Yoga aids mothers-to-be

Classes provide stress relief and balance


Five pregnant women raised their arms in unison into a variation of the virasana, or hero, pose during Tuesday’s prenatal yoga class at Breathe N Flow on Atlantic Avenue in Freeport.

Yoga is among the safest forms of exercise for pregnant women, according to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. BNF founder and owner Leah Hartofelis said that prenatal yoga was the inspiration to open BNF in 2010.

Though the studio provides other types of yoga classes, including vinyasa, ying and restorative yoga, the prenatal classes extend beyond fitness into a series of workshops that provide expectant mothers with support during and after their pregnancies. Some of the workshops include “Baby and Me” and “Introduction to Breast Feeding,” along with a birth course.

“I wanted to provide a community for the mommas,” Hartofelis said. “Moms who are pregnant can continue fitness and wellness activity, but also from the mental part of practice find peace and ease, while dealing with changing bodies.”

The specialized practice of prenatal yoga, according to Hartofelis, can help soon-to-be moms with pregnancy symptoms like constipation, back pain, bloating, swelling and fatigue. During a class, instead of doing deep forward folds, the women do squats. The women don’t twist into the belly, to avoid putting pressure on their stomachs, Hartofelis explained.

“Prenatal is a specialized practice,” Hartofelis said, “because you can’t do all of the same ranges of motions that you would if you were not pregnant.”

The exercises are slower-paced than a regular yoga class. ACOG encourages healthy women who are experiencing normal pregnancies to continue exercising.

Freeporter Stephanie Kaulesar, 40, who is six months pregnant, said she started practicing yoga to stay centered, but in the process, it has helped to manage her back and hip pains during pregnancy.

“I can 100 percent feel the difference from the days I take class versus miss class,” Kaulesar said.

Merrick resident Meegan Schwartz, 36, is pregnant for the third time and now in the middle of her second trimester. Her last two pregnancies were stressful and high risk, she said. Her doctor recommended that she take a prenatal yoga class to help her relax.

“I think there are a lot of positives” to taking the class, Schwartz said. “This is definitely about being calm.”

Instructor Jennifer Sbrocchi, 32, from Bellmore, specializes in teaching prenatal yoga classes and attributes practicing yoga to helping her with alleviating discomfort during her own pregnancy. With a laugh, she said she had an “easy labor” and since has taught how women can become resilient during and after pregnancy.

During her class, Sbrocchi teaches the women different breathing techniques. Along the way, they develop stamina and core strength while learning to relax.

“This really helps,” Sbrocchi said. "The classes help find a community and prepare for birth.”