Some more info about pregnancy yoga classes

With thanks to Nina from Yoga Awakening Africa (awesome chick) and Anne Combrink of Ananda Sanga (my own personal guru):

Some more info about pregnancy yoga classes.

Pregnancy Yoga classes, taught by a Yoga Teacher with additional and specialised training in this field, provide opportunities for expectant women to develop greater vitality and awareness of their bodies. These classes also deepen their relationship with their unborn baby. Gentle postures, breathing, visualization and relaxation are learned which cultivate flexibility, calmness and confidence in preparation for labour and childbirth. Women are empowered to develop their ability to access greater relaxation, comfort and enjoyment. Calm, strength and flexibility ease the birthing process, thus reducing pain and increasing the joy of giving birth. With the guidance of the Pregnancy Yoga Teacher, women prepare for an active, normal and natural birth.

Birth and Nurturing the Baby are Natural.
It may seem strange that a mother needs to prepare for birth and motherhood; after all they are completely natural, instinctive and biological functions. Women’s bodies are ideally designed and adapted to carry, give birth to and nourish their young, just like any other mammal. However, unlike other mammals, humans appear to be the only species that has such difficulty fulfilling this instinctive potential.

This has not always been the case though. Many cultures, throughout the ages, have honoured and respected the power of women to give birth and nurture their young as central to life. It is only in our ‘modernized’ world that the power of women as birth-givers has been steadily degraded and replaced by the science of obstetrics.

Why Practice Yoga in Pregnancy?
Attending yoga classes that are specifically adapted for the pregnant woman means that a conscious choice has been made to devote some time to honouring and nurturing yourself and your unborn baby during this special time. As yoga brings your mind and awareness into your body it awakens the awareness of your baby inside and deepens your connection with your child. You will feel more in touch with your inner self, more connected to nature and you begin to discover that the power to give birth and nurture your baby lies within yourself. This is also very helpful after the birth.

Physically …
During pregnancy, energy levels fluctuate and may leave you feeling exhausted for no reason. Your body is using enormous amounts of energy to ‘create’ a brand new human being and misusing your body can result in excess tiredness. Physically, yoga teaches how to keep the posture correct as the centre of gravity changes throughout the nine months; it strengthens the back, tummy, shoulder, arm and leg muscles to be able to carry the baby comfortably and easily; it keeps you fit and thus an adequate supply of oxygen and nutrients flowing around the body and to the baby; it improves circulation of other fluids in the body helping to prevent swollen ankles and other oedemas. These seem to be ‘side benefits’ when you consider how yoga prepares the body physically for the birth. It helps to open up the hips and pelvis, creates more flexibility, and strengthens muscles that are needed for the ‘pushing’ stage of labour. After all, what does ‘labour’ mean – hard physical work! Therefore it makes sense to prepare the body with stretching, breathing and physical exercise.

Mentally and Emotionally ….
On other levels, yoga helps to bring your whole being into balance. It influences the mind and body positively, benefiting you emotionally. Yoga, especially with a focus on breathing, quietens the mind, allowing you to feel more peaceful within yourself. It is calming and reduces anxiety – you feel more present in your body and thus mentally and emotionally balanced.

Pregnancy is a natural state of ecstasy and celebration. There are many peaceful and blissful times to be enjoyed during these months. Yoga can help you make the most of the contentment, well-being and fulfilment which women can experience when they are pregnant. Its benefits will continue in the many pleasurable hours you will spend with your baby after the birth.

Preparing for Birth and Coping with Labour
In most traditional societies, women are encouraged in pregnancy to build up their strength and improve their fitness in readiness for the birth. On the whole they give birth easily and we can do the same.

The processes of birth are involuntary, they happen without your conscious control. The sensations experienced during the hours of labour as your body opens to give birth are very powerful. They take you to your limits of endurance. There are times of extremes both pain and pleasure, ecstatic highs and deep dark lows involved in the extraordinary inner journey which brings your baby to birth.  Yoga is a wonderful preparation for this. It teaches you to make space between thoughts to focus on what you are feeling in your body and to surrender and let go, which is exactly what you need to do during labour.

Breathing lies at the very heart of yoga practice – without mindfulness of breath the postures are lifeless and static. In Pregnancy Yoga classes breathing correctly and deeply, as well as using the breath as a focus, is learned. Breathing properly throughout pregnancy and labour are important for your baby, who is depending on you for his/her oxygen supply. To be able to concentrate on the breath – the source of all life – can help you get through the most difficult times in your labour.

