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Prenatal Yoga Teacher Training: What I Learned and Key Takeaways

A couple of weeks ago I spent the weekend in a prenatal yoga teacher training and I promised to share my experience. The short version…LOVED it and took so much away from it to apply not only to my students and readers but also to myself as a woman. It was incredibly eye opening on so many levels. For this post, I’m just going to share a brief overview of the weekend but expect subsequent posts that dive deeper into some of the topics that you’ll read about below. Let me know if you have any special requests! 🙂

amani murray prenatal yoga teacher training

The prenatal yoga teacher training was with Amani Murray who is a Charlotte-area yoga teacher and mom to four with her fifth on the way! Amani has been teaching yoga for over 14 years and is a wealth of knowledge about all things yoga, women’s health and ayurveda. She has completed a 600-hour training to become a certified ayurveda wellness counselor and is available for consultations both in-person and online/via phone. If ayurveda is something that interests you, I would definitely recommend working with Amani. You can read about her ayurveda services here.

Although Amani and I have “circled around each other” for years, this was my first time really spending time with her in a training. She is absolutely lovely and has a strong but soft presence. She is open and approachable while commanding respect in a quiet way at the same time. Amani is an extremely effective presenter and even though we spent hours in lectures, I never felt bored or disengaged. I personally enjoyed how she really tied together the mind, body and spirit elements of the practice into this training. I would characterize it more as an experience than a training.

amani murray yoga

Friday night felt all about honoring our femininity and womanhood. When we arrived we learned a mantra that we chanted together to begin the weekend. It means…

Lead me from untruth to truth
Lead me from darkness to light, ignorance to understanding
Lead me from death to life
May all beings everywhere be happy and free

It was nice to kick off a weekend of learning focused on women’s bodies with a mantra for peace.

We went on to cover the reproductive cycle and the menstrual cycle. Some of the highlights of our discussion included…

  • How your cycle experience differs based on your dosha
  • What a normal flow looks like when it comes to volume, appearance and smell
  • How the menstrual cycle and moon cycles play together
  • The five vayus which are the various movements of prana, the most important for the cycle being apana vayu, movement down and out
  • Yoga practice modifications for menstrual cycle

My biggest takeaway from the menstrual cycle lecture was the importance of taking extra good care of yourself when you’re on your cycle. It’s our body’s monthly time of cleansing and we should allow it to rest. I feel like it’s become such a thing not to even take a pause when you’re on your cycle. I usually push through runs and workouts even though it feels counter-intuitive that first day to do much more than walking. Running the Charlotte half marathon on day one of my cycle last year was MISERY! This lecture totally reinforced my natural instinct to REST on day one and also not to do inversions the first few days of my cycle to promote the apana vayu movement of down and out.

We ended our Friday night session with a writing meditation and a savasana.

Day two was a long one! We started at 8 a.m. with another peace mantra. This time we chanted “Hari Om” 108 times. When you chant this you are calling for something higher and a deliverance from ignorance. This was followed by a discussion on the eight limbs of yoga (always nice to refresh) as well as what to do if your cycle is out of balance from an ayurvedic perspective for each dosha.

Before we broke for lunch, Amani guided us through a yoga flow with fake bellies. (See the photo at the top of the post for a visual!) That was a fun experience. 😉

After lunch we discussed each trimester and what happens to the body during it, what the common discomforts are, warning signs and how all of this impacts the mommas yoga practice. Amani also started a pose-by-pose breakdown of appropriate modifications for pregnancy for each trimester. We then broke into groups and sequenced classes based on a made-up scenario that Amani gave us. We ended the day at 5 p.m. with another writing meditation.

We met again on Sunday morning and chanted the Hari Om mantra to start. Our first lecture was on dinacharya or daily routines. Some of the topics we covered included…

  • Making sure that the first thing you drink in the morning is clean, filtered water to cleanse the digestive tract after sleeping
  • Tongue scraping
  • Self-massage – Amani actually only recommends dry brushing for kapha dosha. She recommends oil massage for vatta and pita.
  • Nasya oil and neti pots
  • Pranayama and meditation
  • Wake-up and bedtimes – Amani recommends all doshas rise before 6 a.m. and sleep by 10 a.m. (#goalz)

camel pose pregnant

On Sunday we also covered appropriate pranayama techniques for pregnant women. Obviously, breathing exercises are extremely beneficial for pregnancy and labor. The biggest take away from this lecture was no breath retention exercises in prenatal and no breathing that compresses the abdomen.

