Physical activity is key to good health during pregnancy. According to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), healthy pregnant women should engage in at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity as often as every day to reduce the risk of complications during pregnancy such as preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, and preterm delivery. Staying active also prevents excess pregnancy weight gain.
As a movement modality, Yoga addresses mind, body, and spirit, and connects all through the breath. After attending hundreds of deliveries, I can attest that the breath is perhaps the single most important element for a woman in managing her labor. If a woman can stay present and connected in her body and manage her body’s sensation with each cycle of breath, she has the golden key to manage her contractions and birthing experience.
So how does one find the right prenatal class?
Doula Cindi Cnop (mothersmilkyway.com) suggests pregnant women consider the following questions:
– Does the instructor have experience with pregnancy and understand that it’s not only the body that is changing but also a woman’s psyche and state of mind?
– Does the prenatal instructor understand the bigger picture, that it’s not about being goal-oriented but about what each woman needs on a particular day?
– Does the class provide a sense of community and can the instructor suggest local resources such as doulas, chiropractors, acupuncturists, and others?
In an attempt to discover more about the prenatal yoga offerings in the Valley, I attended a number of classes and will share my notes from each class.
A Mother’s Haven Boutique & Educational Center, Encino
The Yoga studio space at Mother’s Haven is surprisingly serene considering it’s inside a retail store. Our instructor Lyndsey is a fantastic yoga ambassador who explains the lifelong value of practice and how it’s been vital to her well-being as a mother of two young girls. We moved through a liquid flow of asanas that helped us lengthen the spine and expand the chest, two areas that can get particularly sore during pregnancy. We also practiced some relaxing deep breathing techniques that are essential during labor.
Noteworthy: The studio’s location in a baby/mother retail store makes it easy to pick up needed items.
Class: $18 for a 75-minute class, Mon & Wed 7pm.
Instructor: Lyndsey Milton is trained and certified in Integral Yoga as a prenatal and postpartum instructor. She is also a birth and postpartum doula. www.birthwell.com www.shopthehaven.com/yoga
15928 Ventura Blvd, # 116 | Encino, CA 91436 | 818-380-3111
Casa Shosha Yoga, Toluca Lake
To enter this poolhouse studio sanctuary, students stroll through a lovely garden where instructor Shosha is like a Fairy Godmother who floats around and magically provides a prop or a gentle hand to every student. This studio has a rope wall where Shosha showed me how to adjust myself as if I were pregnant. While in Downward-facing Dog, the rope support allowed me an extra stretch that felt effortless and amazing.
Noteworthy: Enjoy a cup of tea in her lovely garden after class or play with her rescue dogs that occasionally come to the door to visit.
Class: $20 for a 90-minute class, MWF 10:30am, Sat 1:30pm.
Instructor: Shosha Bottoms received her Teaching Certification at the Yoga Vedanta Forest Academy and the International Sivananda Yoga Centers in Quebec, Canada. Her specialties are Pre- and Post-Natal and Restorative Yoga. www.shoshayoga.com
4719 Willow Crest Ave | Toluca Lake, CA 91602 | 818 509.2653
City Yoga, Studio City
City Yoga may be new to the Valley but their West Hollywood location has been a community beacon since 1999. Co-owner Rebecca Benenati grounds the studio’s vision of asana and meditation in her instruction while preparing moms-to-be with both strong pelvic work and breathwork. Be prepared for many squats and hip openers! Rebecca explains that she wants her students to help build strength around the knees and back to support both the final stages of pregnancy and for labor.
Noteworthy: Remember to bring your parking receipt inside to receive a validation for two hours of free parking.
Class: $18 for a 60-minute class, Tues 11am.
Instructor: Rebecca Benenati has been teaching yoga since 1993 and is also a certified doula. www.cityyoga.com
12265 Ventura Blvd #104 | Studio City, CA 91604 | 818 506-9642
Jessica’s class is a mix of pre- and post- natal yoga, and for the new moms, a second instructor provides childcare inside the studio. Chatting and interclass dialogue is welcome. Jessica has an integral knowledge of the body’s interwoven anatomy as she explains how the body changes during pregnancy and labor and how to best maintain strength during pregnancy. The practice has a strong, steady pace and closes with a lovely, gentle cool down and mini meditation.
