Acroyoga while Pregnant Series: A How-To for Friends and Partners
Partnering pregnant women in acroyoga can be a challenge for many reasons. Here we share some of our reflections about navigating this time within our partnership and our acroyoga community. We hope to encourage acroyogis, their partners, and their communities to keep moving while being sensitive to the changing needs of pregnant practitioners.
When you think about playing acroyoga with a pregnant woman, what emotions and thoughts rise up? Maybe your first thought is: "No way! I don't want the responsibility!" Or maybe you love the idea of supporting a mom-to-be as she navigates this time. Chances are you've never been presented with the opportunity and are not sure how you would respond.
Choice and Responsibility.
As the world-wide acroyoga community grows, so do the chances that you will come across a pregnant woman who wants to play, so it may be worth thinking about before you are faced with the choice. And it IS a choice! You always have the responsibility to make sure you are completely invested in the partnership into which you are about enter, with any partner, or to walk away if you cannot enter into the partnership fully. Fear and mistrust are enemies to balance. If you find that you are scared, unsure, or uncomfortable, speak up! Voice your specific concerns. Are you concerned that she may weigh more than you are accustomed to and you need some extra time to calibrate? Are you unsure of where to place your hands and feet on her body? Are you worried that she shouldn't be lifting you? Tell her your worries and talk through them together. You find that indeed, you'd rather spot her or not play at all, and chances are, she will understand and appreciate your frankness. You may find that, armed with new information, you are totally confident in partnering her. Or maybe there is a third path - extra spotters? extra mats? slow down? start simple?...
She may not want to play with you. Try not to take it personally.
For some women this will be a time of turning inward, and the dynamic, social practice of acroyoga will not be welcome. She may choose a solo yoga practice or a prenatal movement class in order to be in community with other pregnant women. Or she may set limits, like not practicing with new, unfamiliar, or inexperienced partners. She may not want to play with bigger flyers or smaller bases. She may request specific spotters. Consider this is a chance for you to practice listening, accepting, and going with the flow. Try to be extra compassionate and empathetic.
Trust her to voice her needs and the needs of baby.
She knows her body and her baby best. She is never, ever operating without an awareness of the growing person inside her. So, if she says, "Yes, this pose is fine," trust her. And, of course, if she says, "No, this pose is not working," listen, exit the pose quickly and safely, and please, please resist any urge to pressure her into something she has already voiced her wish to avoid. There are going to be poses that don't work, places on her body where touch is unwelcome, time limits, and other practical concerns. She may stop basing or spotting but still wish to be part of the community by flying, watching, or just hanging out. There are lots of things she can't do and there are still things she can do! She will know which are which.
She may request extra vigilant spotters.
Again, try not to take it personally or assume that she doesn't trust your partnering if she asks for extra spotters. Movements like twisting, compressing, and contracting will all be limited to some degree. Her range of motion is decreasing at the same time that her self-protective instincts are sky-rocketing! You might also reassure her with encouraging words, firm touch, slower transition, close spotting, and seriously focused attention.
Pregnancy can be isolating.
No matter how many friends, family members, and other women she has seen go through this process, and no matter how many books she reads or momma groups she joins, there is only one person going through her exact pregnancy. She may be craving the familiar touch and rhythms of her acroyoga group. If you feel confident, maybe you are someone she can continue to connect with physically during this isolating time.