Pregnancy Exercises: Prenatal Yoga

Prenatal Yoga classes are growing in popularity, but is it right for you? What can you expect should you decide to take a prenatal yoga class? How can it better prepare you for labor and delivery? Plus, the benefits of meeting other mamas-to-be!

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Episode Transcript

Preggie Pals
Pregnancy Exercises: Prenatal Yoga

Please be advised, this transcription was performed from a company independent of New Mommy Media, LLC. As such, translation was required which may alter the accuracy of the transcription.


[Theme Music]

Jolie Cash : From the moment you learn you're pregnant, you're encouraged to stay healthy by eating right and working out. Prenatal yoga is one type of exercise that increases your strength and flexibility, even as your body experiences dramatic changes. I'm Jolie Cash, founder of Nature's Whisper School of Yoga, the home of Hot Mama Yoga. Today we'll learn how prenatal yoga can help your mind, body and spirit throughout the next nine months. This is Preggie Pals, episode 37.

[Theme Music/Intro]

Sunny Gault : Welcome to Preggie Pals, broadcasting from the Birth Education Center of San Diego. I'm your host, Sunny Gault. Have you heard about the Preggie Pals Club? This is our exclusive membership club for all of our loyal listeners, you get all all of our archived episodes plus bonus content after each show, and special giveaways and discounts. Visit our website, for more information. And today we are anouncing our new partnership with Pregnancy Magazine. Pregnancy Magazine has been a trusted source for pregnancy information for years, and now you can get a free 1 year subscription when you become a member of the Preggie Pals Club. You can visit our website for more information and check out the latest issue of Pregnancy Magazine to see our full page ad. OK, so let's introduce our panelists here in the studio, as you guys know, we're talking about prenatal yoga today, so some of our panelists are pregnant, actually we have one panelist who is pregnant and two panelists that had their babies, but have experience with prenatal yoga. So let's toss it to our token pregnant Mama, Rachel.

Rachel Adams Gonzales : Hi, my name is Rachel Adams Gonzales, I am a product consultant for doTERRA Essential Oils. I am 29, and I am due in April, and I have a son who is going to be three in a few months, and we are planning a home birth.

Sunny Gault : OK, any experience with prenatal yoga?

Rachel Adams Gonzales : I did do prenatal yoga when I was pregnant with my son, this time I've had a hard time finding time to do it, I haven't been able to find someone to watch my child so that I can do it, other than a little bit at home I do before I go to bed.

Sunny Gault : OK, nice.

Marites Hoyla : My name is Marites Hoyla, I'm 31, I stay home with my youngest one, he is Aiden, he is almost seven months, and I have an older one who is twelve.

Sunny Gault : OK, and joining us over the phone is Christine Stewart-Fitzgerald, she has been a panelist on our show in the past, so hello Christine!

Christine Stewart-Fitzgerald : Hi there! I have to tell you, I just had my birthday so now I am 41.

Sunny Gault : Congratulations!

Christine Stewart-Fitzgerald : I am a stay at home mom right now, my baby girl turned four three months ago, and then I also have twin identical girls, who are three years-old and they love their baby sister.

Sunny Gault : That's wonderful, thank you guys for joining us today.

[Theme Music] [Featured Segment: News Headlines]


Sunny Gault : OK, we are going to kick off today's show with some unbelievable pregnancy headlines making rounds around the Internet. And I love this one, you guys have probably seen it, there is a baby photo that is going viral. There is a couple, I belive there in Arizona, Phoenix, I belive. The mom is a photographer, she has had a scheduled C-section, I believe she has three other kids, but this wasn't her first pregnancy. Her husband snapped this photo of their baby, a little girl, who they since named Nevaeh, which is “heaven” backwords, reaching out to the doctor as he is pulling the baby out from surgery. And the headline is “Most polite baby ever shakes doctor's hand from womb”, the bar has been set, folks. I thought this is so cute, this is from Yahoo Shine, such a cute photo, it's kind of getting mixed reviews, but I think most people really like it. What do you think, Rachel?

Rachel Adams Gonzales : I think it's a really beautiful photo, but my son actually grabed the midwife's hand when he was coming out, because his arm came out, so it just reminded me of his birth.

Sunny Gault : And you had a vaginal birth?

