Many yoga teachers these days are quite young, and a big part of them don’t have children. Either “not yet" (late parenthood become quite common, and is much more accepted than it was 15 years ago), or "not at all" (new generations are rather sceptical towards bringing new life to this planet that is super polluted, super messed up, and that doesn't even have enough resources for all of us existing already... ); Or lastly - "because it just never happened". Yes, no matter how much yoga they can practice - some yoga teachers just cannot have children due to various reasons - from biological to economical, or even "karmic" if you prefer.
SAME SAME, BUT DIFFERENT!
Just like in any other professional group - yoga community is diverse. Some of us are parents, some of us are not (*and it is not always our 100% choice).
While the idea of teaching yoga to pregnant students seems beautiful to many, I also hear many fears and doubts. Especially among teachers who don’t have children, and were never pregnant. Not to mention gentle smiles when I try to invite men for prenatal yoga teacher training courses.
Well, I was never pregnant either. Till last year - rather by choice, now - more because it doesn't happen... but I’ve decided to join prenatal care actually as a 19 years old girl, and at that time I couldn't be further away from thinking about my own motherhood.
Did I have any doubts or ‘second thoughts’, especially as such a young woman? Sure I did! Actually, not only as a 19-years old sensitive and learning-life- girl. I had many doubts also much after that. Self-doubts are pretty common and 'normal', they are with us in different moments, but …
Here is why I finally understood why those doubts and fears are not relevant:
1. Every experience is an amazing resource for yoga teachers, so pregnancy can become one of them too. But while there is a certain level of universal experience for all human beings, our journeys are actually pretty different from one another.
None of two “same” life events are exactly identical: none of two labors, none of two pregnancies, none of two motherhood nor two childhood can be exactly the same.
"EVEN IF" DOESN'T SOLVE THE CASE
So… even if I was pregnant - maybe my pregnancy would have been a completely different experience from those of my students. For some women pregnancy is a bliss, for some a pure challenge. Some women are physically fit, while other struggle. Some are active and happy to work, and some cannot do their basic routine.
I saw pregnant yoga teachers making complex and acrobatic asana, and I saw pregnant yoga teachers giving up their practice for several months. Each of them went through this time differently, and that is why there is no "one for all answer".
The point here is: one experience doesn't define it for others, and pregnancy is a crystal clear example of that. In teaching prenatal yoga understanding of variety of possible experiences, symptoms and scenarios is much more important than our own experience that can be just 'one of'…
A few years ago one of my students in prenatal classes came to me after a prenatal session and said "Thank you Karo for not having prejudices and preconceptions about how we feel about being pregnant. I really appreciate that in you. I love that you ask, and do not pretend you know it all 'better'".
2. You may still think: “Yes Karo, but if I don’t know how it feels to be pregnant, how can I understand?”
Well, we never can feel totally the same as our students, and that's why I would say: simply go and ASK!
Talking to students from different countries, cultures, ages, genders… I always prefer to ask instead of assuming. While knowing the physiology during pregnancy helps me to understand potential issues, I also need to say that pregnant persons taught me so much more than the books!
What’s more - I don’t talk only to pregnant students. I also speak with doulas, midwives, doctors and psychologists. I listen to what Ayurveda says, I listen to what TCM says, and for the past 20 years I've been collecting information, points of view, questions, possible answers...and yet I always ask every single student: hey, how are you feeling today?
Many perspectives are so much more helpful and deeper than just one. Learning multiple perspectives on pregnancy, and involving a pregnant student to the process makes it just more realistic, applicable and authentic.
3. Studying is the key to feel competent and safe. The fear comes from "unknown".
Fear of the unknown is the tendency to be afraid when you have no information on any level about something you face. Of course, if you were never pregnant - you never had to study anything about it, but nothing stops you from doing so now! Many women learn pregnancy because and while they are pregnant, but the knowledge is available for us all!
If you would like to teach yoga to pregnant students I would highly recommend to take a Prenatal Yoga Teacher Training Course. Usually it is a short, approx. 90-hour course that can prepare you for modifications of asana, cover the most important topics from the anatomy & physiology; some trainings touch even on spiritual aspects of motherhood... Studying will give you knowledge and skills to understand how to build a safe and - most probably available (please remember some pregnant student will teach you not all in the course is for all) - sequence for prenatal students.
Of course, I have an online Prenatal YTT, but you can do it with many other teachers too!
4. Compassion and research are the keys to understand what our students need.
Just like with any other yoga program - in order to prepare something that is adequate and beneficial you need a research and a bit of compassion.
My favourite research is a research "at the source" - asking students who apply for a prenatal classes:
- how do they feel
- what are their basic needs and expectations from a yoga class (*please bear in mind it changes from day to day sometimes! Pregnancy is nothing constant and consequent)
- what was their yoga experience before they got pregnant
- do they have any health related issues and injuries not related to pregnancy
and so on...
In rare case, when a student's conditions or pregnancy is 'atypical' we may ask for a doctor's or a midwife's permission to participate. I honestly never had to do that, but it is sometimes a good idea to make sure all is permitted and ok...
But I also love reading different opinions - forums, blogs, Facebook groups. In certain cases I would consult other teachers or midwives who I trust to. A network of support is always a great idea!
5. Yoga is not what we see on Instagram. We have so many beautiful tools that can be simple and easy, no matter how 'fit' or 'challenged' a pregnant student is!
The art of teaching prenatal yoga is a slow pace, attention to students (small groups help here a lot), and modifications!
We don't need to prepare fancy transitions, complex sequences or some other modern pop-yoga stuff. Simple and safe is good enough, and serves to the purpose.
A bit of strengthening - my preferences are asanas with a wall - if possible, a lot of relaxation and gentle stretch, a lot of safe space and supporting loving field, so that a Mom-To-Be can feel comfortable, relaxed and connected with her own body. It is not that difficult, I promise!
Have you ever taken a part in a nourishing class full of time, space and freedom for your own body? That's it! That's the way!
Being pregnant is an amazing journey, amazing lesson - no doubt about that.
Having to deal with the body that changes every day to adapt and create a new human being is an unbelievable experience to have. If motherhood is your call and opportunity - beautiful, I am happy for you! But just because someone cannot or doesn't want to get pregnant, it doesn't disqualify this person from being a good obstetrician, midwife, doula or a prenatal yoga teacher - men including!
I hope you will join our prenatal forces - whether or not you are a parent!
At least - you can give it a try!
Join my Free Prenatal Yoga 5-day Immersion 5th - 9th June '23 ONLINE!
To book your seat just click here: https://www.prenatalyoga.academy/free-immersion/
See you on the mat!