More and more women are tuning into the benefits of yoga during, and after pregnancy. I stayed active through all of my pregnancies, but with my third child, I did almost exclusively yoga. My body, at age 41 appreciated the more gentle approach to exercising during pregnancy. And recovery was easier too. Here are Ten Tips to practicing yoga during, and after, pregnancy.
1. Tell your doctor what you’re doing. If you’re lucky like me, your doctor will be up-to-speed on the benefits of yoga and will give you the thumbs up, unless there are complications or other considerations.
2. Listen to your body. I believe that the minute life begins growing inside us, we are given the intuition to know how to be a “Mother”. Listen carefully to the signals your body is sending. If you become overheated, or light headed, stop what you’re doing, or back off a little. And listen. And breathe. There are countless fears that run through your head, especially in a first pregnancy. But your body is wise and will tell you where to go. Just tune in and listen.
3. Ego check. One of the teachings of yoga is to learn to not be led by our ego, our overriding sense of self. Now that there are two of you on the mat, this is a great chance to let go of attachment to doing everything right. Let go of the need to compete or keep up. Your balance will be off some days. As your body changes, there will be poses that feel less comfortable. “Stay on your own mat”, so to speak, and be where you are in the moment. You are a beautiful woman, growing a little person. If you can honor that experience, each time you come to the mat will be miraculous for you. And maybe that will carry with you afterward.
4. Props to you. Bring props to your yoga practice. A sticky mat, a yoga strap, a yoga block and a blanket will make your practice much more enjoyable. Ask your teacher to help you with modifications as your belly grows.
5. Joint laxity. Remember that all of those hormones designed to relax and loosen your hips are also working on your other joints. It’s not uncommon for a pregnant woman to be able to do the splits for the first time in her life. But be careful. It’s easy to over-stretch and the last thing you want is an injury during pregnancy. Enter your practice with a less-is-more mindset.
6. Lying on your back. After 16 weeks, it’s not advisable to lie on your back for very long. The baby is lying on the veins which bring blood back to your heart from your lower extremities, and within a short time you will feel light headed in this position. I’m purposely not giving a time limit, because I did lie on my back for short periods of time. But going back to the “listen to your body” advice, I could always feel when enough was enough.
7. Avoid twisting. Especially as your baby grows, twisting postures will become less and less comfortable. Remember that twisting is a “downward expelling” motion. Great for digestion, not so great if you don’t want to go into pre-term labor. Twists that keep your torso neutral, but focus on opening the chest and shoulders are lovely. Back to less-is-more.
8. Upside down. Doing inversions in while pregnant is somewhat controversial. Many practitioners advise against inversions while others say that it’s good for Mother and baby. I read a book by BKS Iyengar on yoga during pregnancy and he advocated headstands. Headstands! I had one baby that was breach, and I spent half my pregnancy upside down. He never turned on his own. But if you have gotten good at listening to your body, and you are in no danger of falling, I believe inversions are fine for short periods of time.
9. Breathe. One of the best gifts of yoga for all practitioners is the ability to slow down, breathe, focus and center. Exactly what you need now, and even more so during labor and delivery. Now that I think of it, even more so when the little creatures are running your life. Give yourself the gift of stillness. Go inside and see what’s there.
10. Enjoy. I have taught various types of workouts for almost 30 years, and I can honestly say that yoga has the power to transform your body, mind and soul like no other practice. Yoga during pregnancy can feel like a gift to yourself, and a gift to your baby. I think those little dudes enjoy it when Mom takes a break and starts to relax, stretch and breathe. And who knows, maybe some of that calm will rub off on them!