Rachel Adams Gonzales : I did, I had an unmedicated water birth.

Sunny Gault : That's really cool. Jolie, what do you think?

Jolie Cash : I think it's amazing, because it shows how babies, even from the very beginning stages need touch. And so it really does give proof to skin on skin, and baby wearing, that the baby actually right away was like, “I want to touch you”. I think it's really beautiful.

Marites Hoyla : When I first saw the picture, I actually had a little tear, I had two C-sections, they were both emergency C-sections, and it's a different type of birth, it kind of just gives that feeling that evert birth is different, and every baby, like Jolie said, needs touch and needs love, and that's why they came here, for us to care for them. Whether you are a doctor, you are care giver, you are a parent, every kid needs special care. So it kind of gives it that sense of “I'm here, take care of me”, and in return, of course, we wish that our kids would take care of us when we are older.

Sunny Gault : That's the plan, right? Christine, what do you think about the photo?

Christine Stewart-Fitzgerald : You know, I should say, when I saw it I thought, “Wow!”, to me it showed that the baby had such a subconscious awareness of the outside world and what's going on around him. If I have twins, especially, I'm always interested in how they're learning and knowing about each other inside the womb and have this awareness, so to me it's just, “Wow!”, these babies already have personalities and awareness that they want to bond with us, it's amazing.

Sunny Gault : Yeah, absolutely. We'll post the picture on our website if you guys want to check out the link. And of course, if you want more great pregnancy headlines, you can visit the Preggie Pals pinterest board. Thank you ladies for the conversation.

[Theme Music]


Sunny Gault : Today we are launching a new series here on Preggie Pals, focusing on prenatal exercises, and in today's episode we are learning about prenatal yoga. Jolie Cash is a prenatal yoga instructor, she is also the founder of Nature's Whisper School of Yoga, here in San Diego. Jolie, welcome to Preggie Pals!

Jolie Cash : Thank you! Thank you for having me.

Sunny Gault : Absolutely, and we do have a little baby here in the studio, so if you hear him, it's totally fine, he was eating a little earlier, so he is going to be joining us for our conversation. OK, Jolie, let's dive in here. How does prenatal yoga differ from regular yoga?

Jolie Cash : There is not much difference in the yoga practice itself, except that the way that women come to it is emotionally a lot different. And then there is a lot of difference in the way that we move the body, 'cause there are certain things that you can't do, there is a lot of contraindications, things like twist and laying on your belly, some pretty basic simple ones, but there is a big big difference which I want to get into, maybe a little bit later, as far as stabilities that you are not going to find in a regular yoga class.

Sunny Gault : And do you modify it at all for the individual students? Because, as you know, when we go through pregnancies, sometimes some women are a little more flexible, they can do some other things, whereas other women may not be able to do so.

Jolie Cash : In all yoga practices, you are going to modify, so we absolutely do modify, and then, with pregnancy, there is the hormone relaxin, which comes in to actually help with birth, so that is a really big factor in prenatal yoga, because somebody who comes in and says that she is not very flexible and doesn't think that she can do yoga very well (the thing is that everybody can do yoga very well), but when they do come in and think that they are not really flexible, all of the sudden they bend over and they're like, “Whoa, I'm very flexible today! What's happening?” It's from the relaxin in the body, so we do actually have women back off more than we have them work into their flexibility.

Sunny Gault : OK. And I know you are the home of Hot Mama Yoga, so tell me about that, what is that?

Jolie Cash : Hot Mama Yoga cam about kind of in a funny way, because I've been teaching prenatal yoga and I thought that we need something that is going to get people interested, because when you come to a prenatal yoga class, a lot of women thought that prenatal is really boring, because they kind of just sit there and look over their shoulder and breath; and the equivalent of birth they say is like running a marathon. And so you are not just going to learn your breathing techniques if you are going to go run a marathon, you are going to train your body, and you are going to get ready for it, you're going to strengthen your legs, and you are going to strengthen parts of your body that you haven't imagined, I remember my sister saying that her arms hurt after birth – she didn't had the strength in her arms to really use them to pull against whatever she was pulling against, whether it was her partner or someone else, to birth her baby.

Sunny Gault : So in the classes do you focus more on the muscles that women would be using in labor and delivery?

