Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Russian Ballet Teacher

A few posts ago, jensmith98, asked for some thoughts about teaching a non-prenatal class while pregnant. Well, I have some thoughts so I'm gonna share them...

I taught through most of both pregnancies (stopping at the beginning of the 7th month for Eamonn, at the end of the 8th month for Alec). Because I teach an Iyengar-inspired style, it wasn't too hard to lead the class, with some minor modifications to lying-down poses to avoid pressure on the inferior vena cava (the large vein that carries de-oxygenated blood from the lower body--i.e.uterus--to the heart) To modify these, I used a bolster for Supta Padangusthasana (Hand-to-Big-Toe), Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclined Bound Angle), and Viparita Karani (Legs-up-the-Wall), so I was reclined at about a 30-degree angle. I usually just led the final relaxation verbally, while seated, altho a few times I did recline on my left side with supports.

I avoided most inversions and all backbends and front-lying poses. I did Adho Mukha Svanasana (Down Dog) pretty late into the pregnancy, altho after awhile it just didn't feel very good, so I did a Half Dog, with my hands on a chair or countertop (which felt great to shift the weight off my lower abdominals and lower back).
As I got bigger, I stopped doing demos and had more experienced students show the correct form. It also allowed me to show adjustments on them, so that the rest of the class could see better positioning for the pose. By the eighth month I stopped waddling around the classroom and did most of my adjustments verbally. I joked that I was going to teach like a old Russian ballet teacher--seated in a chair at the front of the room, tapping students with my cane when they were in the wrong position.

Most of all, I tried to be respectful of what my body was telling me as far as what I could and couldn't do. A lot of poses felt just fine, other stuff just felt weird. I felt a little silly parking in a chair at the front of the room part of the time, but it took so much effort to get on and off the floor that it was easier to do my perambulations from a seat. I hope I was a good example to my students as far as recognizing my limitations and working with them, rather than pretending they didn't exist (impossible to do when you are big as a house, I might add).

My own practice became much less physical towards the end, but I think the time I spent in Supta Baddha Konasana focusing on my breath really helped when it came time for labor and delivery (I only had to push for about 7 min.s, when Alec was born); I could really focus and stay calm despite the pain and how weird the whole process is.I was lucky in that both pregnancies were very low-maintenance, so I could keep up with my yoga. I'm glad I was able to stay involved with my classes and students for so long, because I think it kept me from focusing too much on the discomfort of the third trimester. Once I got used to my bulk (sort of), it was kind of fun to be the representative Pregnant Yogi.

So, it worked for me and I don't think my students minded the change in teaching style. At least my classes stayed the same size and everyone came back after my maternity leave. My message to jensmith98 is: teach for as long as you can, find the ability to laugh at your limitations and enjoy the attention. I loved teaching pregnant and I think the lesson of listening to your body is good for all of us, not just the mommies.

Those of you that taught during your you have anything to add, suggest?


jensmith98 said...

Thank you Brenda!

I absolutely love the ballet teacher imagery - I had one just like that once upon a time.

I've started talking with my students about my plans to teach through the pregnancy and I think they are comfortable with the coming changes. Now I feel liberated to try new things. If I had a broken leg, I'd need to make modifications to my teaching, too. Life happens!

Sally Webster said...

Pleae, please, please post an image af haf dog. My students are v. stiff and hands to floor is not an option. Have never come cross half dog. Many thanks.

Brenda Plakans said...

I'm having a little trouble getting pix up right now...basically, half-dog is putting your hands on the seat of a chair (maybe against the wall to prevent slipping) and then stepping the body back into down dog. The angle at the hip is much wider and you aren't as close to the ground so it requires far less flexibility in the calves and thighs.

You get less stretch in the arms and shoulders, which is also good for people with tight shoulders.

I'll work on getting something up by the weekend!

Yoga Mama said...

I'm almost 27 weeks pregnant and am still teaching two power-vinyasa yoga classes per week and one hatha yoga class. I totally agree: the main thing is to listen and adhere to your body, which is how we should be practicing our yoga pregnant or not. I've been trying to avoid too much on the back postures and no on the stomach. I did some core postures at firsts but have backed off of those and I've also been using a block a lot more to modify in standing postures like triangle. Also backing off twists or avoiding them altogether. I've started wandering around the class more, which is probably something I should be doing anyhow. My class seems to love that I'm pregnant, especially since I am still fairly agile, although I think they worry about my replacement during my leave.

Half down dog feels awesome - I think it may be in Shiva Rea's prenatal yoga dvd. There was a great Yoga Journal article called "Easy Rider" about sciatica a while back that had photos of it, but the photos aren't available in the online article. Brenda explains it well... here's another description from a different YJ article: Ardha Adho Mukha Svansasana (Half Downward-Facing Dog Pose)—standing with your legs perpendicular to the floor and bending forward to place your hands on a wall a little above hip height.