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A baby boom of prenatal yoga classes

It used to be that yoga studios had maybe one or two poorly attended prenatal yoga class on the schedule each week. But thanks to New York City’s baby boom, classes for pregnant women at studios now occupy just as many time slots as basics classes.

Not only do these classes keep women physically active during pregnancy, they also prep the body for the ultimate endurance event—childbirth—and provide tools and tips for getting through labor and delivery. (Strengthening your pelvic floor before labor is a big deal.) And studios around the city are engaging experts to launch full-fledged prenatal yoga programs.

Bi-borough yoga teacher Lara Kohn Thompson

The Kula Yoga Project just launched KulaNatal, a prenatal program with five classes days a week plus childbirth workshops. That’s on the heels of Bend & Bloom, which has just as many classes, workshops, and a few classes for moms and newborns.

Lara Kohn Thompson, who teaches prenatal yoga at both Kula and Park Slope’s Bend & Bloom, explains the two-pronged reason why these classes are calling women more than ever: “With the glamorization of pregnancy, there’s more of all types of services and merchandise. And women are so much more educated about their bodies than they were even five years ago; yoga is the ultimate spiritual and physical pregnancy practice.”

So where to base your practice during this transitional time? Prenatal yoga is not one-size-fits.

Anne Kerr Kennedy, founder of Hyde Yoga, which she's rocking here, at 33 weeks. She practices at Kula.

Challenging: Kula Yoga Project
Thompson, along with Kula founder, Schuyler Grant, shaped the KulaNatal philosophy. Grant, who recognized that many women in the Kula community were having children (she herself has three), wanted to create a prenatal practice that would give them an athletic outlet, while also encouraging them to slow down. Thompson says, “ KulaNatal is unique in that it allows very fit women to keep the flow, sweat, and feeling of power in their practice while starting to soften and quiet their mind, nervous system, and body.” The classes include lots of pelvic floor work, as well as other tools to bridge practice and life. For now the new program is small, so expect 4-8 women per class and lots of personal attention.
Kula Yoga Project, 28 Warren Street, 4th Floor (btwn Church and Broadway), 212-945-4460, www.kulayoga.com

Medium: Bend & Bloom
Amy Quinn-Suplina, who’s the owner of this popular Park Slope studio and currently 8 months pregnant, characterizes classes as a gently flowing prenatal practice. “It helps women to improve circulation, ease digestion, strengthen their uterus and pelvic muscles, and simply make women more at ease throughout their pregnancy,” she says. It also helps serious yogis appreciate the benefits of a more gentle, introspective practice in preparation for labor—and it brings women together who are going through a big change. Expect a welcoming community vibe at Bend & Bloom’s packed classes of pregnant women who like to stay and chat.
Bend & Bloom, 708 Sackett Street (btwn 4th and 5th Avenues), Brooklyn, NY 11217, 347-987-3162, www.bendandbloom.com

Restorative: YogaWorks
This class is ideal for the second half of pregnancy and for new yogis. Yoga teacher and doula Stephanie Radler teaches an uber-relaxing hour-long class of supported postures that enhance strength and flexibility. “I tailor each class to target specific discomforts women may be experiencing, like sciatica,” she says. She also sprinkles in her doula expertise, providing tips and strategies for labor, like how to relax your pelvis. Radler’s twice a week SoHo classes attract about a dozen students–from first to third trimester–and class ends with a short discussion about the latest pregnancy books and events.
YogaWorks, multiple locations. www.yogaworks.com

With prenatal classes multiplying, what’s the next frontier? Post-partum classes, hopes Lara Kohn Thompson. “After the baby comes, it’s not as glamorous,” she jokes. “The belly and boobs are hanging and there’s so much need for support. We need to turn our attention to post-partum classes to help women with alignment of the hips and pelvis and to regain both sexual and physical health.” As we birth the next generation of yogis, let’s not forget to take care of their mamas. —Alexia Brue