We also covered the four stages of birth, the medical model versus the wisewoman tradition of birth, postnatal care and finished reviewing the asana chart and talking about the modifications for the various poses. We went SUPER deep on topics ranging from water breaking, the transition stage of labor where sh*t gets real and most women get anxious/scare, doulas and midwives, all things placenta and eating placentas, home births, c-sections, after-care and much more. It was a pretty intense discussion!

savasana pregnancy

In regards to the asanas themselves and pregnancy, some of the things that surprised me the most were…

  • It is totally okay to twist in all trimesters of pregnancy as long as you don’t compress the abdomen. Think open twists not deep twists.  I’ll write another post soon and post photos of the appropriate modifications for twists. One of my friends and fellow teachers is seven moths pregnant and would be a great model and example! 🙂
  • If inversions were in your practice pre-pregnancy and you’d like to continue practicing them, it’s okay. Just make sure you do so against a wall for safety since your balance is changing. The biggest note on this was that you might want to stop a couple of weeks before you are due to encourage the apana vayu of down and out.
  • No core work after the first trimester. Modified planks and spinal balance are great but nothing intense and no arm balances requiring strong engagement of the abs, like crow.
  • Backbends are okay as long as they feel good. See Amani demonstrating camel above. She said some women might even choose to keep wheel in their practice. Just go by what feels good to you and remember…supported bridge on a block is always a good idea! Also, no belly backbends because you always want to avoid compression of the belly.
  • It’s okay to be on your back for savasana unless it doesn’t feel good for you, then roll to one side and place a block between the knees. Most people recommend the left side since the liver is on the right and this takes the weight off of it.
  • Widen the stance considerably and bend the knees in forward fold to make the posture more comfortable and accessible. Don’t compress the belly on the thighs!
  • Let your body REST after delivery. Amani recommended at least 6-10 weeks, depending on your birth experience. There is such a culture of “snap back to it” these days and this was such a positive reminder on the importance of caring for our bodies and letting them heal.

The name of the game is LISTENING to your body. If something doesn’t feel right for you, DON’T DO IT!

Gosh, I could go on and on about prenatal yoga teacher training and on but I’m almost at 1500 words so I need to wrap this one up. I’ve mentioned this so many times before but working with women is just my favorite thing ever, especially pre- and post-natal. I can’t wait to learn more and more about this. This was the first of five modules that Amani is offering for a 100-hour prenatal certification. I can’t wait to dive back in!

Please let me know if you have any topic requests for upcoming posts. I’d love to share more of what I learned and I can partner with Amani if something is outside of my scope.

For my readers that are mamas, did you practice yoga during your pregnancy? What was your experience with it? 

How do you take care of yourself when you’re on your cycle? Do you make any modifications to your routine? 

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{ 27 comments… add one }
  • Juliette | Namastay Traveling June 19, 2017, 6:49 am

    I really appreciated hearing every bit about your class, I wish I could learn more! Well, hopefully soon, I plan to take a prenatal class at some point. It really is a beautiful practice and so important to know even when teaching regular classes!

    • Jen June 19, 2017, 11:55 am

      Thank you Juliette! I’m glad you found it to be helpful!

  • Christin June 19, 2017, 9:20 am

    I practiced yoga while pregnant until about 30 weeks along, when my belly was SO BIG that the yoga class turned into the modification class. Honestly I went from feeling like a voluptuous goddess-mama-to-be to a ridiculous whale flopping around on the yoga mat. Hahaha. But I’m glad I stuck with the practice for so long, and I do think that focusing on the breath helped me a lot during labor.

    The other yoga principle that helped was completely relaxing a certain body part (legs/pelvis) while being very strong in others (arms/core). That was really important for pushing.

    So glad you learned so much! I would love to see a post on how our cycles relate to our doshas and to the cycles of the moon. The female body is so so incredible.

    • Jen June 19, 2017, 11:55 am

      Thank you for sharing your experience Christin! I will definitely consider the cycles/doshas/moon cycle post soon! 🙂

  • Lauren June 19, 2017, 10:57 am

    Thanks Jen. I think it is important to listen to your doctor’s too. I would follow my doctor’s instructions before my yoga instructors. Some of these things, my doctor would say “no” too. Fact is, there aren’t really studies out there. I was surprised that some of your students were still taking hot yoga – that’s a no, no according to doctors and AmericanPregnancy.org. A healthy baby is what is important, not if you can still do wheel at 6 months pregnant.

    • Jen June 19, 2017, 11:54 am

      Agreed! Doctors advice first, always. I think it’s important to remember that each woman is so different in her experience with being in her body (pregnant or not) and each doctor’s opinion is different as well. I think it’s the duty of us as women to make decisions based on the information we have and the way we feel.

    • Allison June 19, 2017, 1:29 pm

      I did hot yoga until around 8 months….I think every pregnancy is different, and you should do what you are comfortable with. My doctor said it was fine if I had been doing it before, and to just listen to my body and rest when needed. Many women live in parts of the world that get to over 100 degrees and they have healthy pregnancies. That being said, I did do some modifications and always took a spot in the back by the door so I could get fresh air if needed.

  • Erica June 19, 2017, 11:42 am

    Can you please do a post on cycle experience depending on doshas? That sounds super interesting!

    • Jen June 19, 2017, 11:54 am

      Yes, will add to list.

  • JennyV June 19, 2017, 2:13 pm

    I’m also curious about doshes as our cycles. Despite living a healthy lifestyle, I’ve never had a regular/consistent cycle. I believe I’m someone that internalizes stress and that’s the only thing I can pinpoint as a cause to irregularity.

