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Preparing for birth with Mama Yoga

Relaxing music drifts through the room as an Indian woman — in traditional Indian dress and bare feet practices yoga around her growing — stomach.

Bhanu M Iyer is pregnant with her second child and was — looking for a prenatal class when she found Mama Yoga.

A prenatal yoga class offered at the Yoga Sanctuary, Mama — Yoga is a way that many women in various stages of pregnancy use for relaxing, — while strengthening themselves for giving birth and parenting. The classes, — taught by Ananda Foley, are asana yoga sessions focused on the needs of — women as they progress through their pregnancy.

"I spoke with a lot of people about the classes," Iyer — said. "Yoga doesn't strain the muscles and I know all of the benefits. — I like the stretching and relaxation that I get from the Yoga."

Women who have taken the class praise the physical and — emotional benefits. Better appetite, more energy, more relaxed, better — sleep at night, and an easier labor are just some of the benefits women — found from the class.

"I had a long, early labor," said Leah Cates, who switched — to Mama Yoga once she became pregnant. "Once I remembered how to breathe, — my labor progressed really fast."

"I slept better, I had more energy, I noticed an increase — in appetite," said Clee Ferris, who began practicing yoga while pregnant — with her fourth child. "I think yoga in general - the flexibility makes — you more flexible on more levels. It's important when you are pregnant — to be flexible mentally. When I do yoga I let go, and let my body relax, — letting go of little things - all of the little aches here and there."

Cynde Gragert, the owner of Yoga Sanctuary, stresses letting — the mind get out of the way of the body.

"You can knock a woman out and she will still give birth. — Her body knows what to do," Gragert says.

She emphasizes relaxing through breathing to let the mind — relax and not focus on the pain in order to let the body do what it already — knows how to do. Different yoga poses teach how to push through pain and — to focus, through breathing and relaxation, on your body. That way when — the women go into labor they know that they can physically handle more — pain and how to mentally escape the pain.

One pose that Foley practices has the women balance on — their toes, but she asks that once the pose becomes painful, that the — women hold it for longer to expand the women's ability to be with the — pain.

Sheryl Grunde is a yoga instructor as well and taught — prenatal classes, and is now teaching a postpartum class at the Yoga Sanctuary. — She stresses the benefits of being with other pregnant women for the moral — support.

"It was fun to be pregnant, and teach pregnant women," — Grunde said. "We could all relate to each other and it's nice to not feel — alone. I could share what had helped with me in my first pregnancy and — the women could all discuss what they were going through with one another."

Carole Whitridge took the Mama Yoga class while pregnant — and was practicing yoga up until the day she gave birth to her daughter. —

"It's so important not to feel alone," Whitridge said. — "There is so much to learn about being pregnant, and you can learn so — much more while being with other pregnant women."

Cates said being with other pregnant women was a constant — reminder to her that she was beautiful despite feeling uncomfortable while — pregnant.

"Nothing fits, you feel heavy, then you go to class and — see other beautiful pregnant women and remember that you are beautiful," — Cates said.

Prenatal yoga also benefits the growing child. A pregnant — woman and her child share body chemistry, so when the mother feels relaxed — or comfortable the child receives the same chemicals and also feels relaxed — and comfortable. While exercising, blood becomes oxygenated and the child — receives richer, healthier blood.

Many women see their time to do yoga as a time to bond — with their unborn child.

"When Zepher, [her son] is fussy, I 'Ohm' to him," Cates — said. "It makes a huge difference. We did it a lot in class so he heard — it in the belly and it really relaxes him now."

"There is a unity between baby body and mind, and mama — body and mind," Foley said. "When the mama is relaxed and calm, the baby — will be relaxed and calm."

The Yoga Sanctuary offers prenatal, postpartum, partner, — child, teenage, and adult yoga classes. For more information, call 482-8132.