Changing Your Yoga Practice to Fit Your Pregnant Self

by Jacqui Stix, prenatal yoga teacher & doula

I can’t drink, I can’t eat soft cheese, and now you’re telling me I have to change my yoga routine? WTF

Pregnancy requires a lot of changes, some we are more prepared to accept than others. As our body grows and expands to hold life, staying fit, and keeping a healthy body is a concern.  Yoga can play an important role, but as our body shifts, our yoga practice must evolve as well.   In prenatal yoga class, it is no longer about finding your edge, or even the full extent of the pose. Instead it is about learning to back off, to soften, and to let go of ego.

 

Why should we shift from our traditional yoga class to a prenatal class?

* Relaxin makes you overly flexible

During pregnancy, our muscles and ligaments all over our body become super stretchy and have the ability to overextend, due to the hormone relaxin. Relaxin helps our body expand, lengthen and softens the pelvic floor preparing for childbirth. (Thank goodness!)

* Preventing Diastasis

Keeping our “core strength” and hoping our tummy “bounces back” crosses most moms-to-be minds. Women run to core work, but while pregnant, the traditional core strengthening activities such as crunches, leg lifts and such PROMOTE diastasis recti. Diastasis Recti? Separation of the rectus abdominal muscles, aka your six pack.  That’s why in prenatal yoga we don’t do intense backbends, and skip the “updog” and modify our cat/cows to cat/neutrals. We should limit the amount of yoga poses we do where our uterus presses/hangs on our abdominal wall, further stretching it out.

* Limiting time on your back

After 18 weeks, it is recommended that you no longer lie on your back.

As your belly gets bigger, if you lay on your back, the weight of your uterus starts to compress the inferior vena cava (the vein that returns the de-oxyinagated blood from your lower body back to your heart) affecting your blood flow. If you wake up in the middle of the night on your back, don’t stress, nothing bad is going to happen! Chances are your body woke you up because it needed you to shift (dizziness may occur). In prenatal yoga class a few poses are taught on the back. You always have the option to stay a short time in the pose or come completely out.  For many women a little time on their back, or with their legs up the wall feels really good!.

*Twisting

And no twists? Not true. Just like lying on your back isn’t going to be the worst thing ever, neither is a twist. But similar to why we don’t lie on our back during prenatal yoga, we do open twists instead of closed twists. Deep twists momentarily reduce circulation to parts of our body and therefore our baby. Twist feel amazing on our back, and our back is holding much more than its used to right now, so enjoy the twist just do it mindfully.

*Make space for baby

As our baby grows, our belly grows. Poses are adapted to create more space and keep moms-to-be more comfortable. Such as a wider stance in Warrior 1, and hands on the inside for lunges.

*Belly down poses

Obviously prone yoga poses (lying on our belly) are no longer appropriate. In prenatal classes, you won’t have to come up with an alternative because prone poses are not taught.

*What about inversions?

In prenatal classes, legs up the wall is our inversion of choice. If you had an inversion practice prior to your baby, and you feel good in it, keep it, but next to a wall as our center of gravity is off. It might give a nice release to the pelvic floor (just keep in mind inversions require a lot of core strength). Otherwise, now is not the time to start one. There is plenty of time after baby is born, and don’t worry they will help flip your world upside down on their own.

*Change of breath work

Prenatal yoga class breath work has a specific focus on assisting you in childbirth.  

*Community (Sangha)

Taking prenatal classes at a studio, you become a part of a community of other expecting. Who knows – your fellow yogi’s baby may be your child’s first bestie.

 

Prenatal yoga classes are designed for you! Around super flexy ligaments, opening the pelvic floor, the fact that our hands can no longer frame our feet, and that it’s not great to back bend in-between almost every flow. Hello pregnancy brain? You are lucky to leave the house with our keys and cell phone. Let someone else worry about how to individualize a practice for you.

Don’t stop your yoga practice, just allow it to shift and change, along with your pants, house, and life.