Prenatal yoga is all the buzz, but have you actually tried to find a prenatal yoga class that fits with your schedule, especially if you’re working during your pregnancy?
It can be TOUGH. Which often leads people who want to try yoga during their pregnancy to either 1) attend regular yoga classes and feel pretty lost about how they can safely modify poses as their body is changing, or 2) give up on the idea of trying prenatal yoga altogether.
April Lovett is working to change that with her Brea yoga studio, Unfold Yoga.
Unfold focuses on nourishing prenatal yoga and other offerings for expecting families. April and her team offer prenatal yoga classes multiple days of the week (as opposed to many Orange County yoga studios that maybe offer one prenatal yoga class each week) at times that can work for more expecting parents.
We’ve had many clients over the years from all over Orange County who have become involved with Unfold during their pregnancy or postpartum time, and all of them speak so highly of April and the programs she hosts for the Unfold community.
April kindly took the time to answer some questions for us, so we hope you enjoy getting to know more about her studio, her heart for expecting families, and some of the ways yoga can serve you during pregnancy and beyond!
What is your studio Unfold Yoga all about?
Unfold is a yoga studio that focuses on pregnancy, postpartum and women’s health. We offer 5 weekly prenatal yoga classes, postnatal classes, moms groups, childbirth education, doula services, placenta services and anything else you could think of to support mamas through pregnancy, motherhood and beyond. It is an ever evolving community of women who uplift and inspire.
Tell us about your background, your yoga journey, and how Unfold Yoga came to be.
Thanks to my mother, I grew up around yoga and once I was older I practiced it on and off for years. Like many people, I came to it for the fitness aspect, but soon realized that it was so much more than that. More than anything, I absolutely loved how yoga made me feel. It was like magic, and it helped so much with my anxiety. After being away from yoga for a while, I came back to it during my first pregnancy, and I loved it more than ever. Though I had the most challenging time finding a class that would work for my schedule, I eventually found the best teacher. In my time with her, I decided I absolutely had to teach prenatal yoga. I knew that I wanted to offer classes that worked for more people’s schedules, so more women could have this amazing gift during their pregnancy. Then after my less-than-ideal birth experience, I also fell into the birth world and knew I wanted to empower women so they could avoid the pitfalls of the experience I had.
I finished my 200-hour yoga training when my daughter turned one, and then I quickly took my 85-hour prenatal training. I started teaching at studios, but the prenatal classes never picked up. So I jumped right in and started renting locations to offer my classes and eventually I had mamas-to-be following me all over Orange County. Eventually, it made more sense to have my own space. Unfold opened, because I saw a need, I saw something that missing during and after my pregnancy. Our very first class had 12 mamas, many of whom I am still in contact with and who have come back for subsequent pregnancies. 8 years later, we have created an amazing community of women and we support moms, moms-to-be and all women through all stages and phases of life.
How can yoga help parents throughout the journey of fertility, pregnancy, and postpartum?
Because yoga is both a physical and mental practice it effects overall well-being. Just the simple act of reducing stress and breathing properly causes the body to function more optimally and begin to find balance. Yoga can help during fertility by reducing stress, which has been shown to possibly increase the chances of conception. During pregnancy, it helps with common aches and pains, gives more energy, and helps mentally prepare for birth and postpartum transitions.
While it has been shown that women who work out and/or practice yoga during pregnancy tend to heal more efficiently postpartum, yoga during the postpartum period is also helpful at rehabbing the body as it heals from pregnancy and birth. Reconnecting to the pelvic floor and deep core, stretching and opening up the tight spots that build up in the body after birth, and also (if you’re able to take group classes) provides much-needed community.
What can someone who is new to yoga expect in their first prenatal yoga class at Unfold?
We always take a moment to chat with our new students to find out their yoga experience and how they are feeling during pregnancy. Before class begins we do introductions and share about a specific topic, so all the mamas can get to know each other and hear what other mamas are experiencing. In the end what we do it so much about creating a community.
All classes start and end with meditation, all the movements are done so students can find what feels good in their body, we stretch, strengthen, breathe, and relax. Our classes integrate some childbirth education and all classes end with a wonderful rest (savasana), so people leave feeling energized, relaxed and balanced.
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”Prenatal yoga can be for everyone, no matter your plans for birth. A good class is one where you feel completely supported, not judged.”
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Can yoga strengthen the pelvic floor and prepare for birth or heal from postpartum?
This is a huge yes! Yoga is such a great tool to balance the pelvic floor to prepare for birth and heal from pregnancy and birth. The number one thing you can do for yourself during pregnancy is get to know your pelvic floor. Deep breathing and moving the body freely in a variety of positions in the simplest way to start. I could go on and on about the pelvic floor, but to start, I recommend going into child’s pose and taking some deep diaphragmatic breaths (the ribs should begin to move) to just see if you can feel your pelvic floor. Once you start to connect to the sensation of movement (inhale the pelvic floor stretches and expands, exhale it slightly engages or lifts) you can bring more awareness to the pelvic floor in your yoga practice and notice how your movements and the pelvic floor are connected.
What are your baby and me yoga classes like?
The style of the baby and me class depends on the specific teacher. But ultimately, we build the baby and me classes around the babies. If they are fussy we pick them up and modify what we are doing. The class is casual, babies cry, they need to be changed and fed, and we just roll with it. The movement done in these classes is specific to what a new mom needs; reconnecting with the pelvic floor and the deep core, opening up the spaces that get tight when you are caring for a tiny human, deep breathing, and relaxation.
We do poses with the babies, massage the babies, and do things during our poses to stimulate them mentally and physically, so the babies also get a lot out of the class. The best part about baby and me yoga is the connection to the other moms who are going through it with you.
Are there any common misconceptions about practicing yoga during pregnancy or after giving birth that you want to clear up?
I think a lot of women are hesitant to try prenatal yoga if they have never done yoga before. And I totally get it! But if you find an experienced, qualified, teacher that you connect with, I promise that you will have a great experience and you may even make some lifelong friends.
At Unfold, our prenatal classes are 100% accessible and you can make them easier or more challenging depending on your experience or how you feel that day. Prenatal yoga can be for everyone, no matter your plans for birth. A good class is one where you feel completely supported, not judged.
In regard to postpartum, I believe the idea that we have to work out intensely to “get our bodies back” after birth is something we really need to drop as a society. There is so much unnecessary pressure on women to get back into their pre-pregnancy clothes, when there is so much more a new mom has to worry about, and in all honestly, sleep should be more of a priority than working out. The road to getting healthy, balanced, and feeling good in your postpartum body is slow. We need to slowly rehab the body and understand that it will take us a least a year to get to our new normal. You are pregnant for almost a year, your birthed a baby, it takes time and patience to heal from that.
What do you feel are your particular strengths as a yoga teacher?
As a yoga teacher I feel like my biggest strength is reading the room. I can usually tell what they need to hear, and what poses are going to be good for them in that time and space so they leave feeling good physically and hopefully also supported emotionally.