yoga & pregnancy

Practicing yoga during pregnancy can be very beneficial for both the mother and developing foetus if appropriate adaptions are made to the yoga practice. Home practice and/or gentle/prenatal yoga classes may be adapted to suit differing stages of pregnancy for maximal benefit.

Some of the benefits of yoga practice during pregnancy include

• Maintain health and fitness – strength, endurance and flexibility. “Yoga is one of the most physical things you will ever do. You would not run a marathon without preparation: why would you go into labour without preparing for it.”

• Provide relaxation for the body and mind to support growth of the baby and recovery and adaption of the mother

• Preparation for labour – pain management skills and physical and mental preparation

• Somatic intelligence – pregnancy is a very somatic experience and yoga gives an opportunity to increase bodily awareness and integration in a safe and nurturing space

• Social interaction – especially in prenatal yoga classes with other pregnant ladies. Provides support and sharing of experiences.

• Sense of connectedness – spiritual, physical, emotional and social

• Awareness of correct posture – this aids the birthing process

• Awareness of breath in relaxation

• Trust in the innate wisdom of the body

• Poise, grace, lightness and spaciousness

Conditions that require health professional approval for yoga and exercise.

• Placenta previa (partial or complete)

• High blood pressure (eclampsia)

• Incompetent cervix

• Repeated / threatened miscarriage

• Uterine fibroids

• Gestational diabetes

• Spinal condition

• Any serious illness

Yoga practices to be wary of during pregnancy

• Deep abdominal compression

• Strong forward bends

• Strong twisting movements

• Strong inversions

• Strong backbends

• Overheating the body – especially in the 1 st trimester

• Lying on the back after 34 weeks

• Forcing any practice that does not feel natural or that you are uneasy about.

• Strong brahmana (stimulating) practice like breath holding.

• Stretching too deeply in first and last trimester.

Yoga practices to use during pregnancy

With sensitivity, do practices that –

• Are very gentle practices in first trimester and last trimester

• Build strength, stamina and endurance

• Open the chest

• Build awareness of correct posture

• Encourage the baby to engage optimally (OFP)

• Open pelvis and inner groins

• Tone and strengthen pelvic floor

• Promote deep relaxation

• Extend the exhalation without strain

• Extend the suspension of breath without strain after exhalation

• Incorporate Ujjayi breathing (victorious breath), nadi shodhana

• Are fun! No need to be too serious about it. Relax with it all and take it easy. Practice easy, laid back attitude with presence.

Stages of pregnancy

First trimester (0-13 weeks)

• Avoid a lot of new activities (caution with those not familiar with yoga practices). Not the time to suddenly need to get fit.

• Adopt supportive, easy and gentle practices with effort being easier rather than harder (sukha rather than sthira)

• Bring awareness to changes occurring in the body and mind.

• Recruit the support of experienced friends, family, and health practitioners to support you through the changes.

• Avoid inversions, twists, jumps

Second Trimester (14-26 weeks)

Most women begin their prenatal yoga practice during the second trimester. Do not hold poses for excessive periods and maintain fluid and nutritional needs.

Be considerate of the following conditions and recruit professional support

• Reflex indigestion

• Backache and sciatica

• Sleep difficulties (insomnia, restlessness, vivid dreams, nightmares)

• Fatigue

• Constipation

• Swelling and oedema

• Carpal tunnel syndrome

• Placenta previa (partial or complete)

• Congested sinuses, nosebleeds

 

Adopt principles of yoga practices listed above

Third trimester (weeks 27-end)

Be considerate of these conditions that may develop and recruit assistance of professional support

• Sleep difficulties

• Abnormal foetal presentations

• Breathlessness

• Gestational diabetes

• Backache, sacroiliac and coccyx pain

• Eclampsia, high blood pressure (magnesium supplementation)

• Poor circulation

• Anticipatory anxiety

• Forgetfulness, scattered, vague

• Muscle cramps and spasms

• Anaemia

 

Only gentle practices recommended during this period

Avoid strong stretches into the sacroiliac joint (where the pelvis and lower back meets)

After birth

After an uncomplicated vaginal birth gentle asana practice can resume 3-4 weeks later as lochia resides. In the case of Caesar or complicated births resume asana and exercises under advisement from your birthing professional.

Pranayama (breathing) and yoga nidra (meditation) practices can resume after birth as soon as relative comfort allows.

Arm, hand, foot, neck and shoulder stretches may be done to comfort. Avoid any strong compression and twisting, back and side bending and strong forward bending.

If surgical intervention has been carried out, consult a professional therapist to assist the recovery of the scar site and reduction of adhesions through tissue layers (within 1-6 weeks of surgery).

Resources

Brisbane Active Birth and Yoga Centre

UK – Active Birth. Janet Balaskas

Book – New Active Birth. Janet Balaskas.

• Preparing for Birth with Yoga

• Birthing from Within – Pam England

• Birth Reborn – Michel Odent

• Mind over Labour – Carl Jones

• Awakening the Spine – Vanda Scaravelli

• The Essence of Yoga – Sandra Sabatini

Divine Wellbeing – Yoga Classes & Massage Wagga Wagga