Prenatal Yoga, Part 1 - Helping your Client Choose a Class

Most birth professionals know that yoga during pregnancy is of great benefit to expectant mothers.  As both a certified prenatal yoga instructor and a Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator, I often field questions from birth professionals regarding referring clients to a prenatal yoga class.  In this article, I’ll discuss how to help your clients find a class that’s appropriate to them.

Mothers generally start attending a prenatal yoga class at the end of their first trimester.  This is due mainly to two factors – the end of morning sickness, and a public acknowledgement of their pregnancies.  So, a prenatal yoga instructor has many weeks to build a relationship with her students and help influence the outcome of those pregnancies.  Keep in mind that it’s never too early or too late in a pregnancy to start taking a class. 

“Over the years, I have found that I can offer my yoga students the opportunity to try things out—to practice the techniques we use in childbirth while holding a challenging yoga pose. The similarities are strong and the learning opportunities are immeasurable. The marriage of the two disciplines, yoga and childbirth education, provides so much opportunity for women to practice and gain confidence in their abilities and their body.”

Prenatal Yoga and Childbirth Education: A Response to Tracy Posner’s Birth Story  by Ann L. Israel, MA, E-RYT, LCCE, FACCE

So much of modern American yoga is related to that which we teach in our childbirth education classes.  It behooves us to talk to mothers about the benefits of the practice:  a mother’s overall wellbeing, her confidence and for her birth experience.

“The practice of yoga has many positive effects on pregnant women. Yoga is a multifaceted approach to exercise that encompasses physical stretching, mental centering and breath awareness, making it an ideal preparation for labor and childbirth. Yoga encourages relaxation, internal focus and slowed breathing patterns, goals that are common in many types of childbirth preparation classes. Yoga may help relieve many of the common discomforts of pregnancy, such as lower back pain, nausea, insomnia, carpal tunnel syndrome and headaches.4,5 In addition, prenatal yoga classes often offer a supportive environment in which pregnant women can share their experiences, which may help relieve feelings of anxiety or depression.”

Prenatal Yoga: Guidance for Providers and Patients by Patricia Kinser, NP, and Carrie Williams, NP

This supportive environment is one aspect of a prenatal yoga class that isn’t much discussed, but it can often be the most important part of a class.  Many expectant mothers don’t have friends who are pregnant or even friends with children.  Finding a whole room full of women who are pregnant with you is a wonderful thing.  Some yoga classes even offer time to talk afterwards and provide snacks or tea.  Fostering this sense of community has long term benefits as many of the mothers will go on to become friends and share baby play-dates down the road.

So, how do you know the prenatal yoga instructor is qualified to teach?

Let’s look at some of the certifications:

There are many other studios and styles of yoga. Some yoga teachers out there are not certified in any style of yoga.  Many prenatal yoga instructors teach without a prenatal yoga certification.  There is no oversight in the yoga industry, so it is important that you talk to the prenatal yoga instructor prior to referring a client.  (Within the yoga community there is a debate as to whether or not oversight is necessary.)  Really do your due diligence.  Observe one or more of her classes.  Ask her how she modifies poses for things like symphysis pubis dysfunction, carpal tunnel, sciatica, etc.  She should be able to tell you specifically what she does, rather than saying “I tell the student to sit out the poses that bother her.” Most poses can be modified to accommodate complications such as the above.

Make sure that the yoga instructor is not working outside her scope of practice.  A yoga teacher should not be giving medical advice.  This happens occasionally with a turn of phrase such as,“this is the best position to birth in!” Or with direct advice “Oh you want to induce at home, well try this herb. I heard it works well.” 

Working within her scope of practice means knowing the anatomy and physiology of a pregnancy body; suggesting certain movements, breathwork or meditation to help a mother work though an issue; most of all it means knowing when and how to say “please talk to your doctor or midwife about that.”  As yoga instructors we teach our students to work within their limitations; to only work up to their edge, but not past it.  Yoga instructors need to maintain their own edge, and work within their own limitations.

A yoga class, of any variety, should make a person feel better afterwards.  Your clients should feel relaxed, renewed, and even blissful.  They should feel more confident in their own bodies and their abilities.  They should be able to take the skills they learn on their yoga mat and be able to apply them to any life situation.

“Thanks for your help during this process – I never really was into yoga before I was pregnant. I always liked working out at the gym or running – but found that your class was really great for me especially in late pregnancy. It really made me feel like I was taking time to breathe deeply and take care of myself physically and mentally, and I’m sure that I should continue doing that as a new mama!”
~J. November 2011

This was from one of my students.  This is what yoga can do.  Encourage your clients to start early in their pregnancies and to develop a consistent practice over their 40-ish weeks.  The more you practice, the more it becomes second nature to breathe a certain way, or move your body into a posture.  Encourage your clients to ask questions of their prenatal yoga teacher.  Make sure both you and they are comfortable with the class and the teacher.  Tell your client that if they aren’t happy with the class, not only to switch classes, but to tell their teacher why they were unhappy.  Yoga teachers need to grow and improve too.