Many of the yoga postures learned in the class are similar to the positions women instinctively assume in labour. These positions are then spontaneously applied during the labour allowing comfort and ease for the different stages.

Overall Benefits of Pregnancy Yoga
All in all the practice of yoga brings awareness of breath, body, mind and feelings, which enables the mother-to-be to stay in harmony with her child throughout her pregnancy. It gives her the confidence to follow her instincts while giving birth and as a mother.

For more information: contact me at nicci@yogawithnicci.co.za or call or sms me on +27 78 563 8152. I look forward to hearing from you!

_________________________________
Anne Combrinck (BSc; NHD(Chem); YTC; YTherapyDip), a Yoga Teacher and mother, used yoga to prepare for her son’s birth and has been teaching yoga to pregnant (and post-natal) women for many years.

She also trains Yoga Teachers and facilitates a workshop to further train Yoga Teachers to specialise in Pregnancy Yoga Teaching. There is a Pregnancy Yoga Teacher training workshop coming up in November 2011.

Contact her for more information: Tel:(021) 855-1470 or email: anne@asanga.org.za

Cleaning of Spring and shaving of Labradors

It’s all taking shape. 

They say that you need to be the change that you want to see (which brings me to the question, who are ‘they’ anyway? And why are ‘they’ quoted so often, as if ‘they’ are the font of all wisdom? But that’s for another post, another day).  Well, whoever they are, I can’t help feeling that they would be mighty impressed with some of the changes that I’ve made over the last few months, had they been paying any attention.

I’ve been feeling for some time that there are a few things that just haven’t been working quite right in my life, and so it’s been with gusto that I have brought about some changes.  A major one is having resigned from my corporate job to enable me to focus on building up my yoga business (whilst spending decent time with my children), but there have been many smaller ones too, such as the tweaks that I’ve made to my diet, consciously eating a whole lot more healthily, drinking less wine (my vice) and almost completely eliminating wheat, dairy and red meat from my diet.  I am making a point of dry-brushing every day before I shower, and it may be wishful thinking but I swear I see some effects already (or perhaps I just need to clean the mirror).

There have been structural changes too: I am slowly transforming my studio space into how I really envisage it, and today had bamboo blinds hung across one entire wall, covering the shelving there – the results are mind-blowing! It totally transforms the space from a semi-functional stretching spot to a dedicated, seriously-focused-on-yoga spot. Next week I start painting the remaining three walls (eventually gone for a violet-like shade…brave, but I’m confident. More about that in another post…). 

I’m whipping my garden into shape, clearing a large creeper-infested space under the trees for my little boy to have a jungle gym there (his Christmas present), digging up the large patch of what used to be lawn but what eventually was merely dust interspersed with surprisingly vicious thorns, and having roll-on lawn put down there instead.  Even my beautiful Layla-dog isn’t getting away unscathed: I’m toying with the idea of having her shaved for summer – our neighbour just had her Labrador done and apparently it makes a huge difference in terms of them keeping clean and in particular drying off properly after a dip in the pool (as these suburban pets of ours are inclined to do) so that they don’t get that ubiquitous wet dog smell. 

I have organised all the kids’ toys and transformed the study from a dingy, claustrophobic little room into a light, spacious, welcoming and functional space where both The Band and I are now happy to work. I repacked all our bookshelves and have recycled a plethora of old magazines, so all of a sudden I feel that there is space, not only in my house but my head. I cleared out my clothes cupboard, my jewelry box, the garage and have even gone so far (or obsessive) as to tidy out the crate  in which I keep all my gift bags, wrapping paper, ribbons, balloons, cards etc.

With The Band’s help, we’re even managing to change the way that we handle the occasional (snigger) conflict that comes up in our relationship, and the results there have been no less spectacular.

Reading back over what I’ve written, I realise that you, dear Reader, would be forgiven for assuming that I must be well into my third trimester and about to enter labour, so frenzied does all this activity sound.  Maybe it’s to do with Spring arriving, maybe it’s deeper than that and is my response to this niggling feeling that I need to somehow regain control over my life.  Maybe it’s not deep at all but just plain and simple feeling sick and tired of things being cluttered, stuck, disorganised, and taking action to change it.  Whatever it is, the effects have been almost as beneficial of a good long yoga practice: I feel restored, calmer, more focused, energised, motivated, peaceful. And excited about what the future holds.

I am by no means the ‘finished business’ yet (will I ever be?) but my new favourite way of summing up how I feel about the changes that I’m bringing about is: ‘I am in the process of positive change’.

Yes, ‘they’ would surely approve.

Why do yoga when pregnant?

