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Exercise in Early Pregnancy | Why Prenatal Yoga May Be the Best Investment in Your Pregnancy

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(With Kristen Cates, Certified Nurse Midwife)  We’ve all heard it before…exercise is good for you when you’re pregnant. Prenatal yoga is the trendy way to help get some exercise…blah blah blah. Let’s just get to what matters…”Will it help me deliver my baby when it’s go time?”

Yes. In big ways. It’s way more than trendy exercise.

It improves a whole basket of things that directly impact your pregnancy, labor & birth. It helps relieve back pain, other aches & pain, relieves stress, improves circulation (and that means more oxygen to your bambino), helps you focus your mind (which controls labor more than anything else), helps you work through childbirth pain…& more. Kristen Cates, prenatal yoga instructor, certified nurse midwife & nurse practitioner teaches you WHY yoga is so beneficial for You & Baby & an unexpected benefit that could positively impact you and your family for the rest of your life…

You’ll Also Learn:

  1. Prenatal yoga poses you can do at home to help you prepare for the physical demands of childbirth.
  2. Why it’s crucial that you become mindful of your body (hint: learn this and less pain might be involved)
  3. How your body changes and specific ways yoga relieves tension and tightness helping you be much more comfortable
  4. How your body produces “natural opiate” giving you feelings of euphoria (which eliminate pain) & learn how to get those opiates flowing.
  5. If there’s really truth to the “don’t lie on your back during pregnancy” rule that most have been applying at the expense of their comfort and rest. You might be shocked by what you hear. 

Who is Kristen Cates?

Kristen Cates is passionate about prenatal yoga and helping women become attuned to their body as they prepare to give birth. She teaches community prenatal classes in the San Francisco area. She’s also a certified nurse midwife (CNM), owns her own home birth midwifery practice (Sequoia Midwifery), is a nurse practitioner & was a doula prior to her midwifery practice. Kristen has caught 464 babies as a primary midwife (though that number is growing!).

Watch the Interview (download MP3)

 

 

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Transcript

Exercise in Early Pregnancy | Why Prenatal Yoga May Be the Best Investment in Your Pregnancy

Sarah Blight: This is Sarah Blight from your Baby Booty Interviews where we chat with real people with real experience so that you can have real takeaways about becoming a mom and so that you can be guided into mamahood.

Well today, we’re chatting about yoga, prenatal, yoga. It is really worth all the fuss, is it really going to help you as you try to give birth to your baby? Well today, we are chatting with Kristin Cates who is a registered nurse. She’s a nurse practitioner. She’s also a prenatal yoga instructor as well as a certified nurse midwife and she has her own practice called Sequoia Nurse Midwifery out of San Francisco, California. She’s caught over 464 babies as a primary midwife and she’s going to chat with us today about how your body really will benefit from prenatal yoga and your mind too. So thanks, Kristin, for being here today.

Kristin Cates: My pleasure.

Sarah Blight: So most of us I think are aware that yoga isn’t bad for is. It is good for us. But why exactly is it so beneficial for a prego to do prenatal yoga classes?

Kristin Cates: Well I could answer that for like an hour but I’ll try –

Sarah Blight: Okay.

[Laughter]
Give us the low down and then we’ll go back to specifics.

Kristin Cates: Okay. I think well there are a lot of reasons why it’s beneficial, but as you know if you’ve been pregnant, your body is constantly transforming and changing and there are certain demands based on your physicality that aren’t there when you’re not pregnant. So prenatal yoga is designed to really help women adjust and both strengthen and stretch in the places that are being demanded upon in a really kind of intelligent way because it’s designed to think about well… Like a good example is the lumbar curve of the spine really kind of increases with the growing uterus and baby so a lot of women get low back pain or sciatica or things like that and they’re naturally kind of walking around like we’re used to seeing pregnant women like this.

Sarah Blight: Yes.

Kristin Cates: You know?

Sarah Blight: Yeah.

Kristin Cates: So there’s lots you can do in prenatal yoga to actually kind of not over exaggerate that curve and create a sense of spaciousness and openness in the area rather than tension and tightness, which is happening when you’re normally just walking about in your day. So that’s like a good example.

Sarah Blight: Okay.

Kristin Cates: But I could speak, do you want me to speak more to like just overall the benefits or…?

Sarah Blight: Well we’ll go through, we’ll kind of go down the list, I have a list of things to ask you about specifically.

Kristin Cates: Okay, cool. Great.

Sarah Blight: But let’s talk for a second about you know people, mamas who are watching who may have never set foot inside of a yoga class before and maybe they’re feeling a little intimidated. Is this an intimidating type of yoga? Is it really for everybody or how would you tell them to come in and try the class?

Kristin Cates: Right. Well I can speak as a yoga teacher myself, which I feel like my prenatal yoga class is very welcoming and unassuming and really designed for all levels. I do, I teach women who’ve never, never stepped on a yoga mat to women who’ve been doing yoga their lives but have never done it in the pregnant state.

Sarah Blight: Okay.

Kristin Cates: So really they’re designed to be gentle and adaptive to any level of yoga and it’s really just a place to build community with other pregnant women as well so you’re not in a regular yoga class trying to figure it all out. It’s actually really designed for you. So I think it should be very unintimidating.

Sarah Blight: And I think one thing you said that’s pretty cool, which I hadn’t thought about before is there are women who have been yogis forever who’ve done it, but maybe have never been in yoga or done yoga as a pregnant person.

Kristin Cates: Uh-hum.

Sarah Blight: And that is a totally different experience and there are certain things that you won’t necessarily do when you’re pregnant as you practice yoga that we’ll talk about too. So that’s a good point. So even though like most badass yoga people when they’re pregnant, you’re kind of all in the same playing field probably.

