In June, senior-level TriYoga teacher (and registered nurse) gave a 5-day TriYoga Prenatal course:
“The TriYoga prenatal workshop takes one on a journey through the 4 trimesters of pregnancy. Some wonder what is the 4th trimester? This is the period that lasts for three months after the birth of the child.
In each trimester we learn physiologically what is happening as the mother’s body begins to change to accommodate her growing forming child. We learn what to focus upon in our TriYoga practice to optimally support the pregnancy for both mother and child. TriYoga naturally is a holistic practice; thus we also explore spiritual preparation as the mother contemplates this sacred karma yoga practice of providing a gateway and loving guidance and support for a soul wishing to enter the earthly life and find his dharma and path for continued soul evolution. Students are invited to consider guiding principles presented by Kaliji in the prenatal TriYoga manual.
Students are provided with guidance for optimal nutrition. TriYoga advocates the Ahimsa garden diet thus guidance is provided on the principles of how to craft a balanced whole-food plant-based diet, using evidenced-based research by leading medical doctors who practice plant-based lifestyle medicine.
To this end, students are also informed of recommended supplementation and the rationales. We also learn to make two simple food preparations that are nutritionally dense providing a vast range of supplemental nutrition.
Students learn how to make a green smoothie that blends dark leafy greens with fruit. This ensures that the pregnant lady receives a big boost of food-based folate and iron as well as a wide range of vitamins, minerals ,and other phytonutrients, food enzymes as well as amino acids (building blocks of protein), simple carbohydrates and fiber which helps everything to move through the gastrointestinal tract smoothly and efficiently.
The second food preparation is plant-based milk and chia pudding. We use a blend of walnuts, almonds and sesame seeds. These seeds and nuts are soaked to remove tannins and to increase digestibility and nutritional value. They then are combined with water, blended and strained to create plant ‘milk.’ The walnuts are high in omega-3 plant fats as well as protein, minerals and some vitamins. The almonds supply sweetness, calcium, vitamin E and other valuable plant fats, proteins, minerals and vitamins, and the sesame seeds add calcium, iron and folate.
If we add chia seeds to the plant-based milk, we add another excellent source of food-based iron, calcium, and plant protein as well as another source of high quality omega-3 fats that are so important for optimal brain health. Chia seeds absorb water when placed in the nut milk and begin the process of germination, which in turn increases their nutritional value and digestibility. The chia pudding is served with choices of fresh fruit, is delicious and loved by all the children who try it too! A suggested daily amount is two tablespoons of chia seeds per one cup of plant-based milk.
Interspersed with our talks about pregnancy, at regular intervals, we experience trimester appropriate TriYoga flows with some explanations of their specific values at each stage of the pregnancy. Students are also guided to know what pranayama practices are appropriate during each trimester and how to change their Yoga Nidra position to best complement the particular stage of pregnancy and why.
We have learned through research that some aspects of nutrition may be lacking fortification primarily due to the modern world. For example, we learned that 3 out of 4 pregnant Chinese women are deficient in Vitamin D, the “sunshine vitamin,” due mostly to lack of sun exposure, northern climate, and being indoors during prime sun hours. Air pollution is also a factor in reducing ultraviolet light getting through the atmosphere by as much as 60 percent as well as sun avoidance and the use of sun blockers. The same is true in western countries but to a slightly lesser extent due to the fortification of foods with vitamin D which reduces deficiency but is not enough to entirely prevent it in many cases.
Some students followed through with a blood test (the best way to check) and discovered they were deficient in vitamin D, well below the lowest level thought to be in the normal range. To date, we have not had results shared with us from any student who tested that are in the normal range. Fortunately, levels can be brought up with more sun exposure when possible and with supplementation. These days we can find vegan vitamin D supplementation derived from lichen. Of course best of all is sun exposure during optimal times: about 20-30 minutes daily in a tank top and shorts without sun blockers during prime sun hours can enable us to to build adequate supplies. Any extra that is absorbed can be stored in the body and help carry us through the winter season. Those in northern climates though may need to supplement especially in winter.
