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February 2020
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Defying Gravity Prenatal with Gina Menza
56 East 11th Street
New York, NY 10011

Fri, 12:30 PM To 1:30 PM
Special Needs

After rushing through Friday crowds on an especially sticky day, and completely sweating through my maternity pants, I arrived to the cool, dimly lit Ishta Yoga downtown studio for their prenatal class. I descended the staircase to the Shakti Studio where I sat silently in the hallway to gather my thoughts and dry out.

The studio door opened and out of the darkened space an older gentleman emerged, stared straight at me, and let out a "WHEEEW"! Gina Menza glanced at my belly and said, "Well, that's your first birthing class, pushed out into the bright lights!" I laughed at her quick wit and also at a related Benjamin Button joke that had popped into my head.

No doubt Gina's sense of humor and engaging personality hooks you from the moment you step into her class, but her appeal as a teacher runs deep. Drawing from her understanding of anatomy and personal experience of pregnancy and motherhood, Gina shares it all in order to customize the experience for each Mama, regardless of trimester.

On this particular Friday, the class was very personalized -just Gina, myself, and a 200-hour teacher trainee observing a pregnant body in motion. Gina began with the essentials: how many weeks, how was the pregnancy going, any injuries or concerns? Confessing my SI Joint issues and the nightly bonfire I feel in my hips, she used the full-sized skeleton to explain how the bones shift during pregnancy and how the extra weight fans the fire.

Starting from that point, I came to hands and knees with a wide stance, and circled the hips to loosen the area. We then moved into a series of push-ups, executed on the breath, performing three variations including one rounding the lower back to a Child's Pose and then adding a small heart opener from Vajrasana.

Gina was down on hands and knees to peer under my belly and watch the working abs, checking for the bulge (diastasis) and making sure I was leaving plenty of room for the baby.

After a little more warm-up, we moved into a heating sequence starting with Warrior II, moving between modified Extended Side Angle and Peaceful Warrior, and holding each pose at the end for a few breaths. Transitioning into Prasarita Padottanasana, I twisted with one hand to the mat and the other reaching out to the side and up to the ceiling, while Gina skillfully adjusted the pose to deepen the opening in the chest and shoulders that most Mamas need.

Then came the squatting, a mainstay of all pre-natal classes. To my delight, instead of saying the 'K' word (which, when I haven't done them, reminds me of that guilty feeling I get when I haven't flossed between dental visits) she referenced the pelvic floor and the energetic lift of Mula Bandha and the role of the breath in that engagement.

In pregnant women, the center of gravity shifts with the seasons, so the balancing poses were performed against the wall with props for stability. Trikonasana was stabilized with the forearm resting on a block at the shin, while Ardha Chandrasana and Warrior III challenged my muscles.

Gina gave me options and adjustments to account for any discomfort in that SI Joint. For further strengthening of the legs, she timed me as I sat with my back against the wall in Utkatasana, focusing on the breath and the physical sensations to prepare me to stay with whatever feelings arise in labor. Talk about mind-body connection!

The cool down felt great, and included more stretching and a round of Sitale breath, rolling the tongue like a taco to cool the air from the mouth down deep into the lungs. Then sitting quietly for a few minutes in Sukhasana, Gina said, "It's never too early to teach your child that it's ok to sit and do nothing."

I moved back to my mat where she had already arranged bolsters and blocks for a Supta Baddha Konasana with the back raised. With only a flicker of the candles, I lay back in the darkened room and let the silence inspire me to do nothing, a lesson not limited to the pre-natal yogi.

Drop-ins are $22, regular class cards can be used for pre-natal classes.

--Sara Hubbs for Yoga Sleuth

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