For most people, even yoga lovers, prenatal yoga does not sound like a familiar word. For Deb Flashenberg, it has been her life for the past 15 years.
Flashenberg started the Prenatal Yoga Center about fourteen and a half years ago, aiming to help people to learn about the importance of childbirth education and offer pregnant women the practical knowledge of exercising prenatal yoga to alleviate their pressure and pain.
The Prenatal Yoga Center is more than just a yoga practice facility, as it specifically serves the pregnant women in their third trimester. Flashenberg says that through such a service, she wanted more pregnant women to take childbirth education seriously at an early stage, since “most women don’t consider taking childbirth education until later in their pregnancy, usually at the end of their 3rd trimester.”
“We interweave it through all our classes so from early on in their pregnancy women can think about what’s important to them and make informed decisions,” Flashenberg says.
Yoga has been part of Flashenberg’s life for 21 years now, and through teaching others and practicing it herself, she “truly feels quiet and grounded.” During her practice, she is able to focus solely on yoga and forget about “the ongoing ruble of mind,” and “slow down mentally and put aside [her] ‘to-do’ list.” However, even though yoga is something Flashenberg has been so passionate about, she was not entirely happy with the way she was teaching it normally. She always felt that there was something more that yoga can be related to, until she found it. Thanks to a friend of hers, Flashenberg was able to figure out that she wanted to teach prenatal yoga. At that time, prenatal yoga was way less popular than it is today, so she took on the challenge and decided to serve the under-served community.
Flashenberg says that no matter what stages of pregnancy a woman is in, it’s always a good time to start doing prenatal yoga.
“The way in which we practice prenatal yoga, the women can gain confidence with how their body works and their ability to birth, which is something our culture does not relay.”
Prenatal yoga is not just about practicing yoga, but also about preparing for the ultimate task of delivery and staying at the best health afterwards for recovery. It has shown the positive effects of lowering blood pressure and anxiety levels which can ultimately benefit babies, according to studies.
“Given that pregnancy and new motherhood can have a lot of challenges and isolation, establishing a community can help with depression and anxiety,” Flashenberg says. “A mother that is less anxious and depressed will ultimate help the baby.”
Over her 15 years spent practicing prenatal yoga, Flashenberg has been continuously refining her qualifications and teaching methods to make sure her students get the best service and preparation possible.
“The more I started to understand functional birth in relationship to the physical activity women participate in, the more I started to refine how I teach yoga,” she says. Not only has she been trained by numerous professional physical therapists, anatomy teachers, and yoga trainers, she has also been constantly doing research of her own to study the function of birth and the pregnant body to enhance her knowledge in the subject. Flashenberg is also a certified labor support doula and Lamaze teacher.
“My goal for the students is to have a well aligned and balanced body, [including] pelvis, pelvic floor, pelvic ligaments, which will help increase the chance of the baby being in an optimal fetal position leading to a more functional birth.”
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Besides being a prenatal trainer, Flashenberg started a podcast about a year ago. “Yoga | Birth | Babies” features interviews with top-notch birth experts around the world and sharing their experiences, aimed to help families, especially pregnant women, to make informed decisions. Among the experts Flashenberg has interviewed, childbirth specialist Penny Simkin stands out to her specifically.
“She was approachable and genuine. The topic we spoke about–birth trauma–is near and dear to me. As a doula, I have witnessed birth trauma and I have also seen students come back from traumatic birth experiences. Penny’s insight and approach to how to best support these women was invaluable.”
Throughout her podcast, Flashenberg is able to speak with some of the most influential birth workers and advocates in the world. When asked about her experience, she said that she always loves “the opportunity to learn more and this has been giving [her] that chance.” Based on the experiences learned from the podcast interviews, Flashenberg is able to funnel that directly into her teaching.
Even though she has been a prenatal yoga teacher for more than a decade, Flashenberg says that having witnessed tons of motherhood stories and journeys have also taught her a great deal, too.
“I have learned not to judge anyone’s choices. Everyone comes to the game with their own experience and history which informs their decision making. Even if their choices differ from mine, it is important that everyone is respected, supported and not judged.”
The Prenatal Yoga Center in general aims to make the birth experience as positive and empowering as possible for the families, understanding the importance of such an event and what it means to the families, especially the mothers. When asked about what the mothers would get out of a prenatal yoga experience, Flashenberg sums it up with “education, confidence, community, friendship and hopefully a powerful and beautiful birth experience.”