blog » July 25, 2019 by Renee Herren

Prenatal & Postnatal Yoga With Embodiment Coach & Yoga Teacher Melissa Hurt by Renee Herren

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Prenatal & Postnatal Yoga With Embodiment Coach & Yoga Teacher Melissa Hurt

Pregnancy and early motherhood are a time of phenomenal growth. During and after pregnancy, our bodies go through many physical and mental changes. Yoga is one way to help promote a healthy mind and body. 30Seconds contributor and Embodiment Coach, Melissa Hurt, shared information about prenatal and postnatal yoga, which is yoga specifically for new and soon-to-be mothers.

Melissa has been an embodiment coach since 2010 when she earned her certification in Lessac’s kinesensic embodied voice, speech and movement work. She became a certified yoga teacher in 2012 and is CYT certified (Certified Yoga Teacher). She utilizes yoga and embodied voice as her tools for teaching presence, grounding and inner peace. Melissa has taught many levels of yoga, including regular Hatha yoga, yoga fundamentals for beginners, gentle yoga, prenatal, postnatal and Vinyasa yoga. Melissa is particularly devoted to women’s health and we were so excited to learn more from her!

Q: Why should a woman practice prenatal or postnatal yoga and not just attend a regular yoga class?

A woman’s body goes through dramatic changes in pregnancy and after she has had the baby. She’d keep herself safe in a class designed for those stages of life taught by an experienced yoga teacher who understands the changes in a woman’s anatomy and physiology.

Each trimester presents a hormonal shift as her body adapts the load of the growing uterus/baby, her pelvic ligaments softening and widening the pelvis, and her lower back curve increasing to accommodate the changes overall. This can cause a lot of discomfort! Also, heartburn, joint pain, anxiety, swollen ankles and other events that cause discomfort. But, yoga brings the mind into the body’s experience so she can find relief with a solid teacher. Plus, beginners can benefit from prenatal yoga. Experience is NOT required!

I recommend waiting beyond the first trimester before beginning yoga.The relaxin hormone and estrogen levels are at their highest at that time. Your blood volume increases dramatically. Give yourself time to adapt so your body can focus on preserving the pregnancy. Rest!

Q: What do you do in a prenatal yoga class?

Class starts with students sharing their name, how many weeks along they are, and either a good moment from the past week or where they need support. Building community is important to create a network of support once you have had the baby.

We center with a breath-focused meditation for several minutes in a comfortable position. We move every five minutes or so since the lower back can feel heavy if still for too long. We gently move the spine with breath awareness and into a sequence. The yoga sequence:

  • Strengthens/lengthens all six sides of the core so the muscles stay elastic and dynamic.
  • We strengthen the hips and glutes to support the pelvis as it softens.
  • Every pose includes a philosophical approach to how she handles stress to find a healthy approach to life.

For example, if in a standing squat, I say how we’ll be here for 15 seconds and how can she focus on sensation while knowing it will not last? This is preparation for the pains of labor and delivery. She learns how strong she is in body and mind and can endure! I always end class with at least 10 minutes of a supported rest with bolsters and blankets propping the body comfortably.

Q: What do you do for the pelvic floor in prenatal yoga that helps moms with delivery of the baby? Are there other tools you teach that help with labor and delivery?

Pelvic floor education is key! I teach pelvic floor anatomy, how the muscles move with the breath, and the importance of mindful kegel exercises that move with the breath. The pelvic floor is part of the core!

I teach students how to contract and release the pelvic floor through muscle engagement, breathing and awareness. For prenatal yoga, the contraction happens on the inhalation and the release on the exhalation. This movement/breath rhythm helps moms release the pelvic floor when they need to exhale and PUSH the baby out. It’s very important to tone these muscles and to contract them for as long as you keep them released (for example, a five-second hold with a five-second release while still breathing).

I also include sounding so moms can connect with their voices and develop those lower pitches, which help ground them in labor. I want them to vocalize their power as they deliver the baby and not be afraid of their voices as they bring their babies into the world!

Q: What do you include in postnatal yoga classes? When can a mom attend?

Moms attend once cleared for exercise by their doctors/midwives, which tends to be six weeks for a vaginal birth and eight weeks for a C-section. They bring their babies and meet other moms! A directed community-building talk begins the class.

After moms share their name, baby’s name and age, and a joy/struggle of the week, we center the mind with the breath. Moms gaze at their babies to develop healthy attachment – postnatal yoga with me is just as much about the baby’s well-being as it is the mom’s!

We move to strengthen the hips and glutes, safely strengthen deep core muscles all around. We do pelvic floor education and practices! At this stage, we contract on the exhale and release on the inhale – this is how the pelvic floor actually moves in sync with the breath.

