Can I carry on with yoga practice throughout my pregnancy?
You can carry on with yoga throughout your pregnancy starting from your 12-14 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, have no medical complication, modifying certain yoga postures and listening to your body.
What if I’ve never tried yoga before, is now a good time to start?
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.
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 25 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.
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, 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
- Confidence for the birth
- Less fluid retention
- Feeling calmer and more balanced emotionally
Can the practice of yoga help make labour easier?
Yes, you can learn tools for labour such as breathing techniques, positions and movements, visualisations and sounds etc. Practising yoga will give you more confidence, which can 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 which may facilitate labour.
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 pregnancy class or a pregnancy yoga DVD where the exercises are designed for your specific stage of pregnancy. For example, after 25 weeks you are not recommended to lie on your back.
Is it try you’re more flexible when pregnant, can that be dangerous?
There has been a lot of discussion about the effects of a hormone called Relaxin. It is only produced in pregnancy and peaks around the 14th week. It helps to soften the ligaments to prepare the body for birth. However the effects are very small in reality, and many issues which relaxin is blamed for are caused by other factors such as the forces on the skeleton and the extra weight the body must carry in pregnancy. Over stretching is never a good idea in yoga (or anywhere), and because of the additional weight it is not a good idea to test or attempt to increase flexibility or put strain on joints in any movement practice.
Are there particular poses that can help at certain times? When tired, or suffering from backache, etc?
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 can be deeply soothing. 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.
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 movements, and practice them so that you can use them to help your birth.
Article by Tara Lee, teacher of ‘Pregnancy Yoga’ and ‘Mother and Baby Yoga’.
Access Tara Lee’s Pregnancy Yoga At Home course by clicking here. Launched during lockdown, the course also contains lots of information to help women during their pregnancy and offers meditation and deep relaxation.
The Silatha Meditation Series is an app designed for women who would like to practice meditation during their pregnancy to help them connect to their baby, stay calm and focussed, and prepare for birth.