As part of our Meet the Mamas series, we caught up with fabulous yogi and mummy to be Jo Finch and found out all her pregnancy secrets!
Do you have any particular cravings during your pregnancy?
The only thing I’ve really craved is fresh fruit, smoothies, iced milk, and lots of ice cream! So nothing too out the ordinary…
Any changes in your diet?
Now that there is a little baby to consider I have certainly become more aware of what I’m eating, ensuring I’m getting nutrients for the baby and trying to eat light but healthy meals at regular intervals to minimize nausea and feeling bloated – which I seem to feel a lot of the time after eating…
Before pregnancy, I would be running around, eating on the go, but you can’t really do that when you’re pregnant as you can get light headed and feel quite faint suddenly. I am far more disciplined and organized when it comes to food now, getting up early if I have a class to teach first thing in the morning, to make sure I have a good, sturdy breakfast. Also, being a vegetarian (who eats fish) I am particularly conscious about ensuring I get plenty of protein in the form of fish (although I couldn’t eat this in the first trimester as it made me feel sick!), eggs, pulses and beans. I am also a big carb eater – and always have been – so still can’t resist a pizza and big bowl of pasta!
I take an all-round pregnancy supplement, plus extra iron (as I have suffered with low energy levels throughout my pregnancy) and Bump & Glory’s DHA Omega 3 Fish Oil capsules.
Any nutritional advice for other pregnant women?
I can only speak from my own experience but I have found that hunger creeps up on me very quickly so having healthy snacks to hand is key, otherwise I would just end up snacking on what’s easy to grab on the go like chocolate bars/crisps – which is fine every now and again but not all the time. I usually try to have things like nuts, fruit, and breakfast bars to hand as these are far more nutritious. My smoothie machine has become a good friend recently as I can just throw in whatever I have in the fridge and make a delicious smoothie which is filling and healthy.
I am also more than happy for my students to have snacks by their mats so that they can refill at any moment during class! As I said, hunger can creep up on you, whether in warrior 2, tree or savasana!
Keeping hydrated is also so important! I invested in a good water bottle which I carry around with me and refill throughout the day. Your body needs water as it builds new tissues, produces extra blood etc. It also helps digestion and is said to help soften the skin to reduce the likelihood of stretchmarks.
How did you change your yoga to suit pregnancy?
Every pregnancy is totally individual. But for me, as soon as I become pregnant I felt completely and utterly exhausted, so any spare time I had I just needed to lie down and sleep! I was definitely too tired to practice yoga poses or work out so I spent a lot of my first trimester slowing down and regularly practicing meditation, yoga nidra, restorative and yin yoga.
In my second trimester I did feel more energised so was keen to get back into doing some form of exercise to to keep me strong, happy and healthy. However, I was really suffering with pelvic girdle pain so I couldn’t return to my regular yoga practice. This was quite a blow for me but I learnt to adapt my practice quite considerably, incorporating pilates and strengthening exercises to build up stronger muscles in the butt and legs to take some of the load out of the pelvis area.
I continue to meditate everyday, which really helps keep me keep calm and relaxed, while also giving me a chance to bond with baby. Restorative yoga has also become a regular feature in my weekly regime: the ultimate form of relaxation while also helping to open up any tight areas of the body. If you haven’t tried it, I would highly recommend it, whether pregnant or not – it is dreamy!
Your top yoga tips for pregnant women?
Every pregnancy is totally unique. That being said the most useful tip I can give to any pregnant lady is: listen to your body and only do what feels right for you on that given day.
Speaking from my own experience, there are some days when I feel fit and energized, ready to take on the world. And then there are other days when I feel exhausted, maybe a little blue, and sometimes in pain with my hip and lower back issues. Therefore, I find that my yoga routine from day to day really does depend on how I feel. For example, if I’m feeling exhausted and achy I will opt for a meditation, relaxation or yin/restorative yoga session – or a lie down! If I’m feeling energized and pain free I might opt for a more dynamic vinyasa yoga session, with some strength building pilates exercises thrown in. I just do what feels good at that moment, without judgement!
