It was an amazing experience to study Pre and Postnatal Yoga at the Yoga Garden in San Francisco this year. Ever since I returned, I have had numerous questions about pregnancy and yoga. I have also discovered - there are a lot of beautiful women in my life that are pregnant!
Because of this, I thought it was time to write a quick list of great things that will hopefully serve you or someone you love as they navigate the beautiful & crazy thing we call pregnancy.
Disclaimer - I am not a doctor. If you are pregnant, make sure you speak with your midwife/doctor before engaging in any physical activity and ensure every activity is safe for you!! Most of the notes below are for any low risk pregnancy, but everyone should have conversation with a medical professional before planning their own exercise routine. If you are high risk, breathing and intention setting are still wonderful practices to help you navigate pregnancy!
WHY Yoga + Pregnancy:
Pregnant Women are STRONG not Sick - In order to become pregnant and stay pregnant, it requires a healthy strong body. (This is not to say those that struggle with fertility, myself included, are not strong and healthy too!!) Many of my pregnant friends express a feeling of being treated as though they have an illness when they speak to medical professionals, or even when they are around other people. Pretty sure it takes more strength and stamina creating a life for 9 months and giving birth than it does training and running a marathon. Because of this, yoga is an amazing way to keep a pregnant body strong, and help adjust to an ever changing body.
The Power of Breath - In yoga, breathing is a key part of the practice. Not only can breath calm the mind, it is an essential part of that exciting day when you will finally meet your new little one. Also, as your body blossoms, there will be less room and learning how to use your lungs to full capacity is a beautiful gift to help alleviate common pregnancy discomfort.
Bond with your Baby - Let’s face it, even if this is your first child, you don’t have much time between work, planning for your baby, and other obligations to really take time to connect with the growing life inside of you. Taking some time to do yoga, breathe, and slow down, will give you the much needed time to bond with your beautiful baby before their birthday.
Set your Intentions & Process Concerns - No matter how excited and prepared you are, pregnancy and becoming a parent is an emotional rollercoaster. Ghosts appear out of mental closet for both partners. Did your parents tell you about their traumatic birth experience and you fear the same? Do you have apprehensions about the birth, being a parent, or your changing relationship with your partner? Have you experienced miscarriages, or did it take you some time to become pregnant and now you have fears about your pregnancy? Use your yoga practice as a chance to process concerns, be honest with yourself, and with your breath release thoughts that are not serving you. Set your intention, “Healthy, Happy Pregnancy and Baby…” or anything else that feels good for you.
Yoga While Pregnant:
Best Advice on how to Navigate Yoga while Pregnant in a Nutshell - Imagine you have a large, wet sponge strapped to your belly. Your goal is to never wring out the sponge as you go through your practice. It may seem like common sense, but it is a great visual to help prevent closed twists, core work (like boat pose), while still letting you enjoy strong poses (any standing pose, half moon at the wall, etc…). Take a moment to pause before each pose to make sure your sponge is still 100% intact and you will be good to go!
Props are Amazing, Use Them! - Sitting on blankets is really important, especially during pregnancy. It helps to neutralize the pelvis and releases pressure on the pelvic floor. Blocks are great tools to get in, stay, and exit out of poses safely. Bolsters are AMAZING not only for restorative poses, but also for sleeping, especially if you are normally a belly sleeper (and it can help support your arms during long days of breast or bottle feeding.)
Avoid the Urge to be Gumby - The pregnant body does amazing things, including producing a hormone called Relaxin to help the body make room for a growing baby, and to give birth. The downside - this can make you a bit too flexible. If you focus on stretching out to your max, this may cause ligament issues that will stay with you past your pregnancy. Always stick within 70% of your max stretch to prevent going too far, and make sure your practice is focused on lengthening to create room for the baby, not to show off how you can do the splits. Also, think about strengthening muscles in every pose, engaging in every posture vs simply using weight to complete a pose will prevent going to the unsafe flexibility edge.
The Best Advice from Experts - Judith Hanson Lasater a well known Yoga Teacher, Physical Therapist, and author of Yoga for Pregnancy has been quoted to say “If something feels bad, stop; if something feels really, really good, keep doing it. A pregnant woman’s intuition is why the human race is here, so I want them to learn to trust it.”
Yoga by Trimesters - A Quick Glance.
First Trimester - In my opinion, this is an incredibly difficult space to navigate. This is when you will most likely feel anything from exhausted, nauseous, constipated, to emotional, and most the time, people around you have no clue you are pregnant.
If individuals feel healthy with no cramping or spotting, many people continue their regular yoga practice. The truth is, if feeling OK, many people can still do every activity they were doing before pregnancy, including more high intensity classes but it is incredibly important to listen to your body and slow down a bit and get plenty of sleep - remember a small clump of cells becomes a small person in just a matter of weeks! That is exhausting work!
If you have any concerns - definitely reach out to your medical professional resources!
For the First Trimester -
Second Trimester - Although it is described as the best of the three and many mom’s to be regain some energy and appetite, we cannot assume this is the case for everyone. Wonderful things happen, the baby’s kicks are felt, and for most, the word it out so no need to hide that beautiful bump.
This is when most mom’s to be start to slow down from their usual exercise routine. Some join prenatal classes, or if they were in a more intense yoga class, step back a bit to a mixed level OK to take things at their own pace. Props will definitely become a great resource and a consistent yoga practice can help alleviate common pregnancy concerns of swollen feet, back pain, sciatica, and more!
For the Second Trimester -
Third Trimester - The home stretch!! This is a beautiful time to continue yoga, with a big emphasis on breath, and letting go of clenching and controlling. This is a great time to really listen to the wisdom of the body, continue to strengthen, but also release.
No matter how difficult it may seem to roll out that mat, continuing to practice is a great way to prepare for labor and to provide a nice break from the day to tap into breath work and intention setting!
For the Third Trimester -
Blessings - Becoming a parent is a HUGE commitment of love. No matter what the path to parenthood looks like, make sure time is spent to send some loving thoughts your way as well.
This is a lot of information, but still only scratching the surface! If you are interested in a yoga practice while pregnant, have an open conversation with your teacher. They will be honest with their own experience, and will advise you if other classes or teachers are best. Don't have a teacher? Try some home videos, or reach out to a local teacher to see if there are prenatal friendly classes in your community! No matter what, listen to your body and always take some time for positive affirmations and gratitude!