Acroyoga while Pregnant Series: Why we are still playing
At 39 weeks pregnant, we get asked: Are you STILL doing acroyoga? YES! Here we share our reasons why. We hope to encourage acroyogis, your partners, and your communities to keep moving while being sensitive to the changing needs of pregnant practitioners.
Why practice acroyoga during pregnancy?
We get asked all the time: Are you still doing acro? Yes! Is it the same practice it was last week, last month, or last year? No way! In acroyoga we develop skills like...
being fully present in the moment
touching and moving with sensitivity
trusting others & communicating our wants and needs clearly
manifesting self-reliance and self-awareness
creating balance together
We believe these are skills that our family, preparing for the physical, mental, and emotional work of labor, birth, and new parenthood, needs, too! Before that time comes, there's the roller coaster ride of pregnancy: living in and with a changing body and an evolving relationship.
A fluid acroyoga practice has helped each member of our family prepare and deal in unique ways.
Good for Mom
Exercise = easier pregnancy and delivery (yay!)
From Sarah: Acroyoga has helped me stay in good physical condition and avoid many of the possible negative side-effects of pregnancy, like back pain, swelling, stretch marks, varicose veins, muscles cramps, joint pain, headaches, constipation, poor posture, fatigue, low energy, pre-eclampsia, gestational diabetes... In fact, other than some nausea in the first trimester, round ligament pain in the second, and difficulty sleeping in the third, I haven't experienced any of the common issues associated with pregnancy.
Acroyoga, when practiced with diligent spotters and accurate self-assessment, is a very safe way to get exercise. It is low-impact on the joints, adaptable to each practitioner's range of motion and strength level, and is a great tool for keeping core muscles and the pelvic floor strong and healthy. This last bit is so important in setting us up for the easy, natural birth I am visualizing. Mula bandha (yoga's OG Kegel exercise) is an essential component of acroyoga poses, so through regular practice, I am also preparing for delivery and recovery after birth.
While many forms of exercise can help avoid unwanted side-effects and prepare us for the physicality of labor and delivery, stretching, strengthening, and balancing are actually easier for me when trained with a partner. Many poses are more comfortable for me to fly than they are to practice solo on the ground. (See our Month-by-Month post for details about which poses we kept practicing during each month and our Pregnant Acroyoga Journey video on youtube for an overview.)
Emotions running wild
Mood swings are another possible side effect of pregnancy. (Thank you, hormones!) Not to mention the fact that the whole thing can be a fairly isolating and stressful process, full of doctors poking around, midwives squeezing and prodding me... But at acroyoga training, I can treasure the friendly touch of familiar people. Their positive attitudes and well-known hands encourage me and lend me emotional support. These are people who are practiced at listening to my verbal and non-verbal cues, so they are the perfect people to be around when I am feeling self-conscious, awkward, and giant!
Clearing the mental clutter
I hit a point around months 5 & 6 where I worried more than usual. Sometimes it was about very real and relevant concerns. A lot of the time it was about things either too far into the future to be relevant or things completely out of my control, and thus not worth the worry. I had nightmares often during this period and sometimes woke up in tears with a lingering sense of dread and worry.
Acroyoga is a mindfulness practice as well a a physical practice - it requires focus and mental steadiness because if we get distracted, our pose could fall apart. The stillness we create in acroyoga poses helps still my racing mind. The steadiness we create in acroyoga transitions helps steady and ground my nervous energy. And while pregnancy can still be emotionally and mentally overwhelming for me at times, regular acroyoga training helps me return to calm and turn away from chaotic thinking.
It is difficult for me to worry in a room full of laughter, focused attention, celebrations, and positive kinetic energy.
Good for Baby
We believe, "What is good for mom is good for baby."
As my physical, mental, and emotional health stay strong and vibrant, so do baby's. When feel-good hormones, like oxytocin, rise in my body, they are felt by baby. Baby Moose is almost always very calm while we are playing acroyoga and we take that as a sign that he is floating along quite happily. There are some studies that show when mom exercises while pregnant, the chances of childhood obesity and adult heart disease are reduced for baby. So, we may be setting baby up for a shot at a healthier adulthood by including him in our exercise now. Look it up!
Increased chance for a natural birth
Many of the poses and movement patterns we use, especially during our warm up, are similar to those suggested by midwives to help move baby into a good birthing position, or "engage" for birth. As with most prenatal exercise, acroyoga could increase the chances of a quick and natural birth, causing less stress on baby and reducing the chances of birth trauma. Of course, there are MANY reasons and ways delivery may not follow our plan. But staying actively tuned-in to ourselves, to baby's needs, and to each other during pregnancy could help us manage the intensity of labor and delivery without the need for interventions. We'll see if this holds true for us in a few short days!
