In pregnancy, I’ve heard plenty of personal opinions, medical advice, traumatic birth stories, tales of glorious tribal like births from earth mothers, and everything in between, from all manner of well meaning women and men.
Who to believe? What to trust? How can we silence the noise of others, or of personal fears and expectations to find our own maternal instincts?
It can be an incredibly confusing time, wanting to do the best for yourself and baby, but not sure whose advice to follow.
Common questions we hear are ‘When can I/should I start practicing prenatal yoga?’ ‘I haven’t done any yoga before, can I start now?’ ‘I have been practicing yoga for a while, is there anything I need to change?’
Like all things in the science of yoga, everything should be practiced with reference to the individual. What works for the woman on the bus or for your good friend or sister, may or may not be at all appropriate for you.
We advocate responding to these sorts of questions with reference to you.
If we already know you well, and your yoga practice is established there may be merit in continuing your practice, including in the early stages of pregnancy, with only a few modifications to make it safe and supportive. But equally, maybe falling pregnant has been a struggle, maybe you are inclined to push yourself without recognising it, maybe your yoga practice is fairly new and your physical awareness isn’t strong enough for you to judge what is and what isn’t feeling right.
So whilst the guidelines below will provide a few simple ideas to bear in mind, please talk to us about your practice and approach.
We have 3 specialised classes for pregnancy – Wednesday 6pm, Saturday 9:45am and Sunday 9:30am. We recommend commencing our classes anytime from late first trimester, when the fragility of the first 9 or so weeks of first trimester have passes.
Yoga in the first trimester
- The body is undergoing huge, seismic hormonal changes almost immediately but the size of the fertilized egg attempting to implant within the womb is miniscule. Without the reminder of a huge watermelon sized bump at your belly you can almost (at times) completely forget or ignore this.
- If or when practicing yoga at this time, imagine you are nurturing a teeny, tiny perfectly fluffy white cloud within the womb. You don’t want to squeeze the air out of it, jam it into an odd shape or bear down on it effectively flattening it out. When in doubt leave out core work, twists, backbends with the belly on the floor, jumping forward/back in Vinyasa, and also refrain from any drawing in/bearing down in stronger standing poses like utkatasana. Think soft, no pressure, no squeezing.
- Relaxin is a hormone that does just that – it gets the body’s muscles, ligaments and tendons relaxin’! It charges through the body from conception, so don’t push yourself into deep stretches or lunges – you’ll be less aware of your edge. Pushing certain areas of the body to open can lead to painful conditions like pubis symphysis during pregnancy.
- Old expectations of fitness and exercise need to adjust to your new norm. Pausing your old fitness regimes, bootcamps, handstands and lunges doesn’t mean you can’t or won’t do them again. Trust that easing off certain practices is for a good cause.
Yoga in the second & third trimesters
- The same principles as above apply here – albeit you’ll start to have a clear physical reminder of the need to modify poses as the belly grows.
- Keeping your body at a comfortable temperature is important, and pace your practice with your own breath.
- Now that implantation is complete, maybe backbends from the floor -if they were familiar to you from your established practice prior to pregnancy – will be appropriate and feel good.
- Laying on your back at some stage will feel different, if not odd or downright uncomfortable – listen to that. If it doesn’t feel right, then it isn’t
- Again, always ensure your teacher knows you are pregnant.
Yoga in the ‘fourth trimester’ – post birth
- Thinking about the first weeks after birth as another trimester of pregnancy is hugely helpful. Baby may be out, but your body is still undergoing as many dramatic hormonal changes as it was when baby was in.
- The old visualization of the soft, white cloud can help again here – albeit this time around we want to gently, slowly retract the softness – not squeezing the air out per se but a drawing in around a central, solid core channel. The fabric of the abdominal muscles (remembering they run deep) needs to be slowly reknitted – lovingly, like a grandmother would when knitting your baby a jumper.