Prenatal yoga classes allow pregnant women to move in ways that are safe and nurturing for both them and their growing babies. For women with diabetes, who are under pressure to keep blood glucose in extremely tight control to avoid birth defects in the baby and complications for themselves, the calming effects of doing yoga can be at least as important as the physical benefits. “Pregnancy was up there with the greatest challenges of my life,” says Becky Rosen, 33, who has had Type 1 diabetes for 15 years. “During my first pregnancy, I was extremely exhausted and would get consumed with worries if my blood sugar went out of the really tight range. The second time around, a friend introduced me to prenatal yoga. I was so much calmer as a result. Even 10 minutes of breathing and stretching exercises in the morning helped me feel more grounded and less stressed.”
These are just a few of the types of yoga classes that you may find in your area. In some areas, you may also find classes in “chair yoga” for people in wheelchairs or people who have trouble moving or working comfortably on the floor. Sometimes, there are special classes for couples or classes just for people who are overweight.
Finding the right class
To find the right yoga class for you, start by asking around for personal recommendations. Mention that you’re looking for a yoga class in casual conversation; you’ll probably be surprised by how many coworkers, friends, and acquaintances do or have done yoga and can either recommend or steer you away from certain classes or instructors. Beyond that, see what your community has to offer. Most metropolitan areas have a number of yoga studios. If you live in a small town or suburban area, try your local YMCA, health clubs, or community centers for yoga classes.
As you examine your options, think about what you’d like to get out of the class. Are you looking for an aerobic workout? Or would you prefer more gentle stretching and breath awareness exercises? Class brochures or listings should give some indication of the difficulty level (gentle, beginner, moderate, or advanced) and focus of the class, but if it’s not clear, call and ask. You may even want to speak directly with the teacher about the style of yoga he’ll be teaching and whether the class would be a good match for someone at your fitness level. A good teacher will be willing to talk about the class and to point you in the right direction, even if it means referring you to another teacher.
If you’re still not ready to sign up, ask about observing a class or even taking a trial class to see if you like it. If you have never done yoga or meditation before, you may find some of the exercises new and even a little strange at first, but you shouldn’t feel embarrassed or highly uncomfortable. Most classes try to welcome and encourage newcomers. However, says Beryl Herrin, “If you try a yoga class, and it doesn’t feel right or the teacher isn’t really inspiring, don’t give up on yoga; just look for another class.”
There are some other practical matters to consider before signing up for any yoga class. Cost is one of them. Some private studios charge a lot more for classes than, say, the local rec center. But you may be willing to pay a little bit more if the private studio offers smaller class sizes, meaning you’ll get more individual attention, or if you want to study with a particular teacher who has an excellent reputation. You also want to find out about the length of class and how often it meets. While on average yoga classes go for about an hour, some may be longer and others shorter. Some centers allow you to drop in or pay as you go, while others require you to sign up for a given number of sessions.
If you can’t find a yoga class that suits you in your area, or if you’d prefer beginning at home, yoga videos offer an excellent — and inexpensive — alternative to live instruction. You may be able to find yoga videos at your public library or local video rental store, or you can try browsing Internet yoga sites and online bookstores and reading reviews of yoga videos to find one that sounds right for you. (One place to get started on the Internet: www.yogajournal.com.)