My friend Sophie, who is also expecting, suggested we do pregnancy yoga together. She found a few classes near my house but unfortunately they all start too early for her to get there in time after work… so although it was her idea, I found it was I who was trudging through the cold evening to get to the class.
Even the NHS recommends yoga
I’ve never been a fan of organised exercise. I find classes embarrassing and would rather just work out on my own, when no-one is watching me do it wrong and I’m not comparing myself to the other participants. The one exception has been a zumba class taught by my friend Lily. I’m not sure if it is the nature of zumba or the fact she is my friend so is extra nice to me!
Anyway, I entered the hall where the yoga class is to be held and was immediately confronted by an overpowering odour of incense. I suppose this is to make us feel extra relaxed or something; for me, it evokes a potent combination of church and my teenage patchouli oil phase. It was the 90s – that stuff was retro cool! The instructor instantly irritated me. It was the voice – somewhere between Mystic Meg and Kate Bush, a petulant wail that I just couldn’t take seriously.
We were supposed to sit cross-legged with our knees lower than our hips and almost straight away I got pins and needles. My thighs also started to itch. We were sitting in silence, without even music as a distraction, concentrating on our breathing and thinking of a word that reflects our state of mind. I made a supreme effort to overcome my physical discomfort and the word that came to mind was “loved”. Emerging out of this phase, I subtly changed position, which was much better. But what is this? We have to introduce ourselves and share our word with the whole class? This is the kind of thing I dread! There was no way I was revealing my very personal word… I didn’t want to make anyone vomit onto their yoga mat… so after some quick thinking I planned to substitute “content”.
We started to go round the class and the very first girl told us she is “content”. Rubbish! I was only a couple of people after her and simply could not think of anything else, my mind was a blank, so I said I was also content. Lame!
I couldn’t believe how loud some of the people were breathing during the exercises. Have they never learned how to exhale through their noses? The thought of all that carbon dioxide mingling with the still pungent fumes of incense was a bit nauseating. During the Downward Dog, the teacher walked around the room to check our positions. I say walk around the room, but in fact she made a beeline straight for moi and spent quite some time attempting to mould my back into the correct pose. There was a farcical moment when, having finished pushing and pressing me, she asked whether I could see that my back is straight. Eh?! How am I supposed to see my own back? All I could see was the yoga mat beneath me as the blood continued to rush to my head. I made an unintelligible noise and thank goodness, she moved away. Everyone else was apparently doing fine, although I wasn’t the only new girl!
At one point in the class, we were on all fours and the teacher was encouraging us to breathe at different points on our back, focusing on areas of tension. I didn’t feel any tension, so I imagined I was tense in my lower back – that’s always a good spot, right? Later that evening, I felt an ache in my lower back that wasn’t there before. A coincidence? I don’t think so!
The final exercise took place in pairs. We each knelt over a chair while our partner placed their hands at different points on our back… and hips… and waist… and belly! Surely I’m not the only one who doesn’t feel comfortable about a complete stranger touching me so intimately? Am I being too English about this? I went along with it and in the event it wasn’t too bad – luckily my partner seemed nice and normal – but I couldn’t fully relax like I was supposed to as it just all felt too weird! Maybe it would have been better if Sophie had been my partner. All the other women seemed lovely but it’s not the best setting to get to know each other as silence and meditation are encouraged!
I’m sure if you are working through an injury or other physical strain then yoga could be really beneficial. I don’t feel like I need it for stress reasons either. In fact, the class definitely increased my stress levels rather than reduced them! If I do start getting an aching back later on in pregnancy, like so many women do, I’ll deal with it when the time comes – I’m not sure what the point is, focusing on such issues if you are not actually experiencing them. I think it’s too late to take any preventative measures either. I expect genes and physical condition pre-pregnancy have more to do with it than anything else. What will be, will be!
I feel that despite everything I did learn some “moves” that might be helpful one day. That evening I told Mr Cath about the class and described how some of the techniques might be useful during labour. As I held onto a chair rotating my hips, he burst out laughing! Not the effect I was hoping for. Although realistically, it was silly of me to expect a wise nod and an “oh yes, that will really help the baby move down your birth canal”. And when labour arrives I’m sure we’ll need all the laughs we can get!
I don’t think I’ll be going back to pregnancy yoga any time soon. I found the beneficial parts of the class were not really worth the money. These classes aren’t cheap! Luckily I’d paid a drop-in fee rather than committing to a whole term. I’m sure that yoga classes are ideal for some people but for me personally it didn’t suit.
In the meantime, I found a pregnancy yoga book in a charity shop and have also acquired a lovely yellow yoga ball courtesy of Freecycle! So there is hope yet for my yoga career…