I am currently in the middle of my third trimester of my first pregnancy. I have been inspired to be a resource for other women who want to practice yoga during their pregnancies, so over the next month or two I will post guidelines and tips for prenatal yoga practice, as well as some videos of guided practices.
Of everything that could be said about yoga during pregnancy, the mindset with which you approach it is probably the most important. While prenatal yoga can feel amazing and greatly enhance your pregnancy, there are also additional risks to both your baby and to you during this time. If you make space for your baby in your practice, take it day by day, and listen to your body and trust your instincts, odds are that you will naturally find yourself making the most of your prenatal yoga practice while also keeping safe.
(Disclaimer: I am not a doctor or prenatal care professional in any sense. This blog is meant to be helpful to you, but ALWAYS heed your prenatal care professional’s advice over mine.)
Make space for your baby. Bit by bit, this new little person starts to make its way into your life. The baby begins to take up more and more of your thoughts as you prepare for its arrival. The baby becomes more and more a part of your conversations as your pregnancy becomes obvious to others. The baby even begins to take up more and more space in your home, especially after a baby shower. Obviously, the baby also begins to have a bigger and more noticeable presence in your body as pregnancy progresses. This inevitably means that your baby will have a bigger and bigger presence in your yoga practice as time goes on. If you’re like me, you might be inclined to keep your practice exactly the same. It can be frustrating to:
- give up certain poses
- practice less often because you’re sick
- need a less vigorous practice because you’re tired
- find yourself losing range of motion because your belly is getting bigger
The good news is that all this is temporary, and you will eventually have your yoga practice all to yourself again. In the meantime, I find it helpful to remember that all these changes are not merely limitations to me, but they serve a purpose:
- I give up certain postures to keep my baby and my own body safe
- I have less energy because my baby needs a lot of my energy to grow
- I have less range of motion because my baby needs the space in my body to grow healthily.
When I make necessary changes to my yoga practice, I am making space for my baby, inviting him or her to do life with me, even before birth.
Take it day by day. In yoga practice it’s always important to approach each practice anew, but during pregnancy, when your body is changing constantly and at a relatively rapid pace, this is especially true. You’ll have days you feel great, and you’ll have days (or weeks or months!) that aren’t so great. You’ll have low-energy days, days you feel sick, and achy days. All of a sudden you find that you’re not able or not comfortable doing something you usually do all the time. Maybe you’ll be able to do it again tomorrow, but maybe you won’t be able to again until after giving birth. Since you never know which version of your body is going to show up, it’s important to be extra-attentive and make no assumptions.
Listen to your body and trust your instincts. There’s a lot of information out there about how to do yoga when you’re pregnant. You will be told what you might expect in each trimester, what changes you should make to your yoga practice, and when you should make them. In fact, that’s exactly what I’m going to do here in future posts. But while it is important to be familiar with prenatal yoga guidelines, the most important piece of advice I have for you is to listen to your body and trust your instincts. No two women are the same, and (from what I hear) no two pregnancies are the same. A woman who experiences a lot of morning sickness will likely have a very different prenatal yoga experience than a woman who has none. Some women have pregnancy-related joint or ligament pain, while others don’t. You may find that you need to make particular modifications to your yoga practice earlier or later than the standard prenatal guidelines suggest. Some women are comfortable taking some form of backbend throughout the entirety of their pregnancies, and some stop doing backbends in the first trimester. Now more than ever, notice how yoga postures feel to you. They should feel good or, at worst, neutral. If something doesn’t seem right to you, assume that you’re correct and adjust accordingly.
Yoginis who are mothers are quick to agree that pregnancy in itself is a yoga practice: you must be aware and in tune, you must use wisdom, and you must be okay with letting go. With these things in mind, happy practicing to you!