it would affect my yoga practice. Prenatal yoga has tons of benefits from promoting easier labor (I assume that’s relative) to reducing depression.  There was never any real question as to whether I would keep practicing yoga, I just wanted to be sure I was doing it safely.

Obviously, my first concern was when I needed to switch from my regular vinyasa yoga to prenatal. As it turns out, you can basically keep doing what you did before for most of the first trimester. Of course, I’m not a doctor, so if your doctor says something different listen to them. Personally, I kept up my regular practice and was extra careful to listen to what my body was telling me. If a backbend didn’t feel awesome, I didn’t do it. If a vinyasa made me lightheaded, I took a break. And, on the days I was really tired (and, trust me, there were a lot of them), I did an actual prenatal flow class with yogaglo.com.

Sometime toward the end of the first trimester, I started taking actual in-person prenatal classes with a studio in my town. I did this for a couple of reasons. First, I had pretty much exhausted the yogaglo prenatal library. More importantly, I didn’t want to be dependent on a video. I wanted to learn what I could and couldn’t do while pregnant, so I could make up my own sequences. The classes have been fabulous. I’m meeting lots of other expectant mothers, learning what they’re going through, and just generally learning new things about yoga and about myself.

So, how has my practice changed? Well, it’s actually physically changed. The yoga I do isn’t as athletic as it was before. You won’t see me in deep twists or crazy binds for awhile.

The biggest change to my practice isn’t in the type of yoga I practice or the asanas I practice. It’s in  me. I’m paying more attention to the cues my body is giving me. I’m taking breaks when I need to. I’m actively trying not to overstretch. To put it simply, I’m not pushing myself, I’m enjoying myself.

What’s your yoga story?

Are you freaking kidding me?!?

I have never, ever, in my entire life been as sore as I have been for the last two days. Seriously. I’ve actually been having problems walking. Even just sitting hurts.


And what do I have to thank for this? Yoga. Ashtanga yoga to be precise.


Ashtanga is tough. Really really really tough. It’s consists of the same poses you would do in any Hatha Yoga class. The twist is that Ashtanga uses 36 Hatha Yoga poses and requires them to be done in a certain order. Oh,  it’s really really physical. There are transitional moves (jump throughs) followed by plank, chattaranga, and downdog between every pose! I did about 42 down dogs in the hour and a half I was in the class.


So here’s my general impression: meh. It was super physical and I definitely got a good work out, but that’s not really what yoga is all about for me. The physical workout is the side benefit for me and, in at least this Ashtanga class, that was the focal point of the practice. The teacher was a sub, so I’ll probably give the class another try, before I write it off.

Christoga


Whaaa–? What’s Chirstoga?

So glad you asked. Apparently Christoga is yoga for Christians. Now maybe you’re thinking “wtf? Yoga’s not a religion. Why wouldn’t Christians be able to do “regular” yoga?” Well, check out the videos I’m going to link you to, and you’ll see that, as Pat Robertson explains, Christians can’t do yoga because the yogic mantras are Hindu and we don’t really know what they mean.

In case, you’re wondering, yes. That IS ridiculous. Yoga is not a religion and isn’t linked to any one religion. A lot of people link it to Hinduism because it originated in India, but it’s not exclusively a Hindu practice. A lot of other Eastern religions and philosophy practice yoga as a means to prepare for meditation. But that doesn’t mean that it’s a religion; yoga is a philosophy that doesn’t in any way contradict Christian tenants.

Christoga, the first video here (Pat Robertson is the second), is regular yoga. The only difference I can see is that the poses have been renamed. For example, staff pose is Moses’ staff pose. It’s a pretty fun video, so you should definitely watch it.

Anyway, I don’t know fully understand why Pat Robertson hates yoga (and having been raised Baptist, I should know), but I’m on board for Christoga if it gets more people doing yoga.

A Little Cult-ish


That’s how I felt last Saturday after my first Kundalini yoga class. Here’s a link to the Wikipedia article on this type of yoga. When you read about the Kundalini energy coiled around the base of your spine it may seem a little weird. And it was a little weird—there were students there who described themselves as addicted to this kind of yoga, there was singing, there was crying… Suffice to say it was a little weird. But it was also a little awesome.  

Actually, a lot awesome. I can’t remember feeling so great about life as I did after leaving that class. That doesn’t mean that I’m addicted, but it does mean that I would do it again.



Photo taken from barefootworks.com


You’re probably wondering how we went from yoga to singing and crying… and that’s a valid question.

This is how the class/workshop went: We started off with a brief history of Kundalini yoga—and I learned some pretty cool things, like all the teachers traditionally wear all white. Then we actually started the practice. The class began with a chant (love love love chanting!) and instruction on how to do breath of fire. We then did some movement and this is where Kundalini is really different from hatha yoga. Instead of flowing through several different poses and linking them with breath, the practice is holding one pose for an extended period of time while breathing and meditating. This sounds similar to yin yoga, but its really not—it’s a lot more intense and a lot less focused on the lower body. And each set of poses (you do one set per class) is intended to help with one area (like digestion). Between poses, you take an extended child’s pose and then start the next.