Kristin Cates: Uh-hum.

Sarah Blight: So that’s probably a nice way to encourage people not to be intimidated.

Kristin Cates: Uh-hum.

Sarah Blight: Okay. What about let’s kind of go through our list here of things that I have. We talked about a little bit about the benefits with your body alignment. How does yoga help — because I know and some women may know that you have your ligaments and your tendons are pretty loosey-goosey when you’re pregnant because of the relaxin that’s coursing through your veins.

Kristin Cates: Uh-hum.

Sarah Blight: What things do you do in your yoga classes to help women with their posture and to help them with this back pain that you were talking about?

Kristin Cates: Uh-hum. Well some of it, a big part of it is actually mindfulness training. So it’s like actually asking people to slow down and bring their awareness really into their body and into their breath so that they’re even aware of what their body is doing in space. I mean a lot of times we all have habits of how we stand and we’re kind of sunken into one hip or how we sit with our shoulders like this. So the first step is actually like checking in and saying well what is the state of your body when you’re just sitting on a cushion or when you’re standing. So I ask my mamas to really spend the time to slow down and close their eyes and go inward and feel the quality of their breathing and their posture just as they arrive.

[0:05:43]
Sarah Blight: Uh-hum.

Kristin Cates: And then I give encouragement and suggestions on how to then bring kind of a sense of expansion and greater alignment to whatever is happening. So usually, a lot of that instruction is about rolling the shoulders down away from the ears to create space between the ears and the shoulders. Because we’re not actually mean to like walk around like this.

Sarah Blight: Yeah.

Kristin Cates: And most of us do. Relaxing the jaw and the face, a lot of times we carry a lot of tension in our face that we’re not even again aware of until someone encourages you to like, oh, what’s it like if you exhale out your mouth and let your jaw and let it be really soft. That actually releases a lot of the tension that we’re holding in these muscles here. Or like a lot of us have brow furrowing –

Sarah Blight: Yes.

Kristin Cates: –that we don’t know what we’re doing. We’re just like it’s like we’re constantly concentrating on something very hard and it’s like hey, you know, right now like sometimes that’s good but right now you’re sitting on a yoga cushion, you’ve devoted this hour and a half to yoga class, like it’s probably okay to like soften your head muscles.

Sarah Blight: Yes.

Kristin Cates: Then definitely talking about the relationship of your pelvis in space. So women get a chance to kind of play with how are they kind of tilting their pelvis in space. Most pregnant women do tend to tilt more this way but there are some people who have the habit of tucking their tailbone really far under. So that’s where being in the class is helpful because I can see and I’m not giving the same exact blanket instruction to everyone because I’m going to see what’s happening, what habit patterns are in whose body and then tell them to go either direction based on that if that makes sense.

Sarah Blight: It totally makes sense and as you’re talking I’m totally working on my posture. I’m totally trying to relax my brow because I have realized that when I see videos or pictures of myself, you know, so often I’m like hunched over and it’s just so… It’s a good reminder that yes, work on your posture and you be mindful of your body is really important especially when you have another little one growing inside of you.

Kristin Cates: Uh-hum.

Sarah Blight: Good point.

Kristin Cates: And when they’re outside, you know, it’s kind of like setting the foundation for when you’re breast feeding you really don’t want – you know, if you –

Sarah Blight: Yeah.

Kristin Cates: — like a year if you breastfeed like this you’re going to have some back pain, you know.

Sarah Blight: Yeah.

Kristin Cates: So it’s like getting these kind of seeds planted for really the rest of your life but also the postpartum period. I do a lot of like arm strengthening with my mamas.

Sarah Blight: Okay.

Kristin Cates: As both as like mental training for the discomfort of labor or possible discomfort of labor.

Sarah Blight: Uh-hum.

Kristin Cates: But also because it’s like you need strong arms and you’re either going to develop them post-partum carrying your baby around or you can actually kind of train your arms beforehand.

Sarah Blight: That is so smart. Let’s talk about that since you brought it up.

Kristin Cates: Sure.

Sarah Blight: The exercises to help with kind of dealing with pain.

Kristin Cates: Uh-hum.

Sarah Blight: And some people may be surprised who have been in maybe traditional yoga classes who are like well we never did any of that and I would say that’s probably a big differentiator between prenatal yoga and other types of yoga maybe, at least the ones I’ve been to.

Kristin Cates: Uh-hum.

Sarah Blight: So what kinds of exercises do you do to really help mamas practice–

Kristin Cates: Uh-hum.

Sarah Blight: — pain management?

Kristin Cates: Yeah. Well definitely any posture that’s relatively challenging or strength building if you just hold it long enough, it becomes a pain practice.

Sarah Blight: Yeah.

Kristin Cates: Because it’s like oh my muscles are now burning.

Sarah Blight: Yeah.

Kristin Cates: So warrior 2 is a classic one, which is a standing lunge where one knee is bent and your arms are extended. So you’re really using your whole body. So if you hold that for about a minute or a little bit longer about the same amount of time as a labor contraction or surge, it’s a really nice way to say well what happens when you start to meet that discomfort. Is your mind like no, no, no, and is all the muscles in your body tensing or can you start to learn how to feel the burn and the intensity but actually relax the muscles that aren’t working as hard and train your mind to be like open or yes to the sensation rather than no. Like even we joke about like what’s the mind spiraling out, like they’re thinking like why did I take this yoga class.

Sarah Blight: Yeah.

Kristin Cates: Or hey Kristin, you know, like whatever is going on. You start to develop like watching that yes, there’s these predictable responses to discomfort and how do we train ourselves to have a different response to that discomfort knowing that it’s safe. You know, you’re not actually hurting yourself.

[0:10:06]
Sarah Blight: Right.

