Skip to main content

Natural Awakenings Atlanta

Prenatal and Postpartum Yoga

May 01, 2024 06:00AM ● By Patricia Schmidt, C-IAYT, E-RYT 500, YACEP

What is Prenatal Yoga? 

The Mayo Clinic defines prenatal yoga as an exercise approach that encompasses stretching, mental centering and focused breathing. Prenatal yoga teachers describe their classes in a much simpler fashion: putting the pregnant woman front and center. In practice, it includes any yoga practice that welcomes the pregnant body; the specific yogic techniques vary widely. Essentially, a prenatal yoga class is defined by who attends more than anything else.

Ayla Harrison

Ayla Harrison, an experienced Atlanta-area yoga teacher, doula and childbirth educator, teaches a highly individualized approach to asana, or postures, meeting the mama right where she is at any moment. Harrison stresses the importance of other yogic practices such as meditation, mindfulness and pranayama—intentional breathing practices designed to move energy. Vanya Francis, a teacher, doula and founder of Cherished Life Wellness in Atlanta, also takes this approach, emphasizing that each pregnancy is different—even for the same woman.

Where and How to Find Prenatal Classes

Vanya Francis

Atlantans can access prenatal yoga in many different ways. At one end of the spectrum are classes taught by specially certified yoga instructors. Meraki Mama Collective, an Atlanta collective of women serving only the pregnant and postpartum populations, epitomizes this approach. Jasmine Bradfield, the Women’s Wellness Coordinator at Yoga Hive in Atlanta and founder of Atlanta Birth Work, has also dedicated herself to creating this kind of woman-centered community.

However, prenatal yoga instruction can be found in more general environments, as well, since local studios sometimes note that some of their classes are well-suited for pregnant people. In practice, that typically means a non-heated class with an instructor who has a basic understanding of pregnancy. These studios might also take a “private first” approach, asking the student to receive individual guidance before joining a general class. From weekly drop-in yoga classes to workshops and series, many classes are out there that can fit almost any schedule. 

What to Look for in a Prenatal Yoga Class 


Jasmine Bradfield (right) 

giving doula support

Women know a safe environment:  It’s a place to fully rest, release and connect. In a safe space, women can practice being peaceful, making it more likely they can experience birthing and parenting peacefully, too. For that to happen, those providing prenatal yoga classes should have appropriate training. The Yoga Alliance certifies Registered Prenatal Yoga Teachers (RPYT) for those who’ve completed a general 200-hour yoga teacher training program and an 85-hour prenatal program with a registered RPYT school. Teachers should also have special training to understand pregnancy and the postpartum period. A prenatal yoga class should meet individual needs, too. After all, a woman’s pregnant self is not her only self.

Alternatively, Francis offers a 45-hour Holistic Prenatal Yoga Teacher Training course at Cherished Life Wellness. Through her years of experience supporting women giving birth, Francis discovered that many birth workers want to include aspects of yoga in their skillsets. While the course is not certified by the Yoga Alliance, it is open to non-yoga teachers.

Ideally, a class offers a balance between attending to the physical concerns common for many pregnant women and the other ways a yoga practice can serve them. The physical practice matters, of course. Harrison says, “When I teach prenatal yoga classes, it really is about keeping the body mobile and strong and for feeling good during pregnancy. And then as a physical preparation for the birth, I focus on poses that are really helpful to create the natural extension and expansion that the body is going through anyway but also use stabilizing movements so that women feel steady, balanced.” 

Francis echoes Harrison’s sentiment, noting, “At the end of the day, labor positions are yoga poses. Cat/cow. Child’s pose. Hopefully, we minimize pregnancy discomforts, and this becomes a way to help prepare for their birth experience.” And Bradfield agrees: “You’re learning how to go into these postures that you are likely to take throughout your pregnancy and labor anyway.” 

But all three teachers raise the importance of incorporating the other “limbs” of yoga, too, as well as the pitfalls of over-focusing on the physical. The breath, mindfulness, drawing inward, clarification of the mindstate—these are equally important elements. Bradfield notes: “[It’s] the muscle memory of doing movements that are helping your body, physically for sure, [and] the muscle memory of the things that we’re talking about and able to express. You’re able to release and rest and digest some of those thoughts you’ve had.”


All three teachers also emphasize the value of the community of the prenatal and postpartum yoga space. Especially given the stressors of American family life, the classes can be a refuge. Bradfield notes that this year has felt particularly challenging in Atlanta as several medical centers’ birthing spaces have been closed. For those reasons, the yoga teacher takes on an advisory role around options and support.

Francis shares that the check-ins at the beginning of class—a time when participants often bring up their stressors—are a vital part of each session. “Over the years, when I’ve asked folks what is the most meaningful part of this experience, everyone says it’s the check-ins. ‘The check-ins!’” Harrison includes time for questions and reads a birth story from a graduate. 

Jane Austin, who owns the nationally recognized Mama Tree Yoga in San Francisco, emphasizes that check-ins have a direct and positive impact on birth outcomes and mental health. When it comes to everything practiced in prenatal yoga, Francis says, “You’re practicing it in community.” 

“It’s an amazing, amazing community when you get this group of three… five… 10… 20 pregnant women. There is nothing like it,” says Harrison. At Yoga Hive, Bradfield extends her work throughout women’s life stages and larger family units. She feels that community is key, and she finds it often begins in prenatal yoga. 


A good prenatal yoga class can also be very empowering. The National Institute of Health research studies of both online and in-person support groups for pregnant and new mothers show that women have better health outcomes when they feel a higher degree of empowerment throughout pregnancy and delivery. Their babies do better, too. Prenatal yoga is fertile soil for this empowerment. 

Bradfield shares that women become more acquainted with all parts of themselves when they practice prenatal yoga and can take that familiarity with them into the birth experience. “It gives you a different confidence about your body when you’ve been moving it that way,” she says. “The self-advocacy that comes from that leaves you with fewer regrets. You feel like you made the decision, and you’re confident because you practiced it with your body.”

Francis’ mission is simple. “We’re really helping women become the experts on their own bodies,” she says, often asking her mamas, “What is that inner voice saying to you? That inner voice is your superpower. Recognize that you’re already the expert of your body.”

Cautions and Considerations

Most care providers caution that starting any new activity in pregnancy carries some risk. If you are new to yoga, seek expert advice first. If you are experiencing pregnancy after loss, other trauma, LGBTQI considerations, accessibility preferences or any other specific concerns, see the list of resources below.

Finally, practicing yoga after giving birth can be extremely beneficial and an excellent complement to pelvic physical therapy, postpartum support, lactation help and other care. However, postpartum yoga needs to be done with discernment. Be sure to research your choices and get your questions answered. ❧
Patricia Schmidt, C-IAYT, E-RYT 500, YACEP, is a certified yoga therapist specializing in pelvic health, accessible yoga and yoga for cancer support. She is a Franklin Method trainer and somatic movement specialist. To learn more, visit

Resource List

Resource List

Resource List

Atlanta Birth Center Sarah Gormley


Mailing List

Subscribe To Our Newsletter!

* indicates required