Melissa, you are a prenatal yoga teacher in Munich. How does prenatal yoga differ from "normal" yoga classes?
Prenatal yoga is not just a yoga class full of pregnant women, the poses we practice in these sessions are slightly different and tailored to the body and specific needs of mommas-to-be. For example, it is not recommended (or possible at times) for pregnant women to lie on their belly or on their back - prenatal yoga adapts such poses to ensure that all moms still get all the benefits of yoga without overstraining or practicing any contraindicated postures. In prenatal yoga we focus on strengthening and lengthening the back, where a lot of pressure builds up as a result of the changes in their center of gravity as baby grows. Other areas we focus on are the hips, pelvic floor, muscles between the ribs (to increase your breathing space) and overall better blood circulation and stamina building to prepare you for birth.
How does yoga help during the pregnancy?
Prenatal yoga has amazing benefits for mom and baby. For moms, stretching and opening the hips not only alleviates some of the aches and pains pregnant women tend to experience, it also helps prepare them for labor and delivery. For instance, if you plan to deliver naturally, having strong hips and the ability to control your pelvic floor will make pushing during contractions easier and help regain form and muscle control post-partum.
Other benefits include:
● Reducing stress and anxiety (and better sleep!)
● Increasing blood circulation
● Improving your ability to breathe (especially in the later stages of pregnancy)
● Learning tools to cope with pain during labor
● Keeping you active
● It can also bring a sense of community and can lead to friendships with other mommas to be
Babies on the other hand benefit from your connection to them. They respond and react to your breathing and movement and love feeling mommy's relaxed state. Other important benefits include lowered risk of intrauterine growth restriction (a condition that slows the baby’s growth), as well as reduced hypertension-related complications.
Until which week of pregnancy you can join such classes?
You can start practicing yoga from the beginning until the end of your pregnancy, or until it feels comfortable for you. Some mommas join prenatal yoga as of their 12th week (2nd trimester) as this is when they regain their energy. I encourage you to listen to your body and make sure that your doctor has cleared you for practicing any type of exercise.
Where did you do your prenatal yoga teacher training and what had the biggest impact on you?
I got my holistic prenatal yoga teacher certification (100hrs) at the Womben Wellness Institute. My teacher, Usha Anandi, has years of experience as a holistic nutritionist, childbirth educator, full-spectrum doula, herbalist, and yoga teacher, so I learned so much about pregnancy, birth and post-partum. The training took place in Rishikesh India at the Anand Prakash Ashram where akhanda (holistic) yoga is practiced. Learning in such a traditional and holy place ensured that we integrate the ancient traditions of yoga in our classes and include all elements of a holistic practice: sound, movement, breathing, meditation and yogic wisdom. I especially loved the latter in my training. Although yoga has many physical benefits, it is the mental, emotional and spiritual benefits that have made this practice widely adopted in the Western world. I also learned about how empowering it can be to lean on a supportive community of women. I truly believe that is the key to making the best of your journey transitioning into motherhood and I want to enable this in my classes.
You lived both in Munich and Frankfurt. What are favorite hidden spots or cafés to chill down in both cities?
In Munich I escape quite often to the northern part of the English Garden. It's much quieter and peaceful than the South part and great for a long jog or run.
In Frankfurt, my home until last year, I loved hanging out at a little cafe behind Günthesburg Park (cafe Menthe). It feels like you're in a winter garden surrounded by plants and trees and it's next to a gardening store, so you can always pick up some flowers on your way out.