Yoga for Pregnancy
We will be offering a prenatal yoga series Saturdays, Feb 23 - Mar 16, 2013!
Yoga can be a wonderful way to enjoy pregnancy, and many pregnant women take yoga classes at Tucson Yoga. Yoga can help align your body optimally for healthy carriage and delivery of the baby and reduce discomfort in your upper and lower back. In addition, yoga provides breathing and relaxation techniques to use during pregnancy and labor and can teach you how to move and adjust your own body more intuitively in order to ease the movement of the baby during delivery.
Yoga can also pose risks, however, if you attend the wrong class or if you do inappropriate postures. Before you start taking yoga classes while pregnant, it's important to be well-informed.
It's recommended that you start with prenatal yoga classes or DVDs and learn the basic guidelines and modifications for pregnant women (which are also outlined below). From there, you may wish to start taking general yoga classes. At Tucson Yoga, we recommend that pregnant women who have never done yoga before take our Gentle Yoga classes. (See our class schedule for class times.) As you're learning, tell every new instructor that you're pregnant so s/he can offer modifications for you and your baby's safety. The basic modifications for pregnancy are shown below - if anything is unclear ask a teacher. If you were steadily practicing yoga before your pregnancy, you may continue classes at the level you've been practicing for as long as it feels appropriate - as your baby grows, begin applying the modifications and paying extra attention to what feels right in your body as it changes.
Lack of scientific information
Prenatal yoga is a rapidly growing field; however, the effects of yoga on pregnancy have still not been scientifically researched. Much of the information you'll find about yoga and pregnancy is subjective, and various sources offer conflicting advice - for instance, two of the most well-known prenatal yoga teachers have completely conflicting opinions about Downward Dog posture: one says that it is a dangerous posture that can cause miscarriage, and the other says it's one of the best postures a pregnant woman can do. Given the lack of authoritative information, yoga during pregnancy is done at your own risk. The most important thing is to listen to your body's intuition, and play it safe by avoiding postures that don't feel right.
Guidelines and modifications to use during pregnancy
- Twisting: In general, avoid straining, compressing, and twisting in the belly or abdomen. Gentle twisting is okay. Choose variations like this one that do not compress the belly against the thigh.
- Inversions: Avoid all inverted poses (headstand, handstand, and shoulder-stands).
Pranayama: Absolutely no breath retention, breath suspension, or "breath of fire" (kapalabhati) should be attempted.
- Abdominals: Abdominal strenghthening poses should be avoided (e.g. boat pose).
- Lying Down on the Back: Pregnant women are generally told not to lie on their backs after the first trimester in order to prevent Vena Cava Syndrome (a lowering of blood pressure due to the baby pressing on the vena cava artery). Some women still enjoy lying on their backs during the early months. In general, use your intuition, and listen to your body. The modification for final relaxation pose (Savasana) is to lie on your side. A bolster between the knees and a pillow under the head can make a world of difference.
- Lying Down on the Belly: All pregnant women should avoid face-down postures that stress the weight of the body on the belly, including cobra, locust, and bow poses. Pregnant women past the first trimester should completely avoid lying on the belly. Good alternatives to the face-down backbends are bridge and camel poses.
- Relaxin: All pregnant woman are gifted with relaxin. The purpose of this natural hormone is to facilitate the pelvis and hips to gracefully shift during pregnancy and childbirth, providing an easier passage for the baby's arrival. Relaxin causes the ligaments and muscles to have more flexibility. With the gift comes responsibility. Pregnant women need to engage muscles more actively when they are stretching because of the amount of relaxin in their systems, to protect joints that are normally protected by stronger tissues. If you're an experienced student, think about pushing yourself about 20% less than you usually do.
- Balancing: The larger your belly grows, the more challenging balance poses become, so avoid postures that are uncomfortable or cause doubt. Use the wall, blocks, straps, or other aids as needed while your baby grows.
- The Basic Rule: Above all, listen to your body and use your intuition. Your baby and your body will let you know what you need and what poses are uncomfortable. And please ... don't practice yoga to the point where you're fatigued.
- One last tip: During pregnancy, take water and bathroom breaks liberally. Set up your mat near the bathroom in yoga classes. Trust your body-wisdom and have faith of the grace nature gifts us.
Articles: Yoga Journal also has a good collection of pregnancy-related articles at Yoga Journal - focus on Pregnancy
DVDs: You can learn the modifications for general yoga classes with prenatal yoga DVDs. Check out the DVDs by Gaiam, Shiva Rea, and Yoga Journal.