Practicing Yoga safely during pregnancy
A woman in full bloom is in this magic moment of time when she is connected physically and spiritually to a new life, full of possibility, hope, dreams and love. You overflow with new beginnings on every level. It’s no wonder then, that it’s a time when expectant mothers flock to yoga classes, massage clinics and acupuncturists to nurture their body that will in turn nurture its new life.
How then, do we ensure we are practicing yoga safely? Many teachers will wrap their students up in cotton wool, ensuring they don’t push too far, lay on their backs, back-bend or twist. I think the big picture here is to trust your intuition, you and only you, know what feels comfortable. Your body is a constant landscape of change as you move through each trimester, so to be safe simply listen to your body, and avoid any pose that doesn’t feel right.
Knowledge nurtures confidence, so I have made a list of suggestions to help you to enjoy your practice safely.
Focus More on Strength Than Stretch.
During pregnancy, you have a hormone called Relaxin coursing through your body ensuring that ligaments are soft and flexible enough to create space for your growing baby and space for the birth.
This means that you also might find that you can stretch more deeply than before. Avoid overstretching as your muscles may not be able to keep up with the extra elongation and you may put too much pressure on already relaxed joints and create further instability.
Feel a nice soothing stretch but not pain. If you feel pain or an intense stretch simply back off that edge slightly.
Also, your body is well set up for opening and creating space so to really take care of your body you should focus more on strengthening the supporting structures like hips and legs as these will help to carry your lower back and upper body.
Make Space for Your Belly
As your baby grows you may find that certain poses feel restrictive or that you can’t move fully into a pose because your baby is literally in the way. Make simple modifications, such as wide knees in Balasana (Childs Pose), wide feet in Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog), and use props such as blankets or bolsters to lift your hips higher in poses such as Pigeon Pose or Pachimottansana (Seated Forward Fold)
Backbends and Twists
Most likely you won’t feel comfortable going into a deep back-bend as it will compress the lower back and overstretch your tummy muscles, which are already under huge strain (depending on your stage). I would personally advise against intense back-bends in pregnancy, however there are some exceptions.
If you already have a regular yoga practice that includes backbends, then very early in pregnancy, within the first trimester, it is safe to continue with them (only if it feels good for you).
Also, later in pregnancy there is huge benefit to some supported backbends, such as supported Virasana – this pose will give amazing relief to tired tight legs and help with tension and blood flow through the front of the hips, which are often constricted from the extra weight pressing on arteries, ligaments and nerves.
Sit in Virasana on a block and lean back so that your midback (around your bra strap line) is laying on the edge of a chair with your head resting on a pillow. Press your shins, ankles and feet (even the pinky toe side) down into the floor, lift your hips and reach your tailbone toward your knees.
As long as you are leaving lots of nice space for baby, a thoracic twist can be quite a relief for the upper spine. Avoid closed twists where you spin toward a bent leg such as twisting to the right in lunge where the right leg is forward, and instead move in the opposite direction (an open twist) so there is lots of space for your baby, and focus on spinning the chest up or around instead of the lower belly.
Should I Lie on my Back in Savasana?
This is completely up to you and your stage of pregnancy as well as the size of your baby and placenta.
Go with what feels right for you, some may feel completely comfortable in Savasana, trust your body - if you feel uncomfortable then choose a side-lying position instead.
Yoga is a powerful practice during pregnancy to help with the health of your physical body and to create space for conscious connection with your bubba. Having an instructor that is aware and present to your ability and stage of pregnancy is helpful but remember above all to trust your body, it is your best teacher.