Bump & (Sufi) Grind: Prenatal Yoga with Ashley Albrand, Part I
Yogis and yoga teachers, how has your pregnancy or a student's changed the way you practice or teach? What have been your challenges, realizations or blessings of prenatal practice? I sat down with inversion queen Ashley Albrand to find out how she’s embraced her changing body, soul and practice over the last nine months.
ER: You’re such an amazing yogi! What has pregnancy changed about your practice?
AA: It’s been a very yin time for me. I usually enjoy lots of inversions and bandhas and pranayamas that just didn't feel appropriate during this very lunar female cycle. Certain ligaments stretching above my pubic bone also prevented me from really enjoying any asana that wasn't gentle. I have loved the deeper dimensions of my meditation practice during this mind-blowing time. The knowledge that with each breath I am feeding my unborn baby the life force is mesmerizing. A gentle practice has kept my hips open, my legs from swelling, and my overall mood uplifted and peaceful. The hormones can be quite intense during different phases of the pregnancy; the yoga is noticeably balancing and calming. Connecting to spirit has really become the truth of my existence, without this practice I know it would be more difficult to remember the feeling of connection.
What have you learned about your practice and your favorite inversions during this time? Have you still been hanging out upside down more often than not?
I’ve learned that my strength is beyond what I thought - that I could probably be pregnant for 2 years and still be able to press to handstand. Yoga gives you a deep spiritual & physical strength that is almost super human. It’s pretty crazy that even though I’m not practicing the strong poses, at 37 weeks pregnant I can still press to handstand. Even though I'm not practicing it, it’s nice to know it doesn't go away. I’m so grateful to yoga. I love my body and who I have become after 11 years of dedicating my life to it. I was incorrect to think that if I only do a gentle practice during the pregnancy that I would have to work super hard to re-gain my strength. It hasn't gone away!
What poses are feeling really good to you right now?
The sufi grind feels amazing. I love to practice sufi grind while in baddhakonasana (Bound Angle). Spiraling your heart and allowing the pelvic bowl to move in a circle keeps my lower back stretched and open as well as the psoas which can be more difficult to keep open during pregnancy. Also loving rajakapotasana (Pigeon) with 3 bolsters. Agnistambasana (Double Pigeon) is great for the outer hips. As for standing poses, Downward Dog, Warriors I & II. Parshvakonasana (Side Angle) with ardha badha (Half Wrap) variation with the forearm on the knee. Trikonasana (Triangle) and even Half Moon feels great for my body. Nice to stay connected to balance, so I like a block with Triangle and Half Moon. The best poses right now for me are also made up stretches that aren't in any books. I have found that stuffing a bunch of pillows or bolsters behind me and taking a half virasana will get into my psoas.
What poses do you miss the most right now?
Uttanasana! I cannot wait to be in a deep forward fold again. And uddiyana bhanda kriya. I have practiced this cleansing and strengthening movement for 11 years every single day. I will have to wait about 3 months after baby to fully come back to it. It’s a huge lift up on all of your internal organs. My organs are smashed up under my rib cage right now so I will want to give them some time to drop all the way down and settle back into their home. I also miss all of my beloved inversions. Piking to Handstand and pressing and floating around is so fun! Glad I have my whole life to enjoy them! Arm balances, Plank, full natarajasana (Crown King Dancer). I’m really excited to practice with my baby outside of my body. I often daydream about wrapping the baby in a moby wrap, strapping to my chest and doing my full practice! We will see if the universe aligns it...
Thanks so much, Ashley!
Check back for the second half of our interview in the coming week for more prenatal wisdom from this gravity-defying goddess yogi. In the meantime, check out Ashley’s conscious pregnancy blog where she shares instructional practice videos, recipes and more mama magic at yoginishaktipregnancy.tumblr.com or Ashley on YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter.
photos by Kristin Burns