Kristin Cates: And in the case of labor, you’re getting this amazing gift at the end of it.

Sarah Blight: Right.

Kristin Cates: So different than breaking your leg or something.

Sarah Blight: Right. Right. So you’re not advocating that we’re like 127 hours where we go and do something really radical and dramatic to our bodies just for the sake of it. No, this is pain with a purpose.

Kristin Cates: Yeah.

Sarah Blight: And learning to deal with the pain. That’s’ really cool. That’s really cool.

Kristin Cates: Yeah.

Sarah Blight: Okay. What about breathing? How does yoga promote – I think most people know that you breathe in yoga, but how does that transfer over to labor?

Kristin Cates: Uh-hum. Well I think if you haven’t spent any time really consciously paying attention to like how you breathe without changing it at all and then actually changing it to make it more deep and like full and smooth and spacious, then you might do that instinctively in labor anyway. But you kind of have again like the seeds planted to have more of a sense of like, oh yeah, I know how to do this breathing, you know?

Sarah Blight: Uh-hum.

Kristin Cates: So I don’t necessarily teach a lot of elaborate breaths, there’s a lot of prana, yama in yoga that has all different kinds of breathing, some of which you really aren’t recommended to do in pregnancy because it can generate a lot of heat and things like that. But I mean generally I’m just encouraging like an inhalation through the nose and then exhalation through the mouth that’s as deep as you can get it. So if you can actually even imagine yourself breathing from your head to your toes, that’s great. But sometimes we just work with the pelvic floor like so breathing all the way from here all the way down to the pelvic floor. With that you’re gaining this like kind of mindful connection of like, oh yeah, I’m breathing not just for myself, I’m breathing for this growing life inside of me and I’m doing it all the time whether I think about it or not. And that kind of creates a really nice bond to actually just think about what’s happening.

Sarah Blight: Uh-hum.

Kristin Cates: And then as far as it being a resource in labor, like you don’t have a lot of things in labor really aside from like the – you know, you have the birth balls and the massage and the water and this and that. But you have you and what’s going on in your body.

Sarah Blight: Uh-hum.

Kristin Cates: So one of the only things you can control really is your breath. You can’t control so much your uterus or how your baby is wiggling and dancing through your pelvis.

Sarah Blight: Uh-hum.

Kristin Cates: So being able to have a sense of like I know how to work with my breath and when it gets shallow and fast and rapid and kind of scared, I actually know how to change it so that it gets deeper again and smoother and fuller. You also get to learn how the breath is this window to relaxation. So if you are holding tension, usually if you breathe into the tension, if you actually send your breath like into the shoulder and say okay my breath is going into the shoulder and then you exhale and you really let it out and usually with sound or louder breath, you can actually feel that the tissue itself will soften and will let go. It won’t keep holding. It’s hard to hold like tension when you’re breathing that deeply and fully and sending your breath into the places of your body that are tightening.

Sarah Blight: Uh-hum.

Kristin Cates: Like they don’t really go together.

Sarah Blight: Okay, okay.

Kristin Cates: You know, full breath and tension are hard to hold at the same time.

Sarah Blight: Got you, got you.

Kristin Cates: Does that make sense?

Sarah Blight: Yes, it totally makes sense and I I’m feeling so relaxed right now. As you’re talking, I’m like breathing deep over here and I’m kind of like getting all comfy in my chair.

Kristin Cates: Yeah.

Sarah Blight: How does breathing affect the baby in utero also?

Kristin Cates: Well the deeper you breathe, the more oxygen you’re drawing and you really are drawing in nourishment and oxygen for the baby. So you know one of the first things you do as a midwife whether you’re in the hospital or at home or whatever if a baby’s heart rate is going down is you’re encouraging the mama, the source of the baby’s oxygen to breathe more deeply, you know. Often what has happened is there’s a fear response and then the breathing gets really shallow. I mean I think, you know, if you ever get really scared and you’re kind of spooked, you go… And you kind of hold your breath and your breath is like stuck at your diaphragm.

Sarah Blight: Yeah.

Kristin Cates: So obviously like that kind of breathing is very restrictive.

Sarah Blight: Yeah.

Kristin Cates: So you actually are bringing more oxygen to your baby when you breathe more deeply.

Sarah Blight: Okay and so that kind of leads into my next question which is circulation and that yoga really does help with circulation. I know that some women they have swollen feet, swollen ankles or kankles, you know, they’re experiencing a lot of discomfort. So tell us a little bit about how yoga practice helps with that as well.

Kristin Cates: Yeah. I think, you know, in the way that any sort of physical activity generates better circulation, I think there’s that way that yoga helps with swelling. In terms of just getting – instead of the fluids being stagnant in the tissues you’re getting movement which is encouraging both the cardiovascular system as well as the lymph system to be flowing rather than still and stuck and stagnant.

Sarah Blight: Okay.

Kristin Cates: And then swelling. But I would say that there’s certain particular more like restorative postures in yoga. Prenatal yoga class has like tons of bolsters and blankets, you know, we’re like…

Sarah Blight: That was my favorite part by the way.

[0:15:06]
Kristin Cates: Yeah. It’s so awesome. Like I mean [0:15:09] [Indiscernible] your bed but with more firmness.

Sarah Blight: Yeah.

Kristin Cates: So it’s definitely things where it’s easier to in a comfortable way elevate the extremities that are swollen because that’s also kind of a passive way to get the blood flow to return. So there’s a kind of active or more yang way of actually stirring it up and getting things moving. But then there’s like the more yin, passive way of just creating a really soft comfy not full-on version but some type of inversion where the legs are elevated and the blood flow can just passively return to the heart and then that’s then the fluids aren’t collecting as much.

