First Person: relieving the downside of pregnancy

Twelve weeks pregnant and constantly exhausted and nauseous, Alexia Barnard turned to yoga for help. Several months and yoga classes later, her energy levels and sense of well-being have been restored.



The card that arrived on my doorstep advertising pregnancy yoga at Chelmsford’s yoga centre, Yogaviva, couldn’t have been more timely.


At 12 weeks pregnant, and existing in an exhausted, nauseous daze, I was desperate to kick-start myself into feeling human again.


katherine cullen, yogavivaSo I seized the moment and called Katherine Cullis, Yogaviva’s instructor, to see if yoga really could help.


Katherine explained that the energising properties of yoga could be particularly effective during pregnancy and practising would help my body cope with the demands of pregnancy, as well as (gulp) birth.


Despite reservations, I resolved to give it a go. Although not completely new to yoga I wasn’t sure what to expect. But I instantly liked the venue, The Bell Centre in Great Baddow - a village-hall-like room, with tiny flickering tea and a light, comforting smell of incense.


After a quick round of introductions it was clear I was one of the earlier term mums, and looking round at the huge bumps surrounding me, I wondered how these other women could possibly muster up enough energy for the class.


Due to the nature of pregnancy yoga the classes are generally very gentle and low-impact, with a focus on doing what feels right for you as opposed to achieving text- book postures.


Much of the class is carried out on the floor, with the support of blocks and pillows to concentrate on the areas particularly affected by pregnancy, such as the stomach muscles and lower back.


Although Katherine, as a highly accomplished instructor, would be more than capable of bombarding us with yoga terminology, things are kept very low key and undemanding. Each person is encouraged to take the class at their own pace.


My lower back had been an on-off source of pain for the last few weeks, and after mentioning this, we worked on some gentle exercises to relax the muscles surrounding the coccyx. One of these exercises in particular, which massages the lower back area on the floor, delivered relief almost straight away.


As with all disciplines of yoga, we are encouraged to focus on our breathing, regulating inward and outward breaths to keep time with our movements. This is something that I have always found difficult: I have a tendency to hold my breath when exercising to the point of bursting!


However, when you put this in the context of labour it becomes clear that breath-holding is not an option. The classes have helped me work on keeping my breathing deep and regular and I now find myself putting this into practice most of the time, in the course of a normal day.


By simply taking deeper and more regular breaths I am keeping much-needed energy supplies up for myself and the baby.


Techniques such as the visualisation of the breath as a life-giving energy, and positive thoughts, have helped me bond with the baby and made me realise the importance of keeping myself healthy and happy during these crucial pregnancy months."


Alexia attended yoga classes at Chelmsford (Essex)-based yoga centre,


Picture: Katherine Cullis, founder of and Alexia's teacher



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