My Biggest Fear
I started doing yoga at a climbing gym because my doctor said I needed to do something to decrease my blood pressure (and classes were free with a membership). I was 24 years old and on medication for hypertension that doubled as a mild anti-anxiety pill. I was fresh out of college living teeny paycheck to teeny paycheck in one of the most expensive cities in the US and my family was a 6 hour plane ride away, which didn't really matter because they couldn't have helped me (financially at least) in case of an emergency. My biggest fear was that I would have an emergency and end up hungry or homeless.
Turns out I really enjoyed yoga. Some of it has to do with my anatomy. I am naturally flexible, so it was easy. But as time went on and one class a week turned into three classes a week. I noticed a shift in my anxiety and at 26 years old, my doctor took me off medicine for high blood pressure. I wasn't part of a scientific study, so it's not factually proven, but I'd like to think the yoga had something to do with it.
My life became significantly more stable once I met my husband. Then came the move to France, a bit stressful with the broken arm, new language, new social customs, etc, but I managed to stay (mostly) sane and off medicine. They don't always do emergencies well here, customer service is non-existent, but they do preventative care like nobody's business and my doctors followed my hypertension (high blood pressure) issues closely, and though borderline, decided I didn't need medicine.
Baby one came and I needed a bit of medicinal help for a post birth hypertensive crisis, but things went back to normal quickly after. Baby two came, and who has time to do yoga every day while taking care of a toddler and napping because growing a human is exhausting, and the hypertensive issues showed up a towards the end of pregnancy. My midwife was amazing and followed me closely with blood pressure and fetal heartbeat monitoring every other day towards the end, and when my symptoms started to look like eclampsia, we decided that # 2 needed to come out a bit earlier than nature intended. Labor is rough when it's induced and this was no exception, but I was determined and my little one made it out with a few gentle pushes despite popping back in a few times - she had the cord wrapped around her neck and arm! It was the most gentle birth, and I knew I wouldn't have the perineal issues I had after baby #1. I had taken an excellent prenatal/postnatal training between babies, and my midwife had taken the same one, so we understood each other even without words. After a rough labor, I was done, or so I thought. My baby was here, we had sent out that first note, "Babe is born, they are both doing well." and photo to immediate family and we were cuddling. Little did we know, it was a bit too early for that note.
A postpartum hemorrhage, 2 pints of blood, near kidney failure, and uncontrollable hypertension at the birth clinic was followed by a 5 night stay in the basement ICU of the local hospital, where they tried and failed too many times to recall, to find the right cocktail of medicines. All without my newborn baby. I was eventually sent home after 10 days bedridden with some seriously strong doses of 3 different medicines 3 times a day. After 10 days in a bed and way too much medicine, I could barely make it across the street to get a baguette. By day 5 at home, I had made it to the grocery store, but a trip that normally takes 5 minutes took 15.
All that to say, it's been a long road to recovery and I am in terrible shape. I'm still on a crazy cocktail of medicines and although I take them less frequently, somedays they make my blood pressure drop so low that I get really dizzy, especially when going from seated/crouched position to upright. Which means downdog, forward fold, etc are difficult, and some days even dangerous. But I've been doing this yoga thing for 15 years now, so my body and mind know it by heart and as many of my students saw when I was pregnant, I am able to teach even though I can't do it all myself!
I am forever grateful to the people who saved my life. Twice. And to the French health care system that certainly has its flaws but kept me alive for FREE. I am so grateful that I was hungry only once, and was never homeless, I know that's not the reality for so many people around the world. And I am forever grateful for my two beautiful children. My biggest fear now, is that I won't be around long enough to see them grow into adults. So I guess it's time to commit to being on the mat every damn day dizziness or not. Wish me luck.
My first summer in Paris, I was awed and flabbergasted with the number of restaurants, bakeries, butchers, cheese shops and liquor shops closed the entire month of August. I even wrote a blog post about it back when I was blogging about food and traveling and back when my wrist was still broken and I couldn't do yoga. I've since realized that in addition to having to walk a few extra blocks for a good baguette, you really have to search for yoga classes in the summertime in Paris. If you eventually find a class, you might show up to find it has been cancelled last minute. It has happened to me, in July! Since many of my friends are out of town during vacation time, I often find myself idle, and need of some human interaction and what better way to get that than a great yoga class. Unfortunately, I often find myself S.O.L. (look it up) because like everyone else in Paris, my favorite teachers are also on vacation or having retreats in some sunny beautiful lush local. I have the option to teach myself a yoga class, but many of you aren't quite familiar enough to do so for yourselves, and I often get requests around this time from students for online classes they can take. Usually, it's to get them through a week or two, so I've compiled a couple of recommended links for all you Paris yogis who will be around in dire need of yoga this summer, or just anytime you're looking to do some yoga at home. If you have a favorite online home for yoga classes, free or not, let me know. I'll check it out and perhaps add it to the list!