Sarah Blight: Okay. That sounds lovely and that was my favorite part of the yoga class was at the end when you’re getting the lavender bags over your eyes and the bolsters under your knees, it was fabulous. It was worth it just for that, you know.

Kristin Cates: It’s funny some women really go for like the – you know, they’re like it’s so great to get some of a workout while I’m pregnant and then other people are like I just wish I could be in Shavasana the whole time.

Sarah Blight: Yeah. Definitely. I mean it was nice to have that to look forward to at the end for sure.

Kristin Cates: Yeah. Yeah.

Sarah Blight: Okay. We talked a little bit about the mind. Is there anything else you want to say about that as far as kind of working through the pain? That was I think the biggest surprise for me when I took prenatal yoga and one thing I actually credit as being the most effective for me personally was kind of working on that mind thing. You know, when my arms were shaking when I was in a pose or my legs were shaking, you know, just being challenged to be like okay where are you right now. I’d be like well I’m on the beach in Hawaii okay, yeah I really am there, you know, and trying to get to my happy place. I think that was something I really, really used a lot it in my own labor with my son. Are there any other things that yoga does as far as kind of your mind-body connection with helping prepare for labor?

Kristin Cates: Yeah. Good question. I mean I think just having that pathway of creating a deeper mind by connection, that’s in awareness. I mean obviously our minds and bodies are not separate, they’re connected –

Sarah Blight: Right.

Kristin Cates: Whether we pay attention to that or not. Right?

Sarah Blight: Right.

Kristin Cates: And so but I feel like what yoga does is it gives you this practice to continually deepen that understanding of that connection and that relationship, which is, you know, and the mind is such a powerful part of labor. I mean your mind can stop your labor especially in early labor. I mean there’s kind of a point of no return in labor where no matter what you think this baby is going to come out, you know?

Sarah Blight: Yeah.

Kristin Cates: But there is a huge component of the psyche and the emotions. So if have a way of being in awareness with how your mind and your emotions are affecting your body and vice versa and a way to work with that, you know, to kind of not repress it or say that anything is wrong but just to be in awareness and be like, oh, okay, so yeah, I’m feeling scared so my breathing is really kind of shallow and rapid and actually when I’m scared, I tense my butt muscles and okay.

Sarah Blight: Uh-hum.

Kristin Cates: So in yoga I can like see all of that and I’m not actually in labor yet and then like how can I work with that. What happens if I slow and deepen and make my breath more smooth? Oh, wow, like my gluts actually kind of soften and relax just by the act of deepening and slowing my breath, you know.

Sarah Blight: Uh-hum.

Kristin Cates: Or I’m aware that when I feel scared, my mind is very tense and I’m thinking about, you know, I’m just imagining bad things happening and I’m not even aware of what’s going on in my body about it. But then you start to kind of bring that awareness and say, oh, huh, well I wonder if I – what would help this mind, would it help me to just come back to the present and realize like, oh, I’m in yoga class, it’s very safe, there’s actually nothing to be scared of right now.

Sarah Blight: Uh-hum.

Kristin Cates: And as I start to have those thoughts soften, does my body soften, does my breath soften. You know, so kind of just playing with the connection and noticing how one — it’s like a domino effect. You know one aspect can change the other in a big way. So in labor where fear can be a big component, resistance can be a big component and it can come in any form, it can come in the thought form or the breath form or the somatic physical form.

Sarah Blight: Uh-hum.

Kristin Cates: Being able to actually spend a lot of time practicing and being aware of those connections and then how to actually transform them is probably one of the most powerful ways of being empowered in your labor process and being you yourself able to transform your experience. Rather than having it transform from the outside with like an epidural or something like that.

Sarah Blight: Right. That’s a really – I like that point. I think that’s really important that women can be empowered in that way despite what might be happening around them.

Kristin Cates: Uh-hum.

Sarah Blight: I think that’s good to know. Let’s talk about endorphins for a second. I know that when I think of endorphins, I think of like running or something really like intense and sweaty. I think for a lot of women who maybe are used to exercising pretty intensely before they’re pregnant, after they get pregnant, they’re like well, you know, yoga is great but I’m not even going to bust a sweat probably. Little do they know when you’re pregnant you’re like –

[0:20:20]
Kristin Cates: Right. But they –

Sarah Blight: –50 degrees hotter. Yeah. But can you tell us how endorphins kind of play a role in pain relief as you’re doing prenatal yoga?

Kristin Cates: Uh-hum. So I mean yes, endorphins are released when we do our kind of big workouts and things like that but they’re also released through relaxation. So when the body, you know, is in a safe, relaxed, open, receptive state, you are able to release endorphins. So either which way you come by them, they’re going to help with that feeling of euphoria and actual pain relief because they’re opiate like, they’re like opiates. They’re like narcotics but they’re natural in our bodies that we create ourselves.

Sarah Blight: That’s so cool.

Kristin Cates: So it’s kind of amazing.

Sarah Blight: Yeah.

Kristin Cates: And, yeah, there’s like many roads to get there in terms of releasing them. So it can be through the relaxation response and through meditation or it can be through physically driving ourselves and generating them to be released in that way so.

Sarah Blight: So don’t you think a lot more people would do exercise if they knew that endorphins were like opiates?

[Laughter]

Kristin Cates: You’d think.

Sarah Blight: You would think. Right? I mean I would think. Okay. Let’s talk about the community aspect and this is where I want to kind of delve a little bit into the women who maybe have done prenatal yoga, maybe at home on a video or something like that.

Kristin Cates: Uh-hum.

Sarah Blight: Tell us what you see in your classes with women coming together?

