The Role of a Prenatal and Postnatal Yoga Teacher – Jessie Kavanagh The role of a pre and postnatal yoga teacher is multifaceted. The first facet of this is the most well known aspect of the role of a pre and postnatal yoga teacher, the physical component. As a pre/postnatal yoga teacher it is your responsibility to be able to confidently facilitate a safe, effective physical yoga practice that is appropriate for the client’s own abilities and stage of pregnancy. It is important to have a thorough understanding of the medical and anatomical changes that occur during pregnancy and childbirth and be able to work with and adapt to these changes. Having an understanding of the common contraindications, complaints and conditions that can be associated with both pregnancy and childbirth is also important. It is valuable for a pre/postnatal yoga teacher to be able to foresee any possible complications, obstacles or difficulties that could arise when delivering the physical component of a yoga class and to have a back up plan and alternative sequences or postures to put in place if issues do arise. Either just prior to or during pregnancy is generally a time when a woman’s health becomes one of her main priorities. More than any other time, most women will be looking at what they can do to ensure they are the healthiest they can be so that they know they are giving their best to their unborn child and are helping to make the pregnancy as safe and trouble free as possible. As such prenatal yoga classes can often be the first time many women have stepped foot in a yoga class. It is important to take this into consideration when structuring the class so that the class meets the needs and ability levels of its clients. It can also help to get an idea of what the client’s expectations are for their practice, what they hope to gain and what the are anxious about with regards to taking the class. Having this information prior to the classes commencing gives the instructor a good opportunity to pacify any fears where necessary and align the class with the needs and wants of the clients where appropriate. Many physical changes occur as a result of pregnancy and childbirth however it is often the emotional changes that can have the most profound impact on a prospective client and mother-to-be. Whilst the role of providing competent physical instruction or assistance is paramount for the physical health of a client, the ability to provide emotional support and assistance is an equally if not more important component of the role of a pre/postnatal yoga teacher. Providing tools and techniques for stress and pain relief throughout the pregnancy, the birth itself and post birth such as different breathing exercises, meditation, relaxation and mindfulness practices as coping mechanisms, can also be of great value both physically and emotionally to new mums. Many new mums-to-be may feel nervous or have some reservations about either the pregnancy ahead of them, the childbirth itself and what life will be like once their child is born. As a yoga teacher you have the opportunity to reassure, assist and educate new mums throughout their journey so that their experience of pregnancy and childbirth is an empowered one instead of one filled with fear, uncertainty and anxiety. Allowing time in class to answer questions and to provide information about what an expectant mum can expect with regards to her changing body, her new role as a mum, the birth itself etc., is just as important as the physical practice of yoga. As a teacher, when holding a pre/postnatal yoga class you are creating a space where mums and mums-to-be can come to relax, to learn, to unwind, to find comfort and to connect with themselves and their baby. It is the perfect opportunity to allow the new mum to feel nurtured, comforted, reassured, encouraged and supported. New mums and women in general can often feel a great sense of responsibility or that they must always be looking out for someone else or putting someone else’s needs before their own. Creating a class where the mum and her needs is the central focus can take some of the stress away even if it just for an hour. It should be encouraged that each person does whatever they feel comfortable and safe doing in a class, that there is no pressure to perform and that it is ok to just sit and breathe if that’s all that can be done on that day. Providing a space where mums can just come, sit, breathe and connect is just as important as a full physical yoga routine. Ensuring that the physical space used for the class is appropriate for the clients is also important to take into consideration. Playing the right kind of music and eliminating outside noises/stressors can make a big difference to the overall vibe of the class and can lead to a much more relaxing environment. Providing bolsters, blocks, blankets and even mats where possible can help to make the client feel more comfortable and eliminates the stress clients may face when coming to a class when they have to worry about bringing things along with them. It may also be possible to use the classes as a form of networking for the new mums or mums-to-be. Providing a space where mums have access to various resources and contact numbers of different health care providers, information lines and even just other clients for social support can be nice to alleviate any feelings of isolation. Pre and postnatal yoga should ideally be seen as a holistic practice and as such the role of a pre/postnatal yoga teacher should be evenly focused on the various different aspects of wellbeing. The safe provision of; physical exercise in a non-threatening environment, emotional support and assistance, education, preparation and restorative practices both physical and mental, are all responsibilities that fall under the big umbrella of the pre and postnatal yoga teacher role. The process of pregnancy and childbirth is a miraculous one and not something that should be taken lightly. A pre/postnatal yoga teacher should recognise the significant impact that they could have on the lives and journey of their clients and should ultimately feel a great sense of gratitude to be a part of such an important, life-changing event.