An interview with Tara Lee, teacher of ‘Pregnancy Yoga’ and ‘Mother and Baby Yoga’.
1) Can I carry on with yoga practice throughout my pregnancy? What if I’ve never tried yoga before, is now a good time to start?
You can carry on with yoga throughout your pregnancy starting from your 12 week scan when you have been given the all clear from your doctor. It is safe to practice until the day you give birth as long as you practice safely modifying certain yoga postures and listening to your body. Many women take up yoga when they become pregnant and no prior experience or super flexibility is needed! You will receive incredible benefits as soon as you start even if it’s your first class.
2) I’ve heard from doctors that any exercise involving an upside down position can be dangerous. Is that true?
There is mixed opinion in this area. It is generally advisable not to practice inversions such as handstand, headstand or shoulder-stand unless you are an experienced practitioner of yoga and have been doing these before your pregnancy and even then you need to see how you feel as each person feels differently at the various stages of their pregnancy.
If you want to practice a safe inversion and you are under 26 weeks, then it is great to lie with your legs up against the wall (Viparita Karani) for a few minutes. This will help prevent swelling in the ankles and feet, encourage your circulation, refresh tired legs and generally restore you.
3) What benefits can I get from doing pregnancy yoga?
There are so many benefits to practicing yoga during pregnancy on many different levels, both physically and emotionally.
A few benefits include:
- Feeling more connected to your body and your baby (which will also help you during labour)
- More energy
- Better sleep
- Less aches and pains and discomfort
- Better balance
- Techniques and tools to use during labour (including breathing, sounds, movements, visualisations etc)
- Mental preparation and physical preparation for birth
- Better recovery after birth
- Developing more body awareness and a deep connection to your baby
- Confidence for the birth
4) Can the practice of yoga help make labour easier?
Yes, you can learn techniques for labour such as breathing techniques, positions and movements, visualisations and sounds etc. Practising yoga will give you more confidence, which should help make labour smoother!
The yoga exercises can prepare you physically so that you are stronger for labour and also help to encourage the baby into an optimum position to make the birth easier.
5) Should I practice different poses for different trimesters?
Yes, you have to modify the practice according to which trimester you are in. Unless you are very experienced or have done training in pregnancy yoga I would recommend you either find a specific pregnancy class or a pregnancy yoga DVD where the exercises are designed for your specific stage of pregnancy. For example after 26 weeks you are not recommended to lie on your back.
6) I hear that one is more flexible than normal when pregnant, can that be dangerous?
Due to the hormone relaxin that is released during pregnancy the muscles, joints and ligaments become softer to prepare for the birth. This means you can overstretch more easily and have to be more careful when practicing certain stretches and poses such as a wide legged forward bend. If you practice carefully, however, and with awareness, it is not dangerous.
7) Are there particular poses that can help at certain times? When one is tired or has a headache or back ache?
If you are tired or have a headache practicing child’s pose with the knees wide, hips back and forehead on the floor or resting the forehead on your hands. Stay here a few minutes breathing deeply, relaxing the face. This is also great when you are not pregnant.
Cat stretch is good for backache. On all fours, hands under the shoulders, knees under the hips, exhale press through the hands and the feet to round up through the spine, tucking the chin under and inhale, come up to a neutral spine (avoid over arching) looking in between the hands so the neck is long. Repeat moving rhythmically with the breath.
8) What is the most important thing to remember when practicing yoga during pregnancy?
Always listen to your body and don’t assume that you should do something just because you could do it before. Every day is different as your body is going through so many changes.
Each person is different and each pregnancy is different so it is important to remain aware while you practice and adapt any exercises or asanas (yoga poses) if you feel you need to. Don’t overdo it and respect the fact that some days you may need to take it easy and rest more. Become familiar with the breathing exercises and practice them so that you can use them to help your birth.