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Yoga has been called a lifetime practice. It has accompanied countless people as they go through different stages of life, evolving based on the person’s needs. The beauty of this transformation of both the yogi and the practice has been embodied in the life of Lauren, who attended her first yoga class when she was only 15 years old. What began as a physical practice has become a way to help her overcome work stress; a bonding activity for her and her husband; and, most recently, a means toward a calm and healthy labor and delivery of her first child. Not a lot of people know that yoga can be practiced safely throughout one’s pregnancy. But for a regular practitioner like Lauren, continuing to come to the mat with her baby in her womb was a natural choice. With the support of her doctor, family, and the yoga+ community; some adjustments in the classes she attended; and dedicated prenatal yoga classes for expectant moms, she was able to practice yoga throughout her pregnancy. And through it all, she was able to draw from her practice and from her support group, everything that she needed in her journey as a first-time mom.
L: My husband and I moved to the Philippines in 2014, and since then, we’ve been part of the yoga+ community. For me, it has been a continuing journey. I’m now on my 16th year of practice, and I still remember my first yoga class, taken spontaneously with some of my friends while on a summer holiday. I loved the class, and something that the teacher said to me after, which is that “a flexible body makes a flexible mind”, made me want to explore yoga further. That really stayed with me, and I was keen to discover what that meant. So I continued practicing. When I started my professional career, yoga provided much-needed stress release, and helped me maintain my physical fitness. You always hear women having difficulty inviting their husbands or their boyfriends to the mat.
L: That took many years of encouragement from me. (Laughs.) I first suggested for him to join my yoga community in Australia, but he was very busy with his job so that never happened. When we moved to the Philippines, I suggested it again. Thankfully he finally tried, and he was very impressed with the classes and the teachers here. So now, he’s practicing partly due to my continuing encouragement, and because it has also generated his interest.
L: I’ve never really thought about that, to be honest. But I’m sure having the time to dedicate to ourselves, coming to the mat every week, and thinking about how our practice affects each other and the relationships we have, have been beneficial to our relationship.
L: I love it! We would regularly come to the Friday evening and Saturday morning class together, and those were absolutely special times for us to share, especially since we were both busy working for the week. On Saturdays, we would eat breakfast together, and continue the slow pace from the class throughout our weekend.
L: I was regularly practicing Jivamukti and Yin during that time. I even remember being in class when I had the realization that I thought I was pregnant. It was during a Jivamukti class on a Sunday, and I just felt different. A few days later, a pregnancy test confirmed it. After that, I started prenatal yoga classes, and meditation classes, as well.
L: It’s a very intimate environment where you sit together in a circle, and do the physical practice and the pranayama together. It was also a comfortable space where you could ask questions, and share resources with each other.
L: My doctor was very encouraging. He was supportive of natural birth from the outset, which was the reason I came to him in the first place, and he also knew I was coming to prenatal yoga, and he advised me to continue that.
L: I went into labor prior to my due date, but even though that was the case, I was very calm, and I felt prepared. I was able to draw from the techniques we learned from the prenatal classes—in particular, the breathing, the exercises to do in between contractions, and the positions during birth, among others. I was doing a breathing technique that I learned from prenatal class all throughout my contractions. And in the end, I didn’t take any pain relief or require any medical intervention, so I was able to get the natural birth that I wanted. I learned from the prenatal classes that when you enter labor without fear, then that helps control the pain. So my teachers suggested that we create a conducive environment, where you put in things that make you feel relaxed. The environment we created was very intimate—it was just my husband, my obstetrician, my doula, and I, and not a lot of medical staff in the delivery room. I had a doula assist me during labor. This was not very common where I was from, but it’s something that I learned from some teachers in yoga+, and also something I researched about. My doula mentioned that my delivery and labor was like a home birth, but in a hospital setting. She said she has never seen anything quite like it. I didn’t quite feel comfortable doing a home birth for my first, so we had to do it in a delivery room. But even then, the environment we created—with dim lights, the sound of water, essential oils, and other elements—was definitely conducive. I felt like even my baby was calm during his birth.
L: Yoga helped me enormously—physically, mentally, and emotionally. It helped me become physically fit leading up to the pregnancy, and allowed me continue my practice throughout my pregnancy. Being able to join prenatal classes once a week also meant joining a community of other mothers-to-be, and learning from their experiences. I really valued that because my husband and I are here in the Philippines without our families, so the group became a very big support for me. But probably the biggest way that yoga benefited me was in the labor itself, and leading up to the labor.