Prenatal yoga: A journey of mental and physical wellness

Jerusalem24 – Yasmine Abdulhadi is a woman with a mission. As the only prenatal yoga teacher in Palestine, she takes it upon herself to explain the benefits of the practice to women going through what might be a particularly vulnerable time in their lives.

“Prenatal yoga is the same thing as yoga, it’s just modified specifically for expectant mothers,” Abdulhadi tells Jerusalem24.

Abdulhadi is an independent yoga teacher who acquired training in prenatal and postnatal yoga in Greece. She also holds classes at Nafass Studio in Ramallah.

She says the transformations in a woman’s body during the pregnancy period make it imperative to provide a higher level of care.

“It will be very similar in the poses and the structure of the class,” Abdulhadi explains, “except the teachers will have more understanding towards the woman’s body, what is happening with her during these nine months.”

Countless benefits for women

One of the key mental benefits of proper self-care during pregnancy is the reduction of depression, stress, and anxiety symptoms, as well as improvement in sleep quality, Abdulhadi explains. Practicing yoga allows a safe space for these women “to come and give a bit of time for themselves, away from the craziness and chaos of the world.”

As for the physical benefits, Abdulhadi lists improved blood circulation and help in reducing lower back pain, which many women begin to feel during the second and third trimesters of their pregnancy. The yoga poses can even help with sciatic pain, “one of the biggest nerves in the body and such a very specific type of pain.”

“Prenatal yoga works on different poses that alleviate pain alongside countless benefits for these women,” says Abdulhadi.

Regular yoga poses are of course modified and tailored to each woman according to her stage of pregnancy.

“You might allow them to create some space for the body,” elaborates Abdulhadi. “So these poses you can play around with, and you remove the poses that might cause some issues or injuries such as pressing on the stomach or twisting or adding a lot of abdominal crunches.”

[Courtesy of Yasmine Abdulhadi]

Not a doctor

Students often come to Abdulhadi with medical questions, she says – but she quickly adjusts their expectations.

“First thing, as a disclaimer I always like to say I am not a doctor,” says Abdulhadi. “There are many things I might not know, but what I know as a teacher in this class is that I guide them through whatever they want to feel or know, whatever they want to discover in this discomfort.”

And while a single yoga class may not address an expecting mother’s concerns in their entirety, Abdulhadi strives to offer proper guidance throughout.

“Sometimes I am just there as a guide if they need me, just a friendly presence, help them in whatever they need: physically, emotionally and mentally.”

And the issue of safety is paramount throughout. “It’s so important for me to allow these women to feel as safe as possible,” stresses Abdulhadi, “unlike the Western world where you come in to the gym and sign a waiver.”

Ignore the chaos, just breathe 

Yoga and childbirth both share one crucial aspect: breathing. “One of the most important things I work on is the breath,” says Abdulhadi. “[It’s] even more important than the poses.”

And to focus on one’s breathing, silence and relaxation are key.

“You go through the day, working, or in the car, you don’t listen and might not feel what’s going on,” says Abdulhadi. “But during the silence you really sit with yourself and you take this moment to listen to what’s going on.”

Allowing yourself to empty your mind and focus solely on yourself and your breathing might be challenging at the beginning, but that’s why the teachers are there to offer guidance, explains Abdulhadi, who creates an ambiance through slow music and a peaceful atmosphere.

“This allows the students to sit in silence, listen to their bodies, and reflect on their day-to-day experiences,” she says.

Instead, she provides a space where the students can connect with their emotions, whether they are feeling pain, distress, or anything else. “The class is a place where they can allow themselves to be fully present and listen to what their bodies are telling them,” she explains.

“I invite any woman who wants to come.”

Watch the full interview on Vibes.

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