4 embarrassing mistakes I made teaching pregnancy yoga

I was pregnant with my second boy when I first started teaching pregnancy yoga.

I’d been teaching general yoga for about nine years before that. I’m embarrassed to think back on those first classes. (If you were in one of them – sorry! I was just learning! Forgive me!) I had taken a short course in pregnancy yoga, but only to learn how to cater for pregnant yogis in my general yoga classes.

I’d never even been to a pregnancy yoga class.

teaching pregnancy yoga pregnant

I remember planning my first class and feeling like I had no idea what a pregnancy class should even look or feel like.

I won’t lie and tell you my first class was amazing. It was mediocre at best. But I’m so grateful to that younger version of me for putting myself out there and getting started teaching pregnancy yoga.

8 years later I’ve taught hundreds of pregnancy yoga classes both in-person and online.

I often receive feedback from my students like…

“Thank you for another wonderful soothing practice. Your videos helped me so much throughout a difficult pregnancy and now I’m 5 months postpartum and this just warmed my heart today. Thank you for all that you do”

“I kept getting these pregnancy headaches and my mom has been fussing at me to do yoga. I havent done it in so long. The tension you released out of my body had me in tears and my headache I had all day is gone. Thank you!”

“This class has allowed me to release so much trauma and crying, not only from my miscarriage and fear of another one for my upcoming ultrasound but from my past complex trauma.. thank you. You help more than you’ll ever know”

I now run a successful online yoga business around fertility, pregnancy and postpartum yoga.

I even train other yoga teachers how to teach pregnancy yoga.

None of that would have been possible if I hadn’t taken the leap and started teaching all those years ago.

I made many mistakes in those first pregnancy yoga classes. Let’s talk about the main ones I made, so you can avoid making the same mistakes I did.

4 embarrassing mistakes I made teaching pregnancy yoga

MISTAKE #1 – I beat myself up about the fact that my classes were small.

I used to think that the number of students who showed up to my classes was a reflection of my yoga teaching.

In reality, the size of your classes is only a reflection of your ability to market them. It has nothing to do with how great your classes are. Eventually I learned that there were other, more accurate ways to know that you’d taught a good class.

As yoga teachers we’re tuned into energy. Read the room. What does the energy of your students tell you? Does it match the intention you had for the class?

Were you trying to create a relaxing environment where you students felt safe to let go? Can you feel that energy in the space? Or were you trying to empower them to know their own strength? That energy has a different feel to it.

If you’re not sure on the energy (sometimes this happens when our own nervous energy gets in the way!) – ask your students!

After class ask them individually “How was that class for you?” or “What did you enjoy the most?” Some students will even offer their feedback without you needing to ask. I’ve had many students tell me how much they enjoyed savasana as they floated out the door.

Try to make your questions specific so that you get feedback that you can actually use. You could try “Was there anything that you found too difficult?” or “How are you feeling now?”

Once you realise that the size of your yoga classes is not a reflection on your ability as a teacher, you’ll be free to put your energy into teaching rather than worrying about why you aren’t yet able to fill the room.

Small classes are great because you can give each student individual attention. This might be in the form of hands-on assists (with consent of course), helping them to arrange props or just simply checking in by asking “How does that feel for you?” mid-class. I’ll even throw in a head or foot massage during savasana for those really small classes.

The best part about putting your energy into teaching great classes is that word-of-mouth marketing
is the very best kind of all. Don’t stress if your first pregnancy yoga classes are small. That’s the very
best way to get good at the craft of teaching pregnancy yoga and making sure the students who do
show up feel well cared for.

They’ll tell their friends and before you know it, you’ll be thinking back fondly on those times when your classes were tiny and you had time to devote to each individual student.

MISTAKE #2 – I didn’t offer strong and challenging poses for those who wanted them.

There are a lot of reasons why pregnancy classes are often very gentle and restorative. For many Mums-to-be yoga is the only time in the week that they get to slow down and focus on their growing body (and baby).

Pregnancy also creates a lot of changes in the body that need to be treated gently and mindfully. Relaxin (a hormone that allows the ligaments and tendons to soften) makes the pregnant
body more prone to injury through overstretching, which is why you won’t be encouraged to push yourself in a pregnancy yoga class.

It was for all of these reasons that when I first started teaching pregnancy yoga I only ever taught super gentle and restorative poses.

This was a mistake. Those first students missed out on an opportunity to connect with how strong their bodies actually are.

Of course, strong yoga during pregnancy isn’t for everyone. In fact, it’s absolutely okay if you don’t want to (or can’t do) any asana during pregnancy at all.

However for some students, strong poses during pregnancy offer them a chance to remember their own strength. Strong poses during pregnancy yoga also give you the opportunity to feel discomfort in the body and practice tools (breathwork, movement etc) to sit with this discomfort, just as you’ll have to do with contractions during labour.

While you can practice the tools of breath and movement without using strong poses, I’ve found creating a little discomfort in the body allows women to feel more prepared for the challenge of birth.

teaching pregnancy yoga goddess pose

If you’re just starting to teach pregnancy yoga, don’t be afraid to offer your students the chance to practice stronger poses as well. Warrior poses and goddess are great for connecting with our inner strength and to the breath as the legs start to experience some discomfort.

As always though, remind your students that they must also listen to their own bodies and come out when they need, or choose a more gentle option if the stronger poses don’t feel good to them today. If you want to know more about which poses are suitable for pregnancy I share these in detail in my Pregnancy and Postpartum Yoga Teacher Training.

