I thought I’d post a blog for all those pregnant mamas out there who’ve been practicing yoga for years. I get emails on a very frequent basis from new moms who want to continue their vinyasa flow practice but are unsure how to modify safely. I always tell any new mom who has never done yoga or is new to yoga, Prenatal Yoga classes are the only way to go. And even if you’ve been practicing for years, you may find it very helpful to surround yourself with women who are going through the same experience at the same time. If you’re having a pregnancy with any extenuating circumstances (high risk), you should discuss with your doctor what is appropriate for you and your baby. If you are not having complications, you still want to discuss your fitness regimen with your OB, of course, but if you’d like to continue to attend your regular flow class, (and again, you’ve been practicing consistently for years and feel confident that you are in tune with your body, that you know where your edge is, and that your ego will not get the better of you), here are the guidelines I worked with through both of my (totally healthy!) pregnancies and here is a short class on the site where you can see 5 of the most common modifications you’ll want to know!
First trimester :
1. You don’t want to overheat…you can sweat to cool off, but the baby can’t. It’s fine for you to get a good sweat, but you should not get to the point where your cheeks are flushed. Stand near a door or window if possible, and step outside if you feel like you’re getting too warm. Bring cool water, and rest to control your temperature as you need to…breathe in and out through your mouth, but continue to drag the breath along the back of your throat, and to fill and empty your lungs completely (ujayii breath through the nose will increase your internal temperature, and when you’re pregnant you’re already running a few degrees warmer. Also, do not practice breath retention or “breath of fire”).
2. No deep twists or backbends…the baby is attaching to the side of the uterus, and even though the uterus is “free-floating” it is still attached to ligaments – no need to be stretching or pulling on those right now! If you normally do upward facing bow or kapotasana or anything really deep, put those aside for the moment. Ustrasana (camel) is a great backbend if it’s one you usually take, just feel it out. You might want to tuck your toes or keep your hands on your low back or bring them to a couple of blocks if reaching for your feet feels like too much. Twisting triangle with a block to the inside of your front foot and no “cranking” worked well for me – bringing my hand to my sacrum instead of extending it skyward. Twisting crescent the same way, hand to the inside of your leg on a block, keep your sacrum and pelvis level, just explore how much it feels okay to open up your mid-thoracic spine (think where up dog and cobra happen). Here’s a practice that features safe twists during pregnancy.
2nd trimester :
1.You can go back to whatever backbends you did before you were pregnant, but work slowly and mindfully. If at any point something feels like to much, be ready to back off right away. Be aware that all your ligaments will be a bit looser throughout your pregnancy due to “relaxin” (the body produces this during pregnancy because the bones and ligaments need to “soften” for childbirth. Ligaments need to open around the hips so you can push the baby out, but your body doesn’t differentiate between ligaments in your hips and every other part of your body. Therefore, you may be able to “go deeper” in some poses, but don’t do it because you can injure yourself, and an over-stretched ligament does not heal easily! Still no deep twists – this continues throughout the pregnancy).
2. Once you start to “show” (your belly pops out at all), do not lie down on your belly anymore…eventually you’ll have to modify your vinyasas to “knees, chest and chin”…you can also do cat-cows instead. When your belly pops, you’ll need to separate your legs hips’ distance for utkatasana, forward folding, etc.
3. It’s fine to invert but do it at the wall….getting upside down is good for you and the baby, but falling isn’t good for either one of you. You’ll be carrying more weight, so be mindful of your wrists and listen to your body. Things you may normally do easily will feel different as your center of gravity changes, so try not to assume anything – be in a partnership with your body, listening with curiosity and responding with compassion and wisdom. Viparita karani is a great inversion (running your legs up the wall) throughout your pregnancy, although once you begin your second trimester your doctor may advise you not to lie on your back for long periods of time. I experienced no trouble in this regard and ran my legs up the wall every day of both pregnancies, but some women will become light-headed because the weight of the baby and the uterus press on major blood vessels restricting blood flow. You will know if this is happening for you, and in that case, this isn’t the pose for you, and you will also start to take savasana lying on your left side with a couple of bolsters.
3rd trimester :
Same as 2nd trimester, but once you hit 34 weeks, stop any inversions EXCEPT viparita karani(as long as being on your back feels good to you)…the baby should start to “descend” at this point, and you want to encourage that descent. This is also a great time to start doing a LOT of squatting, so if you’re in a class and they do inversions, spend your time in a squat instead
Lastly, as far as core work goes some teachers advise none at all, but I did navasana sit-ups throughout both pregnancies (navasana to ardha navasana with knees bent on the way up)….I think it’s good to keep those “pushing muscles” strong 😉
The most important tip? Listen to your intuition! This is a time to be sure you’re practicing compassion for yourself, and to make sure you are filling your home, and your baby’s home (your body), with LOVE!! I felt very in tune with both my babies while I practiced, and I often talked to them (with my “inside voice, of course, lol) as I was moving. I felt especially connected to them in Savasana, it was clear to me that we were both having an experience together. Make your practice about that, and you will have a beautiful ride. We have incredible prenatal classes on the site for all levels. Hope this is helpful to you and that you have an easy and comfortable pregnancy!
Love to you and your beautiful baby (or babies!) ~
Ally Hamilton Hewitt
IMPORTANT NOTE: Always consult a physician before beginning a yoga practice or any other form of physical exercise!