Useful things to know for a safe pregnancy yoga practice
(even if you're not pregnant. You don't even have to be female!)
even if you're not pregnant. You don't even have to be female!
If you’ve been following my posts, you’ll know that I have a passion for women’s yoga.
Quite simply put, because of the normal, cyclical fluctuations of our wonderful hormones, our bodies need different practices at different stages of our menstrual cycle.
Pregnant and post-natal bodies, in particular, need a very different practice.
The benefits of a pre- and post-natal yoga practice are so wide-ranging and I really can get on my soap box about them. If you are wondering about the benefits of pregnancy yoga, check out this blog post - but it’s by no means my final word on the subject.
Your body is a precious thing and it seems only right that you look after it even more during pregnancy and the post-natal stage.
As mentioned in a previous post, to the best of my knowledge, I’m sure that there are elements of adapting yoga poses for the pregnant body in all yoga teacher training courses. I am not into scaremongering because I believe there to be a lot of advice out there for women with-child. Some if it is often conflicting due to ever-changing medical research and opinion.
I am not a doctor nor a medical professional, so it goes without saying that you should always consult with these guys first if you have a question. As all-knowing as Google is, it doesn’t know your body.
I would highly recommend seeking out a teacher who has been specifically trained in the intricacies of the pregnant body to guide you through a yoga practice during this time.
Yoga tips I offer my pregnant students
Your body is unique to you and if this is not your first pregnancy, you’ll have an awareness that each pregnancy is different, so this advice below in no way constitutes a consultation. I would merely like to share a few of the things I advise pregnant women during my classes.
Avoid laying on your tummy
Prone poses or those that require you to lay on your tummy can and will be uncomfortable for you. This seems like an obvious thing to say. Poses like cobra (bhujangasana) can be swapped for an all-fours kneeling pose such as cow (bitilasana). Rather than arching in the lower back, which may not feel very nice for anybody, consider the idea of lengthening your spine or sending your heart space forwards. Engaging the muscles around the thighs and hips and considering the idea of hugging Baby with your tummy can help you avoid sagging around the middle.
Lying on your left side during pregnancy
Generally, a yoga class is finished with a pose called savasana, where the body lays flat on the floor. With the weight of the growing uterus, laying on your back may exacerbate lower back tension, and who wants that? Take your savasana sitting up against a wall or by laying on your side. If you attend a regular yoga class of non-pregnant yogis, you may hear instructions for people to come onto their right side. I understand that this is because there is greater stimulation of the right vagus nerve, (which plays a huge part in your relaxation response).
I’m gonna ask you to come onto your left side. The reason for this is that the weight of the growing uterus may put pressure on the vena cava, which is the main vein returning blood to the heart. This may cause issues with dizziness. Of course, this is my understanding of the physiology of the body; whilst I study as much as I can and medical science and research develops all of the time, I am not a doctor.
But what happens if you roll onto your back or your left side whilst you’re sleeping? Will the world end??
I doubt it.
Your body is fantastically robust and even whilst sleeping, if your body systems detect something is up, you would wake and move, or you would move without even waking. See above re my non-intention of scaremongering!!
Having this knowledge can merely help us move mindfully and with more awareness, and that’s got to be a good thing when you’re carrying precious cargo, right?
Pelvic floor in pregnancy
Make friends with it.
Seriously, this is going to be a deal breaker for you during and after pregnancy and on the day you get to meet the little person who has been throwing yoga shapes in your uterus.
Some people are wholly unaware of just how important the pelvic floor muscles are for all of us, not just pregnant women. Yes, I’m talking about men, too. This band of super strong muscles not just holds and supports all of our reproductive and digestive systems, is a key player in urinary continence and sexual pleasure, it is also a huge component of the breathing mechanism. A separate blog post about the wonders of the pelvic floor is planned, so watch this space.
It is important to know that what we do not want is a pelvic floor with no tone. Nor do we want this band of muscles to be so tight and rigid that we could crack walnuts. In life as in yoga we wish to encourage sthira and sukha - steadiness and ease.
Frantically squeezing in as though to stop the flow of urine is just not going to cut the mustard. Connecting with this area of your body is vital, and it is a practice. Please watch the videos of one of my beautiful teachers, Anja Brierley-Lange about the variety of ways that we can cultivate awareness here.
During regular class practices of pranayama, one might expect that the pelvic floor relaxes with the inhale and draws in towards the body with the exhale. During pregnancy, it is recommended that the opposite action be taken, to allow the pelvic floor to open or soften with the out breath.
The lengthening the exhale holds a key to activating our relaxation response and on the day that your Baby arrives, you will want your body to be able to relax so the reproductive system can do what it was designed to do.
How to get comfortable during pregnancy
Ooooh, the good stuff.
Prop it out, baby!
Seriously, there are so many things that you can use during your yoga practice, sitting at your desk or sleeping in bed to create a position of optimum comfort. Mother Nature designed our bodies so beautifully so that as well as creating this precious little one and the carrying her for 40 weeks, she knows that the baby must one day come into the world and I hate to burst your bubble about storks fluttering down gently amidst a rainbow of glittering light, Mother Nature prepares our bodies for this miraculous entry earth-side.
The hormone, relaxin, naturally present in your body starts to increase and it’s purpose is to allow the small joints in the hips and pelvis to widen on D-Day for Baby to make an entrance. Of course, this relaxin also effects the laxity of the other joints as well. This might mean that you notice that you have an increased range of motion in your knees, elbows or wrists, but be mindful that you don’t overstretch. This is why it’s recommended that you turn your dial down to a 6 or 7. Small movements that focus on stability and mobility are far more important.
Blankets under your knees might feel good, blocks and bricks should always be to hand to support you with squat poses and where reaching towards the floor isn’t an option at the moment.
Back to the joints.
Your hips will get wider. Fact
Being quite a key component of the skeletal frame, this is going to impact most areas of your body. You may notice you start to walk with a bit of a waddle (sorry if that sounds comical, it’s not meant to be – it’s beautiful), you might notice that laying on your side may begin to put strain on places like your hips, knees or lower back. This may be because the points where your thigh bones sit in your hip sockets are a lot further apart. At this point, you want All. The. Pillows.
Use them or a rolled-up towel underneath your top thigh so your knee is in alignment with your top hip. Maybe one underneath the ankle too. For good measure, some support underneath Bump. Maybe stick one underneath your top arm, because possibly your boobs might feel tender and it might feel more comfy for your shoulders. How about underneath the head to allow your neck to be a continuation of your spine?
And do you know what? This kind of propping feels so good if you have a back ache or aching hips - just as good if you aren’t pregnant. You don’t even have to be a female to enjoy these!
Now that’s how you do a savasana PG-keen style! I can’t tell you how comfortable that can be!
I can talk until Daisy comes home with her pals from grazing in the fields. If you have enjoyed reading this, click on the little heart icon at the bottom of the page to tell me. Feel free f you want to share my words with someone for whom it might be beneficial by clicking the social buttons below ⬇️.