I've been a lover of yoga for some time, practicing on and off for about the last 10 years. So, as both a doula and expectant mother, I had been looking more into prenatal yoga offerings in Madison, and I was so happy when Aja Lefebvre, instructor at The Studio, agreed to participate in a Q&A for this blog! Read on for lots of great info from Aja about yoga during pregnancy.
Would you mind telling me a little bit about your background- what led you to study yoga, and then specialize in prenatal yoga?
Yoga was an instant love for me. I have always played sports and love being active so it felt familiar and at the same time, entirely new. I practiced for about 4 years before signing up for a Yoga Teacher Training but knew early on that it was ‘the plan’. I received my 200 hour, Yoga Alliance certification through Sivananda Ashram in Val Morin, Canada in 2012 and have been teaching at The Studio in Madison, WI ever since.
In 2014, my husband and I welcomed our daughter, Liv into the world. It wasn’t until I had moved through the whole experience of pregnancy, childbirth and becoming a mom that I was inspired to dive deeper into pre and postnatal yoga. When asked while pregnant if I wanted to teach prenatal I said, ‘NO!’ (which is actually quite funny to me now). It wasn’t until I reflected on it all, that I realized what a huge impact my yoga practice had on being comfortable and healthy in pregnancy, confident and prepared to physically and mentally manage my daughter’s birth - a natural home birth - as well as all of the ups and downs of becoming a new mom.
My relationship with my midwife inspired me to want to cultivate more resources for women moving through this season of life. It’s been great fun thus far hearing the voices of these women sharing in the experiences, joy and even the not so glamorous things about pregnancy, birth, postpartum and motherhood.
How can yoga be helpful during the childbearing year?
So many ways! Getting to know one’s body during such an intimate experience such as pregnancy leads to right action on so many levels. When you are really able to tune in and learn to find movement that is comforting to you in the moment, that’s going to serve you so well when delivering.
Yoga gifts one with peace of mind, clarity, increased energy and mood, helps to alleviate stress and let go of worry, builds confidence and comfort in the body, helps you sleep more soundly, aids in faster and easier recovery postpartum and is also said to shorten labor and birth itself. It’s physical, mental, emotional balance. It gifts you with presence that allows you to be in the moment with your children, spouse, family, friends, etc. I could go on and on.
What main modifications are important when practicing yoga while pregnant?
The biggest piece of advice I give my prenatal mamas is to slow down and tune in.
The slowing down part can be quite hard. We are a go-go-go society and there is often a feeling of wanting to do everything we did before becoming pregnant. That said, there isn’t a better time in life than pregnancy to gift oneself with a little slowing down, steadiness and self-care.
Tuning in is so very important to stay safe in practice but it will also serve you well in all of the stages of pregnancy, birth and postpartum. Things change day-by-day and what feels wonderful one day might feel like hell the next. It’s also totally personal. What feels amazing to one person at a certain point in their pregnancy might feel terrible for another women who is at the same point. It’s very important to ease into a pose or movement, adjust as necessary, don’t be afraid to add in props for more comfortability and always back off or switch up the position if something doesn’t feel good.
Do you have a favorite yoga pose that you think is particularly helpful in preparing for birth?
Cat/cow. That and anything hip related.
Cat/cow fluctuations of the spine, as well as being on all fours, help get your babe into the optimal birthing position. It also releases tension in the back body, spine, chest, shoulders, and neck while cultivating a feeling of spaciousness in the front side body - an area that typically feels quite crammed with the movement and compression of organs into the ribcage. This can create a little more space for the organs, deeper/easier breaths and even more space for baby.
The hips take a major toll throughout this whole process so giving them lots of love will not only help in the actual delivery but will also help women feel more comfortable with the common hip aches and pains of pregnancy. The goal is strong but open hips. Poses like Warrior II for strength and seated double pigeon to release tension are great additions to any prenatal mamas routine.