Yoga is a really beautiful way to support your pregnancy. The poses, breathing and relaxation techniques are nurturing both physically and emotionally and provide you with an opportunity to form a connection with baby.
Pregnancy yoga (or prenatal yoga) takes into account the many physiological and emotional changes taking place within and around you, so attending these specialised classes is ideal.
However, depending on where you live, a specific prenatal yoga class might not be an option.
If you are relying on the Internet or general yoga classes, then it will be very beneficial to know a few key points so you can practice in an appropriate way that supports you and your baby.
1. Know The Golden Rules Of Pregnancy Yoga.
If you have never heard these before, absorb the words and apply them to all yoga poses you practice during your pregnancy: Do not compress, strain or overstretch the abdomen.
For example, avoid any closed twists, prone postures (on the stomach), postures that activate the abdomen such as Navasana or deep backbends. Unless you’re an experienced yogi with an established practice, it’s also advised that you avoid inversions (such as Shoulderstand/Headstand).
2. Yoga in Trimester 1
It pays to know what is happening within you during each trimester of your pregnancy so you can modify both your lifestyle and your yoga practice for each. Trimester 1 is the most delicate phase of pregnancy, due to the foetus attaching to the wall of the uterus and the formation of the placenta.
This point might be a little debatable, but some recommend avoiding physical yoga entirely for the first 14 weeks of pregnancy because of the risk of interfering with those two vital processes. Others consider a really gentle practice to be beneficial, so it’s best to speak to your doctor about whether yoga postures are right for you during this time.
Either way, your internal body is working hard during Trimester 1, so relaxing practices like Yoga Nidra will be really beneficial.
3. Respect Your Intuition
Pregnancy is a highly intuitive time, so you may notice an inner wisdom coming from your higher mind. My tip? Listen!
When it comes to your yoga practice, if a posture intuitively doesn't feel right for you, chances are it probably isn’t. Respect your Sat Guru, your inner teacher, and give yourself permission not to do something that doesn't feel right.
4. Postures Lying On Your Back
It doesn’t happen for everyone, but some women may notice that they feel dizzy, nauseated, or just not right lying on their backs. This is because lying on your back can potentially compress a large vein (vena cava) that takes deoxygenated blood back to the heart.
If this is the case, supine postures should be avoided. Instead, Savasana/relaxation can be enjoyed lying on your left side using as many cushions/blankets as you like to increase comfort.
5. It’s Okay To Take Your Foot Off The Gas
This point is particularly relevant for women who have a tendency to push themselves to a point where they get thrown off balance. While you might usually be able to cope reasonably well without much rest, you literally have a person growing within you, so please give your body as much time as it needs to rest and relax!
Pregnancy is not the time to grow your yoga practice from a physical perspective. It might be challenging to let go of your goals of getting up into Headstand, Wheel or jumping back from Crow to Chaturanga, but you can always pick them up at another time.
Surrendering to a more nurturing, restful and supportive practice is a much better option for the duration of your pregnancy.
6. Take Care Not To Over Stretch.
A pregnant woman’s body produces a hormone called relaxin, which is going to help open up the pelvis during childbirth. With increased levels of relaxin in the system, take care not to overstretch because you may cause yourself a ligament or sacroiliac joint injury without actually feeling it at the time.
A key word to remember is balance. If your hips are already feeling super duper open, then it would be a good idea to select some postures that build strength and stability to balance out that flexibility.
7. Build A Really Strong Relationship With Your Breath.
The most important factor of any type of yoga, the breath has perhaps even more significance in pregnancy yoga because it can be such an incredible tool during labour.
The exhale is the relaxing breath. It can reduce the sensations of expansions (aka contractions) and it can help to calm the mind and nervous system. You can simulate this experience (obviously to a mild degree) by holding a reasonably challenging pose like Goddess Pose (pictured) for a while, and use the exhale to reduce the sensations felt through the groin and front of the hips.
Working with the breath also leads to an expansion of consciousness which can empower women and help them stay present throughout the entire childbirth process.
There are so many benefits to practicing yoga when you’re pregnant. Aim to really enjoy your practice and stay as present as you can to each moment of this incredible journey.