Written by: Laurella Fox-Pitt, a yoga teacher
It is important to remember that we all experience pregnancy differently. Some people can get to 5 months or even full term without even knowing they are carrying a baby! Others are on their knees from 6 weeks. So my first tip would be to take each week as it comes.
It is advised that you limit your yoga practice to something slow and gentle in the first 12 weeks. We really can’t tell how vulnerable our tiny babies are during this time so best to play it safe. If you are desperate for your usual intense practice I would really question why?
Many yoga teachers fall victim to this and end up with all sorts of issues like Pelvic synthesis pain (separation of the two pubic bones) or severe lower back pain. Your body is making another human being it needs all the energy it can get for that job. Sometimes it’s hard not be able to continue with your “usual” routine and many of us are trapped in the cycle of what we should be doing. So use pregnancy as an opportunity to break the mould and listen to what you really need.
PRE 12 WEEKS
Limit your practice to something that is gentle and restorative, slow and grounding. Nothing fast or heating. NO Hot Yoga. Ever.
If you had morning sickness there is a chance or a hope that it will begin to subside around 12 weeks. You can start to strengthen your practice, you will need all the strength you can get if you are planning for a natural birth.
No twisting – this means no across the body twists but open body is ok.
Poses should feel comfortable and nourishing. Towards the end of the 2nd trimester I recommend no intense backbends. I loved Camel pose through out my 2nd trimester but remember as your belly grows your abdominals offer less support to your lower back so don’t go too deep.
Don’t hold inversions for extended periods. Some people say no inversions but I personally found Downward Dog to be very rewarding and also Headstand. It takes the pressure off your pelvic floor, which feels so good!
Shoulder stand becomes uncomfortable pretty quickly, so again feel your way through and note when a pose is no longer available to you. There are always modifications that will be just as rewarding for your blooming body. Just putting your feet up the wall is a great modification, you can even put a bolster under your hips for a small elevation.
You might well be feeling pretty good by now. This is your blooming stage. From 20 weeks you can continue to practice as you have been during the 2nd trimester. Some people will still be happy doing inversions but take them slowly. Be very mindful of how deep you lunge, so your stance in the warrior poses should be a shorter. This goes for all unilateral poses, one leg forward one leg back means your pelvic synthesis is being pulled apart and too much separation can cause serious pain and it doesn’t just go away over night!
I found teaching a full schedule and demonstrating a lot made me a bit sensitive in my pelvis but as soon as I took a week off I had no pain at all. I continued teaching with both pregnancies until two days before I gave birth at 37 weeks. But I was not demonstrating as much and certainly protected myself physically.
Remember that your body is full of the relaxin hormone, which softens the muscles and ligaments so your pelvis can open during birth. This is great news if you are naturally rather stiff like me! But if you are very flexible or hyper-mobile then please pay extra attention to your joints.
SO MANY BENEFITS
If you use your pregnancy wisely it can be a time to really deepen your practice. A time of deep reflection, letting go of pre-conceived ideas and being very present in how your body is responding to the fluctuating hormones and evolving physical changes.
I strongly recommend doing your pelvic floor exercises throughout pregnancy, even if you planning to have a cesarean birth for personal reasons. While you feel comfortable holding (probably 1st trimester) this should include 10 x holding for the count of 10 and 30 lift and release pulses.
Once you begin to see you tummy expand I recommend just doing the slow pulsing lifts with no holding. I go into this in more detail on my website, not all pelvic floor exercises are created equal!