At first glance, it looks like a regular yoga class. Seven women in loose-fitting work-out garb form a semi-circle around instructor DeLona Campos-Davis as she talks in soothing tones.
“Shake out your spine,” Campos-Davis says. “Let it go. Shake it out. Release it all.” The lights are dimmed. A candle on the floor in the middle of the room flickers.
“Tonight’s theme is balance,” Campos-Davis says. As the women stretch their arms toward the ceiling, it becomes clear that there are technically not seven but 14 in the semi-circle. Each of the women is pregnant.
Campos-Davis has taught Yoga for Pregnancy, Birth and Beyond for almost three years at the Hood River Sports Club. The weekly class has several moms-to-be who attended during their first pregnancies and have returned, now onto their second babies.
“It’s a healthy form of exercise, even if people haven’t been doing much exercise before they were pregnant,” Campos-Davis says. Along with helping to increase flexibility, strength and balance, yoga can help with some of the “typical complaints” of pregnancy, she says — including back pain and aching hamstrings and other muscles.
“Yoga also helps people to relax and face some of the fears surrounding pregnancy, birth and becoming a mom,” she says.
As she leads the class through typical yoga positions, Campos-Davis talks to the women about how certain poses — as well as focused breathing — can help with labor and delivery. She also encourages them to do the positions only as much as they feel comfortable.
“This can be intense,” she says as the women crouch on their mats in Child’s Pose. “Be gentle. If it feels tight, you might just hang out there and breathe.”
During the class Campos-Davis gets up and walks among the women, keeping an eye on each of them.
“I try to modify it for everyone, depending on how they’re feeling or how much yoga they’ve done before,” she explains. “I really encourage people that if it doesn’t feel good, don’t do it.” Campos-Davis eliminates any poses that involve lying on the stomach, or where the women will be lying on their backs for long.
A big part of the class, according to Campos-Davis, is helping women learn to trust their own bodies.
“When they go into labor, then, they can tune into that and know what’s right for them,” she says. “They also go into motherhood with a sense that they can listen to their body. You get so much advice, you have to be able to sort through what works for you, and this helps.”
Campos-Davis, the mother of three boys, is particularly tuned into the needs of pregnant women. She practiced yoga through all three of her pregnancies — teaching through two of them.
For Janet Sjoblom, a family physician in Hood River, the Yoga for Pregnancy class was the first time she’d ever done yoga. She started going to the class when she was 16 weeks pregnant.
“It was a tremendous help to me,” says Sjoblom, who had her baby — a boy, Owen — on Feb. 23. “For me, pregnancy was not easy, but the things I learned in the yoga class really helped.” She had some back pain and other issues that yoga helped alleviate, she says, and Sjoblom credits yoga with helping her get through labor quickly.
“Just having the support of the other women in the class also made a difference for me,” she says. “I’ve recommended this class to patients of mine, but now I’m really a believer in it.”
The Yoga for Pregnancy, Birth and Beyond class is held on Tuesday nights at the Hood River Sports Club. Call the club at 386-3230 for information.