Elena Savchuk is an experienced yoga instructor for pregnant women. In an interview, she shared with us her insights into combining yoga and pregnancy. She also answered frequently asked questions about how yoga can help prepare the body for childbirth and become indispensable during childbirth.
You can learn more about Elena Savchuk and her work on her teacher page on our website.
Elena, you graduated from the Vinnitsa National Pedagogical University and postgraduate studies in the specialty "trainer-teacher in physical culture and sports." That is, sports was originally your profession?
- Yes, I worked at the Vinnitsa Pedagogical University as a teacher of gymnastics, music rhythms, history of physical culture and sports. I am also a master of sports of international class in diving and worked as a diving coach in the Vinnytsia Sports School of the Olympic Reserve.
You have also worked abroad on numerous occasions…
— Since 1994, I have been working on contracts in water parks in Italy, Germany and Kuwait. She also worked for three years in Mozambique as a specialist in physical culture and sports.
When did you start doing yoga?
- In 2004, I got acquainted with yoga thanks to the classes of Sergey Kulygin. Together we taught at the Department of Theory and Methods of Physical Education, where he taught classes. Then Sergei left for Moscow, and I continued to teach instead of him for about a year. Later, I went to work in a water show in Italy, met my future husband there, and in 2006 moved to Kyiv. In the capital, she began working as an aquafitness instructor at the Leonardo WELLNESS club and continued to practice yoga, in particular, with Slava Gutsalyuk. Once I was asked to replace the yoga instructor (Vasily Otrubyannikov) at Leonardo. And so I started teaching again: first on substitutions, then on a full-time basis. During the same period, I met Andrei Vladimirovich Sidersky, who visited the pool of our club. Once we got into a conversation, and I first came to study at the YOGA studio, and then to teach.
And how long have you been teaching in the studio?
- About five years.
Did you immediately start teaching yoga for pregnant women?
— I taught Yoga23 (Y23), while continuing to conduct group and personal yoga and aqua fitness classes (including for pregnant women) at the Leonardo WELLNESS club. By the way, as practice has shown, it is very convenient and useful to combine classes for pregnant women in the pool with yoga, since especially in the last stages of pregnancy it is easier for them to practice in the pool.
Where did you study aqua yoga?
— I regularly attended seminars on yoga and aqua fitness, in particular in the Aquarium and 5th Element fitness clubs
In Andrey Sidersky's yoga studio, do you teach yoga for pregnant women using the Yoga23 system?
- As such, there is no system for pregnant women in Y23. It’s just that from the general set of exercises I choose those figures that are suitable for pregnant women, and already from them I make complexes for classes. Also, exercises are selected based on the composition of the group.
When choosing exercises, do you take into account the trimesters of pregnancy? After all, for example, there is an opinion that in the first trimester it is better for pregnant women to exclude any physical activity.
- When there are few women in the group, then the emphasis on one trimester or another is naturally made. For example, in the early stages of pregnancy, I try to give more inverted poses and exercises to strengthen the muscles of the perineum, but I do not give exercises to stretch the inguinal zones so that everything inside the woman is strengthened. When the group is large, it is difficult to take into account such nuances, so I try to the maximum to select the optimal figures for all involved. At the same time, of course, I voice what anyone can do and what not.
Prenatal yoga is mainly attended by women who practiced yoga before pregnancy?
“Oddly enough, quite the opposite. Often they even come to do yoga just before giving birth, at 6-7 months of pregnancy.
Isn't it dangerous to do yoga without prior preparation?
— I will not say that it is dangerous, because yoga classes for pregnant women are very gentle and in any case, every woman performs exercises within her capabilities.
Tell me then, how should pregnant women who practice yoga before pregnancy behave?
- Many of these women do not yet know that they are pregnant, continue to go to regular groups, and then smoothly flow into a group for pregnant women. Although in the first trimester you need to be very careful, and even if there are no contraindications from a doctor, regular group classes are not suitable for pregnant women, since fundamentally different tasks are solved during this period. The same applies to the recovery period - it is recommended to start it no earlier than 1.5-2 months after childbirth, very carefully and gently, listening to your feelings. The abdominal muscles should be loaded no earlier than the moment when the white line on the stomach naturally returns to its previous state. Therefore, as an option, a young mother can return to the group for pregnant women and start with what she finished before giving birth, and then, after a few classes or more, already return to the regular group. In any case, in the group for pregnant women, they perform all the exercises that are also recommended after childbirth. These are exercises to strengthen the muscles of the perineum, fixation of the hip joints and the thoracic region, and strengthening the muscle corset.
And according to what scheme are your yoga classes for pregnant women built?
– First of all, we perform various breathing techniques, such as full yogic breathing, ujjaya, nadi shodhana, viloma pranayama, soft versions of kapalabhati and diaphragmatic breathing, various relaxation and cleansing techniques. This is followed by exercises for the muscles of the perineum: Kegel exercises and others. They are given special emphasis. Articular gymnastics and the figures themselves take 15-20 minutes - we strengthen the foundation (legs), relieve tension from the back, working through the lumbosacral, thoracic and cervical sections, gently affecting the thyroid gland and thymus gland. In the evening classes, we also add yoga Nidra.
That is, we can say that yoga helps to prevent the development of kyphosis, scoliosis, which is almost inevitable during pregnancy?
- Yes, special exercises allow you to keep the muscle corset in good shape. With the help of breathing and physical exercises, we stretch and saturate the spine with oxygen, fix its correct position, strengthening the posture.
Does yoga during pregnancy help make childbirth easier?
- If a woman does not exercise at all, then the process of childbirth for the body is a huge shock, because it is a very strong physical load. If a woman is engaged at least a little, then her body gradually gets used to the stress. The woman's body becomes more flexible and resilient, the muscular corset and bone structure of the body are strengthened, the functions of the digestive and excretory systems are improved, signs of fatigue and stress are reduced. Very helpful during childbirth and breathing techniques mastered in the classroom. Even if the expectant mother is in a state of shock, at the reflex level she continues to breathe correctly. And the most important point is that in the classroom we constantly work out the muscles of the perineum, strengthen and liberate the pelvic bones, they open more easily. All this allows the child to pass more naturally through the birth canal and makes contractions time minimal.
Can we say that women who exercise during pregnancy recover faster after childbirth?
— Those who practiced yoga really recover faster. Some return to classes, unable to withstand two months after giving birth, and get in shape very quickly.
Interviewed by: Elena Romanyuk