Bendy Mama

With a big pregnant belly and an open mind, 417 Magazine Editor Katie Pollock Estes tries her hand at prenatal yoga.

I dabbled in prenatal yoga early in my pregnancy, back before my lungs got squished and my body got weird. But the home workout DVDs were tough to follow, my living room floor was a little too hard, and my cats were way too interested in trying to get involved. So I abandoned the videos. But toward the end of my pregnancy, as I became increasingly uncomfortable and increasingly nervous about whether my body was ready for childbirth, I decided to give prenatal yoga another shot—this time in a studio with an experienced professional.

I spoke to Loa Freeman, owner of Success Naturally, to see if I could come and try the class. She was instantly enthusiastic and welcomed me to her studio with open arms. The prenatal yoga classes are held on Thursday evenings and taught by Teresa Ollis, so I showed up the following week ready to get down to business.

What I loved about prenatal yoga at Success Naturally was that the class was very focused on nurturing the pregnant body, using various poses to relieve a lot of the common aches and pains of pregnancy and prepping both the mind and the body for childbirth.

At the beginning of the class, Ollis asked each woman if she was having any specific body issues. Several people (including me) mentioned achy hips that were keeping us from getting a good night’s sleep. So Ollis threw out her original plan for the day and reworked the curriculum to focus more on poses that can relieve hip and back pain. It was perfectly tailored to what the 10 women in the classes needed that day. Plus she gave each of us a handy cheat sheet with all of the night’s poses on it—making it easy for me to practice at home, too.

The studio at Success Naturally incorporates numerous props (folding chairs, firm bolster pillows, stacks of blankets, wooden blocks, yoga mats and more).  Blankets could be placed under our knees for support. Blocks helped put our bodies in just the right position. Ropes provided a little extra stretch. While the class was challenging at times, I felt supported and comfortable. We even used the blocks, bolsters and blankets to rig up a perfect pregnant-lady resting pose for the final relaxation portion of the class.

Freeman, who has a background in endocrinology and diabetes and has trained with yoga masters around the world, says the prenatal yoga classes (and other classes offered at Success Naturally) feature highly trained teachers who use the Iyengar tradition of yoga to directly address certain physical needs in the body. It’s not about flexibility (although that is a happy side effect). It’s about understanding the balance in the body’s chemical and neurological systems. Poses are specifically aimed at calming the brain and body to help it repair and heal itself. The instructors at Success Naturally go through some intense mentorships and apprenticeships for at least five yeas before teaching classes. They all have been through certification programs, have taken anatomy classes, go through doula training and are approved by DONA (an international doula association).

For students of prenatal yoga, the intended outcomes include learning to be patient with pain, increasing strength and range of motion, focusing on breathing and building confidence and mental clarity. It’s pretty easy to see how these things are going to help me when I’m in the delivery room. Freeman says that continuing the study after students have recovered from childbirth can even help ward off postpartum depression and aid in fatigue.

When the class ended, I felt like I had given my body a much-needed stretch, and I had learned some valuable tips for relieving pregnancy-related aches.

The first thing I did when I got home was corral all the pillows in the house and work on recreating that resting pose. The result: The most restful night of sleep that I’ve had in weeks.

WHAT: Prenatal Yoga

COST: $18 per single drop-in class; $87 for an eight-week session

WHERE: Success Naturally, 3539A S. Lone Pine Ave., Springfield, 417-877-9642

WHEN: Thursdays, 5:30–6:45

More Info: Success Naturally offers a variety of yoga classes for all skill levels. You can find class schedules and more information online at successnaturally.com.

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