Kristin Cates: Yeah. Well I do think that’s one of the most special parts of actually having a class because like you said with technology and with our busy schedules, like it’s very easy to pick up a good yoga DVD and just even be really religious about it and do it three days a week, five days a week whatever. But I think that being – like it’s rare that you’re in a circle with only pregnant women like when does that happen aside from like a childbirth ed class and then you still have partners usually. And aside from prenatal yoga, I really don’t know any other places where you’re kind of guaranteed to sit in a circle of pregnant women.

Sarah Blight: Yeah.

Kristin Cates: So I think that in and of itself is really special because it’s a special state to be in. It was funny actually last week I was teaching a class and the studio was locked and so I actually had to open the studio so the students were waiting outside the studio. It was all women and then this one guy and I thought hmm, I guess he’s maybe someone’s pregnant, you know, [0:22:48] [Indiscernible] joined in the class.

Sarah Blight: [Laughs]

Kristin Cates: So yeah. So I opened the studio and everyone shuffles in and I just kind of say to him, I’m like, oh, so are you with one of these ladies and he’s like no. I mean he looks around at everyone and he goes is this a prenatal yoga class?

[Laughter]
Yeah. [Laughs] And then you know, he shuffles out and we’re all laughing. We’re just roaring, you know, and then like didn’t want to laugh him out of a place, but you know it really was like not meant for him to be there.

Sarah Blight: Right. It was like him trying to join a secret society like you just can’t make—yeah, you can’t do it, dude.

Kristin Cates: It was just silly.

Sarah Blight: That’s funny.

Kristin Cates: So anyway so I think that different prenatal classes kind of emphasize the community building differently. In my class, I just have in the very beginning kind of a short check-in where everyone just kind of shares their name, how far they are along in the pregnancy, what number of baby for them and then if there’s anything relevant emotionally, physically, spiritually that they want to share with me or the class to help guide the class.

Sarah Blight: Uh-hum.

Kristin Cates: But it’s not particularly long. Some classes will really emphasize that and spend a lot more time, but I know that a lot of people come to yoga more to like move and meditate and not just listen to other people. But what’s interesting is like even with that short amount of sharing after class, everyone is just like… you know, chatty, chatty, chatty, sharing wisdom, sharing experiences, making bonds, making dates to go walking, you know. So much comes out of just being put in that space together even though it’s not, it’s very, very interactive space. I also do a little bit of partnering stretches together so that creates a little bit of more community as well.

Sarah Blight: Yeah.

Kristin Cates: But I just think it’s priceless. There’s people who I’ve met in prenatal yoga that have playgroups with their kids through childhood.

Sarah Blight: Uh-hum.

Kristin Cates: Sol I definitely think – we also to kind of encourage it as well – we have like a got a Gmail group kind of thing. So it’s by choice if you’re in class and you want to sign up for it. So then that’s another place where people can say hey, does anyone recommend a pediatrician or a doula or hey Kristin, you’re a midwife can you tell us what to do for heartburn or whatever, you know, and it’s just like a lot of more like wisdom, wisdom sharing and stuff like that.

Sarah Blight: Uh-hum.

Kristin Cates: So I think if you don’t have that, it’s hard to come by in our current society. It’s not just already in place.

[0:25:03]
Sarah Blight: Right.

Kristin Cates: So I feel like, you know, there’s a place to get it if you don’t already have that going on.

Sarah Blight: I love that and I do agree with you. In my prenatal yoga class that was an unexpected gift for me as well. That was nice to see and it was nice to run into people after they have had their babies and to see through the mommy and me yoga classes and stuff like that too.

Kristin Cates: Yeah.

Sarah Blight: Okay. So let’s talk for a second about women who maybe they belong to a gym and they don’t necessarily have prenatal yoga that’s offered to them.

Kristin Cates: Uh-hum.

Sarah Blight: Can they still join in on a regular yoga class and what do they need to be aware of?

Kristin Cates: Yeah, a really good question. Well I think first and foremost joining a regular yoga class it’s just always good to consult the teacher and say, you know, look I’m this many weeks pregnant and (a) are you comfortable with me being in your class. Because you kind of want the teacher to feel confident in holding the space for whoever their students are. Most teachers should feel relatively comfortable but yoga is such a nonstandardized training that there may be some people who would say I’m not really sure how to best adjust the poses for you so maybe it would be better for you not to be in the class or they would say yes but they’d seem a little worried. [Laughs]

Sarah Blight: Yeah.

Kristin Cates: You know?

Sarah Blight: Yeah.

Kristin Cates: So I think the best thing to do first is address the teacher and just say hey are you comfortable with having a pregnant woman in your class. That said, it’s also good to, yeah, kind of make yourself aware of things in case the teacher isn’t as skilled. I mean it’s pretty common sense in terms of you’re not going to want to do any what we call baby squishing poses so you’re not going to want to lay on your belly.

Sarah Blight: Right.

Kristin Cates: You know, you’re not doing bow pose on your belly.

Sarah Blight: Okay.

Kristin Cates: Deep twists aren’t recommended just because again you’re going to compress the uterus and the baby in a way that’s unnecessary. I teach very gentle twists because it’s not that you can’t twist the spine at all. It’s just those really kind of deep twists where you’re practically turned all the way around yourself.

Sarah Blight: Uh-hum.

Kristin Cates: I don’t recommend those. Inversions are very controversial so if you’re a long time yogi and you’ve been inverting like handstand or headstand or shoulder stand and you have a very strong practice for that, I wouldn’t say not to invert. But I don’t teach inversions in my yoga class and I wouldn’t probably recommend, I definitely wouldn’t recommend starting an inversion practice in your pregnancy.

Sarah Blight: Uh-hum.

Kristin Cates: And that just more has to do with balance, like the changing –

Sarah Blight: Yeah.

