Congratulations on your pregnancy! Yoga and meditation are practices that can support you through every phase of your journey. Harvard Medical School published a study in 2015 stating that yoga during pregnancy is safe, healthy, and can provide incredible benefits to the mother including reduced anxiety, increased mobility, agility, and strength.
Women practicing yoga during pregnancy can be broken down into two categories: those who have had a yoga practice and recently become pregnant and those who have become pregnant, had yoga suggested to them, and decided that now is the perfect time to start a practice. The great news is that whichever camp you fall into, yoga is going to be wonderful for you. However, depending on your history, your journey of yoga during pregnancy will look very different.
For those of you new to yoga, we encourage you to stick solely to the prenatal classes available on Glo. We have 3 full programs with Ali Owens providing you with a specialized program for all three trimesters of pregnancy. We have prenatal content for all levels and durations with Stephanie Snyder, Jo Tastula, Elena Brower, and Carole Westerman. Please begin with the level 1 classes and slowly make your way up. Remember, just because the class is titled “prenatal” doesn’t mean that it is going to feel perfect for you. Stay away from anything that doesn’t feel right and add anything that your body yearns for, but in general, stick to the basic sequence so that you know you are practicing safely.
For those of you who have been practicing regularly at a level 2 or beyond, you may have tried a few prenatal classes and found that your abilities are beyond what is being offered. You may have even become impatient at the detail and pacing of the class. There is a group of you who want to keep doing what you were doing and just want modifications to be able to continue your practice during your pregnancy. If that rings true for you, here are a few tips to keep in mind.
Listen to your body
Glo teacher Stephanie Snyder reminds us that the most important rule is to listen to your own body. No matter what any teacher says to you, no matter what guidance is offered, if something doesn’t feel right to you—don’t do it. Always be your own guide and honor yourself. This will help you develop the skill of listening to your body that you will need not just in yoga, but in all aspects of pregnancy. Only you know what is right for you. Protect and honor your intuition most of all.
The general rule of thumb is to stay away from intense pranayama practices during pregnancy. There are some schools that encourage viloma breath as a way to feel extra safe in the body, and some Kundalini classes encourage breath of fire, but these are outliers. In general, irregularities in the breath can be jarring to the system, so it’s better to stick to smooth even breath until after your pregnancy.
Keep it cool
Some of you may be longing for your hot yoga class after a long quarantine, but The College of Family Physicians of Canada tells us that intense heat is one of the main things to avoid during pregnancy. Called “hyperthermia,” excessive heat can adversely affect your baby. If you’ve already had an advanced yoga practice, you can continue to challenge yourself physically, but no matter the pose, pace, or intensity—don’t let your body temperature get too high. If and when we get back to “normal” and you are able to take a class and find it getting too hot, just sneak out at least once to let your body temperature cool down.
Open your twists
The Mayo Clinic counsels us to avoid anything that compresses the abdomen. Therefore twists are generally considered unwise during pregnancy as you would want to avoid pressure on the area whenever possible. Consider doing the “open” version of any twist for the duration of your pregnancy, meaning, instead of twisting towards your leg, you twist in the opposite direction. This will allow the spine some mobility without compressing the front of the abdomen. It directs the twist into the upper back and protects the lower back as well.
Stay off your stomach
While this may seem obvious, it’s important to point out. As mentioned above, the Mayo Clinic advises women to avoid pressure on the abdomen, so lying prone, or face down, is to be avoided. Instead of Cobra pose, try a hands-and-knees Cow pose, and instead of Bow or Locust, try Camel.
And stay off your back
No doubt your doctor has cautioned you against sleeping on your back, but that extends beyond just sleeping—it also includes long periods of being supine. Stanford Children’s Hospital explains in detail why this is to be avoided, but for the purposes of yoga, just swap out supine poses for lying on your side. Please take Savasana, the final relaxation pose, lying on your side.
Easy on the backends
John’s Hopkins University explains that back discomfort is a very common issue during pregnancy due to the shifting of anatomy, alignment, and basic body mechanics. Now is not the time to put your back in any type of extra strain. The best practice is to simply dial it down. Once you have chosen a safe backbend, only do about 70% of what you normally do and hold it a few breaths less than normal. Focus on backbends that strengthen rather than stretch the body.
And easy on the forward bends
During pregnancy, your body emits a hormone called “Relaxin” that makes it more flexible. This is to prepare you for the ultimate act of expanding during birth. The great news is that your body knows to do this on its own, it’s truly a miracle. The downside is that the rest of your body becomes hyper-flexible as well and a desire to stretch comes with it. Your body will be longing to stretch, but this is one of the only moments that is slightly counterintuitive. Medical News Today explains that there is a much higher likelihood of overstretching here. This is a moment to practice moderation and temperance by saying to yourself, “I’m dying to stretch, but I’m only going to do 70% of what I know I can do here.” Moderation may not be satisfying in the moment, but it will ultimately protect you.
To invert or not to invert?
While we can’t find any definitive medical research on inverted poses during pregnancy, we recommend erring on the side of caution. Most teachers caution against them in the first trimester and agree that once your baby has turned and is head down—no more inversions. You don’t want to do anything to disrupt this stage of your pregnancy.
Swap it out
Stephanie suggests a few poses to swap out while practicing yoga during your pregnancy. For Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Fold), try Janu Sirsansana (Head-to-Knee). For Parsvottananasana (Pyramid), try Prasarita Paschimottanansana (Wide-Legged Forward Fold). For Bridge or Wheel, try Camel. For Plank/ Chaturanga, try Cat/ Cow. And as a universal swap for any pose, Stephanie suggests Malasana/ Garland/ Squat pose against a wall, Puppy Dog with your forehead on the floor, and Supported Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclined Goddess.)
Many yoga practitioners may have been taught not to drink water during a yoga practice, but UCLA reminds us that if you are pregnant, you should be hydrating consistently.
Remember this is a sacred time
Lastly, the most important thing to remember is that this is a sacred time and you don’t need to keep up your practice in the way it looked before pregnancy. Your body will come back, your practice will come back, and there will be plenty of time for fancy arm balances and deep backbends. Pregnancy can be a time to slow down just a bit, connect with your baby, and connect with your deepest self. You may discover things about your practice by slowing down that you never knew while pushing yourself.
While we are unable to be prescriptive in recommending a class for a specific medical need we do have a number of classes that you may find beneficial. We do recommend and feel it is important that you consult your doctor prior to undertaking any kind of exercise regimen. We want your practice to be beneficial and not detrimental to your overall wellness.
The information contained on YogaGlo’s website is of a general nature and cannot be a substitute for the advice of a medical professional. We urge you to consult with a physician or other health care professional before engaging in any physical activity, regimen, routine, program, or exercise that may be presented in these materials. YogaGlo does not give medical advice or engage in the practice of medicine.