B12 is not made by plants or animals but is produced by bacteria that live in the soil. Animals get B12 when they graze or peck for food in the dirt. They use some for their own metabolic needs and they store some in their organs and muscles. Humans can get B12 if they drink stream water that has percolated through earth if they eat organic vegetables that are not scrubbed super clean or by eating animals and animal products.
We know that eating animals requires us to kill them, and we also know that even if we get B12 from eating them we also get disease-causing inflammation. If we eat their products like eggs and dairy, we also will have disease-causing inflammation which in the long term can make us vulnerable to chronic disease.
In the modern world we cannot drink from streams every day, and in many places in the world, there is no access to organic food. Animals bred for human consumption no longer graze, most are factory farmed and grain fed. And modern agricultural methods have caused depletion in soil nutrients including the bacteria that make B12, so even the animals need supplementation.
The best solution then, since there are no reliable B12 sources even for those who eat animal products, is to cut out the middlemen (the animals, their products and their inflammatory results in the human body) and take a human-appropriate supplement. Fortunately, B12 is very easy and cheap to make and so it is readily available and inexpensive.
For optimal plant-based nutrition, therefore, it is wise to supplement with vitamin D and B12 on a consistent basis and periodically get a blood test to check that levels are remaining optimal.
Pregnant women are often encouraged to supplement with folic acid to prevent neural tube defects (NTD). Folic acid is a synthetic form of folate (vitamin B9) which naturally occurs in some foods in abundance. A caveat here is to note that while folic acid does contribute to preventing NTD, it has been observed to increase the risk of breast cancer by as much as 30%. It is best to ensure adequate folate from food sources versus relying on synthetic folic acid. However, if one does not include generous amounts of these types of food in their daily diet supplementation is recommended.
In an optimally crafted whole food plant-based diet dark leafy greens and legumes are emphasized including all varieties of beans, peas, and lentils. Lentils take the prize for highest content of naturally occurring folate and iron. Dark leafy greens also contain high amounts of folate, calcium, and iron. Ideally, it is best to build up nutritional stores before becoming pregnant.
As we progress through the trimesters, the TriYoga practice emphasizes flows in the Prenatal Flow Manual, comprised of selected kriyas and asanas particularly beneficial to these stages of pregnancy. While we can practice other things as well according to our comfort level and yoga experience, these flows address the specific needs of pregnancy in a balanced and nourishing way and serve as a valuable and selective tool to meet a pregnant woman’s needs. Since everyone is different, TriYoga Chair Flows are added too which are beneficial in all three stages of pregnancy but may be especially useful in the third trimester when more support is needed.
Many ask when can to start doing yoga again after birth? Technically the answer is right away. We could simply work with Prana Vidya, natural, complete and Ujjayi breath and sun moon breath. But what about flows and postures? That will vary according to a woman’s birthing experience. After natural child birth, perhaps after 2-3 days, one can start simply with flowing wall hang or cat rolls and see how that feels, and add according to individual comfort level. Begin slowly and gently; there is no hurry. Those who had a cesarean (C-section) delivery need to check with the doctor to see what is permissible. Full recovery from C- Section can take several weeks to 2 months. Remember, right after birth we may be recovering from the birthing process and be consumed with nursing and meeting baby’s other needs and getting adequate rest in between our baby duties which are ongoing 24/7. This is Karma yoga and as TriYoga embraces all aspects of yoga…this too is TriYoga!
Nursing and hence human breast milk is encouraged for optimal baby nutrition. An alternative, high-quality soy formula is recommended to avoid inflammation, proneness to allergies and respiratory problems related to mucus build up that can occur from dairy based formulas.
TriYoga is infinitely varied and selections can be made to meet individual needs. The emphasis is to take the nurturing (Ahimsa) path….always.”