Kristin Cates: — center of gravity and balance more risk of kind of falling as well as you get further in the pregnancy, you know, generally speaking babies kind of settle into a good head down position and you don’t want to actually encourage them to be in a butt first position.

Sarah Blight: Yeah.

Kristin Cates: So you want to just be aware of like what you’re doing with your body and kind of be mindful with like a teacher and a midwife or a doctor so that you’re doing the right thing. But generally if you’re just taking a regular yoga class, I think just also not expecting yourself to keep up with the pace of what everyone else is doing and really being passionate about going into child’s pose and not holding things as long if that’s not right for you. It’s really not the time — like you were saying with relaxin hormone, you’re not trying to get your deepest furthest stretch because you could really injure your joints, you know.

Sarah Blight: Yeah.

Kristin Cates: And you’re not trying to really master anything. You’re just trying to, you know, I think the intention is to stay fit and also kind of develop this mindfulness in this yoga practice, but it’s really not about anything else. So I think, I don’t know if that answers your question but those are some of the modifications. So no inversions, no deep twist, no baby squishing poses, lying on your belly.

Sarah Blight: What about lying on your back? You know, –

Kristin Cates: Oh, that’s a great question.

Sarah Blight: Okay.

Kristin Cates: So this is Kristin’s dissertation on –

Sarah Blight: Okay.

Kristin Cates: — lying on the back.

Sarah Blight: Tell us, give us the scoop.

Kristin Cates: Okay. So I really believe that pregnant women should lay in whatever position that’s comfortable for however long. So I think this whole don’t lay on your back kind of voodoo and only sleep on your what is it right side that they tell you to only sleep on or left side? I can’t remember.

Sarah Blight: I think it’s, yeah, I think it’s your left.

Kristin Cates: Yeah.

Sarah Blight: Or maybe it’s your right, not it’s your right.

Kristin Cates: Okay.

Sarah Blight: Okay.

Kristin Cates: So –

Sarah Blight: I don’t even know.

Kristin Cates: So there’s some physiological basis for this but it doesn’t really make sense really when you think about it. So basically, the whole idea about lying flat on your back is like as the uterus grows, it gets bigger and heavier and if you’re lying flat on your back, it can compress the inferior vena cava, which is a big blood vessel that is responsible for returning the blood flow from your lower extremities to your heart.

Sarah Blight: Okay.

Kristin Cates: And you can imagine if you compress that and the blood flow isn’t returning, you actually can drop your blood pressure pretty significantly because you’re not returning this like huge volume of blood to your heart to pump it back out.

Sarah Blight: Okay.

Kristin Cates: And so if that happens you would feel lightheaded, dizzy and maybe short of breath and you would also decrease the blood flow to the uterus, which no one wants to do. So that’s why the recommendation is this, which is a beautiful thing, I don’t want your baby to have decreased blood flow either.

[0:30:13]
Sarah Blight: Right.

Kristin Cates: But the reality is not every pregnant woman every time they lay on their back for five minutes or ten minutes or even sleep on their back is actually having that compression happen or having that blood pressure drop and then the blood flow decrease to the baby.

Sarah Blight: Uh-hum.

Kristin Cates: So really I feel like, you know, if you feel comfortable on your back, I tell people to be on their back. If they feel comfortable on their back but they still have that like message that it’s bad, I tell them just to put a tiny little tilt, like fold a towel or fold a sheet so there’s just a slight tilt so you’re not directly flat on your back.

Sarah Blight: Uh-hum.

Kristin Cates: So, yeah, I don’t end up teaching a lot of poses on your back but I wouldn’t say they’re contraindicated unless it doesn’t feel right. Or if you have like a very high risk pregnancy, your baby is not growing, you’ve really high blood pressure, you smoke two packs of cigarettes a day, you know, something that like your doctor would say I want you to always optimize the blood flow to your baby 24/7 then sure like I would agree with that in terms of sleeping in the right side and not being on your back very often that kind of thing. But I think in general in a normal healthy pregnancy, there is more flexibility in what positions you can be in as long as you’re checking in with yourself. Really, labor is the time you don’t want to be flat on your back and the funny thing is that’s when –

Sarah Blight: Yeah. Because that was my question is like so the whole pregnancy for like almost –

Kristin Cates: Right.

Sarah Blight: –10 months you’re told don’t lie on your back and then what is the first position that most women are in when they give birth? It’s on your back.

Kristin Cates: I know. It’s kind of maddening because –

Sarah Blight: [Laughs]

Kristin Cates: — like a bruise on their right hip and like their husbands have been like put to the task of like waking them up and turning them over if they happen to float onto their back. There’s like weeks and weeks of guilt about like, you know, being in the right position and then, yeah, like the monitors go on and you’re flat on your back in labor. That’s actually when the blood flow is already being decreased by contractions and then you’re doing kind of a double whammy because you have a fully pregnant uterus and then you are probably don’t more compression.

Sarah Blight: Uh-hum.

Kristin Cates: So of all the times when a woman should not be flat on her back, it’s in labor or when pushing out her baby and that’s, yeah.

Sarah Blight: Yeah and that is a really good point and I’m glad that you said that. Because I have been wondering about that for a while and I keep forgetting to ask either you –

Kristin Cates: Yeah.

Sarah Blight: — or other people like what is the inside scoop with that. I don’t understand this.

Kristin Cates: Yeah.

Sarah Blight: Okay. So you talked about putting a towel under you if you don’t want to be directly on your back. Where would you put that like right underneath like the small of your back or where?

Kristin Cates: Well I would actually put it on one hip or the other so that you would just be – instead of being, you know, –

Sarah Blight: Got you.

Kristin Cates: Because if you put it under the small of your back, you’re actually going to increase that curve and it’s going to hurt your back –

Sarah Blight: Okay.

