Prenatal yoga has been shown to ease the discomforts of pregnancy, such as moodiness, shortness of breath, swollen ankles, back pain and varicose veins. It also gives women time to bond with their babies, and can help them prepare for labor. Learning how to care for yourself through your pregnancy will teach you valuable tools for labor as well as postpartum care.
The adaptations that most doctors or yoga instructors will suggest are simply designed to accommodate a pregnant belly and prevent compression of the uterus. During the first trimester, the uterus remains fairly small and is protected by the pelvis, so compression is not really an issue. Just pay attention to become more in tune with your body and your baby.
General Guidelines: The body produces a hormone throughout pregnancy called relaxin, which is intended to soften your inflexible parts (like bones and ligaments) to make room for the baby and prepare for birth. This softening of the ligaments can make them vulnerable to over stretching. If you've practiced yoga before, you might notice the extra space and flexibility you have in certain areas. Practice integrating the muscles around each joint to avoid overstretching. Be especially aware of your knees.
Twists: Deep twists from the belly compress the internal organs, including the uterus. Instead, while pregnant, feel for twisting more gently from the shoulders.
Pranayama: Any pranayama (breathing technique) requiring breath retention or rapid inhales and exhales should be avoided. Gentle breath control and learning how to slow down the length of your breath can help greatly with general aches and pains, stress and anxiety as well as labor. (Ask me about the Bee Breath, which is especially fabulous for prenatal practice!)
Inversions: Take any inversion that poses a balance risk to the wall, or avoid inversions if you don’t feel comfortable doing them. Legs Up the Wall is a great gentle inversion to get the blood flowing and relieve leg and foot tension.
Backbending: In general, avoid deep back-bends like Full Wheel pose. If you performed this pose easily before the pregnancy, you may continue to do it in the first trimester if it feels good to you.
Abdominal work: Poses that are purely abdominal strengtheners should be avoided. We tend to hold a lot of stress in the belly, so be aware of subconscious clenching as well. Your abdominal wall should be allowed to soften a bit to allow for the stretching that is to come.
Lying on the belly: Poses such as Cobra in which you lie on the belly can be practiced in the first trimester as the fetus is still very small. Later in pregnancy these poses should be avoided, or at any time they cause any discomfort.
Lying on the back: General recommendations suggest that after 16 weeks, lying on the back should be avoided for extended periods, but if it feels comfortable for you and the baby, a few minutes of resting on the back can be extremely therapeutic. You can practicing savasana (final resting position) by lying on your left side or elevating the upper body as early in your pregnancy as you like.
Despite these recommendations, I always like to remind pregnant women that being pregnant does not mean that you are not broken. Your body is changing and might not feel at it's peak of health, but we do not want to add any fear around pregnancy and birth. Having an overly cautious approach to caring for your pregnant body can create subconscious fear.
Enjoy an empowering yoga practice during pregnancy that cultivates awareness and connection to your baby and creates confidence and balance for you!
Ask me how I can help you to relieve lower back pain, round ligament pain, stress, mood swings and swollen feet during your pregnancy or help you to prepare mentally and physically for labor.