Pregnancy is a beautiful time to be a yoga practitioner. Prenatal yoga is a popular way for expectant mothers to stretch and relax during pregnancy. It is also a necessary time to practice safety, and caution on the mat. Do make sure to consult with the doctor or the yoga instructor before starting any exercise regime, especially if you have a high-risk pregnancy.
Many pregnant mothers find themselves modifying for what feels natural for their growing bodies and bellies. The prenatal yoga class adapts poses to suit the pregnant mother.
It is important to know some fundamental ground rules of keeping the mother as well as the baby safe so that they can fully enjoy the prenatal practices.
Here are some Do’s and Don’ts to be followed by the expectant mothers.
- Hip openers
Poses like pigeon, ardha chandrasana, baddha konasana and knee to ankle poses will help create the flexibility that can make giving birth easier.
- Side stretches
Gate pose and variations on side plank, among other side stretches; feel particularly good when the abdomen starts getting bigger.
- All fours
Positions like cat-cow help get the baby into the optimal position for birth. The optimal position is the head down, back to the belly position. This pose can be used to try and turn a breech baby in later pregnancy, if recommended by the prenatal care provider.
- Standing poses
As the belly grows, begin to widen your stance in standing poses. Take your feet at least hip-distance apart to make room for your bump, especially if you are bending forward. This prenatal standing salutation offers a great alternative during pregnancy.
Do not overstretch. Try to avoid going further into poses that you are accustomed because a pulled ligament is a serious injury that takes a long time to heal.
Deep twists from the belly, such as ardha matsyendrasana, compress the internal organs, including the uterus. Instead, twist more gently from the shoulders, or take an open twist, so that your belly has a lot of room instead of getting squashed.
Jumps pose a slight risk of dislodging the fertilized egg from the uterus and should be avoided during the first trimester. Later on, due to the bigger bulge, you will naturally not be able to jump.
- Fast breathing
Any pranayama requiring breath retention or rapid inhales or exhales, such as kapalabhati, should be avoided. Begin to practice birthing breath instead. This technique has a direct application to the birthing process. One should learn to focus on the breath and use it to keep you anchored in the present moment.
Turning upside down does not pose any inherent risk to your baby, but to keep yourself from falling, it should be avoided. You should be mindful of the fact that with the growing bump, there are changes in your balance too.
- Back bending
In general, avoid back-bends, like full wheel pose.
- Abdominal work
Poses that are abdominal strengtheners, such as boat pose, should be avoided.
- Lying on the belly
Poses such as the cobra pose, in which you lie on the belly can be done in the first trimester when the foetus is still very small. Later in pregnancy, these poses should not be continued if they cause any discomfort.
- Lying on the back
In the second trimester, the doctor advises against lying on the back. Poses like savasana can be done lying on the left side.
- Bikram Yoga or the hot yoga
Raising your body’s core temperature is not recommended during pregnancy; therefore, hot yoga should not be practised.
- Vinyasa yoga
Vinyasa yoga is a very vigorous form of yoga and should not be tried. Gentler styles can be tried as your pregnancy progresses.
One should keep in mind that most modifications begin after the first trimester. This is the time to experience your body’s overwhelming strength and endurance, but equally, to learn the value in not pushing yourself too far. Above all else, this is your body and your pregnancy. Learning to back off is a great skill in mastering ego for all yoga practitioners.