An Interview with the Directors of Basic Prenatal Yoga by Lily Gretz

Jacci Gruninger (C-IAYT, E-RYT 500, RPYT, YACEP) founded the prenatal program when she saw a gap in yoga education. Having been pregnant during her first teacher training, and having witnessed similar experiences among her female colleagues, Jacci decided to help teachers expand their knowledge about pregnancy and the strength of mothers. This program is near and dear to her heart. 

Heather Schleupner (E-RYT 200) came to yoga about 16 years ago, just before becoming pregnant with her oldest child. She found in yoga a kind of empowerment she didn’t experience in other fitness arenas. As a school teacher, she connected with kids yoga and prenatal yoga, and was eager to join the prenatal program. 

Jacci and Heather bring their similar experiences and knowledge together to co-direct the Basic Prenatal program. 

Who is a good fit for this program? 

Any yoga teacher can benefit from this program. There’s a lot of fear about teaching women who are pregnant, yet every teacher at some point will have a pregnant woman walk into their class. The training skills from this program can also be applied to other clients, such as those with larger bodies or anyone using props. Prenatal training reassures you that you’re helping your students modify in ways that are beneficial and gives you guidance in supporting students who are opposed to support. Prenatal techniques can be applied in many scenarios, just with different language than in a prenatal class. Otherwise, anyone who has a real love for the birthing process will enjoy this program.  

What do you think is most rewarding about teaching pregnant women?

I (Heather) love being a part of the amazing journey into motherhood. It’s such a sacred and transitional time in a woman’s life. I also love helping women feel empowered by the miraculous process they’re supporting inside themselves. There is also a very special communion that occurs in a prenatal class. I enjoy connecting with women and helping them know they’re not alone.

I (Jacci) always feel rewarded watching women come into themselves as new mothers. I enjoy seeing them grow into their new role with new confidence and a realization of their capabilities. 

How is learning to teach pregnant women different from learning to teach non-pregnant clients?

There is a communion that occurs in prenatal classes that doesn’t exist elsewhere. We give pregnant moms space to connect to themselves and their babies and allow them to step away from the busyness of society. For a lot of women, prenatal class is the one time in their day where they can just be with their baby, enjoy pregnancy, and nurture themselves. We also use a different language during the class to help facilitate that connection. For example, we often tell mothers to place their hands “on baby’s home,” instead of “on the belly.” There is also a greater emphasis on rest. We structure classes to alternate between easy and difficult poses so that the mom can learn to relax. Overall, though, prenatal yoga is not so different from regular yoga. We are still working to strengthen to body, but we change our lens to focus on a pregnant frame. 

Why is it important to be able to help pregnant women explore yoga techniques?

There are so many reasons. A lot of the benefits are the same as those experiences by non-pregnant clients. For the expecting mothers specifically, though, yoga allows them to be more in touch with their baby and their changing body, and it helps them let go and feel any particular way they want. Physically, yoga helps pregnant woman sleep better, and it prepares them for the birthing process. Teaching them breathwork and inviting them into situations of intense sensation can help them endure childbirth. 

How does learning prenatal techniques affect one’s overall yoga awareness/skills?

Teachers who don’t plan on teaching prenatal yoga often think they don’t need the prenatal program, but anything learned in this program can be beneficial in teaching a class. It’s good to have a toolbox to help students modify, instead of feeling unsure or fearful about a student’s presence. I (Heather) now plan my classes always mindful of what students might bring in. Prenatal yoga helps one embrace the body’s differences and be more open to flexibility.

The next basic prenatal yoga teacher training will be held this weekend at Crofton Yoga . Find out more here.