Twice a week, Andrea Dall’ Anesse brings herself and her growing belly to Kapoli Yoga in the western San José suburb of Escazú for an hour and a half of prenatal practice. Nine months pregnant, she gently eases into hero pose, arms outstretched above her head, round belly hovering above the hardwood floor.
At this class, moms-to-be discover health benefits and solidarity as they prepare to bring new life into the world.
“I was looking for a class that was really for pregnant women,” says Dall’ Anesse, a lawyer from Heredia, north of the capital, who commutes about 20 kilometers to Escazú for yoga. “That’s why I come all the way here.”
She called a number of yoga centers near her home, but didn’t find any that offer classes specifically for pregnant women.
“Many instructors offered to adjust poses in regular classes,” she says. “But I don’t want to be the only (pregnant) one in a class of 15.”
At Kapoli, a small group of women in various trimesters practice guided asana (poses) and breathing (pranayama) as they form a community of support and understanding.
Normal yoga classes are not ideal for pregnant women because instructors must modify each pose to reduce the risk of harming the baby or the mother. Inversions and back bends are discouraged for those with child. A pregnant woman’s body continues to change throughout the pregnancy, requiring specialized attention. A woman’s body produces hormones that promote flexibility, preparing the pelvic region for childbirth, so women practicing yoga must be careful not to hyperextend their joints.
Yoga Embarazadas (Pregnant Yoga) safely eases the discomforts of pregnancy while strengthening the bond between mother and child, according to instructor Mónica Mourguiart.
Mourguiart taught yoga in Spain and Chile before returning to her native Costa Rica when she became pregnant more than a year and a half ago. She practiced yoga throughout her pregnancy and was so moved by the experience that she underwent training to help others. In addition to specialized yoga, she offers massage and floral therapy for pregnant women.
According to its followers, gentle yoga practice offers health benefits for both the pregnant and the unborn. Specific poses increase circulation, decrease bloating and improve digestion. Breathing and contraction exercises familiarize women with their bodies so that at the moment of labor, they feel more calm and prepared.
Johanna Bukele, six months pregnant, began yoga classes for the first time in January at her doctor’s suggestion.
“Even if a woman has never practiced yoga before, pregnancy is a perfect time to start,”Mourguiart says.
As with most physical activities, pregnant women must follow certain precautions. Because the fetus is more vulnerable in the first trimester, most women should start a prenatal yoga practice only after week 12-16. Pregnant women should consult their doctor before beginning any exercise or yoga practice.
In addition to a desire to safeguard their babies from strenuous poses and decrease aches and pains, the women of Yoga Embarazadas seek a community and spirit of union. They share advice, from how to sleep with an increasingly large belly to how to quell morning sickness with natural remedies.
“It is like solidarity, feminine power,” Mourguiart says. “It’s enriching to share a sacred space with other women and your baby.”
Prenatal Yoga Classes
Yoga for pregnant women is offered at a handful of yoga centers in San José. Classes are mostly in Spanish, but some instructors offer one-on-one coaching in English.
Centro Balance Integral Gaia: San Pedro, 550 meters south of Ferretería El Mar, 224-0883, www.gaiacostarica.org, Wednesdays, 5:30-7:30 p.m., ¢15,000 ($29) per month.
Kapoli Yoga: Escazú, 100 meters west, 100 south and 100 west of Plaza Colonial, next to Condominios Tulú, 228-1350, email@example.com, Mondays and Thursdays, 10:30 a.m.-noon, ¢15,000 ($29) sign-up fee per year and ¢18,500 ($36) per month.
Kasasana Yoga: Barrio Escalante, 250 meters north of the Costa Rican-North American Cultural Center, 253-8322, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.kasasana.com, Thursdays, 9 a.m., ¢3,500 ($7) per class or ¢13,000 ($25) per month.
Krama Yoga: Guachipelín de Escazú, 900 meters northwest of the Rotonda de Multiplaza, Ofibodegas Capri, 215-3535, info@krama yoga.com, www.kramayoga.com, Saturdays, 9:30-11 a.m., $40 per month, first class free.