How Ma Yoga Prenatal Principles Change Regular Yoga Teaching

Not every yoga teacher wants to teach prenatal yoga. And yet the “Ma” principles are like seeds that keep sprouting delicious fruit for a lifetime. For me, they’ve been sustaining my practice and teaching for decades.

And it’s not just me – people say things like this often:

“The Yoga of Pregnancy deepened my teaching techniques. I learned about bringing space, earth, water, fire, and air into the body, mind, and heart. Based on this I can teach easily. It’s fun!” – Erika L.

Below are the 10 ways that these practices and principles can be gifts for any yoga teacher:

1. Birth as Guru

I use birth as my Guru. By looking at the physical, mental, emotional, energetic, and spiritual aspects of the journey to motherhood, I gain insights into how life creates life – and how I can participate fully in it. Whatever’s gestating within us – whether it’s a baby, a project, or a new way of being in the world – the co-creative principles remain the same. For instance, in yoga, we learn that we’re not in charge. No where is this more obvious than pregnancy. This can take a lot of the pressure off of us as teachers to “make things happen”, and just get out of our soul’s way.

2. the Keys to Manifesting

We’re all pregnant with something, whether it’s a baby, a project, or a vision of who we’re becoming. The practices and principles we learn and teach in prenatal yoga apply to birthing whatever is wanting to come into the world through us. For example, the mantra “make space for baby” can remind us to make space in our body, our mind, and our heart for what we’re wanting to step into in our lives on our teaching path.

3. Past the Do’s and Don’ts

prenatal teacher training for every yoga teacher - do's and don'ts

Most of us have seen the do’s and don’ts list – twists, strong abdominals, holding the breath. While these rules important, they often have exceptions. And when we’re trying to remember rules, we’re creating tension and even anxiety. When we really understand the principles behind prenatal yoga – how to safely make space for baby in all the right places, while stabilizing mama’s vulnerable areas – we can be creative and enjoy the moment. Understanding principles to follow during pregnancy rather than rules means we can be playful and confident not only in prenatal yoga – but all yoga teaching.

4. Deeper Self-Care

The off-the-mat aspects of prenatal training bring our attention to how much we are nurturing ourselves. Pregnancy motivates many people to slow down, listen in, and take care of themselves – because this means they’re taking care of baby. But we can all do this, and incorporate self-care, daily rhythm, and food-as-medicine routines. I call them “Anchor Practices” and they support vital wellness for all of us. Who can’t use some time to slow down and experiment with some new healthy habits, so that we can be calmer and more grounded?

5. the Power of “Ma”

In just about every language, “Ma” means mother: moeder (Dutch), mamma (Italian), mãe (Portuguese), mæ (Thai), amma (Sinhala), ammi (Urdu) and emak (Malay).

In Sanskrit, the ancient language of yoga, “Ma” also means the highest, most powerful, and wise aspect.

Having witnessed thousands of anxious pregnant mamas transform into powerful mama bears, I’ve come to believe that it’s learning to mother ourselves and connecting to that flow of love that runs through us that opens the door to our highest, most powerful and wise Self.

6. Create Connection

Often as a new yoga teacher I felt isolated. There’s a “fourth wall” that separates us from our students.

prenatal teacher training for every yoga teacher - mama circle

Sometimes, we can feel like we have to keep ourselves separate from – even above – our students.

And yet with the pregnant mamas, I found we could break the fourth wall and really connect and keep healthy boundaries. Moms-to-be love to share about what they’re going through, and we really get to know each other. Even just talking about pregnancy helps us connect to the wonderment of life itself, and remember we are part of something bigger. This has helped me understand that I can be more human and share more vulnerably in regular classes.

7. Modern-Day Opportunities to Connect

Online teaching has been a love of mine since 2009. It brings people from around the world together, allowing us to grow and learn without having to uproot and go somewhere else. It eliminates the need for travel or intensive retreats, making it more accessible and thus the groups more diverse. It also allows for trainings to be more spread out, which gives you time to integrate all that you’re learning into your practice and your life. When we are learning and growing, we’re in what Zen calls “Beginner’s Mind” – which is where we want to be to connect to our “Inner GPS”.

8. Find Your Feminine Side

In yoga we have Siva/Shakti, in Chinese Medicine we have Yin and Yang. Understanding the two complimentary sides of ourselves – sometimes called the Masculine and Feminine – can help us access our inner resources. The more logical, achievement-oriented, “I got this” part of us is the Masculine side, and this is what society rewards most often. The intuitive, process-oriented, “I need you” part of us is the Feminine side, and this is what we can tap into when we decide to slow down, listen in, and honor what we hear. Pregnancy – even learning about it – offers us an opportunity to find that more intuitive, softer, connected way of living.

9. Yoga can Adapt

Often we put pressure on ourselves to do things the way they’re done, or the way we were taught. But diving into yoga for pregnancy and postpartum we realize that this all-or-nothing thinking isn’t serving anyone. We learn to adapt to our changing bodies and lives. For instance, the traditional ideas of lengthy meditation sessions are generally not possible for overwhelmed, exhausted moms. We can get a lot from a two minute meditation. Prenatal yoga isn’t about avoiding potentially harmful poses. It’s about re-visioning yoga so it works for our bodies and lives even as they change day to day – and moment to moment. We all have gone through intense transitions – it’s a great reminder that’s ok to redefine yoga for wherever you are in life.

10. You’re Needed

We don’t become yoga teachers generally because that’s where the money is. We do it to help make the world a better place. And pregnant women and new moms need us. We have an epidemic in the US of depression and anxiety around birth. Rates of depression in inner cities for pregnancy and postpartum are double the rates for middle class populations.

In traditional cultures, the whole village makes meals and takes care of the new mom. In ours, there’s just this intense pressure to get “back on the horse.”

prenatal teacher training for every yoga teacher

If we awaken one mom-to-be to the idea that she needs and deserves help before and after baby’s born, that it’s ok to be in the “I need you” part of ourselves, that yoga and nurturing community are here for her in whatever way she can access them, and that by learning to truly nurture herself she can tap into all the power and wisdom she needs to have a beautiful, meaningful, authentic experience – then not only will you change her life – you change the lives of her children, her friends, and culture itself.

And when we feel truly useful, we have a deep sense that we are fulfilling our soul’s promise.

I hope this list has given you food for thought. Whether you take a Ma Yoga training or another, consider learning empowering practices and principles that support the process of co-creation – it will not only benefit you as a yoga teacher – it will change the lives of the mamas in your life, and will help move our to a more nurturing, intelligent, connected place.

Thank you for spreading the Ma love!

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