Updated: I had a couple of websites for free yoga, but they are no longer useable.
Subscription services (monthly) that are low cost compared to Paris yoga classes and have free trial periods (as of last check):
Has an almost overwhelming selection of well curated well filmed classes in all genres and styles. I've taken classes with a few of these teachers in real life, and they're quite good. Jason Crandell is one of my favorites.
Also has a good selection of well filmed classes. I've taken many a classes with Pete Guinosso in San Francisco in real life, and he has a few here that are very good. I also saw a press release that they were now offering prenatal/postnatal classes too. And it looks like Yoga Journal has snatched them up recently. They do have a few very short free classes (5 minutes).
I've never taken a full class with Aiofe, but she's a fantastic spark of a woman, and a kick ass yogi. And I recognize quite a few of the names of the teachers, so let me know if you enjoy it.
This website is pretty geeky, but they have a good selection of all different kinds of yoga for all different kinds of people.
Looking back at the last blog post I wrote about yoga in the first trimester, I mentioned how drastically my practice had changed, and it had drastically changed, but I was able to do a simple flow class and from one day to the next know which poses I was still capable of doing. Not so much the case these days at 8 months along...
At the beginning of my second trimester (12weeks - 3 months), despite not yet being visibly pregnant, I did start to feel the increasing size of the uterus, both from the inside and the outside. For about a month there was an occasional feeling of considerable pressure way down low, and I was a bit afraid that the little Mr. didn't know that he had another 6 months to incubate. My doctor said it was normal to feel the uterus so low down. It was small and gravity dictates that it stays relatively low. I fortunately figured out early on that I could move it up easily with a few modified bridge poses and I felt so much better. Instead of focusing on the backbending part of the bridge pose, I focused on straightening my lower back by engaging the lower core and lifting the tailbone up to flatten the small of the back then gently lifting the hips with the lower core engaged and the lower back flat, making the spine long and straight and the lower part of the pubis point up. Once my hips were lifted, I took a few deep belly inhales and exhales. Then lowered the hips starting with the top of the back getting the small of the back on the ground then gently lowering my tailbone until the (now smaller) natural curve of my lower back returned. A bonus for this pose is that it also happens to help with any swayback you might develop as your belly grows, and keeps your lower transverse and oblique abdominals in shape, which are oh so necessary and useful later in pregnancy and childbirth! Lifting the heels later (photo @ 6 months) helps to engage the thighs and keep the spine long. After 16 weeks, lying on your back for long periods isn't recommended, so I didn't stay in the pose for a long time, just long enough to move the uterus up a little. If my breathing was steady and long I did the pose a few times before coming back to seated position.
I also started feeling the little bump quite prominently from the outside. And by that I mean that when I was bringing my knee to my nose to place one foot between the hands from plank to prep for any standing pose, I kept feeling like I was mushing the little Mr. My simple remedy was to bring my knee to the outside of the same hand as knee, no longer squishing the lower belly, but still being able to gracefully (enough) transition from vinyasas to standing poses. Additionally, the moment I felt a bump in my belly, I no longer did any poses on my stomach to give the little Mr. all the space he needed.
Every person is uniquely different, and every pregnancy has its own challenges, so please ask your doctor before doing any new exercises. Mine told me to keep doing whatever I was doing, so I listened to my body and figured out how to keep doing my yoga. I hope you keep doing your thing and if you have any questions about my experiences, please don't hesitate to ask. It's an awesome journey!
The Nesting Stage - Yoga at Home
Turns out that friend who was asking about prenatal yoga classes in the first trimester of pregnancy had good reason, she too is pregnant, I hear it's contagious. That's how my other friend who we visited in Cambridge back in February announced it to us. She had been trying on and off for 3 years and got the bug shortly after we visited her. It's really fun to have discussions with these other mammas to be, much of which includes what I have been doing in the last couple of months besides teaching and doing yoga. *clears throat* Not writing blog posts.
