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Baby&Me Yoga with Mary Barnes

Erin Howard

It is a big week over here at goodbody goodmommy! We are teaming up with PURE Yoga and Mary Barnes to offer a very special Baby&Me Yoga and Mom's brunch event December 11.  The practice of yoga is beneficial to new moms in so many ways. Yoga will allow you to focus on pelvic floor and core strength, which is so important as your body recovers from your delivery.  Being a new mom also presents so many new life changes. Moms are constantly giving and often are not sure how to balance all of life's demands. Having yoga practice allows you time to refuel your tank, use your breath and strengthen your body. 

goodbody goodmommy has come to know Mary through a dear friend and it is our honor to introduce her.   She is kind and gentle -- but come ready for a work out girls!! 

Co-founder Melissa was able to chat with Mary about her practice and things moms can do to prepare for labor and delivery and the postpartum period.  Here's their chat --

gbgm:  How long have you been practicing yoga?  What inspired you to work with mothers? 

M: I’ve been practicing yoga since the late 1980’s, and began teaching in 1990.  I originally worked in Corporate Marketing, and taught a few classes and privates per week after my yoga teacher asked me to train to teach for Urban Yoga.  I began teaching full time, and focused on Prenatal and Baby & Me Yoga after the birth of my first son in 1993.  There weren’t many prenatal yoga and mom & baby yoga classes available; and the prenatal yoga I attended wasn’t a workout, and seemed to focus too much on what NOT to do in a yoga practice.  I’ve worked with as many yoga teachers, fitness professionals and OB/GYN’s in order to build up my knowledge for working with pregnant women, couples (Yoga for Labor & Delivery), and new mothers---focusing on what a woman CAN do to enhance her life during pregnancy and parenthood. I subsequently trained extensively in Anusara Yoga, an alignment oriented and heartfelt style of yoga, with a strong emphasis on therapeutics.  I began holding Yoga for Pregnancy, Yoga for Childbirth, and Postpartum/Baby & Me Teacher Training in 2001. I’ve taught at many locations in NYC over the years, and started the Prenatal and Postpartum Programming at Pure Yoga East and Pure Yoga West when they opened in NYC in 2007.

gbgm: What are the corner stone messages you try to bring to pregnant and post partum mothers through your teaching and practice?

M: I think women need to be strong during pregnancy, childbirth and in the early months of motherhood.  In my invigorating, flowing prenatal and baby & me yoga classes we balance effort and surrender in order to create resilience. We practice turning inward, becoming aware of getting our bearings from the inside out, focusing on deepening and lengthening the breath, with the intention of creating physical, mental and emotional strength and clarity.

gbgm: Decreasing stress and fear in labor is so integral to labor progress.  What are some poses women can practice to use at home for comfort and to decrease fear during the latent, or early, phase of labor? 

M: During our Prenatal yoga classes I work in some poses like hip circles, seated with the bottoms of the feet together, or circling on the forearms and knees, or standing at the wall, while adding low soft sounds:  “sssss”, “mmmmmm”, “ahhhhh”, “ooooo”. Low sounds are really effect for drawing out the breath. Low sounds also relax the pelvic floor muscles.  We create an awareness of how many breath cycles we have holding a pose for 1 minute (approx. length of a contraction).  The fewer breaths per minute, i.e. the deeper the breath, the greater the endurance in a yoga practice and the higher the pain threshold during Labor & Delivery.  The deep breath can bring on the “relaxation response” rather than “fight or flight response” of the autonomic nervous system.  So even if one is feeling fear or discomfort, consciously deepening the breath can bring on endorphins, or feel-good hormones, and oxytocin, which increase the pain threshold and drives the labor, rather than stress hormones which can cause a labor to stall.  We hold endurance poses like chair pose at the wall for a minute, inviting students to close their eyes, and try the low sounds to see if it helps them hold the pose longer.  Movement and sound are very helpful during labor, at home and in the hospital.  We also practice closing the eyes in certain poses, getting the bearing from inside rather than the walls that surround them---this is really helpful in the unfamiliar setting of the hospital, allowing them to stay in the flow of their breath and and the blue print their body has for bringing new life into the world.  

gbgm: Being a new mom can be very stressful.  How can practicing Baby&Me yoga help decrease stress and refuel your tank?

M: I encourage the new moms (and sometimes dads attend too!) to remember to take something back for themselves everyday, so that they have that much more to give to their babies and families.  During Baby & Me Yoga we have two rows of mats for the moms, and we place the babies on yoga blankets in front of the mats down the center.  Itell the moms that it’s OK if their babies make sounds; they can take a break from the yoga if they need to feed or change their baby.  We start with the transverse pulse, lifting the PF, 30 pulses in order to tap into the connection between PF and abs.  Then we do some abdominal exercises, and I check new moms for diastasis recti.  After that we start flowing letting the babies watch their mom do yoga and the other babies. I ask the moms to focus on deepening their breath, and hearing their breath (ujjiyi breath) so both they and their babies can step into the flow of the breath.  I also suggest that they take this breath off the mat and do it when they feed or hold their babies.  We do some baby Yoga, massage and songs when the babies get restless.  Then wefinish with the moms doing some floor work, often while they feed their babies, then onto their backs on a bolster for a restorative pose before they go back out to the rest of their day.  A lot of the moms tell me they’ve bought a yoga bolster to do this at home when their baby naps...