Congratulations on your pregnancy and for choosing to practice prenatal yoga during this special time.
Although yoga is considered a safe form of exercise during pregnancy, every body is different and there are some things to be aware of before beginning your prenatal yoga classes.
First, please make sure you have informed your doctor, midwife or health care provider about your choice to practice prenatal yoga, and you have their approval.
Next, choose which kind of prenatal yoga is right for you. If you are new to yoga you might want to start off with the gentle prenatal yoga class. If you have been a yoga practitioner before pregnancy and are comfortable with a flow style of yoga you can choose either the gentle or the prenatal vinyasa style.
Once you’ve chosen your style please observe the following precautions:
The most important thing you can do when practicing prenatal yoga is to listen to your body and only do poses that feel good. There may be poses that felt great before you were pregnant that do not feel good now. Never force yourself into a pose, or do any position, that doesn’t feel good for you, even if you were able to do it the day before; and you should never have any pain in any posture.
When you’re pregnant your body releases a hormone called Relaxin. Relaxin is a hormone released during pregnancy that lubricates all of the joints and connective tissue so that the pelvis can have more mobility, allowing the baby to pass through it more easily. This hormone is not specific to the pelvis, it moves into every joint in the body, and if overstretched these joints can become unstable. Because of this you need to be careful not to overstretch.
If you are having pain in your pubic bone area, please consult your doctor before beginning or resuming your yoga practice.
If you feel any menstrual like cramping, or abdominal discomfort, please stop and rest.
The yoga posture downward facing dog is a semi inversion that is commonly found in many yoga practices. It is included in these practices because it is beneficial for pregnant women, as it releases pressure from the pelvic floor and can create space for mom and baby. This position is great as long as it feels good, and you aren’t experiencing heartburn, high blood pressure, or if you are in your third trimester and your doctor or midwife has noticed excessively high levels of amniotic fluid. The other time this pose should be avoided is if you were previously having positional issues with your baby and have corrected them. For example if your baby was breech and you recently got him to turn to a head down position, then downward dog should be avoided. If any of these precautions pertain to you, move into child’s pose instead of downward dog. To move into child’s pose from a hands and knees position, bring your toes together and your knees open wide, sit down on your heels and stretch forward placing your forehead on the ground, or on a pillow or a block.
If you have been away from yoga for a while and are just coming back, please consider modifying the practices even more by resting in child’s pose often, and doing about 50 to 80% of what you think your capacity is to begin with, then you can work your way up to the full practices.
Throughout your yoga practice please maintain a slow steady breath in and out through your nose. You’ll be slightly constricting the air at the back of the throat making a sound like the ocean waves. This is called ujjai breath. You should be able to maintain this slow deep breathing throughout the practice. If you feel that you cannot maintain this breathing, or you feel out of breath at any time, please stop and rest until you can once again breathe normally. In yoga your breath is your stability, it is the most important part of any pose.
You will want to have the following items handy: a blanket or towel to place under your knees, a yoga block or something that can act as a block (like a small step stool or a book), a pillow or couch cushion, and a yoga mat. Please also have some water nearby and stay hydrated. Enjoy this special time with your baby, and enjoy your yoga practice. Namaste!
Jennifer More is registered with the Yoga Alliance as an ERYT-500 Vinyasa and Prenatal Yoga (RPYT) instructor. She is a doula, doula trainer, and owner of Dolphin Doula; a certified master clinical and medical hypnotherapist, childbirth educator, and a mother. She has taught thousands of prenatal yoga classes and seen the powerful effect that doing prenatal yoga can have on a woman's body, self confidence, childbirth experience, and postpartum recovery. She uses her training and experience to help women feel strong and powerful in their birth experiences and in their lives.