Jolie Cash : We do a lot of focus on Hot Mama Yoga on pelvis stability and so we are focusing on ligaments quite a bit, because your ligaments are very soft, and so we're focusing on the muscles around the pelvis. There are two things that I think set Hot Mama Yoga apart from any other prenatal class, and that is what I'm talking about public stability, so we focus on the muscles that are going to keep the pelvis stable when the ligaments get soft. Because especially after birth, they are going to need those muscles to be strong, because, as you know, after birth the pelvis needs to come back into place, where it used to be. And so those muscles need to be strong, to hold, that way the ligaments come back into their position as well. The second thing I think that sets Hot Mama Yoga apart from prenatal yoga is that we work with sound. In yoga, there is a main energy channel in the body called the seshuan, and it runs from the perineum, at the root of the body, to the crown of the head. In that energy center in the body we work on bringing that alive in pregnant women. You hear women say in birth all the time, “I felt like a wild animal and I wanted to roar”, or they did roar and they were like, “Oh my gush, I just roared!” When they are birthing these sounds come out of them, and so I like them to be comfortable with that, because I've heard women in hospitals saying, “Oh, I can't, I have to be quiet”, well you don't have to be quiet, that's actually activating your body to help the pelvis open. So the perineum is connected to the power, so if you can get those sounds to come out, then the pelvis is going to be a lor more energetically willing to open. So we work a lot with sounds.

Sunny Gault : Well, I want to get some feedback from the panelists here in the studio, to talk a little bit more about your experience with prenatal yoga. Rachel, I know that you have done this in the past, so what was your experience with prenatal yoga?

Rachel Adams Gonzales : My experience was a little more what you're not doing, breathing and whatever and relaxation. I really appreciated that it made me take the time to think about birth and being pregnant, and my baby and how my life was changing for that moment, that everything else had to go away. But I don't think that the prenatal yoga that I did a few years ago physically prepared me for birth.

Jolie Cash : And not to be mistaken, in the Hot Mama Yoga classes we most definitely go in ward. There is a lot of meditation and there is a lot of visualisation and there is a tone of breath, and one of the things I tell women in their birth experience, as they are planning their birth experience, is not to get attached to their breath, you'll be told to breath certain ways in birth preparation classes. I'll teach you several ways to breath in yoga, but not to be attached to that certain breath, and to really come in to their own breath, and when they are birthing, have that be what they are experiencing, their breath. So we do do a lot of that, and there is a lot of meditation and there is a lot of stillness.

Sunny Gault : Christine, can you share a little bit about your experience with prenatal yoga?

Christine Stewart-Fitzgerald : Sure, absolutely. With my twin pregnancy, the hospital where I delivered did offer quite a few classes, including prenatal yoga, and I thought OK, I'll do that. So I did it probably for ten, twelve sessions, and to me, the biggest benefit was just keeping me really balanced throughout the pregnancy, with the twin pregnancy I just felt really large and things got pretty uncomfortable towards the end, so I think for me the prenatal yoga helped me just stay balanced and also really aware of my body, and I think that helped with the birth experience, helping me be aware of my position and my posture, so I did an unmedicated labor with my twins as well, so I could just really think about if I am sitting up, opening my pelvis, and be aware of that. Also mentioning the sounds of labor, I was definitely really loud and using those very deep sounds, breathing and really low roar, a lot of that, so I can totally relate to that, and I think it helped get into that. We didn't do exercises, but I think I would have like to have done more, because that was definitely part of my birth experience.

Jolie Cash : I feel like women come to their birth, not so much now, but in the past few years, less empowered than we really are capable of, and I am so happy to see that women are becoming more powered in their birth, they are getting themselves more educated, they are doing more practices and so when she says she used those sounds, it makes me feel really great, because she was really comfortable and felt empowered to do that. A lot of women will hold that in in their birth experience, because they feel like they are doing something they shouldn't. That's really where it came from, I know women make these sounds on their own, I've been a doula for years, they do it on their own. My vision is to get them comfortable with it. And to see the women in class open their mouth half way and make this sound looking around to see if anyone is watching. Imagine if their body was opening to birth the baby and they were having to think like that, they wouldn't be as uninhibited.

Sunny Gault : Jolie, it would be so interesting if you would fly on the wall when these women are in there, or maybe even a neighbor, do you have any close neighbor businesses?