MISTAKE #3 – I didn’t share my own personal experiences with pregnancy and birth.

Most new yoga teachers to stick to the essentials when they first start teaching.

Introduce the pose. Instruct how to do the pose. Give modifications and advice on props. Cue breathing. Rinse and repeat.

At the start of your teaching career you’re so busy thinking about the next pose and looking at your students to see if you need to modify anything, that adding in moments of story or sharing your own experiences throughout the class can feel impossible.

Trust me, this gets way easier with experience.

Whenever you’re learning anything new, each step feels clunky and overthought. The more you teach though, the more automatic your teaching will become.

Now I think of the pose that I want to teach next, and automatically the cues for that pose flow out of my mouth. I’ve done it so many times, my brain (and body) know it off by heart.

Because I don’t have to think about the basics, I have the brain space to be able to share lessons and stories throughout my classes. Typically I’ll move my students into a pose and once they’re comfortable share some reflections about my own experiences and things I’ve learned through pregnancy and postpartum.

Many of the women who come to my classes say that it is these moments of reflection and sharing that they enjoy the most.

If you’re just getting started and feel overwhelmed at the thought of trying to share personal moments AND cue the pose AND keep everyone safe AND move around the room AND remember
your carefully planned sequence, then this is what I would do if I was starting over.

Plan the main message and stories you will share when you plan your asana sequence. Choose which three moments or poses within the class where you’ll share these stories. Of course, you may find moments throughout the class where you feel inspired to share more, and please do! But if you find yourself particularly flustered during class, at least you’ll have three poses which will act as reminders to share some personal reflections.

For example, you could theme a pregnancy yoga class around surrender. Introduce this idea at the beginning of class in your first pose and talk about how surrender is so important during pregnancy to accept and embrace all the changes. You could also share how this is great practice for the surrender of birth and later the surrendering of control during motherhood.

Plan to share one personal reflection of surrender from your own life. Where did you learn this lesson? Was it through an experience of not being able to control your pregnancy or birth? Did you have a specific moment where you surrendered to motherhood? Describe your experience to your students.

Plan which pose your students will be in when you talk to this point. Make sure you choose an asana that is supported so that your students will be comfortable while you talk.

Finally, plan to share one more personal story or thought on surrender as you settle your students into or bring them out of savasana. You could do this by sharing a favourite quote on the topic from a book you’ve been reading and why it resonated with you. Or you could bring your students out of savasana with some examples of what surrender might look like in their week to come.

MISTAKE #4 – I jumped straight into teaching asana.

When I first started teaching pregnancy yoga we would jump straight into the asana practice rather than making time for breathwork, or connection and conversation. When you’re so focused on the class you’re about to teach, it’s easy to forget that yoga is so much more than just the physical practice.

Your students don’t just come for the exercise. If they did, they’d stay at home and follow a video instead of going to the effort to come to an in-person class.

Women come to pregnancy yoga for a whole range of reasons:

  • To meet other mothers at a similar stage to them
  • To get a break from their other children at home
  • To learn how to prepare for birth
  • To have quiet uninterrupted time to connect with their baby
  • To relieve anxiety
  • To feel better in their bodies

Now I always start my classes with some time to connect and talk with the other women in the class. I’ll ask my students to share one word to describe their week, or tell me something they’ve struggled with this week. Because I teach pregnancy yoga in 5 week blocks, these little moments of conversation help to build connections between my students and many of them stay in contact for months and years after our time together has ended.

Other ways to start your pregnancy classes include:

  • Ask your students to draw an oracle card, read the meaning and chat with others about the
    card they pulled and its message.
  • Begin your class with a meditation or breathwork practice that they can use during labour
    and birth.
  • Open up the doors 15 minutes earlier and offer time to have a cup of tea and chat
    at the beginning of class.
  • Guide your students through gentle self-massage of shoulders, arms, legs and feet before
    moving into asana.

There are endless ways to make your pregnancy yoga classes special for your students. As a new teacher I would focus on one thing you can do each class to help create connection with your students.

As your skills as a pregnancy yoga teacher grow and the basics become automatic, you’ll be able to add more personal stories to your classes, give individual modifications and feel more confident to explore different ways of teaching your classes.

The only way to get there is to start now though. Don’t let feeling like a beginner hold you back. We all start there.

What’s next?

Download my free basics guide to teaching pregnancy yoga.

Join my Online Pregnancy and Postpartum Yoga Teacher Training to learn how to teach these classes safely, but also create community and a thriving business behind them.

3 Responses to “4 embarrassing mistakes I made teaching pregnancy yoga

  • Hi Bettina!

    So many great points, it made me reflect on my own classes a lot. Actually one of my best pregnancy yoga classes was with only three students. As you mention, at first I was feeling a bit discouraged and sad, but it turned out to be so intimate! We got to share our own experiences with pregnancies, I was telling them about my birth plan as I was pregnant at that time and we got to share amazing suggestions even outside of yoga! We chatted in the beginning of the class and they stayed also afterwards.
    I feel like it kind of confirms three of the points you are mentioning – the size of the class doesn’t matter, share your experience and take time to connect. 😊
    Anyways, there is still a lot of room for improvement on my side, thanks for the reminder. Learning is a life-long process!

    Love, Nikola

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *