Pregnant? Can I still come to yoga?
Pregnancy is not a disease, illness or injury. But the body does change a lot. It is not just the growing bump and breasts but there are other things to consider. Mainly the increased levels of the hormone relaxin. This hormone is responsible for increased flexibility, stretchiness and relaxing of the ligaments. Important during pregnancy as the body accommodates for the growing uterus, baby/babies and placenta (that is your pregnancy bump). Relaxin will also help the mobility of the pelvis during pregnancy and birth.
It is not only the pelvis , abdomen and ribs that “gets” the relaxin. The whole body can become hypermobile. Think of creating stability rather than over stretching. Go only 50-80% of what you possibly could do and never more than what you could before you became pregnant.
The saying “listen to your body” doesn’t really work in pregnancy. Yes, of course you need to listen to your body, breath and energy. But a pregnant (and postpartum) body might really want to hyperextend because it can due to increased relaxin levels. But that doesn’t mean it is appropriate.
A yoga teacher needs to be aware you are pregnant so she/he won’t push you in an adjustment and remind you to ease off, practising with stability and not just flexibility.
Throughout pregnancy we are focusing on creating space. If a pregnant yogini is used to uddiyana bandha (lifting the lower belly in and up) you will need to let it go. There is no room or reason for strong abdominal or core practice. Closed twists and deep forward bends are also limited. Not just because of the growing bump but also because we focus on softening and space.
Can I practise in the 1st trimester?
The first 14 weeks of pregnancy are a very special time. A few cells grow to become a fetus (or several!) and a placenta becomes the nourishment for a new life. To let the body do what it needs to do give yourself space and relax. Some pregnancy yoga teachers advice to take it very easy or even omit practise during the first trimester. Especially if you have a history of repeated miscarriages. Yoga or other exercise do not cause a miscarriage and if you feel happy and healthy you might want to keep your practise going with advice from a qualified prenatal yoga instructor. Read on this blog specifically about the 1st trimester.
What does the yoga teacher need to be aware of?
Yoga teachers, how do you feel when your long term student tells you she is pregnant? Or when a pregnant yogini informs you of her PGP, placenta praevia, an incompetent or short cervix, that her relaxin levels have created SI pain, sciatica and she feels nauseous and has heart burn in certain poses? Not to mention what do we do with her growing bump? Confused already?
Although pregnancy and the postpartum period is not an illness or injury we need to know the physiology. Just like you would study if you saw someone with an injury or medical condition. We need to know the ‘red flags’ when to refer to a specialist class or instructor, how to modify and adjust the sequence. What poses and transitions are inappropriate and what she might still be able to enjoy or practise instead.
Finally accept that everything changes all the time. Nothing stays the same and so your practise will also change. Enjoy your practise and congratulations with your growing bump.