How To Practice Yoga During Pregnancy
December 9, 2013 § Leave a comment
I’ve been meaning to write this for a while, but thought I should wait until I completed my pregnancy to do it.
Over the past five years, I have really embraced yoga as a part of my life. I’ve been practicing Ashtanga for about three years and was really happy with my progress. When she learned I was planning on getting pregnant, my teacher and friend, Alana, actually pushed me to learn how to do dropbacks because she thought the physical and mental challenge would be a great way to prepare me for childbirth. I have to agree with her, except for the fact that they are a piece of cake compared to 35 hours of contractions!
In any case, I did not want to give up my practice once I found out I was growing tiny Henry. Ashtanga yoga has its own set of rules and traditionally, it’s recommended that you don’t do any yoga in your first trimester. I couldn’t bring myself to follow this rule though; I found it actually helped my energy level and kept me from getting nauseated in the mornings. Plus I’d miss it too much! So with the help of this website and Alana’s advice, I modified my practice to be fetus-friendly.
The first things to go were the twists, headstands, and back bends. I had to keep from working my abs too much to ensure everything inside me would “attach” properly in the first three months, so the upward flow of the bandhas in Ashtanga had to be relaxed. I stopped going to the Guided Led Ashtanga classes in February or March and opted to just attend the weekday Mysore classes which are tailored to each individual and done at one’s own pace. It was nice to not have to worry about sitting out poses in a class full of people, some who didn’t even know I was pregnant yet.
I did Ashtanga exclusively, practicing 3 or 4 times a week, until I hit the 6 month mark. Then I added Prenatal yoga to my routine.
My first few Prenatal yoga classes were a lot different than the ones closer to my due date. I would do triangle pose, extended side angle, and forward folds as if I were in an Ashtanga class and the instructor would have to tell me to take it easy and do the simpler version. As my belly grew, these modified versions were necessary not only in Prenatal, but also Ashtanga. Don’t get me wrong though; Prenatal yoga had its challenges. For example, the exercise Aimee liked to do each class were wall squats while squeezing a block in between your thighs for 30, 60, and 90 seconds to simulate a contraction and that was hard work! The class was also helpful in teaching you poses specifically made for pregnancy and labour – I used a few of the poses, like a rocking squat, to deal with contractions.
Meanwhile, my Ashtanga practice had been shortened to from about 1 hour 15 minutes to 45 minutes. I’d practice up until Marichyasana A then do some restorative poses like a supported back bend, Baddha Konasana, and legs up the wall.
In my sixth month of pregnancy, I was practicing Ashtanga Mysore about 3 times a week and going to Prenatal once a week. This went on for another month and a half or so until I started getting heartburn from all the up and downs during Sun Salutations in Ashtanga and had to reduce it to twice a week, then just once. Prenatal yoga had finally become much more suited to my needs.
I’m proud to say I managed to practice both styles up until I was 38 weeks pregnant and can’t fathom why every woman in the same situation wouldn’t practice some form of yoga. It really helped me get through not only pregnancy, but a very long and painful labour. The breathing alone is so valuable and such a powerful tool for dealing with pain. I also can’t help but explain to people who tell me I look great for having just had a baby that it must have been yoga that helped me bounce back so quickly.
When people ask me why I didn’t have an epidural, I tell them it’s because it was healthier for me and Henry to do it naturally, with a much lower chance of getting a caesarian, and also because I wanted to experience childbirth the way it’s supposed to be. Ashtanga has taught me that taking shortcuts to get to the end result as quickly and easily as possible may be fine for some people, but it isn’t the way I want to live my life.
Now, after 7 weeks off, I’m back at it. I went to my first Ashtanga Led class yesterday and although my body is quite sore today, it was absolutely fantastic. I feel like I’ve come full circle and I couldn’t be happier.