I met Leila in the fall of 2015 when she attended her first yoga class with me. Shortly after that she committed herself to a 4 days/week practice on average. She became one of my most serious and committed students. Never skipped a class unless she had a very good reason. I watched her growing, learning and developing during this time. Her pregnancy has contributed significantly in digging even more in the true essence of yoga.
I saw Leila becoming more and more independent in her practice. Her awareness grew even more, she started to practice acceptance, tolerance and kindness even more with the help of her baby girl. I admire her strength to come to the classes even on days when her energy was not at its peak. In the end, this is what yoga is all about. It’s not a practice that we put back on the shelf at our convenience, but it’s the attitude we have when things get tough. Leila remained strong and graceful throughout her pregnancy. As her teacher, I am so proud and happy to witness her progress and to be a small part of it.
The interview was made on the 25th of January 2017. Pictures taken on January 22nd, 2017, when Leila was already 36 weeks pregnant.
Lavinia: Hi! Here we are my beautiful Leila. Baby J. is coming soon to say “Hello” to this world 🙂 Thank you so much for accepting to do this interview and sharing with the people out there your story of pregnancy and yoga practice.
First of all, when did you start practicing yoga and what made you to continue?
Leila: My first contact with yoga was in 2010. I was in San Francisco (love that city…) and close to my place there was a Bikram studio. I didn’t know much about yoga, so I had no clue about what Bikram was… so imagine my first class in such a hot room! I almost died in there! However, I started to like the feeling after the class… Also, my back and neck problems started to disappear, so I kept going to the studio while I was in SF. Then, I came back to Spain, so no more yoga, until I went back to SF one year after (and the same story during 3 months). After 2011, I didn’t practice yoga during two years. But in 2013, when I was about to defend my PhD I was so stressed and tired that I had anxiety problems. I was going to the gym and the pool by that time, but it was not working at all. Actually, during weight lifting, my mind was running so fast and thinking about all the things I needed to do. So, I thought that I could go back to yoga, why not? I found a super nice studio close to my house, with some wonderful and special people, and I started practicing Hatha (mostly), some Vinyasa and some restorative yoga. And it worked! Little by little my body, and specially my mind, started to feel much better and more relaxed. Since then I’ve been practicing every week, 2-4 times per week.
Lavinia: Any changes you could feel in your daily life between times with regular yoga practice and times when for various reasons you wouldn’t get on your mat?
Leila: When I spent some time (more than one week) out of the mat, my neck and back start to bother again. These are the first symptoms. If for any reason, I don’t go back to the mat (let’s say more than one month or so), my stress level rises, and anxiety starts to show up… Since I “discovered” yoga, I try not to reach that level any more.
Lavinia: They say, every woman and every pregnancy are different. How did you adapt your practice when you knew you are going to be a mom?Which postures did you take out from your practice and why? Did you feel your practice changed compared to how it was before?
Leila: When I knew J. was coming, I tried to keep her on the safe side. That was all. So I avoided any posture that was not recommended by people that really know about yoga. In addition, I stopped doing inversions and arm balances, because I was afraid to fall and “hurt” the baby.
My practice changed from the very first day and every single day, because in every class I was (or at least felt) different than I was before. I could feel small and big differences in my body, so I had to listen to it very very carefully. That’s been my major role during these months, to be aware of myself/ourselves.
Lavinia: How did you feel throughout the trimesters? Did you practice during the first trimester? Did you continue your regular practice despite all odds?
Leila: What people say about the trimesters is quite accurate: the first trimester is the worst, the second is the best, and the third is the “most complicate”. I’ve been practicing during all the trimesters throughout the pregnancy. The first trimester was not very good because I had some bleeding, and I was really scared. Since the doctor told me that everything was ok, that I shouldn’t be worried, I continued with the practice, but still… I was very nervous and I took it very very easily. During the second trimester, I felt quite energetic, and I didn’t have a big belly, so I could do my practice almost as always. Now that J. is almost here, I still feel with a lot of energy, and I can follow the classes “easily” (of course, some days I don’t and I usually skip many vinyasas), although I had to change several asanas because J. is in the middle of them.
