EVERYTHING YOU EVER WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT YOGA AND PREGNANCY BUT DIDN'T HAVE ANYONE TO ASK
Pregnancy can be a most awesome and amazing time to practice yoga. It is true union at it's best, two hearts within one body, two human beings co-existing within each other. With pregnancy, comes very special physiological issues which need to be addressed in order to make yoga safe, beneficial and enjoyable for both momma and baby !!!
There is a common misconception that, as long as a woman is not yet "showing" she is safe to practice a regular hatha yoga class like every other non-pregnant body. This is not true, in fact, it is in the first trimester that some of the more drastic changes occur, and that the fetus is at it's most delicate. During this time your little pea of a baby is developing nervous system, brain, circulatory system, organs, arm and leg buds, everything it will need to be a human being. A complex process of cell division will differentiate baby, placenta, membranes and amniotic fluid. You will have actually GROW a new organ: the placenta. Whew, no wonder you are tired!
I recommend women joining a pre-natal class instead of a regular class, as soon as they find out they are expecting. You should not exercise strenuously if you have a history of miscarriages, or cervical insufficiency. Many women experience fatigue, nausea and dizziness during the first trimester, so it's a great idea to let these conditions subside before getting into a practice of yoga.
Try walking or swimming (if you are up to it) during this time instead. Try simply sitting and breathing, meditating on the huge life change you are on the precipice of. If you are one of those lucky women who feel amazing and energized during new pregnancy, enjoy this, join up a pre-natal yoga class,follow your intuition and some simple guidelines and rejoice in a nausea free first trimester!
Once ready to start into a pre-natal yoga practice, you probably have many questions, and at the top of the list will be: what shouldn't I do? Not surprising, you are learning your first lesson as a new mother already starting to worry about how to give the best to your baby.
Here are some basics to set your mind at ease:
1) Always consult your caregiver before starting yoga. Be sure to ask if there is any reason why you should not practice yoga, or if there are any postures that you should be avoiding because of any specific medical condition you may have.
2) No breath holding, breath retention exercises (such as kumbhaka)
3) No deep abdominal twists. Very gentle, modified twists are fine, and still beneficial. Gentle twists should feel like they are not putting pressure on the abdomen.
4) No strenuous abdominal exercises (such as sit up's). Modified abdominal strengthening in the context of a pre-natal class is beneficial. Also avoid postures which may overstretch the belly (such as upward wheel)
5) No lying on the belly, after the 2nd trimester it will be doubtful that you will need anyone to tell you this! First trimester belly lying can be at your own discretion.
6) No lying on the back after the 2nd trimester. The growing baby puts pressure on your vena cava (the large vein that supplies blood back to your heart runs up and down your body) and will cut off circulation to both you (leaving you very dizzy) and the baby (depriving he or she of oxygen). Recline instead in a side lying position.
7) Most importantly, be guided by your intuition: your inner voice. This inner voice will serve you well as a mother, so begin to watch out for what it is trying to say to you. Never practice yoga in anything that feels like pain. If it is painful move out of it and try to re-adjust using props or blankets or skip the pose altogether.
Now that you have the caution's covered, know that practicing yoga during your pregnancy is a great gift to yourself and your baby. If you are coming to yoga for the first time because you are pregnant, it is actually one of the best ways to be introduced to yoga: in a really slow and gentle way with lots of emphasis on safety and alignment.
Because pregnant women secrete more of the hormone relaxin (this hormone helps soften the ligaments, cartilage and cervix for birth) you may feel naturally more flexible. If you are coming to yoga from an experienced practice, it is actually one of the best ways to allow your yoga to become more intuitive, more introspective. You might feel challenged and frustrated at times by the awkwardness of your body in postures compared to what you once knew, allowing you to become more forgiving of yourself and more empathic of others.
Encourage yourself to do a few simple hip opening postures a day, even if it is just sitting in butterfly (bandha konasana) while you watch the 6 o'clock news. Think about how your posture and daily habits effect your baby's positioning. Most c-sections happen because of malpositioning (and this is NOT the same as a too large baby, contrary to popular belief), something that can be avoided through thoughtfulness about your posture during pregnancy. Sitting in chairs (at desks) and couches can be major culprits.
Try sitting on the floor, on a birth ball or side lying instead whenever possible, and try to take breaks doing this if your work requires that you sit for long. Swim in the breaststroke, get down on your hands and knees often. Take advantage of your nesting instincts and scrub your floors by hand. It may seem cruel to tell a pregnant women to scrub the floor, but your body (and baby) will thank you! This will help encourage your baby into an optimal birthing position.
Create a positive picture of pregnancy and childbirth. Don't listen and buy into your neighbors horror stories of labor and birth. Meditate to banish fear: when you are out and about during your busy day take a look around yourself. Every single person you see had a mother who gave birth to them. Feel yourself part of this world consciousness.
Enjoy this special time in your life. Although that last trimester might feel like ticking on the clock in reverse, you will look back on your pregnancy and realize how short, precious andblessed it really was. That specialtime when you were two bodies within one.
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We welcome your inquiries. Send us a message, if you have questions for Ariel regarding Pregnancy and Yoga. Learn more about Ariel.
Ariel Pavic, RYT
Teaching all levels hatha, power and pre-natal yoga
Labor and Birth support for the childbearing family
Childbirth Education Sessions