What You Need to Know About Prenatal and Postnatal Yoga

We had the pleasure of speaking with Carlee Benear, a mom from Texas who advocates for the importance of practicing yoga during pregnancy and post-pregnancy.

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself. What inspired you to start doing yoga?

Well, I was a stay-at-home mom with two small children and I was losing my mind with all the things to do. I needed an outlet and I didn’t have the time or the money to go to a gym or hire a trainer. So, I started looking up yoga videos on YouTube. Yoga always seemed like a very calming practice to me and that is definitely what I needed because parenting small children can be very overwhelming. I had no idea that my short sessions of yoga whenever I was about to blow my top would have such a huge impression on my children. Now they are all yoga stars and it makes me so happy that the seeds were planted young and their lives can flourish from the yoga philosophy.

2. What are some of the benefits of practicing yoga during pregnancy? 

During my third pregnancy, I had terrible morning sickness. Every single day, I did not want to get out of bed. I just wanted to lay there and be miserable, which actually made me more miserable. Every time I would convince myself to get up and go to my mat and move around a little, I would feel so much better. It’s easy to get lost in the sickness of pregnancy but moving around can really bring you back to the present moment. And the present moment while you are pregnant is that you are literally the joining of two worlds. It’s an amazing experience and you are never more connected with your body then during pregnancy. You’re paying attention to every little detail, and when we got lost and are not feeling well, those little details can turn out to be quite disastrous.

3. Is it okay to start yoga for the first time during pregnancy?

Yoga can be as gentle or as aggressive as you need it to be. From what I’ve read, it’s not recommended to start anything abnormal while pregnant. However, gentle yoga can be as easy as walking a lap around your block. I definitely wish that everyone would give prenatal yoga a chance because tuning into your body is where you are going to find your power. Even sitting on a meditation cushion can take you there.

4. Which poses are the most beneficial during pregnancy, and why?

Any one that feels right. For me, it’s hard to follow a routine now because I feel like when you are in touch with your body, you know what it needs and what it can’t handle. Because everyone is built and postured differently, some with stronger areas than others, and some weaker in certain parts, the most important advice I can give you is to have fun with whatever it is you do. Laughing is a great workout as well as a great release.

5. Can you discuss the relationship between yoga and labour? How does yoga help women prep for birth? 

During your yoga practice, you will become more in-tune with your body as it’s growing and nurturing New Life. That in turn can give you new life and newly discovered power. If we were to pay attention to the things that our body does on a daily basis for us, we would be pleasantly surprised at how miraculous our bodies really are and how strong and resilient they are. When we connect on the mat, we bring our mind into it too. You know, the voice inside your head that is constantly ridiculing you can also be a true source of strength. We can exercise our body all we want, but if we don’t work on our mind body connection then we will be easily convinced that we don’t have a voice and that we aren’t strong enough to do what our bodies are naturally made to do.

6. What are some of the benefits of practicing yoga during the nursing phase?

The first week or so of nursing is painful, I don’t care who you are! Practicing yoga during those painful times it’s like giving your mind something to play with to take its focus off of the cracked nipples. When your baby starts to get teeth, the same aspect applies. When your little one starts to become mobile, this same aspect applies. When your toddler starts doing yoga while nursing naturally, you’ll be ready. For me, breastfeeding is an amazing journey because it truly teaches you how to slow down in such a fast-paced world. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to miss out on any of those the moments and I don’t want to give in to stress and frustration. I want to be able to show my children how to deal with it and how to sit with it in a healthy way. 

7. How long should you wait before practicing yoga after childbirth?

There is not really a right answer for this. Trust your body. If your body screams at you to stop then stop. If your body needs to move then move.

8. Which poses are the most beneficial after childbirth, and why?

I wouldn’t really say that there are certain poses that are more beneficial than others but I can say firmly that you NEED meditation. Yes, meditation is also sleeping when the baby sleeps. THE most beneficial thing you can do is take care of yourself.

9. Apart from yoga’s physical benefits on the prenatal and postnatal body, what are some of its spiritual and mental health benefits?

I feel like one of the best benefits of practicing yoga is realizing its philosophy. You discover the ability to take a step back, to take ego out of situations, and to respond rather than react. I have been able to stop myself and break the cycle a verbal abuse that I experienced growing up. We all have the things in the back of our head that our parents did and we don’t want to do. By practicing yoga, we discover the strength to break the cycle and become the parents we want to be. Having other people be proud of you is one thing,but to be able to lay your head on your pillow at night without regrets and with a sense of fulfillment is priceless.

10. What advice do you have for pregnant and nursing women who are hesitant to start yoga during this particular stage in their life? 

If you are being called to do yoga and you are still feeling hesitant, don’t stop looking for another teacher. Everyone has opinions, everyone has interpretations, and everyone has the amazing ability to choose. I cannot think of any cons about yoga, so if you’re finding yourself unsure – look for a different teacher. I guarantee you there is someone out there that will speak in a language that you can truly understand and finding that person is well worth trying. Your family will thank you for it.