Lavinia: Yes! 🙂 I remember that time when she wouldn’t allow you to do the side stretch in Parivritta Janu Sirsasana on the left side. Her feet were exactly there in the middle of the stretch, if we can put it this way hehe
You are at the end of your 3rd trimester right now. What are your favorite postures to do at the moment and why? How the practice looks and feels like at the moment?
Leila: My favorites postures are the same as always: pigeon pose, Baddha Konasana with forward bending, and all the side stretches. Now they feel even better, because the release the tension that I have around the belly (hips and core). I really really like them! I also like a lot Down Dog… because of the hamstrings. The practice is “my moment”. Nowadays, I’m still working from home, and I spend many hours in front of the computer. So even if I’m tired, doing yoga is the best that I can do for both of us, and to release all the tension and stress.
Lavinia: Many pregnant women suffer from back pain and different specific aches during this time.Did you have any of those?
Leila: Nope, nothing at all. The only back pain that I had it was during Christmas, because I was not practicing at home…
Lavinia: That’s wonderful, Leila! So yoga helped in reducing/ preventing these pains and aches 🙂
Leila: Yes, of course! as I said, every time we had a break, I started with small back pains, but right after going back to your classes, all of them were gone.
Lavinia: Despite the regular Unfold Your Mat classes not being focused on pregnancy yoga, you chose to continue to attend them on a weekly basis. Why didn’t you choose a specific mamma class?
Leila: Because, so far, “regular” yoga has been the best for me, and I thought that if it was so good for me, it would be the same for her (of course avoiding the necessary postures). In addition, in my Spanish yoga studio, the mamma classes were right before mine, so sometimes I could gossip a bit with the other mammas, and they were very relaxing. I would say, too relaxing for me. As I said before, anxiety is a problem for me, so I need some physical activity to “burn” the stress. So to keep going to my regular classes was the best option for me.
Lavinia: Any postures you used to like/ dislike during these stages of pregnancy and maybe you don’t do anymore at the moment?
Leila: Mmmm… Honestly, I don’t think there’s any in terms of like/dislike. There are many in terms that now I can’t do them because of my belly (any forward bending for instance), but in general what I used to like before, I still like it now, and the other way around.
Lavinia: Anything else you’d like to share with us?
Leila: If you’re reading this but you still don’t practice yoga, please give it a try. Of course, it could not be “your thing”, but again, try! Yoga is much more than being flexible. Actually, it is much more than a physical thing. These days we live with so much pressure over our shoulders, that to be sick is really really easy. And if you find the proper teacher, group and studio, your life can improve a lot.
Lavinia: Last but not least, I want to say how proud I am of you. Your discipline, commitment to the practice, your strength, and your care for yourself and your baby are an inspiration for everyone out there. I am sure the baby girl is on good hands, because first of all she has a mom that takes responsibility over her own heath and the one of her baby 🙂
You show to all of us that practice is not a hobby to take and put back on the shelf at our convenience, but it’s our intention to show up and do the best we can. It makes my heart so full of joy to see you show up on your mat regardless of having a good or a bad day. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for trusting me in guiding not only your yoga practice, but the one of your baby girl as well. She’s been with us on the mat since she was conceived 🙂 It is a privilege for me to be your teacher and to share this wonderful experience with you. Thank you my Leila darling!
Read more about pregnancy yoga in the interview with our student Rocio.
More pictures in the gallery:
© Unfold Your Mat 2017
Excellent post! This would definitely motivate pregnant women to start with prenatal yoga. Thanks Lavinia for sharing this story. Loved it!!
Thank you so much Kajal! So glad you found something of value in this article! Check out the last article about Kathrin’s yoga story if you can. Very inspiring! Wish you a great weekend! Lavinia