Pregnancy feedback at an enhanced rate, and

Pregnancy is a spectacular time
to practice yoga. Finding the balance between your body’s awe-inspiring
strength and endurance, while tuning into its new limitations offers a yoga
experience for the body, mind and soul. Whether you are a seasoned yogi, or are
trying it out for the first time, there are considerations for your practice
when there is a baby on the way. Keeping your little babe’s home safe and sound
is priority number one; and all it just takes is a little guidance and your
mummy intuition. Pregnancy modifications will evolve as the life in your belly
does. Your body will provide feedback at an enhanced rate, and your instincts
will rear up forcefully. The many physical, emotional, and psychological,
changes of pregnancy will require you to modify your practice to align to what
feels natural and safe for you. No two bodies, no two pregnancies, and no two
yoga classes are alike. Here I’ll outline the fundamental ground rules for
keeping yoga safe for mum and bub.

 

Always ensure you have your health care providers
consent to you practicing yoga.

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1.   Adjust
your expectations.

Pregnancy is not the time for mastering challenging
Instagram-inspired asanas such as complicated arm balances or ** backbends.
Pregnancy yoga is about keeping mum and bub healthy, cultivating a relationship
with your baby, and tuning into the requirements and limits of your changing
body. That said, pregnancy isn’t an illness, so if you’re feeling strong and
capable and the asana is safe and feels right, go for it.

 

2. Create Space for bub

If there’s a mantra for prenatal yoga it’s ‘make
space for bub’. So as a general rule avoid positions where the belly is
compressed. You don’t want to be restricting blood flow to the uterus or
compressing your little one. Blocks are a pregnant lady’s best ally. Use them
to rise up and open up space in forward folds or lunges. Widen your legs in
forward folds to make space for your belly, and spread your knees apart to
allow space for bub in child’s pose. Avoid lying on your belly and use open
twists (i.e. in the opposite direction to normal), and intitae twists from the
chest up, not the lower back or belly.

 

2.   Don’t
push the stretching.

Your focus should be on stability
and strength, no on stretching during this period. The hormone relaxin is
released during pregnancy, making you more flexible than usual, however relaxin
is loosening your ligaments, which means you need to be extra careful. Pulled
ligaments and joint instability are two risks that accompany this release of
relaxin, so be careful not to overstretch.

 

3. Don’t Overstretch 

Strength and stability is the
focus of prenatal yoga, not flexibility. You may notice that you are more
flexible than ever, due to the hormone relaxin being released to prepare you
for birth. Relaxin causes your ligaments to loosen, and for this reason you
should be extra cautious not to over stretch. Overstretching or careless
stretching can result in pulled ligaments or joint instability, neither of
which will help you on your mission for a healthy peaceful pregnancy.

 

 

4. Inversions: the basics.

As a general rule, if inversions
feel okay and you are confident, it’s okay to continue to include them in your
practice. If you’ve never attempted a headstand or other inversion before,
consider waiting until after your pregnancy as your balance and center of
gravity can make this tricky and increase your risk of falling. For everyone,
avoid inversions from week 10 to 13, as your placenta is attaching to your
uterine wall during this period, and you want that to go smoothly.

If you are continuing an
inversion practice and all feels good, limit your inversions to a maximum hold
of 30 seconds. In pregnancy there is a focus on a downward flow of energy in
the body (Apana Vayu) and a focus on building energy in the base chakra, and
inversions flow energy away from both of these. A supported bridge pose with a
yoga block beneath your sacrum and either feet planted on the floor or legs in
the air is an excellent inversion alternative during pregnancy.

 

6. Avoid Lying on the Back If
It’s No Longer Comfortable (or If You’re Not Sure)

Look at any “one-size-fits-all”
list of pregnancy modifications for yoga, and you’ll likely see “avoid lying
flat on the back.” This can be perplexing for students if lying supine still
feels quite lovely. 

Is it really dangerous for
pregnant students to practice a traditional shavasana (corpse
pose), or supine stretch?

The answer (of course!) is “it
depends.” The reason why this caution is often given is that as baby continues
to grow, lying flat on the back for an extended period of time can compress the
inferior vena cava (an important vein which returns deoxygenated blood from the
lower body back to the heart). When this happens, it tends to be pretty
uncomfortable, and it’s not very likely that your student will want to remain
on her back (which she shouldn’t).

Bottom line: Don’t insist that
your pregnant students (especially those in the earlier stages of pregnancy)
stay away from a traditional savasana, but offer other relaxation options as
well (see below for some ideas). And while there’s no need to make shavasasana
“off limits,” remember that just because a student chooses a classical
savasana, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s comfortable for her. (After
all, haven’t we all—at least once or twice—chosen a pose variation that was
less than ideal just for the sake of doing what everyone else was doing?)
 

Always mention savasana
alternatives when pregnant students are present, and encourage them to honor
their bodies and to change positions if they start to feel nauseous, dizzy, or
uncomfortable.

 

Always mention shavasana
alternatives when pregnant students are present, and encourage them to honor
their bodies.

 

Tips for Modifying Savasana 

If a student is no longer
comfortable lying flat on her back, she can practice a side-lying savasana or a
propped “incline” savasana instead. For the side-lying variation, students
should lie on their left sides (since the vena cava is on the right side of the
body). A block, bolster, blanket, or pillow between the knees may help make
this position more comfortable, and resting the head on a pillow or folded blanket,
hugging a pillow bolster, or covering up with a blanket are other ways that you
can make side-lying shavasana extra cozy and supportive. 

For the incline variation,
elevate the far end of a bolster with a yoga block or two, so that when a
student lies over the bolster (with her bottom on the floor and her back on the
bolster) her head is above her heart). A second bolster or rolled
blanket under the knees can feel especially nice here, and may help to
relieve lower back discomfort.