There are a ton of beautiful bellies inside Prema Yoga’s warm and welcoming zen-filled studio in a beautiful brownstone in Carroll Gardens. But unlike many prenatal yoga classes, Prema focuses less on the touchy-feely conversation and more on the invigorating flow of practice, with words of wisdom about birthing and motherhood carefully sprinkled into the downward dogs. Although co-owner Lesley Desaulniers will be westward-bound this summer, she’s laid a solid foundation for the studio’s continuing prenatal program. Here she tells all about it.
What are some of the benefits of prenatal yoga, both emotionally and physically?
On the most obvious level, the practice of prenatal yoga relieves the physical aches and pains that often arise during pregnancy. The strength and flexibility gained during prenatal practice also really assists the student during labor and birth. My labor was 26 hours long and I needed strong legs and steady breath to get me through it! I attribute my calm and focus to prenatal yoga practice. There are several energetic and emotional benefits as well. There is a practice in yoga called satsang, which basically means surrounding yourself with people on a similar path. During pregnancy, practicing with a group of women who are drawn to yoga as a means to having a steady, easeful and healthy pregnancy is very inspiring. I see our group of women at Prema supporting each other, giving advice, laughing and even getting together outside of class. This is very powerful and it makes pregnancy more fun to have like-minded people going on the journey with you. Finally, prenatal yoga is also a bonding experience for mother and baby. I loved the feeling that my daughter and I were moving and breathing together during prenatal yoga practice.
Tell me about Prema’s prenatal program.
Prema is a Vinyasa studio, and I teach my prenatal classes in Vinyasa style, specially created and modified for pregnancy. When I was pregnant with my daughter, I took classes with Mia Borgotta, and I appreciated that her classes were similar to Vinyasa classes I knew and loved, starting with a talk, then music, moving into Sun Salutations, standing and seated poses, and ending with meditation and shavasana. Mia taught me all about prenatal yoga teaching and was my doula during the birth of my daughter. It's an honor to pass on the teachings she offered me to the women of Prema!
How important is it to keep a sense of regularity and consistency during pregnancy?
It's so easy during pregnancy to feel like everything is changing and shifting very fast -- your body, your relationship, and your lifestyle all changing in what feels like the blink of an eye. This can be exciting, and also overwhelming. I found that practicing yoga in a Vinyasa style that was familiar to me reminded me of the part of myself that never changes, and is alway whole, before, during and after pregnancy. We sometimes call this the 'Inner Self.' In a time filled with doctor appointments, baby planning, and the big ol' list of pregnancy dos and don’ts, it's easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of change. Yoga practices reveals to us the changeless self, and that awareness makes the changeable world easier to navigate.
Besides keeping your body and mind healthy while pregnant, how does your class help prepare women for the birthing process?
All of the breathing exercises and breath control that I learned in yoga helped me to stay steady and calm during the contractions. Also, my physical body was strong enough to hold me in the positions like squats and all fours that made me feel more comfortable during contractions. The increased level of body awareness and muscular control also helped me during pushing.
Any special workshops/guests that prenatal Prema yogis can expect?
At Prema we often feature live music Vinyasa classes with some of our favorite musicians, and I am looking forward to bringing live music into our prenatal program. Also, Mia Borgotta is going to come and offer workshops and childbirth ed at Prema soon.
Can you give us one Prema Yoga-style “do-at-home” exercise that pregnant women can try during pregnancy when they can’t get out to a class?
One of my favorite practices is Sun Salutations! Just like in Vinyasa class, the repetition of the sun salutes can help to calm and steady the mind.
Prenatal Sun Salutations:
Inhale - Arms up look at thumbs
Exhale - Squat with elbows on knee ( look forward - hips are at knee height)
Inhale- Hands down, step right foot back to lunge
Exhale - Left foot back in Downward Facing Dog
Inhale - Plank Pose
Exhale - Downdog for 3 -5 breaths
Inhale - Right foot forward to the outside of the right hand
Exhale - Left foot forward to squat - elbows on knees, looking forward
Inhale- Circle arms out to the sides and up - gaze at thumbs
Exhale - Tadasana - strong standing pose - gaze at tip of nose
Repeat to the left.
Do both sides two or three times.
Location: 236 Carroll St., Brooklyn
Schedule: Tues. 6 p.m.; Sunday 11 a.m.
Cost: Drop-in class: $17, multi-class packages available