Jolie Cash : Oh, yeah! I stand by the window and sometimes I see people looking up like, “What are they doing?” Interesting about the husband factor, I encourage women to bring their partners to class, and when we do this, I have them turn to face each other, to get the partner comfortable with it, and I do encourage them to go home and teach their partners how to do the sounds with them, because it really can help, when a woman looses her focus in birth, the sounds that they learn in prenatal yoga, the partner can actually bring them back into it, by keeping the sound going. Even when she has to take a breath, and the partner stays with the sound, it can bring them back into the experience of it.

Sunny Gault : Nice. Will prenatal yoga induce labor?

Jolie Cash : Not when the baby is not ready. When a baby is ready, the baby comes. I know a lot of other tricks that can help induce labor...

Sunny Gault : … Are we going back to the partner thing here?

Jolie Cash : I don't know, there are some self stuff too. I do not believe that prenatal yoga can induce labor, I do believe that a vigorous yoga practice could bring a baby on sooner, absolutely. And there are some contraindications that we will get into later.

Sunny Gault : I know there are prenatal yoga videos out there, what makes going to a class a better option than just doing something with a video on your own?

Jolie Cash : There are a couple of things, the first thing would be your instruction, basic stuff, like in your instruction you have someone to share with you for your particular body, that might not work because maybe your hip needs a little bit of adjustment, or maybe you can lean a little bit that way and get more effective in the pose, but most importantly, the comradery, being with other women, and listening to the fact that, “Oh, you have gas too? I thought it was just me”.

Sunny Gault : That sounds like an episode of Preggie Pals, we talk about this stuff all the time.

Jolie Cash : The things that some women are not aware of that happen in pregnancy, especially younger girls that haven't had the chance to talk about pregnancy with their girlfriends yet, maybe their friends haven't had babies yet. But to have them in there together, it gives emotional support, they are not alone, they are hormonal and their partner thinks they're crazy and they want to divorce.

Sunny Gault : Exactly! Alright, when we come back, we are going to talk about when you should start taking prenatal yoga classes and what typically happens during each class. We'll be right back.

[Theme Music]


Sunny Gault : OK, welcome back! Today we are talking about prenatal yoga, and our special expert is Jolie Cash, she is the founder of Nature's Whisper Yoga School of yoga, right here in San Diego. So, Jolie, let's talk a little bit about the classes. When should women start taking up prenatal yoga class?

Jolie Cash : My belief is that a woman should start taking up prenatal yoga classes as soon as she thinks that she's pregnant. Or maybe as soon as she finds out that she is definitely pregnant. It's really important for them to work with some of the accommodations that are made it a prenatal yoga class, because there are certain simple things like in the very beginning stages of pregnancy, a woman should not do deep abdominal twists, there are a lot of twists that happen in yoga. So if they haven't done exercises before or rather yoga before, they are perfectly fine to start, at least in my classes, but they most definitely should come in in the very beginning and start and they should let their practitioner know that they have never done yoga before, so that the yoga teacher can share with her ways of backing off.

Sunny Gault : I know a lot of women think that, “I'm pregnant, now I need to start exercising”, is there a danger. If you are going to a class, hopefully there is an instructor that can guide you through it, but if you are starting with absolutely zero exercise experience, can you go to prenatal class as long as the instructor is guiding you?

Jolie Cash : I do believe that you can, and I do believe that it's the responsibility of the yoga instructor to share with them ways of backing off. Because there are certain things that we do in the yoga class that prepare them for birth. You don't – according to practitioners, midwifes and doctors – you don't want to start anything you haven't done before your pregnancy, but I think that prenatal yoga is different. I know prenatal yoga is different.

Sunny Gault : Well let's talk about the class and what happens within the class. Can you benefit from just going to one prenatal class, or is it like a series of classes before you really start to see the benefit?

Jolie Cash : I think that mentally you can benefit from being in one class, I think physically, absolutely not. I would say one time a week would be the minimum, three times a week is great, as many times as you can a week would be better. I like the idea of giving the body one day of rest. I believe the longer you go through your pregnancy, the more benefit that you are going to see, for sure. Physically, most definitely.

Sunny Gault : So walk us through a class.