Some of the more common questions both birth professionals and expectant mothers ask can be found in my blog posting on Giving Birth with Confidence:  Choosing a Prenatal Yoga Class.  Please do share the link with your clients.

A prenatal yoga class should also incorporate meditation, relaxation and breathing.  We will examine these in Part 2, as well as how and why yoga during pregnancy reduces pain during labor; reduces anxiety and improves the overall well-being of mother and baby.


Prenatal Yoga, Part 1 - Helping your Client Choose a Class

February 7, 2012 07:00 AM by Carla Harless, LCCE, LMT, RES-CPT
Another excellent prenatal yoga teacher program is Karen Prior's Mamaste Yoga!

Prenatal Yoga, Part 1 - Helping your Client Choose a Class

February 7, 2012 07:00 AM by Deena H. Blumenfeld, ERYT, RPYT, LCCE, FACCE
@Carla Harless Yes, she does have a good program. It was one of the ones I looked into when I was looking to take my prenatal teacher training.

Prenatal Yoga, Part 1 - Helping your Client Choose a Class

February 8, 2012 07:00 AM by Dawn
Not really interested in Yoga...but exercise is nice.

Prenatal Yoga, Part 1 - Helping your Client Choose a Class

February 9, 2012 07:00 AM by Science & Sensibility » Prenatal Yoga, Part 2 – Breathing, Meditation and Relaxation
[...] Part 1 we talked about how to help your client choose a prenatal yoga class; in Part 2, we will look at [...]

Prenatal Yoga, Part 1 - Helping your Client Choose a Class

February 9, 2012 07:00 AM by Sarah, CNM, LCCE
Thank you for talking about Yoga and Lamaze together. They are so complementary. I have only been practicing faithfully for a year myself but have had almost a complete relief from two years of joint pain so I am personally convinced about the benefits of Yoga. These articles gave me some resources and some ideas for incorporating yoga principles with Lamaze principles. I hope as my childbirth business expands I am able to offer my clients prenatal yoga as well. I will guide some of my wonderful yoga instructors to your recommendations for prenatal certification.

Prenatal Yoga, Part 1 - Helping your Client Choose a Class

February 10, 2012 07:00 AM by Deena H. Blumenfeld, ERYT, RPYT, LCCE, FACCE
Ah, I didn't recommend the programs above. I apologize if my intentions were unclear. I gave them as examples of the variety of duration and quality of programs that are out there. An online at home program is, in my opinion, totally inappropriate and vastly insufficient. There's no hands on training, with a hands on practice. A 12 hour weekend program vs. an 85 hr Yoga Alliance program? What's missing in the 12 hour program? Hours aren't the only factor, though. Look at the course content too. To your other points, yes, Yoga and Lamaze are very complimentary. I'm most of the way through a philosphical discourse on the subject on my own blog

Prenatal Yoga, Part 1 - Helping your Client Choose a Class

March 6, 2012 07:00 AM by Prenatal Yoga, Weird Baby Products and more on Science & Sensibility. | Shining Light Prenatal E
[...] Prenatal Yoga, Part 1 Helping your Client Choose a Class [...]

Prenatal Yoga, Part 1 - Helping your Client Choose a Class

February 20, 2014 07:00 AM by Allison Kornbluth
I am a D.O.N.A. trained doula and a dedicated student of yoga( on Long Island). I did my prenatal yoga training with yogaworks in NYC. The program actually inspired me to become a doula!! It was in this training that I came to understand how important it is to empower support and encourage our amazing circle of sisters. This was my first exposure to the contemplative "routine care" as a general consumer and even as a "yogi". It had never dawned on me that motherbaby have basic human-rights which are all too often neglected!! The instructor drew on her own experiences from the birth of her children to inspire us toward sequencing of postures as well as the information we bring into class. The program is jam packed with information including emphasis on physiological changes in motherbaby and alignment and saftey. Heres the teacher that I was privileged to study with :

Prenatal Yoga, Part 1 - Helping your Client Choose a Class

February 20, 2014 07:00 AM by Deena H. Blumenfeld, ERYT, RPYT, LCCE, FACCE
@Allison Kornbluth It sounds like your teacher teaches her prenatal yoga and Lamaze classes very similarly to how I teach mine. It's good to know that there are other fantastic instructors out there.

Prenatal Yoga, Part 1 ƒ??

April 29, 2015 07:00 AM by Prenatal Yoga, with Deena Blumenfeld -
Prenatal Yoga, Part 1 ?? Helping your Client Choose a Class ? by Deena Blumenfeld for Science & Sensibility [?]

Most Important Advise

April 12, 2017 06:04 PM by Kelly

I think one of the most important things you pointed out here is to ensure that the prenatal yoga instructor is not working outside of their scope. That could be dangerous to the client, so thanks for the reminder to be cautious.

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