Surrender to change: a pregnant yoga teacher’s story

EkhartYoga member and yoga teacher, Caterina, shares how pregnancy affected her practice and teaching.

pregnancy yoga

So, you have graduated from a 200h Yoga Teacher Training, taught yoga classes for a few months or maybe years, decided that teaching yoga is what you want to do in life and, as a consequence, ditched your previous job…Now all your focus is on starting (or developing) a career as a full-time yoga teacher when slowly or more suddenly in the back of your mind a thought comes… “I want to have a baby!”

Perfectly aware, as a yoga teacher, that “nothing is achieved through will”, this thought keeps nagging you. You find yourself fascinated by other people’s little children, start noticing all these pregnant bellies around (“has there been an increase in pregnancies?!”), catch yourself mesmerised by happy mums or dads with their toddlers and just generally becoming more broody, even if a few years ago children were absolutely not on your list of Things to do.

Pregnancy and your yoga career

Being yoga teachers, we might like to ‘go with the flow’ and know to trust our inner voice, but generally having a baby is not something that people usually take lightly.

Having a baby will probably be the most transformative experience in your life, and no matter what, things will never be the same afterwards. This is common knowledge, so it’s a good thing that most people don’t take it lightly. (By the way: I don’t think we are ever ‘ready enough’ to have children! If you wait for things to be ‘perfect’ you might be set for a mission impossible). 

You may find the time comes when you feel ready to have a baby: the biological clock is ticking and the desire is strong. Having just started your career as a yoga teacher you might worry that pregnancy will influence the path you just started to tread, and possibly halt your future plans altogether. You just got a place in your local studio, people are getting to know you, and the numbers in your classes are increasing. So, how is pregnancy going to fit in with your career as a yoga teacher?

The first trimester: change

Everything changes, nothing is permanent, yet pregnancy will definitely test you as a yogi. You might be the fittest yoga teacher in town, but the first trimester may hit you as hard as it hits your inactive friend. Or harder. Nausea and extreme tiredness is common – how is your ego going to cope with this? 

The thing is, nobody yet knows about your pregnancy and maybe you have decided not to spread the news for the first weeks, but still, you have to teach 3 classes today and your energy levels are low. You want to cut out caffeine but you think that is the only thing that might save your day. Add to that all the emotional ups and downs brought on by the hormonal changes and this can make you behave very unlike a yogi! You may start wondering: Oh Lord Shiva, why did I get into this!?!  

A word of caution:

Levels of relaxin (a hormone produced by the ovary and the placenta) increase very quickly in the body during the first few weeks of pregnancy – even before you realise you’re pregnant. So it might happen that suddenly, in your personal practice, you come much deeper into the postures. Suddenly you can do the splits, or lie with your chest on the floor in Upavista Konasana (this happened to me!). Please, fellow yoginis, be aware that this might give you problems later in the pregnancy, such as Pubic Symphysis Disorder, which I am experiencing now. Stretching beyond your limits is never wise, please don’t learn the hard way, as I did.

A positive note:

No matter how hard it is to make it to the class to teach, you’ll usually feel much better afterwards …until the next emotional rollercoaster comes along, that is!

The second trimester: acceptance

yoga for pregnancy

In my experience, the second trimester generally goes more smoothly. This is when I eventually began to accept the changes in my body. Some poses started feeling uncomfortable. Cramping of the round ligament (which surrounds the uterus in your pelvis) prevented me from doing deep twists, strong backbends and core work. Also, I was so used to ‘activating my core’ it seemed very unnatural not to do so. Like me, you may have to be ready to drastically reconsider your personal practice!

Now it’s time to surrender to a new body and as yoga teachers this means we need to:  

  1. stop doing things we know and feel are not really right for us (but our ego keeps pushing) and 
  2. stop demonstrating in our vinyasa flow classes.

You might finally accept your body is not the same it was a few months ago, your belly begins to grow and people will start congratulating you, but… the number of people coming to your classes might decrease. By the way, this doesn’t just apply to men – some women also find it unusual to see a pregnant yoga teacher. This applies in particular to people that don’t know you as a yoga teacher, that are new to yoga or might have never had kids, but still, it can happen… 

A word of note: you know your pretty Lululemon tight leggings you loved to teach in? Forget about them. Forget about most of your snug fitting yoga clothes! Time to loosen up your wardrobe and your idea of looking like a yoga teacher: new body, new shapes…

Embrace new opportunities

yoga for pregnant

Pregnancy is a wonderful opportunity to practise non-attachment. As yoga teachers we are sometimes too attached to our bodies, and being pregnant will test our egos greatly. A huge lesson. Furthermore, this is the best time to take a pre and post-natal yoga teacher training course! 

It may take some time (months or maybe years) before you are able to take a whole week or month off for an intensive training, so make the most of your time now, before you have your bundle of joy in your arms. If you already teach pregnancy yoga, you can take photos of yourself with a pregnant belly doing asanas and especially test on your own body if what you teach really works.

The third trimester – surrender

The third trimester comes around very fast. 

You probably can’t remember how it felt like to do a handstand or a ‘perfect’ chaturanga, your arm muscles are shrinking and your abdominal muscles are a distant memory – but the best thing is that you don’t care!

You probably can’t remember how it felt like to do a handstand or a ‘perfect’ chaturanga, your arm muscles are shrinking and your abdominal muscles are a distant memory – but the best thing is that you don’t care! Maybe your big belly has made you decide to stop teaching. Or you have stopped demonstrating and started leading your classes just by voice – but realise how much more in tune you are with your students’ needs. Your personal practice might be very gentle now, and you find yourself more drawn to inner work: what a great opportunity to dwell deeper into your meditation practice! Pregnant women have very high intuition and to meditate during pregnancy is really worthwhile.

Letting go to move on…

In the last weeks or month of pregnancy you may find a lovely colleague to substitute you in your classes and realise that teaching yoga is not so important after all for you right now; it doesn’t define you as a person and it’s not the only thing that makes you happy. Finally, you may begin to detach yourself from the physical part of yoga and develop other yogic qualities that will enrich you as a person, ready to come back to teaching whenever your body-mind is ready, with a new sense of love, compassion, humility, gratitude and kindness.

If we trust that nature knows best, we can learn to accept and surrender, being born as new beings, diving deep in the endless cycles of life and death.

I wish you all the best in your choices. Namaste.

Caterina x

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EkhartYoga Written by one of the EkhartYoga staff or guest writers. A dedicated team of yoga teachers, yoga students, anatomy geeks, and recipe creators.