I have been making lots and lots of lists, rearranging things, going to garage sales and doing lots of research on what I might need. Last time my yoga friend and I met, I was describing all the things I've acquired to welcome the little Mr. as she was making fun of me for all the unnecessary things I've been collecting. The beginning of my pregnancy was much like hers. I don't know how many times I said to my husband that all we needed was some onesies, a mattress for the floor, a stroller, and some diapers. That is, until the wonderful oxytocin hormone kicked in. For most pregnant ladies, it really starts increasing in the 5th month (it continues to ramp up throughout the pregnancy) and causes a phenomenon called nesting. It happens in all mammals, a mamma rat literally makes a nest for her pups, a cat gathers soft warm things and piles them in quiet secluded place. Fortunately we humans don't collect and pile shredded paper or rags, but we do start to focus on all things domicile.
In the midst of list making, rearranging and preparing, I really have been doing lots of yoga, it's just that most of it has been at home. Which means I haven't many Paris prenatal classes to review for you readers. I've been to exactly 2 prenatal classes in 8 months of pregnancy. I blame it all on the hormones! Those lovely happy hormones. But I will continue to tell you about how my pregnancy has progressed, and what I have and haven't been able to do during these last months.
I've found a bit of comic relief for anyone who doesn't understanding the 'nesting phenomenon,' or just another story to make you mammas not feel so all alone. Unsponsored and unsolicited link here!
Just after I wrote the last blog post I went to lunch with a friend, and the third thing she said to me was, "You can't do yoga when you're pregnant in your first trimester?!" That was the moment I realized that a little bit (more) of France had snuck into me. What do I mean by that? Well, despite all the grèves (protests) the French participate in, there is a general attitude of --'that's just the way things are and there is nothing to be done about it' which translates to a shrug of the shoulders and the statement of "il n'y a rien à faire". In fact, most of the protests have to do with keeping things the way they are. That attitude does wonders for your blood pressure, but is bad for the evolution to a more modern society.
My friend who asked this poignant question has done yoga from time to time but wouldn't be considered expert enough to attend a normal class in her first trimester, and considers yoga the best preparation for childbirth, which is no surprise. Here in France, we have 7 hours of free birthing classes taken with midwives, and included in every syllabus I've come across, is at least one hour of yoga.
The more I thought about it, the more I realized how strange it is for teachers to not accept students in their first trimester, the more I was determined to find classes for said students. It made me wonder about the liability laws in France, and how they differ from those in the US. I remember pregnant ladies in their first and second trimesters in heated studios doing Vinyasa yoga, they were treated like healthy adults, put next to an open window so they wouldn't get as hot as the rest of the students, and told not to twist. I'm not sure heated Vinyasa is the most responsible or safe thing for pregnant ladies, but prenatal yoga classes in your first trimester are. Why are ladies here in France treated like sick people who can't do a few supported squats and some breathing exercises in a prenatal class? Don't get me wrong, I love it when people in the Metro consider me an invalid and give me their seats, especially when I'm having a particularly rough day (that Mexican I stupidly ate is trying to come back up... but it was sooo good!), and the metro is packed like a can of sardines. It's really nice, but there must be a balance. So, here are a list of yoga studios in Paris who accept students in their first trimester (according to their websites). If you find others, or have tried one of these classes, let me know, I'd love to know how it goes. I will eventually try one or two and let you know what I think.
The Gasquet Institute (Institut de Gasquet)
98 bd du Montparnasse
75 014 Paris
01 43 20 21 20
Métro : Vavin (ligne 4), Edgar Quinet (ligne 6), Notre Dame des Champs (ligne 12) ou Montparnasse (lignes 4, 6, 12, 13)
Check here for schedule updates
Mondays at 5:30pm and 6:45pm
Wednesdays at 5:30pm
This is probably your best option for an evening class. Additionally, Sharon, teaches the Monday at 6:45pm class, and she's perfectly bilingual, though likely teaches in French.
Paris Yoga Shala
9 rue Magellan
01 40 70 14 44
Métro: George V (ligne 1), Alma-Marceau (ligne 9)
Check here for schedule updates
Mondays at 1:30pm --by reservation in English
Wednesdays at 6:30pm --by reservation in English
Trini Yoga Paris
*Medical authorization required*
26 rue d'Enghien (Enter at 24, 2nd court left)
06 03 53 08 42
Code : 4B12
Métro: Château d'Eau (ligne 4), Bonne Nouvelle (ligne 8, 9)
Check here for schedule updates
Tuesdays at 11am
Whoa. I haven't written in over a month. But now that all my friends and family are ‘au courant’ I can share with you! I've been busy incubating a mini-human and haven't been to many regular yoga classes. But I have been trying a few prenatal classes here in Paris, so for all you Vinyasa yogis that have been following the blog, I'll have some more reviews for you come October. If you're looking for prenatal classes in Paris stay tuned!
