Marielle Churaqui

In 2007 I completed the Inner Yoga Trust pregnancy module. Three years on, I now teach three pregnancy yoga classes a week plus a mother and baby yoga class where I live in North London. I thought I would share with you a typical week of teaching these classes, showing you what completing the pregnancy module can lead to…

It is Monday lunchtime and seven mums arrive for the mother and baby yoga class, five of whom used to come to pregnancy yoga. The Inner Yoga Trust module had a day devoted to postnatal yoga. So I combined what I learned then with ideas as to how to involve the babies by attending one of my friend Anna’s classes. I also studied two DVDs on baby yoga produced by Uma Dinsmore-Tuli and Francoise Freedman and from these I learned how to soothe baby colic and how to use singing to accompany movements. Teaching these classes is great fun. I especially love seeing the mothers’ confidence grow in the way they handle their baby as they learn various techniques that stimulate their baby’s physical development.

On Tuesday evening Jo pops in at the beginning of the class with her new baby girl. She recounts her water birth after a fairly quick seven hour labour. She proudly tells how she used the techniques learned in the class and found them extremely useful to handle the pain, especially the leaning against the wall swinging the hips whilst visualising the breath as a golden thread, a technique described by Uma Dinsmore-Tuli in her wonderful book Mother’s Breath.

Inspired by Jo’s visit, I base the class on reviewing the postures that can most help during labour. We practice the Charlie Chaplin and Camel walks which I picked up from a friend who attended Francoise Freedman’s pregnancy yoga course. To help us lose any inhibition about using our voices, we make sounds whilst on all fours as Jenny taught us during the pregnancy module. We also pair up and I teach them how massage can help during labour as described by Janet Balaska in her books about Active Birth.

Straight after the pregnancy class I run a gentle yoga class. Out of the ten in the class, four used to come to pregnancy yoga. Currently one father-to-be is also attending. His wife who comes to the Thursday class is due today and everyone is interested to find out how she is.

Fleur, who is fifteen weeks pregnant, is new to the Thursday evening class and arrives five minutes early to fill in a health questionnaire. Like most of my pregnant students, she has never practiced yoga before and is a bit apprehensive. I reassure her and give her a starter pack which includes suggestions for home practice. Fleur replaces Nicola who gave birth last week-end. I find teaching pregnancy yoga very rewarding but it involves a lot of administrative work. Above all, as these classes by their very nature have a fast turnover, I have to make sure I market them effectively and consequently I have to handle a lot of enquiries. The classes have a maximum of 12 students and are usually full. Keeping a tight register showing who is due when is therefore essential so that I know when I am likely to have a space for a new student.

Sarah is expecting twins and, whilst she is now 28 weeks pregnant, she feels sick most of the time. She finds that the classes help but I have to make sure she always keeps her head higher than her heart. Someone else suffers from bad heartburn. As taught by Jenny and using a chair for support, I take the class through various standing poses which help make space in the whole of the front of the body. We finish with supported Supta Virasana.

Since one of the pregnant women mentions how frightened she is of labour, we finish the class with a visualisation of the unbroken lineage from mother to daughter through the centuries and which helps to put our position as a mother in perspective.

The Saturday morning session is a drop in class and is held in a larger, less intimate venue. At times it is very busy, at others less so. At 10 o’clock in the morning, the women have more energy and the classes tend to be more dynamic. So I almost always include a gentle sun salutation with movements suitable for pregnant women which I have adapted from the classical version. The students really like it and often request it.

At the end of the class, I remind them that I am going to be on holiday for the next two weeks. Rachel is now 41 weeks pregnant and this is therefore her last class. She tells me how much she enjoyed the classes throughout her pregnancy and felt that they really helped her stay fit and healthy. She will miss them. She enquires about the mother and baby class she is hoping to join after the birth.

I am so glad I completed the pregnancy module. Each time I receive a text from one of my students letting me know they have now given birth, I feel very privileged to be part of such an important stage in a woman’s life; the bringing into the world of a new human being.

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