I have been doing yoga for a few years now, since a friend of mine from work introduced me to it. After too many years of flogging my muscles in various forms of boats, it provides a particularly nice antidote to the fact I am getting a bit older and maybe need to stretch out sometimes. It is also a lovely time when I really do think about little else other than breathing and trying to stand on one leg, foot in the air, hand behind my head, and not fall over.
Until recently I have been doggedly attending my usual yoga classes and having a vague guess about what I shouldn't do. Twisting bad, upside down bad, lying on my side "meditating" (or snoring quietly) good. However, bump is now getting to such a size that I felt I needed some expert instruction. So to my first prenatal yoga class.
For anyone who has ever attended a yoga class (except Mum and Dad, who have their class over a pub) there are certain rules. You are lithe and flexible, you keep quiet, you don't leave the room, you don't fall over the person next to you, you wear appropriately tight yet loose atire. However, in prenatal classes these all go out of the window.
Firstly, a prenatal class is anti-yoga. Gone are the lithe and flexible babes of my other classes, and in come ladies who find it difficult to walk, let alone pretend to be a tree. We waddle, roll, and generally wobble our way through class. We are told not to stretch too much because the relaxin in our bodies now means we might go that little bit too far and turn into floppy bits of string. We spend a lot of time sitting on the floor and breathing.
Secondly, we talk, and laugh and generally discuss what is happening. At the start of my class yesterday we introduced ourselves, shared with others how fat (sorry, pregnant) we are, and a bit out what we thought of yoga. When one of us falls over, we all giggle. When our instructor says anything about our pelvis being the "gates" for our baby (which she does, an awful lot), we grimace and I think someone may have shreaked.
There is a fair bit of coming and going during the class as we all need to head to the loo. So frequent is this that the instructor now tells us all, for the newbies, at the start of each class that we are allowed to head off to leave because "pregnant women need the loo an awful lot". Really? I hadn't noticed.
The studio I go to puts us in the largest room, despite there never being more than 15 of us. However, any casual observer would realise the importance of this - balance, or lack of it. Balancing on one leg is a challenge for me at the best of times. However, add about 14 pounds of stuff stuck on my front, which sits slightly more to one side than the other, and then put me on one leg and it is a recipe for bruises. Then add in 14 other women who are the same. We all leave at least one or two mats between us and the next person, and often one in front and behind. Even the most innocuous poses cause one of us to wobble and tip.
The bump surpassed herself yesterday as she managed to move from one side to the other during my tree pose (standing on one leg, arms in the air) causing me to wobble initially to the left, then right, then fall into the wall. I think I felt her giggling inside me.
However, the most amusing thing about the class is my instructor, E. E informed us all that she loves teaching prenatal yoga and finds the whole process of pregnancy wonderful and exciting. It took all of us fat ladies about 30 seconds to realise this could only have come from a woman who had never actually been pregnant. She also told us that she has worked a lot with women who choose to use yoga rather than hard drugs during labour. Hmmm, clearly a nutter.
She is highly amusing in how she describes things to us. At 29 weeks I feel about as lithe and sexy as a large walrus, but she insists on using hilariously inappropriate imagery. We were told to imagine our baby as a blooming flower inside us. Bump was being especially active at this point and the only image she was bringing to mind was Sly Stallone in the original Rocky movie. I tried, really hard, to think of her as a sunflower, really I did, but the banging on my bladder made it pretty hard.
Then to our pelvic floor exercises, and she told is to imagine a hot air balloon lifting up and down inside us (while we counted breaths). There isn't enough room for my colon down there anymore, so where the hell am I supposed to put a bloody hot air balloon?!
Despite all this, E is actually an excellent instructor. She knows her stuff, cares a lot about her wobbling charges, and I genuinely feel amazing when I leave. I also think I'll write down which random animals I will try to be during the early stages of labour to make myself a bit more comfy. Just making sure I don't feel compelling to moo or miaow along at the same time.