(no, not announcing anything:)
Some of us live such fast pace lives that we don’t have much time in between events to let it all sink in. I was in London this past weekend only to fly to Istanbul less than 24 hours after I came back, taught a class maybe four hours after I landed… So, I took this morning to reflect on these past days. If I don’t do this I am left feeling like some things never happened. It will not be easy to slow down my life at the moment, but what I can do is take some time to sit down and reflect.
Today I am reflecting on my weekend in London where I attended first weekend of Prenatal yoga teacher training with Nadia Narain, one of London’s favourite Prenatal (and Vinyasa) yoga teachers. I am sitting in a local corner café in Istanbul’s Cihangir trying to gather my thoughts and insights about the past weekend and especially about one particular thing. But, I’ll get there in a moment.
There are only teachers in my Prenatal TT class, more than thirty women plus one man. Yes, there is one brave guy with us listening to pregnancy and birth stories and being pretty involved in the training with questions and observations, not at all avoiding (as I did) putting a blanket under his shirt to pose for belly during one class even if it wasn’t obligatory. Respect.
On the first day we all introduced ourselves saying a bit about what we practice and teach as we all come from various traditions, and why we took this course. I was quite surprised how many of the teachers in the room, including our only man, have said the same thing about ‘why we took the course’ part. They were not there to learn how to teach a Prenatal yoga class as much as they were there to learn how to adapt their Vinyasa, Ashtanga, Power yoga, Hatha yoga and Broga (yes, our man teaches BRO yoga:) etc. to pregnant women who come to their classes. First thing that came to mind was WHY?! is there someone pregnant on your class in the first place, and in a city like London where there are so many Prenatal teachers and classes. But when Nadia, our teacher, mentioned that it happens to her as well, even on her Level 2 (meaning more advanced class) Vinyasa class I reminded myself of a very sad truth. In some yoga studios teachers are not allowed to turn students away. Also, it is very likely that that particular student will feel offended and complain - I know this from personal experience. This results in a very mixed class with at least 20 % of students that should not be there. Meaning it would serve both them and the students that chose well much more to be on some other class. Like on beginners is they are a beginner, yoga therapy if the have an injury, private with an experienced teacher if they have a health issue or a prenatal class if they are pregnant! So, who is to blame here? Is it the studio's, the teacher's or the pregnant student’s responsibility? When I discussed this with a friend she said: ‘If a pregnant woman came to the bar, ordered a cocktail and lit a cigarette, should a bartender refuse to serve her? Should the owner?’’ Good point I said, however, yoga studio is not a bar and what we serve should be of many health benefits to our clients and not cause any harm.
As with everything else nowdays yoga too has become a business and a way to make money. For some- shit loads of money. This would be all good if it didn’t involve ‘by any means possible’ scenario. As a studio owner of eight years now I know that in this competitive world; rent has to be paid, bills and teachers have to be paid and studio needs to survive. Every extra person is extra $€£¥ etc. But it shouldn’t be so. There should be a line drawn somewhere. Healing, safety and security of the student should be more important and put before the profit.
So, I understand that teachers don’t have much to say about who can and cannot attend their classes. And this is not right, but they should try and change this. Get together and speak to who ever they need to.
I am so grateful that I can make my own rules and say no to someone who is pregnant and tries to attend my full on Vinyasa class. I do turn people away for their own good from classes that are not right for them. I believe this is my obligation. I know what are the risks – students often don’t. While this may not serve my finances, it serves my calling.
I will be disliked by some for saying this but, the scenario above annoys me much less than teachers who promote dynamic practice during pregnancy by posting crazy videos featuring drop backs in all trimesters, writing books about their ashtanga practice and how they’ve kept it during pregnancy, posting crazy asana photos with huge bellies etc. For me this is the opposite of yoga practice and it does not serve anyone but their Egos. It certainly does not serve 99% of pregnant women out there. This, I believe, is refusing to accept the change and refusing to see the truth. If a strong practicioner or a teacher decides to do a full practice with only but a few adjustments during pregnancy, they should not put that on you tube or in a book. It is a bad example and serves no one. To quote Forest Gump ‘that is all I have to say about that’.
Ofcourse, not only studios and teachers are to blame. Students need to take on their part of the responsibility. If you are pregnant you shouldn’t be going to more advanced yoga classes unless you are a prenatal yoga teacher and know what to do, how to adjust and modify. Period. Practicing ashtanga, advanced vinyasa etc. during pregnancy is crazy. In time when you should relax, be gentle to your body and your baby, let your abdominals stretch and your pelvic floor relax, you are doing a practice that is the opposite of what you should be doing.
I don’t get to say this often – there is a great expression in Croatian or rather a different term for being pregnant that you don’t find in English language. We say woman is in ‘other state’ (drugo stanje), and this is exactly what pregnancy is. A change of your normal state meaning you need to adjust. You can’t wear your tight jeans, there’s certain foods you need to avoid, you can’t drink alcohol, can’t smoke, can’t sleep on your back or your right side etc. Your body changes inside and out. Will something happen right away if you drink and smoke while pregnant? Probably not. Will something happen if you do intensive training including dynamic yoga styles? Again, probably not. At least right away. But, engaging your pelvic floor and your abdominals will not help you deliver in a natural way. It isn’t rare that female athletes have to undergo C-section as they are too tight to deliver their baby, something that is the most natural thing to a woman. There is something fundamentally wrong with that!
Yoga teaches us to embrace and accept the change as it is the natural part of life. And this is what we should all practice daily. Accepting and embracing the change. Especially during time before you become a mother which, I believe, is one of the major changes in life.
So, if you are a pregnant yogini goddess somewhere out there – be gentle to yourself, move, dance, relax as much as you can, take long nature walks, practice gently, breathe. And most importantly - embrace and enjoy every change that this wonderful time brings.