Doing yoga regularly during pregnancy is a wonderful and beneficial way to manage your pregnancy, prepare for birth and motherhood. Natalie Hudson explains…
A common misconception about yoga is that you need to be this human pretzel that has to get into all sorts of poses to ‘achieve’ yoga, this is not the case. Yoga is designed to enhance clarity and peace in the mind by practicing postures (asana), breath(pranayama) and meditation.
Our western culture can often be very body and goal obsessed hence when women become pregnant all of a sudden there becomes an urgency to still do the things I did before I was pregnant and I must be ‘fit’ to have a perfect birth….if only we let go of these misconceptions things would be a lot easier….
Yoga during pregnancy is all about nurturing, taking the time out to give back to yourself and your unborn child. We live in a busy stressed world with hetic lives, this is not an ideal environment to be in when pregnant and nurturing a new life….so what prenatal yoga offers is a chance to connect back to ourselves.
So how do I start pregnancy yoga?
Yoga during the first trimester (first 12 weeks) is not recommended as this is a time when the body needs to rest and reduce the likelihood of miscarrying. Some yoga schools may say it is fine to continue a general class but even in traditional India (origin of yoga) women are not encouraged to do any postures (asana). Maybe some visualisation may help like visualising a flower growing in water…this symbolizes the attachment and growth of the baby during this vulnerable stage of pregnancy.
So here is a checklist before starting pre natal yoga:
1. Post your 12 week check/scan get clearance from your Doctor that is ok to proceed with any form of exercise.
2. Find a reputable Pre natal Yoga teacher – www.findyoga.com.au who has a few years experience and is fully qualified and is also first aid trained…..some women who have practiced yoga before may feel they still want to do the practice they did before pregnancy and remain in their normal yoga class, this is not appropriate. Prenatal yoga takes into consideration the many changes both physically & mental that happens during pregnancy therefore this can be focused on in a Prenatal class as opposed to a general yoga class. You will get a lot more benefit by attending a specific pre natal class. Any Hot Yoga, Birkram yoga is to be avoided, again even if you are an experienced student and your teacher says it’s fine…it is not..a heating yoga practice is not conducive to physical conditions of pregnancy and can be dangerous….as I say to many people who argue this … what you can do is not necessarily what you should do, so consider your baby first before yourself, would they benefit from your pushing and straining yourself?
3. Make sure before your first prenatal yoga class you complete the health form and sit down and discuss with the teacher any medical concerns about your pregnancy, your teacher may have to modify some of the poses for you.
What is a Pre natal Yoga class like?
Classes should be nuturing and not a massive strain or ‘workout’. During pregnancy the biggest thing to consider is that you have the hormone relaxin in your joints so you have to be careful of injury because all your joints will be a lot more flexible in preparation for birth.
There should be equipment for you to use such as chairs, bolsters, blankets and mats, these are used during postures to help you manage your balance and support your body.
Classes may focus on a particular theme or area of the body and may vary slightly if taught in the morning or evening.
Poses may focus on building strength, or working on flexibility, you may also use visualisations, mantras(a bit like affirmations), special breathing techniques suitable for pregnancy (pranayama).
Yoga poses to avoid when pregnant
Poses that you need to be aware of that are not to be done when pregnant & you should question your teacher if these are being taught.
- Lying flat on your back for extend periods of time – this puts pressure from the weight of the uterus impeding blood flow to the vena cava and can reduce oxygenated blood to your baby also anyone with sacral problems there will be too much pressure lying on your back
- Twists – strong ones that go against the body are a no no, open twists are fine
- Inversions like shoulder stand or headstand
- Downward facing dog – is fine up to 20 weeks then it is classified as an inversion. A good teacher should give you an option to do a modified dog against a wall
- No abdominal crunching or sit ups the abdomen is about expansion not compression
- No deep back bends as too much pressure on spine
Always listen to your body if something doesn’t feel right tell your teacher and modify the pose or do something more suitable.
Other common issues are pubic symphasis tenderness in the pubic area often treated by oestopaths or physiotherapist– gain you will need to modify,no squats or one legged type poses.
Most feedback from students I get is that pre natal yoga helps them release tension making them feel more relaxed and at ease, they become more aware and accepting of the changes in their bodies. Many also comment how yoga helped them mentally prepare for the birth experience and helped them focus on their breathing especially during the intense phases of birth such as managing contractions.
It also give them an opportunity to connect with themselves and their babies an essential part of the pregnancy journey.
Natalie Hudson is a Prenatal Yoga teacher at The Yoga Garden Sydney. She has been teaching yoga for 7 years and prenatal yoga for 4 years and has a keen interest in this area post having her first child in 2009. She is fully qualified 200 hr Yoga Alliance and 2 year Yoga Institute Teacher Certificate (KHYF). She teaches in the traditional of the great teacher Krishnamcharya known as viniyoga – applying the yoga to the individual needs of the student. To see all her articles, click here.
Share your pre natal yoga experience in the comments below