Noteworthy: Free child care and sharing space with BINI Birth (binibirth.com) offers students access to a treasure trove of birth knowledge.
Class: $18 for a 75-minute class, Mon & Thurs mid-morning, Tues 7pm
Instructor: Jessica Jennings, MS, ERYT Certified Anusara Yoga Instructor, prenatal training with Sue Elkind. www.MaYoga.com
13743 Riverside Dr | Sherman Oaks, CA 91413 | 323-680-5355
Rising Lotus Yoga, Sherman Oaks
Shannon’s all-levels Vinyasa Flow class included several expectant mommies new to yoga. The practice began with a series of pelvic floor exercises accompanied by a stunningly beautiful music mix. Shannon’s profound knowledge of the body — the muscle groups and their impact on labor, delivery and recovery – helps make her challenging class especially beneficial.
Noteworthy: Give yourself extra time to find parking. There’s a strong sense of community plus a Lululemon store next door.
Class: $18 for a 90-minute class, Wed 1:30pm
Instructor: Shannon Branham has been teaching yoga for over 10 years. She has trained with Brenda Strong and Gurmukh. www.risinglotusyoga.com
13557 Ventura Blvd | Sherman Oaks, CA 91423 | 818-990-0282
Two Hearts, Sherman Oaks
Our instructor, Georgina, begins class with a series of stretching warm ups while moms-to-be chat about shared pregnancy experiences. This class is physically challenging, but taught at many levels with props and modifications to support a mom at her present level. Partner work offers a lovely opportunity for camaraderie, and focuses on giving and receiving. With laughter and smiles, the dynamic of this class leaves you feeling worked out, stretched, uplifted, and a welcome member of the Two Hearts community.
Noteworthy: The studio is upstairs in a plaza with large open windows offering gentle streaming sunlight and an elevated view. It’s one of the only studios of its kind in LA dedicated solely to the needs of pregnant and postnatal women. Additionally, they offer workshops and classes such as breastfeeding and CPR.
Class: $18 for a 90 minute class, with prenatal classes 7 days a week.
Instructor: Georgina O’Farrill has been teaching for over 16 years and has trained with Brenda Strong, Maty Ezraty, Lisa Walford, Naime Jezeny, Sue Elkind, and Noah Maze. www.twoheartsyoga.com
4454 Van Nuys Blvd | Sherman Oaks, CA 91403 | 818 501-9642
Urban Lily Yoga, Sherman Oaks
Elinore’s lively and high-energy Vinyasa flow class is taught at an intermediate level. One glance around the room and it’s evident that most of these women have been practicing yoga for years: Headstands and inversions late in pregnancy are not uncommon here.
Noteworthy: Ample parking in the back lot.
Class: $17 for a 75-minute class, Pre- & Post-natal, babies welcome Mon – Fri 12:15pm
Instructor: Elinore Cohen has studied Iyengar, Ashtanga, and Anusara and has completed the YogaWorks teacher training: www.urbanlilyyoga.com
14106 Magnolia Blvd | Sherman Oaks, CA 91423 | 818-646-0142
Silver Lake Yoga, Silver Lake << this is NOT in the san fernando valley!![R1]
Juliette welcomes students by name and explains the role of particular muscles during labor and how to make your practice pay off for you during the birth. As a practicing doula for over a decade Juliette has countless birth stories to share, and by the questions which follow clearly the participants are eager for more.
Noteworthy: Juliette Kurth and Jonathan Emerson co-teach a Labor Support Workshop for couples. Silver Lake Yoga also offers a very comprehensive Prenatal Yoga Teacher Training program. And in the studio, there’s a surprising number of daddies.
Class: $20 for a 90-minute class, Pre & Post natal, MWF, 10:30, Sat 1:30
Instructor: Juliette Kurth trained at the Iyengar Institute in NYC. www.silverlakeyoga.com
2810 ½ Glendale Blvd | Los Angeles, CA 90039 | 323- 953-0496
Bio: Dahlia Frydman is a mother of four, IBCLC Lactation Consultant, ACHI Master Doula, NRP. Co-founder of The Sacred Womban’s Circle to celebrate pregnancy, Dahlia’s favorite place to practice yoga is in her back yard after the kids all leave and with her pets, who are constantly an inspiration for her downward dog.
Doula Doll can be reached at [email protected] or via Face Book: Sacred Wombans Circle