We do activities with the babies when they get restless and we always end class with a chance to rest deeply. My classes are bottle- or nursing friendly – when Baby needs to eat, I teach Mama how to meditate so she stays with her yoga practice.

Prenatal yoga is about helping to open up the body and mind. Postnatal yoga is about restoring the body and mind to a new strong center.

Q: Do you do yoga with the babies in postnatal yoga?

Lots of things! We sing nursery rhymes to them while gazing into their eyes, we do full-body massage from head to toe to activate oxytocin (the love hormone) for Baby and Mama, tummy massage to help with gas and exercises to orient the baby to the sides of her body.

For example, one is when Mama holds Baby’s left hand and right foot, gives a GENTLE tug on each, brings them together at the midline while singing “Opposites Attract!” and brings them out again. This helps the baby know opposites and is the movement she’ll do to crawl.

We also include Baby in standing poses. For example, if Mom is in a wide-leg standing squat, she can hold her baby either facing in or out, keep optimal upright posture and gently pulse a squat with the baby enjoys the dips down and up!

We do tummy time, lots of snuggles, cooing and socializing for the babies. Moms sometimes ask questions with each other on sleep practices or products that they love during practice. It’s a wonderful time to create a mama tribe to have physical and emotional support.

Q: How can I get my pelvis to stop aching postpartum? And how can I not leak pee when I jog! Can yoga help with this?

The ligaments of the pelvic need stable, strong muscles around them to help come back into place safely. I can’t stress the importance of strengthening the muscles around the hips and the glutes enough! (Check out my YouTube videos!) Work slowly and intelligently.

Standing squats, quadruped leg lifts with ribs aligned with the spine, the leg series from the Pilates discipline – these are all wonderful and you can do from home. And go for stroller walks as often as you can. Hilly surfaces are great!

As for peeing when jogging, the pelvic floor may either be slack and not supporting the bladder well or it might be tight and pressing on the bladder! You can determine if it’s too tight or loose through breath-based pelvic floor exercises and see which feels “off.”

And sitting for too long can also affect the pelvic floor! Move around as much as you can with the baby. Squat while you play, lie down and do simple bridge poses and stretch your body as you spend time with Baby. And you must keep up kegels! They are for life!

My best tip, though, is to find a pelvic floor physical therapist and get professionally assessed. It may take a search, but they are out there and wonderful! You CAN restore the pelvic floor and not pee when you jog or laugh!

Q: How can I help get back in shape in postnatal yoga? I want to feel like myself again!

Be gentle and understand your body (YOU) are different in this stage of life. Your core has been through a transformation, your pelvis is different, and your pelvic floor has endured so much! Work slowly and mindfully. Be curious about yourself, not frustrated.

Assess if you have abdominal separation called diastasis recti and work to heal it. I have YouTube videos on this. Honor the pressure in the trunk as you move on the breath – too much force with improper breathing can cause PF prolapse, a hernia and other issues.

No modified/full planks to rebuild the front of the core until you’ve healed diastasis recti. There are other practices that can accomplish this (see my YouTube channel). I also avoid lunges the first eight months since the pelvic ligaments are healing. Better to:

Stabilize/strengthen this region. You can stabilize/lengthen the backline and sides of the body, pelvic floor work is great, and meditation will do wonders for you as a mother. It’s important to become responsive and not reactive as you navigate motherhood!

I also recommend an embodied voice practice to connect with the vibrations of your voice as you find your VOICE as a mother. Humming, feeling the sounds in words as you read aloud, singing-these are great tools for self-study to assist your spiritual restoration.

Q: How can people learn more about you, your practice and your services?

You can visit MelissaHurt.com to find my online courses to find and develop your voice, as well as my blog! I have a great freebie for those who subscribe to my monthly newsletter that is a very helpful tool to get you on track for becoming your best self. You’ll find the links to my social media outlets. At the footer of my home page. I offer a lot of teachings on these outlets – check them out, follow me/subscribe, drop a comment and get in touch! Please share what can help a friend or loved one. We need to strengthen community and help each other! Be sure to follow @MelissaHurtIS and read my 30Seconds tips!

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Renee Herren
This is going to be a great with tons of great information! Thank you Melissa for being our expert!
Melissa Hurt
I am SO excited to chat with y'all!! Bring on the questions!
Elisa All Schmitz 30Seconds
This is wonderful! I am a huge fan of yoga, and know how beneficial it can be for moms and moms-to-be alike. Can't wait to chat with you, Melissa Hurt !

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