Jolie Cash : What happens in a class is I like to check in with the mommies, I like to get them all to kind of connect, and see where they are in their pregnancy, so they can look over and see who might be in their next mommy group, “Oh, you're 23 weeks, so am I!” A little bit of talking, I always like to get on one little talk each class. For instance, I might talk about placenta encapsulation, or something that makes them think about doing a little bit of research for their pregnancy. And then we'll start by warming the body, we do some side stretches, we do upper body twists. The side stretches are going to create space between the hips and the ribcage which gives more room for breath, because on birthday they are going to need more space for breath, when it comes to pushing. Then we will do a gentle warm-up of the body in a more active way. This is very gentle, there are definitely accommodations, no abdominals used, and then, from there we'll move in to standing posture. And then standing postures lead us to strengthening the legs, creating stronger arms, opening the neck. And then we will move to the floor, where we do backward excercise, we do most definitely hip openers, we do a pose which is about stabilizing the sacrum, opening the hips, the knees. From there, we'll do a nice posture, lay them down, open their hips, we do a lot of hip lubricating postures, where we are going to circle the leg around. Some of the other things we do before we come to the ground are the sound, we work in deep squats, not all the way down into deep squats, but half-squats. And we do these sounds, opening the mouth really wide, getting the hips and the jaw connected physically, just like we connect the perineum palate to the sound, we connect the body physically through opening the mouth and getting the jaw nice and relaxed, and that connects to the hip. We also will do some hip circles, which seem like belly dancing. Belly dancing was actually invented for the pregnant women, and then the men saw it and thought it was really beautiful, and it became men's entertainment. So we do similar little hip circles that look kind of like belly dancing, and that's also for pelvis to build. We do different things each time, but mostly there is strengthening, breathing, relaxing, and at the very end, we do have the shavasana that's at least 12 minutes.

Sunny Gault : What is that?

Jolie Cash : Shavasana is the final relaxation posture, where they lay and do absolutely nothing but breath, feel their baby, and a lot of times sleep.

Sunny Gault : Do you have to wake them up?

Jolie Cash : Sometimes, I do, it's a very gentle way of waking them up.

Sunny Gault : OK, so how long is the class total?

Jolie Cash : The class is about an hour and 15 minutes, at least at our studio. They can run shorter, you can do a shorter version if you would like, most definitely I'd love more time, it would be great to go longer, but I think in accordance with what we have in our culture right now, an hour and 15 minutes is really great time to do that.

Sunny Gault : And what should women be looking for in their prenatal yoga class? So they hear this episode, they are like , “Oh, I'd like to give this a try”, how do you separate the good studios from the better studios?

Jolie Cash : I like how you place out the different studios, because I think that all yoga is good, no matter what. I believe that you want to have a studio who is employing certified – and by certified I don't mean they have certification, but well trained, well studied, passionate teachers.

Sunny Gault : Is there a certification for prenatal yoga as opposed to regular yoga?

Jolie Cash : There are certifications for prenatal yoga, but there is not really one organization in the United States that I can really prove to be following up on credentials.

Sunny Gault : How much do classes typically cost?

Jolie Cash : There are classes that you can get into for $50, some studios charge extra, an extra $5 if you do a prenatal class, because they consider it to be a specialty class. Classes at my studio are $17 but you can always get specials by the more you commit in the studio financially, the cheaper the class is going to be. For instance, you can do a ten class card and they will take your price down to $13, you can do a monthly unlimited and you can get your classes as low as $8. So it's all about the commitment.

Sunny Gault : One of the benefits of taking a class with you is the babysitting feature, and I think that's fantastic, because I'm assuming a lot of moms that go to your studio already have children, and that's determinant for us, I'm a mom of two, it's very tough for me to get out of the house. Tell us a little bit more about that, and your decision to offer babysitting services.

Jolie Cash : A lot of moms were saying, “I really want to come to yoga, but I've got this 2 year-old”, and it was a real bummer for me, because I felt like these women were at home yearning to make a change in their body, in their lives, and they couldn't, because they were moms. And that just didn't feel very empowering to me. So here I am, I was working at one of the top clubs in San Diego and I thought that it's so easy for the moms to drop their child and go to yoga, and the child is in the same place. So when I found the studio space I thought that it would be great to have the child in this very next room, so they can do yoga. So it was really about empowering the mom.

