Occasionally in this world, we come across a person who knows what they are talking about, speaks plainly, and in so doing acutely shifts our perspective. Uma Dinsmore-Tuli PhD is one such person. She describes herself as a “writer, visionary, radical yogini, Total Yoga Nidra advocate and eco-feminist activist”.
I signed up for her Pregnancy Yoga Teacher Training earlier this year following a recommendation from one of my teachers, Maren Weege, and on the understanding that Uma is recognised as a specialist in this space. I didn’t realise that I was in for a week of such fascinating, useful, thought-provoking and immediately applicable information that went well beyond the qualification to teach yoga to pregnant and post-natal women.
Key for me, was the shift from asking, ”How must I adapt my practice / what I’m teaching to accommodate a pregnant or post-natal body?” to “How can the tools of yoga best serve and nourish me / this person in front of me?”. Prior to this training, my thinking on this point was that a pregnant woman isn’t ill, and shouldn’t be treated as such; that she has the right to continue on ‘as normal’ in her yoga practice (and life); and that encouraging her not to overstretch, to rest as needed, to avoid significant core work, “closed” twists, backbends, jumping and inversions, would just about get us there.
During the training, I came to realise that this view, while grounded in a sort of naïve feminism, and informed by an accurate anatomical understanding, was distinctly unsubtle.
It didn’t allow for any of the following facts, and key themes of the training:
So, it turns out that it’s not just all about what kind of twist is appropriate for a pregnant woman! On that note though, I did also take away a long list of useful yoga practices and thoughts that will inform my own practice, as well as my ability to welcome pregnant and post-natal women into my classes, and design classes especially for them.
I will share more widely one of our pieces of assessment. We were asked to produce a one-page handout of key precautions for pregnant and post-natal women practising yoga. I’m planning to publish this in an upcoming episode of Friday Featuring …. I hope it will be a useful summary in an arena which can be a mire of dos and don’ts, rumour and confusion.
I’m certainly at the beginning of my journey into this specialism and I’d love to hear your thoughts on practicing and teaching yoga for pregnant and post-natal women. Along with teaching yoga and meditation to children, it’s an area where I’ve found people are willing to share experiences and resources, which helps us to grow a supportive community.
Breathe, make space, be compassionate.
As well as conducting training for teachers of therapeutic yoga for pregnancy, birth and post-natal recovery, Uma Dinsmore-Tuli is the author of the excellent resources, Teach Yourself Yoga for Pregnancy and Birth and Mother’s Breath: a definitive guide for breath, awareness and meditation practices for mothering, as well as the massive tome, Yoni Shakti. With her husband, Nirlipta, she founded the Yoga Nidra Network. Their website has a huge array of Yoga Nidra resources.
Maren Weege teaches yoga in East London. As well as regular Pregnancy and Flow & Restore yoga classes, she offers regular Birth Preparation and Restorative & Yoga Nidra workshops. She has trained extensively with Uma, and with Max Strom. Here website is here.