This week, we took the opportunity to talk to PYC Pregnancy Yoga teacher Lulu Winfield about her classes. She’s been working in pregnancy for 20 years and her training is accredited by the Royal College of Midwives.
We wanted to get a clear picture of what mothers-to-be can expect from Pregnancy Yoga classes – what are they like? Who are they for? Will they be safe for my body?
Hi Lulu, thank you for making the time to talk to us today. To start off, could you tell us: what is the goal of pregnancy yoga?
I wouldn’t say that there’s one specific goal because there’s so much to be gained from coming to Pregnancy Yoga! It’s suitable for women from 12 weeks of their pregnancy – when their baby is 12 weeks old.
We have women who already have a dedicated practice who want to continue with their yoga safely and women who have heard that Pregnancy Yoga is a good thing to do but don’t know what to expect. We welcome everybody. There’s not an expectation that anyone should have any previous experience. Even if you’re a really experienced yogi, your baby will still be a novice!
A huge part of the work is connecting to baby, bringing our awareness back to the baby. Many women remark that “I’ve just been so busy with work / life – coming to your class is the one moment where I’ve been able to bond with my baby.” I think that’s magical.
Returning to your original question, one of the big objectives for me as a teacher is to give these women a really beautiful space where they feel nurtured, where they feel respected, where they feel safe and where they’re able to ask questions. It’s a safe space to shed tears if you need to, to say “I feel crap today,” or to celebrate the excitement of your baby’s first kicks. This can be a time of inner conflict as well as personal joy, for some mothers a deeply spiritual time and for others a time of apprehension or anxiety. Pregnancy Yoga is a fantastic and effective practice to help us re-centre and trust the intelligence of our bodies and our ever changing feelings at a time of profound change.
Could you take us through the different classes you offer at The Power Yoga Company?
So, we have a class here on Tuesdays, a Yogabirth class, from 2pm to 3:30pm. It’s delicious Pregnancy Yoga and subtly woven into the practice will be movement and breath for labour. These classes evolved from the Active Birth Movement and incorporate birth education neatly threaded through the class. We may have just been doing some lovely cat-cows or even taken a gentle supported backbend and then land softly in extended froggy or similar resting pose. A perfect opportunity to drop into a visualisation of resting in labour and refining the art of the resting breath. The resting pose and breath combined double the potency of this practice and are essential tools for birth. We bring in the softest ujjayi breath. I’ll explain to the mothers, while they’re in the resting pose, how that breath can change their blood chemistry, calm their central nervous system and prompt the release of endorphins to relax tight muscles.
At the end of savasana, we’ll come and sit in a circle as women have done traditionally for centuries. I serve tea and yummy healthy snacks! This is a time for confidential discussion or small info sessions (I’m a childbirth educator and HypnoBirthing Instructor so this informs many conversations). If a question that’s come up – “My midwife said this,” or whatever it might be, then we’ll share as a group and it will evolve into a conversation that’s potentially helpful for everyone. I also bring in guest speakers. For example Melinda Cotton from Fulham Osteopaths, who might talk about posture in pregnancy or cranial osteopathy for newborn babies.
Another thing we do, which is lovely, is to listen to birth stories from previous class members. So a woman may return to class with her newborn and share her recent birth story with the group. It’s the most wonderful way of passing on a baton of confidence from one woman to another.
Then the Thursday evening class is 6pm ‘til 7pm; it’s an hour of Pregnancy Yoga and an absolute joy. This is a busy class, 20 plus women and when I come into the room, I love the noise and energy of the women chatting together. That feeling of the oxytocin rising in the room is palpable. I’m into keeping the atmosphere in the class upbeat.
We’ll start seated, we’ll do a little bit of breath work and a little meditation, I might bring in some hand mudras that I’m working with, perhaps the ‘Seal of Unshakeable Trust’ to promote inner strength and a faith in something greater. Connecting with the baby is essential as we start the practice. We’ll do that just to ground and arrive for 5 minutes. Then we’ll move through some lovely asanas and a little slow flow and finish with a soothing savasana.
That sounds like great fun! So, could you sum up what mummies can expect from your classes?
A very warm welcome, a safe pair of hands that have been working in pregnancy for more that 20 years and trained in a course accredited by the Royal College of Midwives. I’m able to accommodate all kinds of ailments – the asanas can be safely adapted for each individual. It’s not a soft and floppy class – women who want to come and feel strong can work! But also, it’s not too challenging for someone who’s never tried a yoga class before. Everybody is welcome and each class has a WhatsApp group that all new mummas are invited to join.
I try to make women to feel like goddesses. And a pregnant woman is! She has the source of life and creation right there in her! The class is a celebration of that. It’s also an acknowledgement that you might feel a bit rubbish some days, so I’ll bring some humour into it. If we’re in Virabhadrasana II, (Warrior II) and we’re looking along the length of the arm, I might say to them “Affirm to yourself: I am a strong, capable woman.” A lot of women may be feeling less that that and we will adapt our affirmations – ‘I am a strong, capable, exhausted woman!” The combination of a strong pose and some spontaneous laughter is a gorgeous release and a great reminder of our strengths and our vulnerabilities, a natural state of motherhood!
Lulu, thank you.
If you would like to attend Lulu’s classes please contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org