The Yogini from Manila

Prenatal Yoga with Patricia Olabre

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Can I do yoga even when I’m pregnant?

This is a question that I have been asked more than once. This one is difficult to give a categorical YES to because every pregnancy is different and each woman’s body reacts differently under the same situation. However, I would say that IN GENERAL, yoga during pregnancy is safe and prepares you better for childbirth.

Here’s what I’ve read on yoga sites about pregnancy yoga.

Benefits of yoga during pregnancy

  • It teaches you to breathe and relax, which will come in handy when physical demands are placed on the body during childbirth
  • It calms mind and body, bringing physical and emotional stress relief
  • It allows you to stay focused, concentrate and keep healthy during the pregnancy
  • The gentle yoga poses keep the body active and supple — great advantages for childbirth
  • Some women have experienced easier labor and delivery. This may be because the yoga poses relieve tension around the cervix

This is important to emphasize — a yoga instructor needs to be CERTIFIED SPECIFICALLY to teach prenatal yoga. Someone certified to teach general yoga cannot teach prenatal yoga without undergoing a different kind of training/certification. Unfortunately, such teachers are quite a rarity to date in the Philippines. I have only heard of less than a handful and I sure want to meet them so I can write about them.

Just recently, I got to meet and attend the class of Patricia Olabre, a visiting Filipina who’s based in London. It was Patricia who reminded me that she had left a comment on my blog in the past (guess what, I could not remember!). Well, I did peek later into my comments and saw that we had indeed corresponded as early as 2007 via my blog not just once but several times! So it was really such a delight to finally come face to face with someone who had not only corresponded with me but was also a specialized yoga teacher in prenatal yoga.

I screencapped this from Patricia’s blog, Samyama Yoga, so you can see that she is very qualified for this type of yoga class.

Urban Ashram was the host studio for Patricia’s prenatal yoga class. There were several pregnant women ranging from 7 weeks to 32 weeks into the pregnancy. I would like to thank these ladies, first for being expectant Moms (and being brave because childbirth is one of the most difficult events for a woman) and second, for allowing me to take photos of them in this class.

Props

Props in a prenatal class are VERY IMPORTANT. Patricia used bolsters, blocks and straps all throughout class, constantly reminding the women to support themselves, sit on bolsters, use the blocks and straps as often as they needed to.

Asanas

The sequence of poses (asanas) that Patricia’s class followed went like this:

1. Pranayama (breathing) while seated, followed by some arm exercises

Patricia shows how to sit on a bolster

Seated with arms up

Arms are then brought to the sides

Modified seated eagle pose

2. Seated poses

Bend only as far as your belly allows. This should be done without putting pressure on the baby.

To reduce swelling, rotate feet while continuing to inhale/exhale

3. Wrist rotations

Rotating wrists relieves swelling and improves circulation

4. Side bends with one bent leg

Patricia emphasizes that a side bend should be done gently & without pressure on baby

Preparation for a side bend

Side bend is done gently and without pressure on baby. This is repeated on other side.

5. Seated forward bend – Legs are opened into a V formation. Patricia cautions that if one experiences pelvic pain, legs should be closer together. Hands are then walked forward gently for a forward bend, then walked back till you are seated upright again. This should be done only as far as one is comfortable.

Forward bend with legs in V formation

6. Kneeling poses – the Cat Pose is very good to keep spine supple and strong but the Cow Pose is not done. I guess that’s because it could strain the baby and stress the spine when you arch your back.

Cat pose, looking down at baby

With an arm balanced while kneeling, other arm is raised in a side stretch

Those with better balance can try this pose. An easier version is just to lift one leg with both hands on mat. Good for scatica.

7. Pelvic exercises – Patricia said pelvic strengthening exercises are important. Those who will give birth the natural way need elastic, supple and strong pelvis in order to push the baby out. Even those who will undergo Caesarean childbirth need a strong pelvis to carry the baby. Below is a video of how to do pelvic circles. She also showed us other exercises to strengthen the front, middle and back areas of the pelvic floor.

8. How to come down to the floor/stand up – The Cat Pose is the transitional pose to standing from the floor or going down to the floor. Here’s Patricia teaching the pregnant mothers how to safely do this.

9. Sounds – One of the last things in the class covered was how to do sounds. This is done instead of screaming out in pain because the baby needs to be welcomed into the world in calm and warmth. So Patricia gave the vowels A-E-I-O-U. Each vowel is said as long as we do the OM (Aaaauuuuuummmmmm). So it sounds like this AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA. EEEEEEEEEEEEEE. IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII. OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO. UUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU.

10. Savasana – There’s a difference between the usual Savasana and those for pregnant mothers. You DON’T lie on your back because the pushing of the baby can make you uncomfortable. Instead, from the 26th week onwards especially, you need to lie on your LEFT SIDE. Why the left and not the right side? Well, there is a major vein on the right side that carries blood so you do not want that to get squished.

When NOT to do prenatal yoga

There are situations when prenatal yoga may not be recommended.

Patricia said that prenatal yoga is normally started on the 2nd trimester. There are just too many body changes in the first trimester and someone not used to it may be at risk. She knows of some practising yoginis though who, because their bodies are used to yoga already, have been able to start prenatal yoga in the first trimester. As a general rule though, I’d say start it after the first 6 weeks!

Also, you may have medical conditions during pregnancy that may not make yoga possible. It may be good to consult your OB-Gyne first before embarking on a class.

*  *  *  *  *

Thank you, Patricia, for a very enlightening class. I hope you get a chance to travel to the Philippines more often to hold such classes. I’m sure many yoginis who get married and eventually get pregnant would want to continue their practice but in a safe environment.

Patricia’s blog is at Samyama Yoga.

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3 Comments

  1. Does she still have classes here in the Philippines?

    • Hi Eloisa. Unfortunately, Patricia is back in London. But there are yoga studios offering prenatal yoga. Just make sure the teacher is certified specifically for prenatal yoga and not just general yoga.

  2. Hi where do you do your classes? im 7 weeks pregnant and i still want to be active..im anxious of being pregnant, gaining weight and giving birth..i want to join your classes. hoping for your quick reply. Thank you 🙂

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