September 21, 2023

The Art of Maternal Yoga

Written by: Jennifer Heitman, CSU project manager, operations administration

In this article, I would like to introduce Jennifer Heitman, a yoga instructor, CSU employee, and mother-to-be who has met and overcome difficult obstacles and found her own way to keep moving forward.

My yoga journey is an interesting story and I never thought it would lead me to where I am today. Prior to college, I had never taken a yoga class. One of my friends convinced me to take a class at the local recreation center. After what seemed like a never-ending 90-minute class, I shut off the idea of yoga and decided it was not my thing. Several years later, my husband’s boss encouraged me to take another class but this time, hot yoga. I was a little nervous to take this class since I did not like it before and I was not excited to be locked in a room heated to 90 degrees. Interestingly enough, I loved it! It felt amazing. I felt safe. It was a completely different experience. I am not sure what changed, the type of yoga or me. Either way, I was hooked.

From that day forward, I practiced hot yoga several days a week. I encouraged friends to try it with me and even got my husband to practice. I was so committed to my practice that I took advantage of the first opportunity to obtain my 200-hour yoga teacher training certificate. Now, I could continue my practice and share it with others. It has been a beautiful journey. I wanted to share my practice and how well it made me feel and all the benefits. For me, the benefits were not only physical, but emotional as well.

On July 7, 2016, I found out my husband I were expecting our first child. This was an overwhelming day of emotions. I felt unprepared for pregnancy. My husband and I miscarried only a few weeks earlier and I could not understand how another pregnancy was possible so soon. The day we found out was full of happiness and tears with uncertainty of what would happen in the future. Over the next few weeks and several doctor’s appointments later, our pregnancy moved forward and we had a glimmer of hope. I felt fine, full of energy and still wanted to practice hot yoga several days a week.

This burst of energy then came to a dead stop. I experienced all-day sickness and exhaustion. I could barely stay awake at work and everything made me nauseated. For me, this meant no exercise. Friends would tell me how these feelings would pass and I would begin to feel better in the second trimester. When the second trimester came, I was hopeful I would feel better, but the energy did not come. I continued to feel these first trimester symptoms well into 15 weeks of my pregnancy.

I finally got the urge to exercise as my symptoms faded, but by the time I would get home from my full-time job, I did not have the energy to do anything. My bed called my name and it was time for sleep. This frustrated me because I so desperately wanted to get back out there; I knew it would make me feel better. One night, my mother encouraged me to get out of the bed and just walk around our neighborhood. I did and when I got home, I felt amazing. The pain in my hips was gone and I felt happier. This short walk gave me the boost of confidence and encouragement to try and get back into an exercise routine.

From this moment forward, I was able to continue with my yoga practice. I took a few hot yoga classes since my body was used to it and it still felt good; however, the further along in my pregnancy I got, I became more sensitive to the heat. I said goodbye to the heat and added some air conditioning, which felt amazing. As a yoga teacher, I knew exactly what to modify and how to create safe sequences for my changing body.

I am now 31 weeks pregnant and most of my yoga practice takes place at home or at the studio where I still teach classes. My body no longer aches as much and I have more energy. It amazes me how even the tiniest amount of stretching could make my pregnant body feel better. As my husband and I are approaching our due date, I am reading books on how to prepare for child birth. I was excited to see that several of the exercises that are encouraged for pregnant women to prepare for birth are actually yoga poses. This gave me a boost of confidence since these are poses I do on a regular basis. Perhaps I am stronger than I think? Maybe I am actually prepared for childbirth? I think yoga is a large part of that.

For me, yoga has been the best thing for my pregnancy. It has helped with the aches, pains, emotions and fears. I am hopeful my yoga practice has prepared me for child birth. From the stretching to the breathing, I feel prepared. I feel good. I feel happy. I owe all of these positive feelings to my practice. Yoga changed me and my pregnancy and I am excited to see what the future holds for my family.

January is Family Fitness Lifestyle Month. What a great time to gather our families and do something physically active together. There is nothing healthier than working together as a family toward a common goal, even if that only entails playing outside, walking the beach or heading over to your local YMCA. Please share your family fitness practices with us, even if you are just starting a new habit together. Let us know what you are up to through this link and let’s all get healthy together.