Last week I was invited to take part in Sarah Scharf’s birth-prep yoga class, an invitation I was overjoyed to receive. I hadn’t yet taken any prep classes and wasn’t sure if I would since my last labor was wildly different from everything I learned in my lamaze class, but knowing yoga was the main focus of the course sounded amazing to my aching back and shoulders and legs and feet, so off I went.
Sarah warmly greeted me at her home with a glass of refreshing cucumber water and a plate of energy-giving snacks. She transformed her sunny living room into a cozy yoga studio which easily accommodated the day’s students, 3 couples and 1 solo me, complete with yoga mats, blocks, pillows and blankets. (Will had to go out of town that morning, he’s not anti-yoga, just fyi.) Sarah, a certified, top-listed yoga instructor with well over 10 years of experience and training in pre/postnatal yoga and massage therapy, was clearly passionate about empowering her participants through affirmation and her extensive knowledge of labor and birth. She was intentional in the way she called out this culture of fear, or the “what if culture” as I refer to it, for what it is: not helpful. Yes and amen! As someone who struggles by the second not to give into the what-ifs of the world, I hugely appreciated her thoughts on clearing away fear and worry by focusing on the good and positive. Pregnancy and labor are hard enough; we shouldn’t make it harder by worrying ourselves sick.
Before we yoga-d, Sarah had all the moms talk a little bit about their pregnancy – problems, pains, questions. When a mom mentioned a specific problem area, Sarah had a solution. She took the time to help one mom ease a particular pain by showing her a variety of ways she could sit comfortably. For another, she listed a vast amount of tips for how to move the baby out of the breech position. The dads were given an equal amount of attention to ask questions or state concerns which significantly added to the already positive, open atmosphere of the session.
With everyone introduced and needs taken care of, we began our yoga session. Different from an instructor you might find on YouTube, Sarah led our session in stage, or “story” form. There are 3 stages of labor, so we started with stage 1 and went from there. As we moved through the stages, Sarah consistently took the time to correct individual positions, answer questions, and encourage healthy communication between the couples. Many of the positions and stretches she taught us were new to me and quite a bit different from what I had learned in my lamaze class 2 years ago. Everything felt more natural and less medical; more me-centered and less textbook.
At the end of each stage, we paused to snack, hydrate and review information on labor and birth, such as different kinds of births (water, hypno, home, hospital), how to communicate with the staff, topics to discuss with a doctor and/or midwife, and ways our husbands could further help with the labor and birth process. Sarah provided us with a self-produced CD and DVD, detailed take-home printouts filled with tips, example birth plans and yoga poses that coincided with each stage of labor in order to help us recall what we learned when our babies decide to make their debut. Books on babies, labor and birth were also at our disposal to glimpse through afterwards or borrow with the promise of certain return.
Our session concluded with a meditation segment, guided by Sarah’s calming voice. Each couple snuggled up together on their yoga mat while I laid on the couch, determined not to fall asleep. She helped us to unwind, relax all tension and connect with our partners (or pillow, in my case) and babies. After a lengthy moment of silence and reflection, we slowly came out of our near-sleep states and thanked Sarah for a truly wonderful, rejuvenating experience.
Sarah is an American married to an Austrian who has lived in London and now lives Vienna. Her courses are conducted in English which may be especially appealing to English-speaking expats who feel intimidated by or uncomfortable with attending a German-speaking prep class, though I highly recommend the course to expats and locals alike.
If you’re interested in Sarah’s course, you can go to her website FlowandRestoreYoga or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on how to get yourself some of that refreshing cucumber water and a good stretch for your aching limbs. Your body and baby will thank you.