At the end of class, instead of savasana, we did an 11 minute overcoming obstacles meditation—this consisted of us sitting in sukasana with our arms extended, bent, and doing peace signs—towards the end of the mediation we chanted again. After the meditation, we sang, (here’s where it got a little too crunchy for my hippie self), looked at our fellow classmates in the eye, came into a circle, held hands, hugged, and sang in a swaying circle. And yes, people were crying. No, I was not one of those people. In fact, I was a little uncomfortable here—I was having flashbacks to college sorority events, when I was usually the only person at any given event not crying. It’s not that I’m not an emotional person (some people might disagree), it’s that I think my emotions are too personal to share with complete strangers. So the fact that I was a little uncomfortable with the crying doesn’t mean that I don’t think it was an emotional experience—It was, I felt really happy and connected after class—my discomfort just means I don’t think one needs to cry in public.

I should point at that during this entire class, I was wondering about liability for injuries in this type of yoga. I guess that the lawyer in me talking, but in most yoga classes, the teachers tell you to listen to your body and to not push into pain. In this class, the teacher (who really did a great job) was telling us to not listen to our bodies, that our bodies were trying to trick our minds and that we really weren’t in pain. Not to get all lawyer-ey, but what are the liability implications? Do you accept the risk of injury by proceeding in pain or has the teacher torted you by instructing you to do something painful?

Despite all my issues (both legal and personal) with this class, I really liked it and I would definitely do it again. I don’t really think it’s a cult-ey class or addictive, but it does have a very new agey vibe. So if you’re not open minded about snakes of energy coiled around the base of your spine or the teachers clothing affecting electromagnetic fields, maybe this isn’t for you. But I suggest getting in touch with your hippie side and giving it a try.

Me demonstrating the overcoming obstacles meditation.

What’s your yoga style?

I just found this quiz at yoga journal.com. It’s a what’s-style-of-yoga-is right-for-you quiz. I like to try all different kinda of classes but ultimately love vinyasa. If you don’t want to try lots of different things or of you just want to have some fun, give the quiz a try.

In other news, I’ll be back to my normal posting schedule soon. So expect a flood of updates!

What’s this yin yoga thing anyway?

I talk about yin yoga a lot, but I don’t know that I’ve ever actually described what it is. Here’s a link to a yoga journal article that does a good job explaining it. If you don’t feel like linking over for some reason (like you’re on your very ancient work computer that barely has enough RAM to open a web browser), here’s a quick summary: Yin Yoga is a very passive style of yoga, focused on the lower body, that stretches the tendons and ligaments instead of just the muscles. In yin yoga, you hold a pose a lot longer (sometimes 3 minutes or more) and don’t actively try to stretch. Instead of keep a flat back in forward folds, you might round your shoulders and relax a little. Yin Yoga uses a lot of props, like blankets and blocks, to make you comfortable and relaxed.

Because of all this, yin is difficult for me. Vinyasana yoga (which is a LOT more active) keep me focuses because there’s almost constant movement. In yin, you’re basically just sitting there, stretching, and *gasp* meditating. I think that’s one of the reasons I really like it. It’s hard, but I feel so good afterward that I can’t hate it.

Yin yoga gets its name from it’s passive nature. It’s directly derived from the idea of yin and yang. And it’s perfect for winter, since yin is associated with these attributes: Dark, Cold, Passive, Inside, Solid, Slow.
I don’t think I really need to explain why those are fitting for winter.


If you don’t have a yoga studio near you that does yin yoga classes, check out yoga journal’s website—just search yin yoga and some great articles will pop up. Or you can get this set from amazon.com. Or you can google yin yoga videos or go to yogatoday.com and check out their yin classes. Whichever you do, read this article before you try it at home; it’s a yoga journal article that explains the four basic tenants of yin yoga and how to replicate them at home.

Bottom line: yin is great, but it’s not for everyone. So give it a try and find out if it’s for you!

Natural Yoga

I think when people think about yoga, they think of hippies and herbs and incense. And in a sense that’s true. A lot of yogis put a lot of stock in herbs as natural remedies for pretty much everything and there is a lot on incense burned in most studios. But I don’t think we’re the hippies that everyone thinks of. I think most of the younger hippies are what I like to call nouveau hippies, less bra burning while marching in protest and more tree hugging while blogging from the comfort of our three year old constantly crashing dell laptop super cool macbooks.

The point is that I think people have definite ideas of what yoga is and what kind of people practice yoga. And I don’t think that those ideas are correct for modern day yoga and yogis. Yoga is more mainstream now and less counter-culture-ey and so are the people who practice it. In one sense, I think that’s a good thing. It’s reaching more people, which means more people are more zen-ey. But I think that the popularity of yoga is also changing it. There are so many yoga studios, yoga props, and yoga mats that people are forgetting that yoga can be a way to commune with nature.

I’ve been practicing yoga less than consistently for almost 10 years. In that time, I have practiced outside exactly three times. Once a few months ago at my mother-in-law’s house. Once about a month ago in woodland park. And yesterday morning.

The studio where I take classes was hosting a yoga nidra (I have no idea what that is, by the way) workshop yesterday and today. So all the weekend classes were moved to the lawn outside! Nice surprise and a nice practice. Practicing yoga outside is a completely different experience than practicing inside. Outside there are more distractions, the ground is bumpy, the wind is blowing, and ants wander across your mat. But all of these factors meld together to make it more difficult and more awesome. Except the ants. Ants creep me out more than any other bug; in a very un-zenlike manner yesterday, I killed about 7 that decided to wander on to my mat. But in between killing ants and bruising my feet on a small rock while doing standing balance postures, I had a great practice.

And that practice made my entire day great… hopefully  it will keep me feeling great on this very very soggy Sunday morning.

Namaste!