Why “Just Listen To Your Body” is a Terrible Cue For The Pregnant Yogini
As teachers of yoga, we love it. You wouldn’t become a teacher if you didn’t have some transformation that yoga brought about in you. The practice is powerful in it’s ability to help you heal emotional wounds, help you sleep better, help your back hurt less, and just about a million other things. We become teachers to guide and help others experience that transformation.
In training we learn to honor the personal practice and body of each student. We learn to embrace our differences and honor the abilities and limitations of each person. We encourage our students to “listen to their bodies” and do what’s best for them, regardless of what’s best for their neighbor. So, it almost becomes second nature to say the same thing to a pregnant student when they are in your non-prenatal yoga class.
This is wrong.
If you’ve ever taken my class you know, I almost never EVER say anything is “right” or “wrong” in yoga; there are so many different approaches and intentions to the practice that categorizing it as “right” or “wrong” seems irresponsible and uncreative. That being said, I think this statement is the cause of confusion, and at times injury to our pregnant students. Even the most seasoned yogi can be confused by listening to their body when they are pregnant because their body changes almost daily when pregnant. What you knew to be true in your body yesterday, no longer applies today or tomorrow when you’re pregnant. The body of a pregnant woman is ever changing and growing; things are expanding, moving, adapting to the presence of life and the act of sustaining that life. What you once identified as your psoas might now be one of your uterine ligaments, what you once did for back pain pre baby might be contraindicated for pregnancy.
Listening to your body while pregnant will undoubtedly confuse you unless you are very in tune to your body and aware of how the body changes in pregnancy. While we as teachers, understand anatomy and body mechanics, your typical yoga student does not. They come to you for guidance and expertise and telling them to “listen to their body” is not enough. We need to explain the intention of the posture as it relates to their pregnant body. We need to tell them what the effects of a certain posture are so they can then make an informed decision on what their practice needs and how to modify for their body’s new situation.
This doesn’t just go for the pregnant student. This cue can be ineffective for beginner students as well. Most new students don’t have a connection and conversation to their body, how are they supposed to “listen” to it if they have no idea how to interpret the information they’re getting. If you’ve ever taught or been in a basic class and asked someone to move their left foot forward, only for them to move their right foot back, then you know what I mean. How many times have you seen your students psh themselves to injury because they thought they were listening to their body when in fact they were listening to their ego?
As teachers we have a responsibility to know what the intention of the posture is when we put our students into them., we have a responsibility to clearly communicate that intention, and we have a responsibility to know the way a body; pregnant or not, moves and how to keep that movement safe.
Teachers, lets help our students get to the point where, when they listen to their body, they know what their body is saying because we’ve helped them interpret it.
keeping pregnant students safe isn’t as hard as you think, we can learn a few basic truths about pregnancy and body mechanics and take that into each class with a pregnant student. If you would like more info on how to keep your students safe I am teaching a workshop on Saturday September 29 at Be Yoga in Marietta. CEU’s will be provided.
come learn how to keep your students safe, empowered, and involved!