Kristin Cates: –more. So you actually want to do like and you can alternate left hip or right hip just so that you’re just slightly – does that make sense?

Sarah Blight: Like kind of – yeah kind of tilted.

Kristin Cates: Yeah. [0:32:55] [Indiscernible]

Sarah Blight: Awesome, okay.

Kristin Cates: Not fully on your side but just not flat on your back.

Sarah Blight: Got you. Okay.

Kristin Cates: But I honestly don’t think that’s necessary. That’s just more mentally for women who like really had it drilled on their head that they can’t be on their back and so it makes sense that way.

Sarah Blight: Yes. I like that. Okay. Last question is if there’s a mama who’s like, yeah, prenatal yoga is just not in the budget or it’s just not going to happen –

Kristin Cates: Yeah.

Sarah Blight: — are there a few exercises that moms can do at home to help them?

Kristin Cates: Definitely. And I know I just want to speak about the economics. I wish it was more accessible. I mean my class for example is actually a community sliding scale class so my class is like $8 to $16 and people decide what they want which is really nice.

Sarah Blight: That’s cool.

Kristin Cates: Other studios sometimes do like packages where you just pay a fee for the whole pregnancy and you can go as much as you want.

Sarah Blight: Uh-hum.

Kristin Cates: And then as long as you can find other like sliding scale community classes but that is a bummer in terms of the time and money part is not works for everyone.

Sarah Blight: Yeah.

Kristin Cates: But in terms of the few that I would say to do no matter what at home, I don’t know if –

Sarah Blight: Are you going to demo for us?

Kristin Cates: Yeah.

Sarah Blight: Awesome.

Kristin Cates: Do you see?

Sarah Blight: I can kind of see, yeah.

Kristin Cates: Okay. So this one’s a really common one. It’s just on hands and knees pelvic tilt.

Sarah Blight: Okay.

Kristin Cates: And in your regular yoga, it’s called cat cow because you like arch up like an angry cat on the exhale and then in regular yoga you arch all the way forward on the inhale but in prenatal you just stay neutral.

Sarah Blight: Okay.

Kristin Cates: Because you don’t actually want to increase that curve here.

Sarah Blight: Right.

Kristin Cates: So I teach people to do it and maybe five or ten breaths and so you focus on your breath and inhale and I just tell people on the inhalation to just widen. Like imagine the sit bones, like the two bones that you sit on just gently widening apart and you can bring your gaze forward. Then on the exhale, you’re drawing the tailbone under, curling up the back and your chin is going toward your chest. So you just move through that motion in coordination with your breath. That one’s one of the best ones to do for low back pain and just to kind of get some freedom in the hips and pelvis.

[0:35:04]
Sarah Blight: Okay.

Kristin Cates: And you could do that every day.

Sarah Blight: Cool.

Kristin Cates: And it’s usually okay. For some pregnant women being on your wrists and hands and knees doesn’t feel good but you can actually make fists and put your fists on the ground –

Sarah Blight: Good, okay.

Kristin Cates: — rather than your palms.

Sarah Blight: Okay.

Kristin Cates: What else? Pigeon is going to be hard to demo in this.

Sarah Blight: Yeah, that’s okay. What about like squats or you know, I think – I know there’s different like exercises. I’m so rusty on my yoga E’s but -

Kristin Cates: Yeah.

Sarah Blight: What did you call it? Was it moon –

Kristin Cates: Oh, warrior 2?

Sarah Blight: Oh, yeah, warrior, warrior poses.

Kristin Cates: Yeah.

Sarah Blight: Where you’re kind of your legs are bent and it’s kind of a good quad. Are there other exercises like that that are good for like to kind of strengthen your pelvic floor and kind of open things up a little bit?

Kristin Cates: Right. I think that so the cat cow that I was just showing on hands and knees, a nice adaptation is to actually keep one knee center and then to bring the other leg out so that you’re on the foot. So it’s kind of like an asymmetrical squats.

Sarah Blight: Okay.

Kristin Cates: But in hands and knees.

Sarah Blight: Okay.

Kristin Cates: And the reason I suggest that is because a lot of women just squatting it also, it depends kind of on your baby’s position, like if you’re towards the end of pregnancy whether you actually want to do a lot of squatting or not.

Sarah Blight: Okay.

Kristin Cates: And also most of us aren’t strong enough in those muscles. It can actually hurt more, you know, to do a lot of squatting unless you’ve just been squatting like for the past five years or your whole life or whatever.

Sarah Blight: Okay.

Kristin Cates: So this is kind of a — and it’s actually more – a lot of women birth if you let them be in whatever position they want to, in hands and knees or something like that. So that’s another reason why I really like encouraging women getting comfortable in this position because it will make more sense to their body to let themselves be in that position if they’ve kind of already done it a lot in the pregnancy.

Sarah Blight: Yeah.

Kristin Cates: So let’s say you’re in hands and knees and you keep your right knee down and then you bring your left leg up.

Sarah Blight: Okay.

Kristin Cates: And then you put your left foot on the floor and then you can kind of lean in to that hip. So you’re getting an opening in the hips and it is still strengthening but you’re not quite asking yourself to bear as much weight. But regular squats are good. I also teach wave squats, which are really fun. I’ll try to show you.

Sarah Blight: Okay, cool.

Kristin Cates: Okay. So wave squats are you’re standing and you bring your arms up and take them through a centerline and you come down into a squat and then you come back up and you do that like five times. So that will definitely generate some strength and some heat.

Sarah Blight: Yes. My quads are hot just watching.

Kristin Cates: [Laughs] So that’s really fun.

Sarah Blight: Okay.

Kristin Cates: And that’s actually when to not have to like hangout in the squat for too long, you know.

Sarah Blight: Okay, okay. Awesome.

