The practice of yoga has many benefits for all people but it can be particularly helpful for people who are pregnant and expecting. The body goes through amazing changes to prepare for housing and growing another life and these changes can lead to discomfort in the body for the person who is expecting. In a similar way, the person who is pregnant might be mentally preparing for pregnancy and life after pregnancy. Therefore, the psychological and spiritual aspects of Prenatal Yoga might also prove to be a fertile ground for deep connection with self. When caring for others, it is so important to fill one’s cup and ensure that they have enough for themselves that they can freely give to others. Cultivating a prenatal yoga practice is a beautiful way to accomplish this.
As the uterus grows in pregnancy, everything begins to shift. The body starts sending resources to this new task and the person who is pregnant can experience fatigue because of this. Organs move to make space for the growing uterus and the skeleton is affected as the internal landscape of the body changes. There might be discomfort in the low back and hips. The pregnant person might also feel pain or discomfort in the feet as the frame and weight distribution of the body shifts and fluids accumulate. Swollen feet are also a common symptom for those who are pregnant.
Prenatal yoga is a broad term and can include almost any form of yoga. Depending on the habits already held pre-pregnancy by the person who is pregnant, something as intense as practicing inversions well into the third trimester might be considered safe. That being said, there are not many contraindications to practicing yoga while pregnant. The benefits of Restorative yoga are a wonderful way to assist the student in applying mindfulness during pregnancy, feeling supported, relaxed, and able to deeply rest. In restorative yoga, we typically invite in as many props as needed to find a lack of sensation in the physical body. Poses in restorative yoga are typically low to the ground, if not lying down, and the poses are held for 15 minutes or longer to allow for time to settle into the pose.
As the body prepares for pregnancy and birth, the hormones produced begin to change. One of the hormones released during pregnancy is called Relaxin. This hormone begins to soften some of the plastic tissues in the body. For example, the ligaments in the hip joint system begin to soften so that the pelvis can widen. This means that it can be important to ensure that when moving into more strenuous practices to focus more on strength rather than flexibility. This is because the expecting person will have more access to flexibility from the joint systems than is normal for them. More vigorous practices are still a nice option for those wishing to find a bit more physical movement, just be prepared to engage the muscles to heavily support any flexibility. For example, when moving through a typical vinyasa class you might encourage the expecting human to bring two blocks with them to their mat and use them when moving into half split, pyramid, wide legged forward fold, and may even forward fold. You might also cue for them to engage their inner thighs in half splits and pyramid pose.
Another change that can start to be explored by those expecting is taking a wider stance when in standing poses. As they grow and expand in their physical body, their balance will change. Having a wider stance is usually a bit more stable and can help the practitioner feel more supported and at ease in the pose. For example, in the warriors we might see the stance become wider from right to left. As the belly begins to grow, it might also become uncomfortable, if not impossible, to lie on the belly. On the other hand, it might also become uncomfortable to lie flat on the back, especially if they are experiencing low back pain in general. You might consider having your students that are expecting come to lay on their side or lay at an angle supported by props so they are not flat. There are differing opinions when it comes to twisting in pregnancy. Some medical professionals believe that twists are dangerous and should be avoided. It is not up to us as yoga teachers or yoga practitioners to change anyone’s mind about what they feel is safe for their personal practice while pregnant. If they do not want to twist, that is okay. That said, open twists with the arms open are considered safe in the opinion of My Vinyasa Practice.
It is most important that the person practicing prenatal do what feels comfortable for them. As teachers, we want to hold space for the students to meet themselves exactly as they are. Only they know what is best for their bodies, we are just there as a container to offer support for self exploration and wellness. Prenatal practitioners are always welcome to practice with us on the MVP App!