Spring is in the air! The season of new beginnings. There are so many lovely teachings around spring - letting go of tired habits, cleaning up the clutter in our life, material or otherwise. Making space for the possibility of something new and fresh. And then there are babies. Baby chicks, baby bunnies, baby ducks and… baby people. Mother Nature expressing her full vigor, indeed spring is literally a ‘fertile’ time. And still, being a momma of two babies myself, I am always surprised and delighted every time a student says, ‘I’m pregnant!’
And then the inevitable next question…. ‘Can I still do yoga?’
So here’s the scoop on yoga and pregnancy… according to me. Let me start by saying I am not a physician or a midwife and if you have a ‘precious’ pregnancy, history of miscarriage or any possibility of complications, it’s best to discuss any form of physical exercise with your healthcare provider first.
The good news is if you already have a yoga practice, you can continue to practice in the manner that feels right for your body right up until the end. This is a great time for you to really practice the art of listening to your body! If something doesn't feel right, just don't do it. It's nice because your ego can just leave the building for the next 10 months. If you are feeling tired, unwell, or if you just don't feel right doing a particular pose on a certain day, don't do it... you can blame the baby (wink).
If you don’t already practice yoga, this a wonderful time to begin. Skip the power and hot yoga classes and start with a gentle class, or ideally, a pre-natal yoga class. Yoga has many benefits for pregnancy - not only does it help build stamina and release tension, but it will give you valuable mental and emotional tools to help you through birth, delivery and those first few months with your new baby.
In general, a few modifications I would recommend if you plan to practice yoga during pregnancy:
1. Avoid deep twists. In the first tri, you are most at risk for miscarriage. Other teachers may say twists are fine but for me personally, I would say just avoid them. By the second and third trimesters, it's no longer an issue - your body just won't do it. :)
2. Take a wider stance (feet hip width) in standing poses such as Mountain Pose, Samasthiti and Utkatasana. This will help support your low back and hips.
3. Take the pressure off. Avoid any poses that put direct pressure on you belly after the first tri - for example, cobra, sphinx, crow and shalabasana. You can take child’s pose instead.
4. Avoid static core work such as boat pose, or core work on the back. Dynamic core work is fine, and even planks as long as it feels okay for the low back, which may mean dropping to the knees in both plank and chaturanga. Your best work? Try to engage the pelvic floor in every pose, drawing the sitting bones bones toward one another to engage the perineum. You will thank me for this later.
5. Feet on the ground. Avoid inversions (headstand, handstand, shoulder-stand, etc.) in the first tri. The exception is Viparita Kirani - Legs up on the Wall pose - which is highly recommended and very nourishing. If you have a strong inversion practice, you can cautiously explore returning in the second and third trimesters but be mindful that your centre of gravity is literally changing by the minute. Inversions are contraindicated for anyone with blood pressure conditions so if this becomes an issue in your pregnancy just avoid them altogether.
6. Conscious Backbends. Generally, backbends are fine as long as they feel good in your body! Personally, I would suggest avoiding deep backbends in the first tri. Baby backbends (those on your belly) should be avoided in second and third trimesters. As you get further along, you may find you have more tension in the low back in which case backbends will feel either really good or really not good. One of my favorites is straight-armed cobra, with the pelvis supported on a bolster.
7. Savasana… on the side. After 15-weeks, modify savasana by laying on your side and avoid any poses where you are laying on your back.
Be aware that as your hormone levels shift, you might find increased flexibility especially in the hips. Just pay attention and resist going too deep to quickly, especially because these poses (lunges and hip openers) are going to feel REALLY good.
OM Baby! Taking care of you and that little bean (and any other existing beans) is important.
Your secret is safe with me.
About the author
A former sales and marketing executive, Shauna Nyrose completed her formal yoga study in the Ashtanga and Iyengar inspired teachings of Nicki Doane and Eddie Modestini of Maya Yoga, HI. She is an Experienced Registered Yoga Alliance (E-RYT200) teacher and is certified in Yoga Nidra for stress release and deep relaxation. She continues to study with internationally renowned yoga teacher Elena Brower and has nearly 200 hours of additional teacher training in the Kripalu/ Kundalini traditions.
Shauna's classes range from gentle to practical foundations to creative flow and intermediate Ashtanga inspired practice for those seeking a challenge physically and mentally. Her ability to inspire energy and inner peace in others both on and off the mat is second to none.
Shauna is a wife and mom to two amazing kids that give her many opportunities to practice off the mat what she teaches on the mat. Shauna also loves books, red wine and sunshine on her face. To find out more about Shauna or to book a class, visit Shauna Nyrose Yoga. Check out her lifestyle posts.