(With thanks to Ananda Sanga for the notes – these are from the teachers training course I’m attending two weekends this month)

Pregnancy Yoga classes provide an opportunity for expectant women to develop greater vitality and awareness of their body that is home for two, as well as to deepen their relationship with their baby. Gentle postures, breath work, sound and chant work and meditation are learned to cultivate flexibility, calm and confidence in preparation for labour and childbirth. Women are empowered to enhance their ability to access greater relaxation, comfort, and enjoyment. Calm and flexibility ease the birthing process, thus reducing pain and increasing the joy during this special time. With Pregnancy Yoga, women prepare for as active, normal and natural a birth as possible.

The process of birth is not a Hollywood script with harp music, diaphanous robes, and sweetly smiling cherubim. It is hard work made of muscle, sinew, sweat, blood, and love. By toning the body, mind, and spirit, yoga can help a mother be present for the miracle of birth. “Yoga helps you prepare for the unknown by knowing yourself.”

Birthing Preparation for Couples

This provides an opportunity for couples to enhance awareness of and confidence in pregnancy, labour and birth. Through discussion, gentle postures, breath work, sound work, meditation and basic massage, couples cultivate greater relaxation, understanding and enjoyment for childbearing. Couples practice postures together that are both beneficial and enjoyable during pregnancy and during labour. Partners feel more connected to the unborn baby. The presence and encouragement of a woman’s partner is a powerful aid to labour and delivery. Partners develop greater understanding to support the birthing mom with confidence and sensitivity. 

Post-Natal & Baby Yoga

Once the mother has given birth she returns to this special yoga to help her body return to normal as quickly and effortlessly as possible. These classes can be attended with ‘baby’ and are made to be fun and uplifting.

Prenatal yoga teachers training and oxytocin overdose

I’m really looking forward to this weekend (and the third weekend in November) as I’m doing my specialised teachers training in pregnancy / pre-natal yoga at Ananda Sanga in Somerset West. Since having had my own two beautiful little ones and having gained my international certification in infant massage in 2010, pregnancy, babies, and particularly pregnant mums are an area of interest that is very close to my heart.

I am privileged to have one pregnant yogi in one of my classes already and there are another two who have expressed interest, so I am almost humming with excitement and anticipation at how wonderful it’s going to be to actively move into this space. I run my next infant massage course early in the New Year, and so what with presenting prenatal classes and having my studio double up as a venue for all those perfect (and they are all perfect, every single one of them) little babies and mums, it’s going to be a veritable oxytocin-fest!

Speaking of oxytocin, what an incredible hormone! Also known as the ‘love hormone’ or the ‘cuddle hormone’, it is probably best known for its roles in female reproduction (it is released in large amounts during labor, thus facilitating birth, and after birth helps with stimulation of the nipples and facilitating breastfeeding). What really blows my mind, however, is that it has been shown to be associated with the ability to maintain healthy interpersonal relationships and healthy psychological boundaries with other people. This is one of the many reasons why infant massage is such a powerful ‘tool’ – it fosters bonding between infant and caregiver (male and female) due to the increased production of the hormone during massage – by both the massage-giver and the massage-receiver. It also has a wonderful calming effect, which is probably why after an infant massage class, even though it’s often fairly chaotic (there is inevitably someone crying – sometimes the mums as well as the babies! – someone sleeping, someone feeding), there seems to be a lovely sense of calmness and serenity about those fabulous women when it’s time to leave.  Imagine if you could buy it by the bottleful and take a quick swig if you were feeling unloving towards your better half!

I’m so happy for you

I recently read a lovely thing that said ‘Take delight in the good fortune of others to create more happiness for yourself’.  It made me think about how often I am surprised by how many people seem to struggle to rejoice in other people’s good fortune, luck, success, achievement, joy, happiness – call it what you will. 

Case in point: having had the staggering privilege of my firstborn coming into this world healthy and happy and, within a relatively short period, sleeping through the night, I was astounded when not one but two of my dear friends commented, when I fell pregnant again: ‘well, you’re going to get your comeuppance with this one’ and other comments along the lines of ‘you’ll never get so lucky a second time around’. It was all I could do to stop my jaw from literally hanging open.  Never  mind the fact that we worked hard at it (thanks to a fairly strict bedtime routine – it doesn’t work for everyone and not everyone approves, but it worked like a charm for us), whatever the reason for our good fortune, I would have really thought that the wish would rather be for me to have exactly the same wonderful ‘luck’ with the second baby (who, by the way, slept through even earlier than my son). I know it’s unyogic to gloat, but I did have a little, tiny, miniscule gloat as I typed that. As I said, I  have a way to go along my ‘evolutionary path’ (as my yoga teacher calls it) and I obviously have a lot to learn from Patanjali’s teachings…