Kristin Cates: What else…

Sarah Blight: What are for the mental toughness part? Like the –

Kristin Cates: Yeah.

Sarah Blight: Like kind of the ones that you want maybe your husband to help you with so he’s timing you or something and you really –

Kristin Cates: Yeah, yeah.

Sarah Blight: — working through –

Kristin Cates: Yes.

Sarah Blight: — you know, like a painful moment?

Kristin Cates: [0:38:03] [Indiscernible] so it’s a standing squat.

Sarah Blight: Okay.

Kristin Cates: So you’re standing, you’re squatting.

Sarah Blight: Okay.

Kristin Cates: And your arms are bent at the elbows. Can you see me?

Sarah Blight: Yup, I can see you. Yup.

Kristin Cates: If you hold this for a minute definitely a really good one as far as like working with strengthening and the mind’s resistance.

Sarah Blight: Okay.

Kristin Cates: There’s also one that I work with my mamas in hands in knees that I call super mom.

Sarah Blight: Okay.

Kristin Cates: Because you’re sticking out your opposite arm and leg. So if your left arm is outstretched, your right leg is outstretched.

Sarah Blight: Okay. That’s a good one.

Kristin Cates: If you hold that for a minute also lots of –

Sarah Blight: You’ll feel it.

Kristin Cates: Yeah.

Sarah Blight: Cool. So well I want to thank you for like working up a sweat here to show –

Kristin Cates: I know.

Sarah Blight: — us some yoga poses. [Laughs] We didn’t really talk about that aspect before the interview so thanks.

Kristin Cates: What part [0:38:53] [Indiscernible] which –

Sarah Blight: No. I said we didn’t really talk about that, that part of that of the interview before –

Kristin Cates: Right.

Sarah Blight: — we started so thanks for being willing to jump in there.

Kristin Cates: I’m game.

Sarah Blight: I know you are. I love it. Well we are going to end the interview there. I just want to thank you women for watching and I hope that you guys have learned some takeaways, things that you can do at home and also things to look for in a prenatal yoga class. Kristin, are there any specific places that women can go? I mean I know we can all Google prenatal yoga classes in our city.

Kristin Cates: Uh-hum.

Sarah Blight: Are there any resources that kind of come to mind as far as really reputable studios or places that women can kind of trust or is it all kind of just need to get personal recommendations from people?

Kristin Cates: I think it’s just good to both get personal recommendations but also just again trust your intuition. I mean if you go meet a teacher and you kind of feel relaxed and calm in her presence, you like her voice and you don’t feel like she’s guiding you into stuff that doesn’t feel right.

Sarah Blight: Yeah.

Kristin Cates: Then go with her, you know?

Sarah Blight: Yeah.

Kristin Cates: Because there isn’t like a central like prenatal yoga database that I’m aware of anyway.

Sarah Blight: Yeah.

Kristin Cates: I mean there’s renowned teachers in different cities like Jane Astin did my training in San Francisco, she’s great. Her classes are packed, you know. Collette Crawford is a nurse and I think she’s up in Seattle now and so her classes are great. [0:40:12] [Indiscernible] is also another kind of big prenatal yoga mentor/teacher and she’s in Southern California. But if you’re not in one of those areas then I think you do Robin Sale in Sta. Cruz did my first training and she does whole birth yoga. Actually, she does have a directory on her website.

[0:40:29]
Sarah Blight: Uh-hum.

Kristin Cates: So her website is WholeBirthYoga.com or maybe it’s just WholeBirth.com actually.

Sarah Blight: Okay.

Kristin Cates: She’s amazing. She was my first prenatal yoga teacher/trainer in 2000 and she has trained people all over the world so she does keep a directory on her website of those folks who have gone through her training.

Sarah Blight: Okay.

Kristin Cates: And keep it. So that would be one that would have a little more of a range of – and I don’t know if Jane does that or not with her training but Jane Astin.

Sarah Blight: Okay.

Kristin Cates: She has a great DVD and she also may or may not keep a list of folks who go through her training.

Sarah Blight: Okay.

Kristin Cates: But I think, you know, even if I said this person is a great teacher and you went to her class and you had the hibiby-jibies or –

Sarah Blight: Right.

Kristin Cates: — it didn’t feel right to you then she’s not your teacher, you know.

Sarah Blight: Right.

Kristin Cates: So it’s again like really –

Sarah Blight: Personal

Kristin Cates: — encouraging people to trust your instincts and your intuition about who’s right for you.

Sarah Blight: Great advice. Awesome.

Kristin Cates: Yeah.

Sarah Blight: Well mamas who are watching if you guys have any questions or comments about this interview, please leave them below. Thanks again, Kristin, for joining us and for getting down and dirty and totally showing us how to do all this stuff. Thanks mamas for watching and we will see you guys next time.

  • Jamie McKey

    My friends always talk about how much they loved prenatal yoga, which is why I signed up! But I never knew the reasons why it helps so much. It makes so much sense when Kristen talked about how the pelvis changes to help the baby during birth. Loved this! I’ve been going to class just to get out & feel better, but I’m feeling like it’s more than that now. Love knowing I’m a partner with my baby to help them during birth!

    • http://twitter.com/YourBabyBooty Sarah Blight

      I don’t know if you could tell in the interview, but I LOVED prenatal yoga. Maybe it was the part at the end where you do a relaxation? haha. No but seriously, I attribute yoga to being the biggest difference maker in my births. Enjoy!

  • Summer

    Awesome interview! Learned so much here about why yoga helps my body & baby. I always just assumed it helped me feel better during the uncomfortable stages and helped baby some…I never realized all the physiology she talked about. So cool! Gonna get right to it!

    • http://twitter.com/YourBabyBooty Sarah Blight

      Namaste Summer! :)