Your body is doing an amazing job of growing a little life inside you so be patient and accepting of how you feel. This can be hard for some (ahem… me included!) who are used to being in control and sticking to routine, but it is all part of the process of learning to surrender and go with the flow which is not only useful during labour but also when you have a little baby to care for who has a mind of its own.
Without being too prescriptive (as adapting your yoga practice when pregnant will depend on your prior yoga experience, injuries, which trimester you’re in, as well as how you are feeling at that moment), here are some general tips:
Slow down, especially when transitioning from pose to pose. As you get bigger it becomes more challenging to move into different poses and the last thing you want to do is cause injury to yourself or bubba. Just take your time. There’s no rush. Being mindful when moving to and from each pose is just as important as the pose itself.
Use props and don’t squash the baby! I always love using props during yoga and even more so when pregnant as they can be used to accommodate your changing shape. It also allows for more support for your growing body and more space for baby.
Breathe in a way that works for you. A lot of yoga classes will encourage you to breathe in and out through the nose. However, as breathing becomes a little harder when pregnant, I encourage all my students to breathe in a way that feels comfortable for them. For many ladies breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth is more natural, for example. It doesn’t matter so much how you are breathing, as long as you are breathing throughout your practice! If you can simply focus on a fluid and slow breath, this will really help calm the nervous system and can be a very useful tool during labour, preganancy and life at large.
Focus on strength and stability, rather than flexibility. The pregnant body releases the hormone relaxin, which allows for the ligaments to loosen to enable your body to change shape to make room for baby. This can result in increased flexibility. Be aware of this and always stay away from your ‘edge’ when stretching and spend time working on strengthening muscles to help promote stable joints.
Make the most of time on the mat to bond with your baby. Many of us continue to work while we’re pregnant and sometimes we can forget we’re pregnant as we try to carry on with life as usual. Yoga can be a wonderful time to really stop and connect with the life that’s growing inside us and perhaps confront any fears we might have about the impending birth or motherhood.
Bounce on a pilates ball. Last piece of advice… invest in a pilates ball! Ok so not strictly “yoga related” but this has been a saving grace for me, especially with the hip problems I have been suffering with. I spend many an evening sitting on my ball, doing pelvic tilts and hip circles. Even if you’re not suffering with pelvic/back pain, it can really help open the hips and relieve any tension in lower back and pelvis. It’s also quite fun!
How do you juggle your yoga career with having a baby?
Due to suffering with pelvic girdle pain I had to start cutting down on teaching much sooner than expected, which was really hard for me to deal with at the beginning as the hard worker in me really didn’t want to…! At 7 months I gave up all teaching apart from my prenatal classes. Saying goodbye to my regular students was difficult, but I had so many lovely messages of love and support that I felt truly touched and humbled. You sometimes have to just listen to your body and slow down accordingly, especially during pregnancy when there is another little soul to think about. Since slowing down I feel so much happier and healthier, which hopefully means a happier and healthier baby too!
I am hoping that once I have the baby I will be able to slowly start teaching as and when baby and I are ready, but I will cross that bridge when I come to it…
A typical day in your life?
As I mentioned, my routine has changed quite a lot this last month since cutting back on teaching. Before, I would be up at the crack of dawn to teach, have a more relaxed middle of the day eating/class planning/squeezing in my own practice etc. and then teach again late into the evening. Now, however, I have a much slower day and I have more time to plan some exciting projects for next year, such as running my own retreats which is something I have always wanted to do. I now have time to devote to planning my pre-natal classes too and provide support to my pre-natal students, who I feel truly privileged to be able to teach during such a keystone time in their lives. I also spent a disproportionate amount of my day nesting at the moment..!
Pregnancy skincare advice?
My skincare routine hasn’t changed too considerably since becoming pregnant but I do now religiously slather on Mama Mio Tummy Rub in the hope that I can minimise the stretch marks! It smells and feels so good! Did I also mention the importance of hydration..? I’ve heard that can also really help keep the skin soft and supple.