Why it's important to adjust your yoga practice during pregnancy.
Moving through pregnancy, labour, birth and the postpartum period takes preparation.
Just as we prepare for anything really, whether it be a physical endeavor such as running a marathon or a university exam we need to study for.
It worries me when I see pregnant women in mainstream yoga classes where the instructor is clearly not educated in the needs of pregnant women. A lot of pregnant women spend half the class sitting down and not participating or doing the same stretch over and over again whilst the rest of the class flows through a vinyasa practice.
Pregnant women deserve to be and are able to be physically challenged in their yoga practice but it is so important that they are not instructed to move into shapes that are contraindicated and might cause harm, even during early pregnancy. It’s equally as important that they are not treated as invalids and made to sit and rest while the rest of the mainstream class carries on.
Enter prenatal yoga classes…
“The prenatal yoga practice offers a nurturing time of self-exploration while encouraging the body, mind and spirit to open and embrace the transformations of pregnancy and birth.” – Gabrielle Earls
If women are supported, nurtured and empowered during their prenatal yoga practice, their mind is open to the possibilities of what both they and their babies can achieve. In a prenatal class, concepts are explored that center around pregnancy and birth. Safe breathing techniques and postures are also taught that help to both soften the body and mind whilst also building strength and resilience.
Here is a little info on approaching your yoga practice in each trimester of pregnancy:
The First Trimester:
Week 1- 12
- If you have never practiced yoga before then it may be best for you to rest during this trimester. This is the trimester where most women feel quite nauseous, dizzy and extremely exhausted. Give yourself permission to rest during this time and try not to attach guilt or any stories to it.
- Yoga Nidra can be perfect for this trimester (and any other). Insight Timer has a range of free Yoga Nidra practices that you can listen to.
- If you’re an experienced yogi, you may continue a modified practice, avoiding any intense back bending, twisting or anything that restricts blood flow to the uterus such as folding forward in shoelace pose.
The Second Trimester:
- Some women feel more energetic and better than ever before during this trimester, but I personally still felt quite tired. This is the perfect time to join a prenatal yoga class and begin to connect with likeminded women.
- There is an increase in blood supply and women begin to look more pregnant, they may even notice that their balance is a little off compared to what it was before falling pregnant.
- It is a great idea to practice leg and wrist circles to increase circulation as well as putting your legs up the wall for 10 minutes at the end of each day to help alleviate fluid retention. This can be done with a bolster or a pillow underneath your lower back.
- Adding deep squats and beginning to practice diaphragmatic breathing is amazing at this point to build physical resilience and focus. Please note that if you have been diagnosed with a low-lying placenta, it is not a good idea to bring yourself into a deep squat due to the chance of a placental rupture, but there are still things you can do to strengthen your legs, such as lunging.
- Beginning to include pelvic floor exercises during your squats is also beneficial, this is something I regularly teach my prenatal students in the second trimester. Activating the pelvic floor correctly takes time and practice and should be done under the guidance of an experienced practitioner. Seeing a Women’s Health physio during your second trimester is a great idea.
The Third Trimester
Week 27 until birth
- Women are usually slowing down physically at this stage as their babies grow and can sometimes feel uncomfortable and find it hard to sleep. Women may also be experiencing reflux and back pain.
- Avoiding: any backwards extensions is important. Try not to include any fast-paced vinyasa poses such as cobra or up dog and try not to fold all the way forward in any shapes to avoid compression of the belly.
- As the hormone relaxin is coursing through your body, be mindful of overstretching.
- A dedicated meditation and breath work practice that helps to calm your nervous system (such as alternate nostril breathing) will help you immensely as you prepare to birth your beautiful baby into the world. Pregnant women should avoid any breath retention work.
- I also encourage mothers to create some positive affirmations around their pregnancy, labour and birth. I recommend using the beautiful affirmation cards from BestBirthCo Birth Affirmation Cards | Best Birth Co | Australia (use the code MotherSpace21 for 15% off your order).
A dedicated prenatal yoga practice will fill your cup, help you connect with your baby and if you are able to attend a face-to-face class you also have the opportunity to connect with other pregnant women in your local community and maybe even begin lifelong friendships.
My next Prenatal course begins this Saturday the 12th of June at 9:15am. Click the Prenatal Yoga tab on my website for more info and to book.
Namaste, beautiful Mumma.