This month we share some practical tips for Prenatal Yoga Teachers from Senior Bliss Baby Yoga course facilitator, experienced prenatal and postnatal yoga teacher and mother of two, Mari Notaras.
What a wonderful time in a woman or pregnant person’s life to find out she’s pregnant – so much joy and excitement! This life changing experience brings with it an array of different emotions, thoughts, and inevitably a re-evaluation of what is most important. It is no surprise to find that many people are drawn to yoga during their pregnancy; perhaps an intuitive decision, or a recommendation from a family member, friend or health professional.
Nevertheless, as a prenatal yoga teacher, it is important to acknowledge that your class will be made up of women of all different abilities, backgrounds and experiences; those who have had a regular yoga practice, through to women who have never attended a yoga class before in their lives! So what is it that we are primarily aiming to share with our pregnant students when we are teaching them prenatal yoga?
It is a well-known fact that high levels of anxiety and stress are counterproductive, not only in pregnancy but also in labour. Michel Odent in his book Childbirth and the Future of Homo Sapiens points out that ‘the more a pregnant women is subjected to anxiety provoking stimuli the more difficult the birth process may be… and that a low level of anxiety is a prerequisite for the optimal growth and development of the baby in the womb’. 
In a prenatal yoga class the aim is to create a safe, supportive and nurturing environment that will enhance the women’s physical, emotional and mental health.
Below are some things to consider when teaching your pregnancy yoga classes:
1. Encourage your students to arrive early to discuss anything that may impact their yoga practice. Some may happily discuss this in the open, but others may feel the need for privacy.
2. Introductions are an important way for your students to get to know one another. Help facilitate and create community! Many wonderful friendships have grown from prenatal yoga. Did you know that when groups of women come together, there are higher levels of that wonderful love hormone Oxytocin!
3. At the beginning of class ask your students to share their name and due date. This will facilitate a deepening of the sense of community. A great tool is to ask the women to choose a few words that summarises what they need from the yoga class on the given day. This may vary from “relaxation” to “breathing practices” or simple “back releasing”. It helps you tune into their individual needs, and offers them the opportunity to share how they are feeling.
4. ALWAYS acknowledge their growing baby! Many women are busy, perhaps with work or other family commitments at home. This time is for themselves and their beautiful babies. Remind them to continuously smile inwardly at their gorgeous, growing baby.
5. Always start with a centering practice. As a yoga teacher try to stay alert to your students’ needs. Are they comfortable? Do they require any additional props? If you sit with your eyes closed during the opening centering practice you may miss the opportunity to help your students drop into the space. In a calming and reassuring way always be open to offering alternative positions with the help of props.
6. Choose asanas based upon the feedback received from your student’s requirements. Always keep it simple! There is a repertoire of wonderful asana for specific needs in the Bliss Baby Yoga Prenatal Training manual that you can draw upon. Many people during pregnancy carry a lot of tension – allow them ample opportunity to breathe, let go and release it.
7. Many women come to yoga looking for particular breathing practices for their labour. Whilst learning yogic breathing practices can help during the pregnancy and potentially into labour, I always strongly encourage them to become friends with their breath first. The neocortex (thinking brain) is ideally at rest during labour, so that the primitive brain structures can more easily release the necessary hormones. This is why during birth we tend to cut ourselves off from the world, and sometimes forget what we’ve read or been taught. It becomes instinctual and our breath can be the continuous, reassuring factor during their labour.
8. Strongly encourage your students to trust in their body’s wisdom to birth! Practices such as Humming Bee (Bhramari) and Ujayi can calm and centre a woman during her labour. If practiced regularly during pregnancy it creates a reassuring environment for their babies to be born into the world. Many continue this breathing practice when they breastfeed or settle their babies down the track.
9. Always allow time for a restorative practice or Yoga Nidra. At least 10 minutes minimum is required. Restorative yoga is like the icing on the cake in a yoga practice. The benefits include helping reduce stress levels, lowering blood pressure, reducing muscle tension, helping concentration and most importantly giving the woman quality time to feel and be with her baby!
In the Bliss Baby Yoga Prenatal Teacher Training Course there is not only a strong emphasis on prenatal yoga principles and safety guidelines, but also the development and recognition of the teacher’s own intuition.
Ultimately this is what we are teaching our prenatal students after all!
Happy teaching x
 Michel Odent (2013). Childbirth and the Future of Homo Sapiens. P.100
Mari Notaras is a Senior Bliss Baby Yoga Facilitator for our Prenatal, Postnatal and Restorative Yoga Teacher Training Courses. She is a mother of 2 and an experienced yoga teacher, who is passionate about nurturing women through their pregnancy and into motherhood. You can find her on Instagram at @mari_notaras_yoga or Facebook
If you are passionate about offering nurturing, holistic yoga classes with safe, appropriate and nourishing practices designed specifically for pregnancy and postpartum recovery, you may be interested in our Bliss Baby Yoga Online Prenatal & Postnatal Yoga Teacher Training course. We also offer Online Extension Modules to enhance and further your learning in this area, covering topics including Prenatal & Postnatal Anatomy and Physiology and Pelvic Floor Anatomy and Physiology for Women’s Health.
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