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Pregnancy is not sickness!
- Veena Basavarajaiah, Bangalore

May 21, 2011
Illustration by Veena Basavarajaiah

"When you are pregnant, you are not sick. You are carrying a new life within you, how can you possibly treat it as an illness?" is what Yana Lewis, Bangalore based trainer in Ballet and Yoga had to say when asked about peoples' perception of pregnancy. With decades of experience in teaching Yoga and Ballet, she has taught women of all ages and different fitness levels. Having conducted classes for pregnant women for more than 20 years, she recently gave birth to a perfectly healthy child at the age of 46, setting an example to all artistes about health and fitness benefits of being a dance practitioner.

An interview with Yana where she answers some of the common queries that female dancers have about pregnancy.

Is it good for a dancer to continue dancing during pregnancy?
A person who follows a fitness regime and leads a healthy life style will definitely have a healthy baby. It is very important for any woman to be fit and healthy herself before she decides to bear a child. A dancer who is into routine training and rehearsals could continue to follow the schedule till her third month. During pregnancy the stamina levels recede tremendously and the key is to listen to the body and know when to stop and rest. After the third month, due care must be taken during rehearsals and performances as the baby is heavier and the body is more delicate.

What are the bodily changes experienced during pregnancy?
Dancers are more aware of their bodies, as it's their instrument of expression. A fit dancer who has always been in shape will have to deal with gaining weight. It is not possible to do jumps and feel light while dancing. It is important to understand that it is not obesity but the weight of the baby that is growing inside. The body also becomes very flexible as the ligaments become loose to allow the body to expand and make room for the baby. Dancers who are extremely flexible have to be extra careful to not stretch beyond normal levels as the ligaments are frail during pregnancy and could tear easily. Inversions or deep stretches have to be done under strict supervision.

How should dancers emotionally handle pregnancy?
The first few months are characterized by hormonal changes that lead to emotional aggravation. You feel fragile, delicate and exceedingly sensitive to every stimuli around you. Regular dance practice would definitely channelize this energy and calm you down. Pranayama and Yoga are the best ways to deal with these emotional fluctuations.

The key is to listen to your body. If you are planning to have a child, it is very important that you yourself are healthy and fit. Dancing is definitely one of the best ways to stay fit. It is better than a mechanical work-out in a gym as it also allows creative expression and emotional balance as well. An experienced doctor who understands a dancer's body is different must be chosen carefully.

A healthy dancer = A healthy mother = A healthy baby!

Veena Basavarajaiah is a Bangalore based solo dancer and choreographer who is trained in Bharatanatyam, Kalaripayattu, Ballet and Contemporary dance. She has worked with Shobana Jeyasingh Dance Company, Angika Dance Company, Attakkalari, Kalari Academy, Gati Forum, Nritarutya, Natyantharanga & Yana Lewis Dance Co. She has performed on various platforms across India, UK and Europe. She is the recipient of Special Mention Young Achievers Award in 2007 and also a paneled artist of the Indian council for Cultural relations.

My pregnancy and dancing to 'Seetheya Svagatha'

June 6, 2011

It has been 8 months since my daughter Shukee was born. I am enjoying her baby moves, cries, laughter, exploring techniques, willing to taste every other food which she is not being served etc along with my 'getting back to dance' schedule.

Have been reading about "pregnancy and dancing" related articles recently. In this regard, I would like to share my experience with second pregnancy (Shukee's). All through my two pregnancies, my wish was to continuously keep in touch with my dance. I would say a pregnant woman's wish. My teacher Dr. Vasundhara Doraswamy was my spirit behind this who had performed in her pregnancy when her belly was not showing up.

Thanks to Almighty! I had less of complications all through the 9 months which kept me busy and to enjoy teaching, choreographing and also try for short performances. Light Yoga practice, regular walks, deep breathing helped me all through. During my first pregnancy, I managed to enjoy my dancing very lightly until my fifth month. People could not make out my outgrowing belly unless and otherwise told. But during my second pregnancy, this was not the case.

When there was an opportunity to perform, my litterateur father Prof Udyavara Madhava Acharya came up with an imaginative script 'Seetheya Svagatha,' expectant Seetha's reminiscence. The script is a humane interpretation of the great epic's central character Seetha's sufferings. It is her introspection when she is left to fend for herself in the deep woods by Rama in her later stage of pregnancy. With lots of emotional clashes, questions, she traverses through her life's each event to find out the reason behind this abandonment. She starts from her birth, Thataki samhaara, Ahalya shaapa vimochana, Svayamvara, Kaikeyi's wows, Rama and Seetha's short lived romantic moments in Panchavati, Shoorpanakha maanabhanga, wish for golden deer etc. Is Thataki's slaying a symbol of womanhood sacrifice for sage Vishvamitra's penance? Rama united Ahalya and Gauthama, but failed to anticipate the love between themselves, readily understood mother Kaikeyi's wish but not Seetha's. Shoorpanakha's magical smile and Seetha's innocent smile clashed to end up in Seetha's abduction resulting in fierce battle in Lanka. Rama forgets that Seetha needs him at the crucial period of delivering the babies. Finally she leaves behind all these hard feelings and concentrates on the lives inside her womb. After Lava Kusha's birth when it was time for Rama's Ashvamedha yaaga, she decides not to accompany him live, but her golden idol emerged out of her udaraagni. Bhoo Jaathe (from the earth) Seetha finally gets Bhoo Gathe (back in to the earth), a catchy phrase by the poet.

Throughout the emotional ups and downs of the whole script, I could enjoy the movements with little nritta and more of abhinaya. Later in the months, I could feel Shukee's moves during the performance which helped me communicate the happiness of a mother to be. Without fail, I would like to acknowledge my gynecologist Dr. Annmarie Jersack from Centre for Ob Gyn, Providence, Rhode Island for her very careful observation and support. Heartfelt pranams to my father's quick imagination in chalking out the script. Thanks to all who supported and helped me to get the music ready, costume design, hosting the performance, photography, media reports etc.

Now looking back, I have the satisfaction that for my dancing passion, my pregnancy was not a hurdle. I listened to my body and also my wish. This is my humble thought.

Bhramari Shivaprakash
'Naada Nrithya School of Dance'