He might as well get used to it
For the same reasons that we listen to music, dance, and speak both English and Danish to him in the belly, we keep practicing acroyoga. We hope to pass on our love of movement to Baby Moose and plan to bring him to jams and classes, and include him in trainings and workouts. So, why wait until he's born to start teaching him about our values? We want our baby surrounded by the positive energy, courage, and warmth of our acroyoga community starting NOW.
Acroyoga has a lot of the same benefits as regular yoga for Sarah and baby, but since it is something we do as partners, it also benefits Martin and our relationship.
Good for Dad
Tuning into my partner
From Martin: Practicing Acroyoga with Sarah and baby has been a chance for me to tune-in to Sarah's changing body and her changing needs. I become mindful of her energy level, her emotions, and her physical capabilities during training and can take that awareness into other areas of our daily life together. For example, after I noticed her energy level and endurance declining in the first trimester, I was prepared for her to be less sociable and to slow down in daily tasks. I could help her remember to go to bed earlier, take naps, and increase the protein in our diet. Throughout the pregnancy, I have been able to use our training sessions together to understand the changes that accompany pregnancy and to be more empathetic and sensitive.
Get to know baby
Through acroyoga, I have had the chance to stay involved with baby's development. I don't feel baby grow in size and strength like Sarah does. But I can feel the shift in weight, balance, and the center of gravity when I lift and press Sarah and baby, especially at the beginning of a training session, since this is a time I really notice how baby has changed and prepare to make adjustments for today's practice. It is a great excuse for us to check in with each other regularly.
While a lot of the focus of pregnancy and birth is obviously on the changing needs of mother and baby, a father is also going through the mental and emotional preparation toward becoming a new parent. All of the benefits of a shared physical practice, like the time spent dialoguing and checking in with each other, the emotional support of our community, and the acceptance of a rapidly changing partnership serve as positive prep tools for dad, just like they do for mom.
Good for Us
Our acroyoga training also influences us as a couple and as we prepare to parent together. In acroyoga, not everything goes as planned all the time. But when unexpected things happen, we have to react calmly and be sensitive toward each other in order to stay safe and have fun. Aroyoga requires trust, good communication, and working together toward a common goal, which are all skills we hope will serve us well as we navigate new-parenthood.
Acroyoga provides us a chance to accept each day as a new beginning with new challenges - something we hope to be comfortable with when baby arrives.
Talk about it
Because acroyoga is such an intimate way of moving together, always in very close physical contact and always in equal partnership, it opens conversations around mom's body, our changing mental states, and our shared and separate emotional climates that may not come up otherwise. It also opens conversations around our goals for ourselves as parents and our hopes for baby. Training, moving, and playing together generally leads us to a dialogue that may have been lost among daily living had we not taken time out to spend together.
In the 2nd trimester, we decided together that Sarah would stop basing - there was a very clear moment when we both realized Sarah was straining beyond what we were willing to accept and it was going beyond discomfort or difficulty into the painful zone. Then, around week 35 we decided to stop teaching until after baby comes. That was super tough, because we love teaching! But it gave us a chance to practice making decisions for our child together. Martin has to be willing and able to say, "I see you straining more than seems necessary." And Sarah has to be willing to listen to his observations and accept that we both have a say when it comes to practices that affect baby, even now, before baby is out in the world. For us, it helps to come into each training session with as few expectations as possible and to be ready for everything to feel different than it did yesterday. We try to enter training with a sense of play, joyfulness in our ability to move, and gratitude for each other.
Good for our movement community
Other than, "Are you STILL practicing acroyoga?" the other reaction we often get at jams and classes is, "I didn't think pregnant women could do that." Many of our acroyoga community members haven't had the opportunity to train with a pregnant woman. They haven't seen the physical transformation from month 1 to month 9, and don't know what she is capable of in each month along the way. The truth is, we hadn't either! We didn't know how pregnancy would affect our practice, so this has all been an experimental and curious time for us. But we hope, by staying active in our acroyoga community during this time, by being honest in answering questions, and open in sharing our experience through writing, photos, and videos, that we can take some of the mystery and fear out of prenatal acroyoga training and pregnancy in general.
Every body and every pregnancy is different, so we hope our story won't be taken as a challenge nor a recommendation. Rather, we hope, by sharing our story of acroyoga during our first pregnancy, to encourage acroyogis, your partners, and your communities to keep moving while being sensitive to and honoring the changing needs of pregnant practitioners.
We also hope you'll browse more blog posts in this Acroyoga while Pregnant Series, like, "A How-to for Friends and Partners," and "Month-by-Month," and check out the videos on our youtube channel, TrainMovePlay, of our evolving practice in all three trimesters.
We encourage every woman and family to make decisions about how long and how intensely to keep practicing some form of movement after doing your own research, speaking with your midwife or birth professional, and carefully listening inward to your body and your baby. We also hope to educate our community at large is ways to support families of movers. We are so inspired and motivated by the families we see moving together and we hope to add positive vibes to that conversation.
Check out our youtube channel, TrainMovePlay, for videos of flows and jams throughout our pregnancy.