December 25, 2015

I Did Pre-Natal Yoga When First, I’m Not Pregnant, and Second, I’m a Guy

Prenatal Yoga Preen 3

This Christmas, #TeamPreenPH honors pieces from our archives. We’re crashing your holiday parties with this potluck of stories that we hope can make for conversational pieces or light reading before the food coma sets it. 

“2015 had its fair share of big moments: We have a newly crowned Miss Universe, and we were introduced to the AlDub tandem who ended up shattering social media records. But somewhere in between those and other bigger moments are silent, tender ones we often tend to forget. 

This year, I went to my very first pre-natal yoga class—yes, the yoga for pregnant moms! I was humbled to have seen and experienced another one of life’s big moments: to see an expectant mom truly nurture and care for her unborn child. And to me, that’s just equally worth celebrating.” —Randz Manucom, associate managing editor

 

“Breathe in and as you breathe out, slowly clasp both your palms to your baby. Feel him or her connected to you,” says prenatal yoga instructor Lexi Payumo, standing in front of a crowd of four expectant moms and a dude—a.k.a. me.

I’m not quite sure how I talked myself into this prenatal yoga class in Urban Ashram Manila. Thinking about it, I’ve imagined myself doing a lot of other things: dough-ga, yoga where you probably balance donuts while you’re at it, and doga, yoga with dogs. But a prenatal yoga class? It definitely was not on my list (so is naked yoga). Yet, there I was, doing a corpse pose, holding my baby-less tummy while on my left was a nine-month pregnant young woman, (it really does look like a basketball!) and on my right was a woman just a few months into the whole baby thing. Across me was a Japanese woman, intently looking at me as if to say, “Is he… pregnant?” Yes, at least in my head at that time I was. And looking at my belly, I can pass off as woman in her first trimester, really.

So I stepped into method acting a little and felt as if I really was expecting a baby. But when Lexi kept prodding us to gently lie on our sides, cushioning our heads to our right arms and with the left feeling the baby in us (or in them), that was when it really hit me: To most women, pregnancy is not acting, not just another role they play. Whenever we were told to do the bound angle by looking at our tummies and smiling at our unborn children, and feeling the connection, I saw them look with so much love in their eyes, a look only real moms can give. And there I was, eyes on my tummy and all I could think of was, “Geez. Go easy on the fries.”

There was a lot of breathing involved and less focus on the poses. When I asked Jo Endaya, a Vinyasa yogi in Urban Ashram Manila who also teaches its Birthlight Program, about it, she told me that “Prenatal [yoga] is a lot about preparing [pregnant women] for birth.” The breathing exercises are options that can be applied during actual labor—“it trains you to be calm when you need it most.” The poses like the cat-cow help you alleviate strained muscles on your back and other main stress points. You’re carrying another human being in you; of course it will be stressful.

So I approached Celine, the one who was nine months pregnant and already on her third yoga class, and asked how she felt after the class. She mums, “I felt it opening.” I don’t want to know what exactly “opened” but even as a man I think I have an idea. “I feel I’m also getting ready for the baby.” And then she started talking about contractions, normal delivery, and morning sickness—all in one go. It was me who wasn’t ready to take in any of this. I felt somehow connected with these pregnant women in our one-and-a-half hour class, but I am miles away from what they are actually experiencing.

I had to give it another shot. A week after, there I was in post-natal yoga. In my head still, “Why am I doing this to myself? Do I unknowingly want to be pregnant?”

I thought it would be easier this time not pretending to have an imaginary baby. “It will be a very different environment,” says Jo. And when I stepped into the studio, I heard babies crying.

Wow. There. Are. Actual. Babies.

There were two Japanese moms with their three-month and five-month-old babies. One mother greeted me with a cute chubby-cheeked little thing cradled in her arms, “Do you have a baby?” she asked. For someone who doesn’t like kids at all (hush, they didn’t know at that time), I genuinely, sincerely wanted one. Not just any kid; my own kid.

Just before starting, then came another Japanese mom with her baby greeting the other two moms as if they were long-time friends at a corner café having brunch. And I recalled my conversation with Jo saying, “These [natal] classes are more about sisterhood, building a community of pregnant ladies.” And more than just easing their way into their “new normal body”—that of being not pregnant any more, “sometimes they just want to talk. [The yoga class] has become an avenue for them to share.”

And I see it clearly in the post-natal class, which I was given a little creepy medical baby doll (I was more creeped out by it than an actual baby). The yoga studio was turned into a nursery, a little play date of some sort. My warrior pose was constantly interrupted by this little furball tugging my jacket (oh no, I’ve become emotional, it tugged at my heartstrings, too), toothlessly laughing at me or maybe judging me for being the only source of testosterone in the room. But really, though, the therapeutic part of post-natal yoga isn’t just in the poses that help you and your child sleep or connect better. It’s not even calming in that sense. (Uh, babies crying?) But seeing the mom-and-baby experience, I’ve never felt more relaxed and grounded. And, oh no, it’s coming—I felt happy.

Granted, I don’t share the same aches and the actual pains of pregnancy—heck, I never will—but to vicariously experience motherly yoga with actual moms and babies who shared their energy with me—that is beyond me. I breathed in the closest thing to motherhood I can ever experience, and breathed out a newfound sense of appreciation towards mothers.

I never knew how expectant women do it, the whole baby thing, until I tried it, even just for yoga classes. Now I somehow (sort of, kind of) know. Being a mom is no joke. This whole thing to me didn’t end up as a joke or just a funny story to tell. I came home, hugged my mom and told her, “Mom, I was pregnant for a while. And I loved it.”

 

Urban Ashram Manila. 3/F Active Fun Building, 9th corner 28th Avenue, Bonifacio Global City. For a full list of branches visit here. For more information on the Birthlight Program, visit their website.

Photo by Urban Ashram Manila

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Birthlight Program, doga, dough-ga, Jo Andaya, Lexi Payumo, post-natal yoga, Preen, Preen.ph, prenatal yoga, Urban Ashram Manila, yoga



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