Here are my thoughts on practicing during pregnancy.
- If you have never practiced yoga before, avoid yoga during the first trimester, and then join aprenatal yoga class.
- If your pregnancy has any extenuating circumstances (i.e. it is considered a high risk pregnancy), you should discuss with your doctor/ midwife what is appropriate for you and your baby.
- If you have a regular, established strong (Ashtanga, vinyasa, flow, power) yoga practice prior to pregnancy, it’s certainly possible to continue, with modifications as your belly expands. An established practice means consistent practice for at least a year, confidence in your body – you’re in tune with your body and your breath, you’re aware of your body’s boundaries – and you can leave your ego off of the mat.
Most prenatal classes are best from second trimester onward and the practice is much gentler – however, I do think it’s a good idea to perhaps look into a prenatal class in late pregnancy, if nothing else, to meet other moms at the same stage of your new adventure in to parenthood. I highly recommend you look at joining a local moms community, like Life With A Baby. [2016 update: I am teaching Mom and Baby Yoga for LWAB, join me! Check the calendar , classes are Wednesday mornings and Friday afternoon at Yoga Tree Vaughan ]
- Practice only within your comfort zone. If anything feels strained, painful or just plain wrong, then come out of the pose.
- Make sure to really tune in to your body, and focus on the breath, but don’t hold your breath in poses.
- Pregnancy is not the time to add anything new to your practice, so avoid ‘new’ challenging poses e.g. don’t do headstands if you weren’t doing them before pregnancy.
- General principle of modifications to poses: make room for the baby i.e. widen legs/ stance if necessary and don’t fold as far forward.
- Common sense: once the belly ‘pops’ (or sooner, once it starts feeling uncomfortable), avoid poses on the belly, deep backbends and closed twists, lying on the back for longer periods (** Closed twists are where you turn towards the bent leg; an open twist would be twisting in the opposite direction, or a twist where the belly is not compressed)
- Inversions are okay as long as you feel comfortable, but practise against a wall just to be safe since your centre of gravity will keep changing as the baby grows.
- As you approach third trimester, do not ‘go deeper’ even if you feel physically capable of doing more. The relaxin hormone in the body opens up joints, muscles, tendons and you may injure yourself by going farther than you should.
- No harsh or jarring movements e.g. jumping back in Ashtanga/ vinyasas, rather step back one leg at a time.
- During Savasana, use bolsters or blankets to support yourself (under the side of the belly, at your back, under your head, etc). A bolster/ blanket between the legs is great to relieve lower back pressure in later pregnancy.
Remember, every pregnancy and every Body is different. The most important thing is to tune in to what your body is telling you and alter your practice accordingly. Your body will constantly go through changes over the course of your pregnancy, so don’t feel like you should be able to do what you have been able to do before – practice non-attachment 🙂 This applies to postpartum as well – wait at least six weeks after birth before resuming practice, and be prepared to accept your different body.
For those of you practising Ashtanga/ Vinyasa yoga, here are some great articles to read:
Lastly, please be sure to let your teacher(s) know before class about your pregnancy (How many weeks along, is it your first/ second/ third pregnancy? What was your practice like previously?), so they know to provide you with alternative poses, or show you adjustments if you’re not sure how to modify a particular pose.