Sunny Gault : OK, let's talk to the panelists a little bit more. What would you ladies say to a mama who is considering taking prenatal yoga classes?

Christine Stewart-Fitzgerald : I would say that it's a great way to really enhance that mind – body connection. Even if someone is not physically thinking about exercise or starting something new, I think it's just a great way of really connecting with the baby, connecting with your own body and how it feels and start feeling comfortable with the whole verbalizations. So even if someone wouldn't want to commit to going every week, I think even just trying it a few sessions would be a great thing.

Sunny Gault : Alright, thank you. And Marites, any last thoughts?

Marites Hoyla : I think the community at Nature's Whisper is really awesome, it's really great, not just for the mamas, but for partners too. I've been to class, my dad has come and it was really sweet for them to practice together. I had C-sections with my babies, and we are so busy in our lives, whether you are a first time mom, second time or third time mom, and it was time for me to connect with my babies. So whether I had a C-section or not, it was just a great time to connect with my baby, and I remember Jolie had a class one time and she asked, “How often have you connected with your baby?”, and I remembered, “Oh my gush, this is the first time”, you know, since my last class. So it's great for that, but there are so many benefits of it, we can spend all day here talking about it.

Sunny Gault : Alright, well ladies, thank you so much, Jolie, thank you for joining us.

Jolie Cash : Thank you for having me.

Sunny Gault : Thanks to the ladies here in the studio, and baby Aiden, you seem so happy! You're such a talker, thank you for being part of our conversation, baby Aiden. And Christine, thank you for joining us as well. This conversation continues for members of our Preggie Pals Club, after the show Jolie will walk us through one of the most popular prenatal yoga poses.

[Theme Music] [Featured Segments: The Best Online Pregnancy Resources]


Sunny Gault : Before we wrap up today's show, here is Jeanette McCulloch, with some of the best online pregnancy resources.

Jeanette McCulloch : Hello Preggie Pals, I am Jeanette McCulloch, from Birthswell. We at Birthswell believe that you, as a mother, will make the right decisions for your pregnancy and birth when you have access to evidence-based information and a strong support system. That's why I'm here, to share with you new media tools to find the information that's right for you. Today I am going to talk about a serious topic that deserves our attention. Most of us have heard of postpartum depression, but what we are learning is that mothers can be affected with a new disorder, at any time during pregnancy. It can include not just depression, but also OCD, anxiety, and, in very rare cases, psychosis. About 15 to 20% of all mothers and mothers to be experience some time of prenatal mood or anxiety disorder. If you, or someone you know, is struggling beyond the normal ups and downs of pregnancy or time afterbirth, the website is a rock solid peer-to-peer resource. The site was created by a mom, Katherine Stone, after her own struggle with postpartum OPD. Here, you will find information in what she calls plain mama English, meaning no medical jargons spoken here. There is a comprehensive list of symptoms, including warning signs for when you need to seek immediate help. You'll also find information on treatment options, including those that are compatible with breastfeeding. Dads and partners, if you are listening, there is a section here just for you. Most importantly, when you are reading, you feel like you are hearing from someone who just gets it. Remember, this is a peer-to-peer resource, and not a substitute for medical attention. You can find the site at You can also find Katherine Stone on Twitter – follow the links from her website. Thanks for listening to today's tools for finding the information that's right for you, and be sure to listen to Preggie Pals for more great pregnancy tips in the future.

[Theme Music]

Sunny Gault : That wraps up our show for today, don't forget that we have a whole team of experts waiting to hear your pregnancy questions. If you have a question, simply call our hotline at 619.866.4775 or email us and we will get your questions answered. Coming up next week, we'll be discussing prenatal testing and genetic counseling. Thanks for listening to Preggie Pals, your pregnancy, your way!


This has been a New Mommy Media production. Information and material contained in this episode are presented for educational purposes only. Statements and opinions expressed in this episode are not necessarily those of New Mommy Media and should not be considered facts. Though information in which areas are related to be accurate, it is not intended to replace or substitute for professional, Medical or advisor care and should not be used for diagnosing or treating health care problem or disease or prescribing any medications. If you have questions or concerns regarding your physical or mental health or the health of your baby, please seek assistance from a qualified health care provider.


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