    Sounds like a really neat and empowering weekend!

    • Jen June 23, 2017, 7:44 am

      I am meeting with Amani for coffee soon and I will chat with her more about it! 🙂

  • Kathleen June 19, 2017, 4:18 pm

    I really loved reading this post! Admittedly, I don’t do a lot of yoga, but when I was pregnant I decided to check it out! Although I wouldn’t say I caught on very well (I’ve always been more into running and strength training) it was definitely relaxing. Looking back I should have actually gone to a class rather than do videos. I would love to hear more about specific movements and how to modify for pregnancy! I’d love to do more yoga and fully commit to it especially since we will be trying to baby number two soon 🙂

    • Jen June 23, 2017, 7:44 am

      Hey Kathleen – I’m happy to hear that you enjoyed this post and that you did any kind of yoga with your first. I will definitely make this an ongoing topic because it’s so relevant for where so many of my readers are in this stage of life. Very exciting on baby #2 to come! 🙂

  • Linda June 19, 2017, 5:09 pm

    Thanks for sharing, Jen! I’ve been very interested in Ayurveda for quite some time and have been reading up on it the past 6 months. I’m thrilled you have connected me with someone local as I have been looking. I’m very interested in furthering my education there after summer TT! The doshas are fascinating and in my opinion, spot on for me and Jeff! And in regards to our cycle I had read about that and it makes perfect sense.

    • Jen June 23, 2017, 7:43 am

      You must do a training with Amani or at least meet with her on Ayurveda. She’s an incredible resource and wealth of knowledge!

  • Amber June 19, 2017, 7:07 pm

    I am 19 weeks pregnant right now and so far have managed to keep up a regular yoga practice. I stopped going on my belly at about 16 weeks because it just did not feel good. I am still going on my back for short amounts of time like to do bridge pose, but I am not doing savasana on my back anymore, I feel better if I’m upright on a bolster. I am doing regular flow classes at my regular studio and also once a week I do a prenatal yoga class which has women ranging from 10 weeks to 38 weeks in it, so it’s super interesting to see how everyone is modifying.

    My prenatal yoga instructor said you should avoid downward dog in the third trimester because it can flip the baby. Do you know if that’s true?

    I would definitely love some more detailed prenatal yoga posts focusing on modifications! Looking forward to it 🙂

  • Heidi hayden June 19, 2017, 7:36 pm

    I practiced yoga throughout my first pregnancy at Y2! Went to the same classes pre-pregnancy but modified. I credit yoga with making the actual delivery more manageable. And my 6 week post partum body sure did thank me – I can’t recommend it enough.

    • Jen June 23, 2017, 7:39 am

      Hey Heidi – I love to hear this! Thank you for taking a moment to share your experience! 🙂

  • Angie June 19, 2017, 11:01 pm

    Jen,

    Thank you for posting this!! Loved it!! ! I’m 29 weeks pregnant and I am still practicing yoga. It honestly has been the only thing that has helped me with swelling and feeling better over all. Hoping to continue practicing as long as it keeps feeling good and this baby allows it. 🙂

    • Jen June 23, 2017, 7:39 am

      I have loved seeing you practice throughout your pregnancy. You inspire me and I love you tons!

  • shanna June 20, 2017, 3:34 pm

    great post Jen

    • Jen June 23, 2017, 7:37 am

      thank you lady! 🙂

  • Jacqui June 21, 2017, 5:50 pm

    Thank you for sharing your experience, Jen. I am eager to hear more about the modifications for each trimester. Is it ok to do all the poses in a normal flow class during the first trimester if they feel good? I lost a pregnancy back in January at 18 weeks. It was (is) a hard experience, made more stressful because I had been too nervous to do yoga throughout the pregnancy. I was even nervous that child’s pose would squish the baby. I didn’t go to prenatal yoga in the first trimester because I hadn’t told anyone about the pregnancy yet. Do women often start prenatal at that time?

    • Alicia June 22, 2017, 12:32 pm

      I’m so sorry for your loss. I also lost a pregnancy at 18weeks. Nothing short of awful.

      • Jen June 23, 2017, 7:27 am

        Jacqui and Alicia – my heart goes out to both of you on your losses. <3

    • Jen June 23, 2017, 7:33 am

      hey jacqui – i can’t even imagine losing a baby, much less at 18 weeks. i’m so sorry for your loss and sending you all the prayers and love.

      re: first trimester. from what i understand, yes on doing all the poses in first trimester as long as they feel good. you may want to still avoid deep twisting and compression of the abdomen and do more open twists but in general you should be okay listening to your body. the baby is very, very small in the first trimester so you are not going to “squish” it, especially with poses like child’s! it’s normal to have those feelings/concerns though. <3 YES, many start prenatal very early! it’s a very safe and supportive environment and your teacher should be able to guide you and offer suggestions for your stage in pregnancy and also your concerns/fears.

      xx

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