Recently, someone told me that Pregnancy Yoga wasn’t really yoga, it was just relaxation. During my training in India, another student said the same thing about Baby Yoga. Of course, I had to disagree even though at the time I wasn’t exactly sure why. I had so much to say about those statements, but neither did I have the time, nor was I well acquainted with those people to go into such a conversation.
It´s sad (and sometimes frustrating) to see how limited the concept of Yoga is in the West. Most people think yoga is either relaxation or a bunch of breath-taking poses. But there is so much more to it. Asana (the physical practice) is only a small part of the philosophy of yoga, what our culture focuses on, forgetting that the true meaning of this ancient practice rests beyond the physical body, deep inside the Self.
After those two incidents I spent a lot of time thinking about the meaning of Yoga. Where it comes from, how it has changed throughout the years and what are its core values. Later on I asked my meditation and yoga philosophy teacher, a man who has studied the traditional texts for many years, what words would he use to describe yoga. He said it´s a “science of wellbeing; a practice for harmony and integration.” So, if yoga is about wellbeing, then Pregnancy Yoga and Baby Yoga are closer to the essence of the practice than most yoga classes you find in the western world. Of course, there are many teachers who incorporate a bit of philosophy into their sequences, making the practice more meaningful than just a regular exercise class. But obviously, is not done enough. As a teacher, I try to share with my students a practice that can benefit them not only physically, but also emotionally and mentally.
Pregnancy Yoga and Baby Yoga are based on values of non-violence, truthfulness, self-observation and love. The classes include poses and stretches to prepare and heal the body, but it´s first and foremost a mindful practice that focuses on pranayama (breathing techniques) and relaxation to bring the woman (and baby) into a state of balance and inner peace. Yoga helps children develop body awareness, manage stress through breathing and movement, increase their confidence and create a positive self-image. That´s what I would like to see more of in regular yoga classes. A more honest approach to a practice that holds so many benefits for anyone who decides to incorporate it into their lives, let it be babies, children or adults.