Check out my latest article published on Bodylocal.com, Find Balance with your Baby Belly, describing the benefits of prenatal yoga and comparing some of the top prental yoga classes in NYC.
Find Balance with your Baby Belly
by Ilana Eck
Your body is changing by the day. The weight of your growing bump may be throwing you off center. You may be struggling with acid reflux, an achy back, or sciatica. No matter what you’re feeling, yoga can probably help. Whether you’re an experienced yogi looking to continue your practice throughout pregnancy, or an expecting mom looking for a new, low-impact way to stay fit, you can benefit from prenatal yoga.
Lucky for us, the benefits of prenatal yoga are as bountiful as the number of classes available throughout New York City. Below is a list of a few of the many reasons to get to class, and a few of the great yoga classes near you.
Physical and emotional stress-relief—Pregnancy is a wonderful yet stressful time both physically and emotionally. Regularly practicing yoga can help alleviate both types of stress: core strength helps support the added stress of a growing baby on your body and yoga breathing creates a sense of inner calm. Prenatal yoga also improves circulation, which helps prevent constipation, varicose veins, leg cramps and swelling.
Community support—Prenatal yoga classes bring you into a community of mothers-to-be who are experiencing similar physical and emotional concerns. Many prenatal yoga instructors are also doulas (labor coaches) who can provide a wealth of practical advice for both pregnancy ailments and birthing techniques. Prenatal yoga classes often include a brief discussion about each woman’s current needs, providing an opportunity to ask the teacher questions, and connecting you with others who are having similar experiences.
Improved labor—Supportive breath work (known as pranayama) is one of the tools that can help women cope with the intensity of childbirth. Yoga has been proven to help relax the body during labor and ease delivery pain. Studies also show that women who regularly exercise during pregnancy have faster deliveries and less chance of complications during childbirth.
So grab your mat and find a class! In our belly-filled city, you have a wide array of prenatal options—from strengthening to restorative classes—just outside your home or office. Below is a description of classes offered at some of my favorite studios. Notice the range of styles offered, so you can choose which best suits your needs during each phase of your pregnancy.
Prenatal Yoga at the Prenatal Yoga Center—This supportive, restorative class interweaves therapeutic yoga postures with childbirth education. Props (blocks, straps, etc.) are used to make poses comfortable and to create space within each pose for growing bellies. The hour and a half class begins with an open discussion that allows each mother-to-be to mention any discomforts or concerns, moves into a brief meditation, and then to asanas designed to strengthen uterine and pelvic muscles. Even if you intend to regularly practice at another studio, this class is a must for learning how to use props and vary poses during pregnancy. The class is also excellent for beginner yogis. The Upper West Side studio is located in a light and airy loft-like room with large windows. Check the schedule for free “teacher training classes” taught by an aspiring prenatal instructor under the supervision of a certified prenatal instructor.
Prenatal Yoga Center, 252 W. 72nd St., 2nd Floor (btwn. Bway & West End), 212-362-2985; alternate locations: Upper East Side, Chelsea/ Flatiron, Tribeca and Brooklyn. Visit www.prenatalyogacenter.com for class schedules; $25/class; free online videos available.
Ma (Prenatal) Yoga at Lila Yoga, Dharma & Wellness—This is an empowering, vigorous class, similar to a regular Vinyasa class. There is no discussion before the class, other than a brief inquiry about any injuries or limitations. The hour and a half class includes a balancing spectrum of warm-up, guided breathing and asanas. The prenatal instructor, Mia, is both attentive and supportive to those seeking individual attention. The studio is a traditional loft space with a bohemian feel in Noho.
Lila Yoga, Dharma & Wellness, 302 Bowery, #2 (btwn. Bleecker & Houston), 212-254-2130. Visit www.lilawellness.com for class schedules; $18/class.
Pre-Natal Yoga at Jivamukti Yoga Center—The prenatal class at this socially conscious studio aptly begins with a talk from the teacher on various social topics, such as veganism. The hour and thirty-five minute class then moves to poses that are both vigorous and centering, including sun salutations, standing poses, twists and even backbends. Instructors emphasize breathing along with stretching and strengthening. This class is perfect for an intense or experienced yogi looking to continue their practice through pregnancy. The studios are dimly lit and relaxing. Stop into their vegan café after class for a clean, healthy meal in this hippy yet edgy environment.
Jivamukti Yoga Center, 841 Broadway, #2 (btwn. 13th & 14th Street), 212-353-0214. Visit www.jivamuktiyoga.com for class schedules; $20/class ($2 mat rental fee).
Prenatal Yoga at Karma Kids Yoga—This fun, creative studio offers a low-key class good for beginners. The hour-long session begins with a brief conversation about each mom-to-be, and is conducted in a circle rather than in traditional rows. The focus of the class is on relieving pregnancy discomforts and stretching, with some abdominal and pelvic floor toning. Unlike the sparseness of many yoga studios, this one is brightly colored and playful (perfect for toddler classes, which they also offer). A free trial class is available for all first-time students.
Karma Kids Yoga, 104 W. 14th Street, 2nd Floor (btwn. 6th & 7th Ave.), 646-638-1444. Visit www.karmakidsyoga.com for class schedules; $20/class.