After Julie graduated from the DevaTree School of Yoga in 2013 she started her full-time yoga teaching career, offering 10 to 11 classes per week. Recently she cut her teaching back to 5 to 7 classes per week since she is 37 weeks along in her first pregnancy. She and her partner, Grant are excited to be welcoming their baby in April.
As Julie and I spoke today she offered many inspiring insights about her experience. Teaching yoga is her main income, so taking early maternity leave isn’t an option. Instead she got creative and used the tools that she often talks about in class as a way to ease this transition for everyone.
Third Trimester: Practicing Yoga
Now, in her third trimester, Julie feels really empowered. She is not worried about how the pregnancy is going to go now. She is able to be more in the moment. She still has heartburn and is also dealing with low back pain and pelvic discomfort. She is sometimes tired, but feels healthy and good on most days.
Around the time of the third trimester Julie’s personal yoga practice began to change. She started to:
- Modify twists to be seated and with more focus on twisting the upper body
- Increase her focus on pelvis and hips
- Do less flow than before
- Shorten her practice
- Take out cobra and shoulder stand (no longer comfortable)
- Decrease cow pose curve (feeling like too much of a stretch)
- Give a lot of focus to breathing
Benefits of Yoga During Pregnancy
Yoga has been the most beneficial for Julie on a physical level.
“I started to do a 20-minute practice of really putting emphasis on slow repetitive movements. Not anything very fancy,” she said. “I saw the power of the movements, how they were resonating perfectly with my body and releasing pain.”
Her midwife has been supportive, telling her to go with what feels good. Even when Julie hears or reads cautions against poses or movements that she feels comfortable doing, such as twisting and lying on her back.
Many pregnant women feel a shortness of breath and confinement as baby grows. To cope with this, Julie focuses on long deep breathing. This give her more space and comfort.
Teaching Yoga During Pregnancy
Helpful teaching techniques that Julie learned during the progression of pregnancy include:
- Leading with verbal cues instead of always showing poses
- Decreasing the number of classes per week
- Setting a class minimum (to preserve energy)
- Having students demonstrate poses that she can’t do
- Working with experienced students that are used to her cues and style of teaching
- Paying attention to the time of day and length of a class for her schedule
- Allowing students more time within a pose
- Communicating more with her students
Many of Julie’s students have expressed how impressed they are with how far into pregnancy she is still able to do yoga and teach. They see what it means to modify poses when the body changes. They also learn by example when Julie takes time for herself and slows down.
Julie’s advice for:
Yoga Students – Once you know that you are pregnant, tell your yoga teacher and continue to update him/her on any issues, discomforts or modifications.
Yoga teachers – Check in with students when you find out they are pregnant, at the beginning of class and then within poses. Empower them to modify a pose when it doesn’t feel good.
Yoga With the New Baby
I asked Julie what teaching yoga will look like once baby arrives and her attitude of really embracing “go with the flow” shone through. She told me that she isn’t really sure what that is going to look like.
Her students have been so supportive and have expressed that they would love to have a baby in class. Julie is happy that they feel so open to this, but she also really values the time that students take for themselves in a yoga class.
“For me – when I teach a class it is not about me. It is about my students. I try and create a yoga experience that is different from the rest of their life. If a baby was crying in savasana [relaxation] I would feel very bad about that.”
Julie plans to teach yoga after baby arrives and her partner, Grant is very supportive. At the same time they want to enjoy this time as a family.
A favourite book of Julie’s is Calm Birth: New Method for Conscious Childbirth. This helped in sleep, relaxation and connection with baby.