 I was reading recently about the brahmaviharas (the yogic teachings on love), which show us the way to a kinder, more compassionate relationship with ourselves and others, and thought how interesting it is that so many people seem to be scared of yoga, finding it all esoteric and a bit spooky, where in fact the teachings of the ancient sages are actually so beautiful, so helpful, and so very focused on helping us become more. I was amazed when I first read Patanjali’s Sutras and realised that they are actually very similar to the Ten Commandments – only, in my opinion (and it’s all subjective, obviously), more user-friendly and easier to digest. 

More than two thousand years ago, both Patanjali and the Buddha taught the practice of mudita as an antidote to the feeling that your happiness is threatened or diminished by the happiness of others – mudita is the ability to take active delight in others’ good fortune or good deeds. In one of the Sutras, Patanjali advises us to take delight in the virtue of others as a way to develop and maintain calmness of mind. We’ve all probably experienced how painful envy can be, and how much it affects our mental well-being, and the fact is that any feelings of envy that we may harbour don’t diminish the happiness of those we are jealous of, but they do diminish our own serenity. And then I read a lovely thing about the Dalai Lama who speaks of mudita as a kind of “enlightened self-interest.” As he puts it, there are so many people in this world that it’s simply reasonable to make their happiness as important as your own; if you can be happy when good things happen to others, your opportunities for delight are increased six billion to one! It works for me!

Falling off the detox wagon in the most spectacular fashion

After almost a week of fabulous detox – the most intense I’ve ever done (which is not that intense by many people’s reckoning i.e. no enemas etc but certainly no wheat, dairy, red meat, alcohol, caffeine etc) – I have fallen off the wagon most spectacularly, having shared a bottle of utterly sublime Pinot Grigio with The Band, and eaten almost an entire Colcaccio pizza. I was tempted to feel bad but then saw the breathtaking crescent moon this evening and realised that, in the bigger scheme of things, this is hardly a train smash. And I enjoyed every mouthful! Tomorrow is a new day (although with 3 slices left over and a penchant for cold pizza for breakfast, I think we all know how tomorrow is going to start off…).

Invitation to ‘Balance your Chakras – an extended yoga class’

Balance your Chakras – an extended yoga class

**PLEASE NOTE CHANGE OF DATE TO SAT 12 NOVEMBER 2011, ALL OTHER INFO REMAINS UNCHANGED**

with Leli Hoch and Nicci Annette, Certified Yoga Teachers
… Saturday 12 November 2011 | 9-11h30am | Stanford Valley Guest Farm
R 140pp

Imagine – A peaceful setting, overlooking Fynbos. Joy and stillness. Intense yoga practice, quiet breath-work, relaxation. Unwind and relax. And have fun, tea and muffins afterwards.

Chakra is the Sanskrit word for wheel, and these seven “wheels” were thought of as spinning vortexes of energy, arranged vertically from the base of the spine to the top of the head, where we receive, absorb, and distribute life energies.

Each chakra is associated with particular functions within the body and with specific life issues and the way we handle them, both inside ourselves and in our interactions with the world. Through external situations and internal habits, a chakra can become either deficient or excessive—and therefore imbalanced.

In our extended yoga class, we will focus on balancing all chakras through specific asanas (postures), pranayama (breathing exercises) and relaxation.

We teach a gentle Vinyasa yoga, inspired by a variety of powerful, lovely and humorous teachers.

The yoga we believe in is fun. Above all, it is transformative, fascinating, and, at times, a challenging mixture of focused breath, asanas and meditation, a way of holding space and moving through it. We are on that journey ourselves and probably always will be.

Our classes are suited to beginners and intermediate students, to young and old, male and female, to the frenzied urban mind and to the chilled green soul.

We invite you to invigorate your body, soothe your soul and discover a deeper and more profound notion of your Self.

What yoga seeks is union: a union between the body and mind, a union between friends and enemies, right and wrong, hot and cold and light and dark. Helping two forces, forces that at first appear so different, to form a harmonious connection. This is yoga.

About Stanford Valley Guest Farm: http://www.stanfordvalley.co.za/

After yoga you can have a swim in the huge farm dam with a magnificent 360 view or go for a hike on the farm, so come prepared!

Book with Leli 082 350 0253 | info@lelihoch.co.za or
Nicci 078 563 8152 | yogawithnicci@gmail.com