Before the conception of the mini-mister, I had a couple of conversations with prenatal yoga teachers here, and many of them don't take students who are in their first trimester. I, however, continued to go to the 'normal' classes of the teachers I knew, and I didn't tell them I was pregnant; I just modified any pose I needed to. I am not recommending this to you, my dear readers. I've been doing yoga for 11 years and have training in prenatal yoga. If you've been doing yoga for a long time, and want to continue your practice during your first trimester, there are a few teachers (mostly Anglophones) that won’t have a huge problem having you in their regular classes, contact me and I'll give you some suggestions. If you've never done yoga before and you want to start during your pregnancy, I initially suggested you wait until 12 weeks, realized how absurd that was, and wrote a blog post about prenatal yoga in Paris in your first trimester. I have found only 3 studios and a handful of classes.
Despite my doctor(s) telling me to do as much yoga as often as I wanted to (I have a feeling they hear yoga and think meditation and stretching, not chaturangas and headstands), there are a couple of things I absolutely didn't do during my first trimester, no matter what. I did not take classes in a warm room, no hot yoga, no Bikram yoga. You need to stay fully hydrated, plus I had a problem with mild dizziness (vertigo) when I stood up from a forward fold, so I surely would have passed out in hot yoga! I did not take any classes where I couldn't keep my breathing deep and calm, which means, I didn't take any classes that were super-duper dynamic and/or twisty. Your baby needs lots of oxygen. And I did not attempt to do any new poses that I hadn't done before.
Twisting in the first trimester is a big no-no because it can dislodge the egg from the uterus, but since I do it every single day, and I continued teaching, I kept twisting, but made them very gentle and infrequent. I did not go to a class with a teacher who does lots of adjustments and who would twist me into a knot, and I did not twist myself into a knot. If I went to a regular class and chose not to tell my teacher, I twisted like I was trying to check out who was playing the sax in the metro. And towards the end of the first trimester, when I could tell my bump was getting a bit bigger, I didn't do any poses that put weight on my lower belly.
I'm now halfway through my second trimester, and my practice has completely changed, but I'll save that for another post. Perhaps when I'm fully through with it so you can get the entire story.
I must have really good luck, because when I (finally) took my first yoga class in Paris at Rasa yoga, I took it with the best teacher in Paris. Wisely chosen? Or just luck? I guess we'll never know. I got a 10 class pass that day, it was an investment, but it had no expiration date, so I thought why not, and it was a smart move. The pass lasted me almost 2 years, and I took 8 of the 10 classes with the same person, Sharon Jacobs.
I've been wanting to share this information with you, my loyal readers, since the very beginning, but despite my best efforts, I couldn't get any other information on Sharon. Rasa's website has only her first name, and even when I found out her last name, I still couldn't find any information about her online. It sort of reminds me of my favorite teacher in SF. No one but her loyal students knew her. Her website was basic, she didn't market herself, but despite all that, her classes were full. What conclusion can you draw from that ladies and gentlemen? Awesomeness!
Sharon's classes are Alignment based, but flow magnificently. Her attention to detail is exquisite, and the -one in a million- time she can't get you into the perfect pose with her words, her hands are like magic! Don't expect a vinyasa paced class, but do expect to be taught by one of the most experienced and trained teachers, to sweat, to breathe heavily, and to be sore in all the right places the next day. And don't even consider worrying about belonging. Even with a (formerly) broken wrist and a weak body after not having done yoga while recovering, her classes were always accessible.
She is perfectly bilingual and teaches at Rasa and at the Gasquet Institute. Lucky for you, she's teaching a donation based class this Saturday at 11:00 at the American Church of Paris, so you can actually take a class with her during non-office hours.
Teacher: Sharon Jacobs
Studio: Rasa Yoga
Language: Perfectly Bilingual in English and French
Feel Good Vibe: ★★★★★
Spiritual Lesson: Short, thoughtful, attainable and always uplifting.
Would I pay 20€ to take a class with her? Yes, yes, yes!
Bonus, if you'd like to take a private class, or know more about her schedule:
Email : firstname.lastname@example.org
Tel : 0660147486
Former San Francisco DNA wrangler and current Paris yoga teacher and mom. Sharing. Caution: Possibly too much.
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