Photo: Pure Presence Photography
If you're not ready to give up your regular yoga practice, but are not sure how to adapt your practice to accommodate for that bun you're baking, here are my most basic tips.
First, clear your yoga practice with your midwife or doctor AND tell your instructor you're expecting. Basic truths in life: full disclosure yields the most honest relationship and best chance for success.
Do 80%: If you normally practice five days a week, either cut to four or scale back the intensity of your practice. The most important thing you're doing these days is creating another person, so devote some of your time and energy to that, why don't 'cha? If you're relatively new to yoga and attending a non-prenatal class, assume that you will participate at the 80% level. It's ok to get a B- this time.
Don't put an oven in a sauna: My general rule for my own life is to use the past 2,000 generations of humans on Earth to evaluate my own behavior. Have they illustrated great success doing what I'm trying to do? If not, why not? Has this most modern generation demonstrated success? I feel this way about super-heated yoga. Even if YOU have been doing it for a dozen years, it isn't time-tested (the way tofu has been for 5,000 years) nor is it a very popular thing to do (like air travel).
Say Goodbye to Tummy Time: Save it for baby! Do not lie down on your belly. Do not put pressure on your belly. No matter what the instructor tells you to do, if it involves pressure on your belly, just skip it. Substitute neck and shoulder stretches you've learned in a prenatal yoga class. Similarly, if you are instructed to take a forward fold that would put pressure on your belly (either standing or sitting) try bringing your legs wide enough that you can do the pose without hitting your belly.
(Don't) Do the Twist: Twisting your pregnant belly is not a great plan for you later in life. Try not to turn any further than you would if you were backing out of a parking space. Avoid anything that brings the opposite arm to the opposite leg. Often times you can turn the other way, like in the photo listed at the top of this article.
Don't Rock the Boat: A couple of meanings here. First, no core work. None. Any time the rest of the class is doing crunches, sit-ups, or boat pose, get on hands and knees and do spine strengthening exercises from prenatal or take child's pose (no pressure on belly). Additionally, no jumping. You won't want to jump, but you might be in a crazy yoga class where the instructor tells you to jump forwards and backwards or other silliness. No jumping.
Get Off Your Back: There are times when it is appropriate for you to lie on your back during pregnancy and times when it isn't. If you're not sure, stay off of your back. The end of class savasana is a delicious and important time during which your body is focused exclusively on healing. Don't skip this part, but do skip the back-lying variation. You can easily lie on your side and use blankets and blocks to support your knees and head and make you comfortable.
Each woman has the right to make her own decisions about what is best for her body during yoga, and this isn't a comprehensive list of everything a pregnant woman would want to avoid. When in doubt, I recommend choosing something from the vocabulary of prenatal yoga and substituting that for the unknown pose.
Finally, do not allow yourself to compete with others, particularly other pregnant women you see doing something I've recommended avoiding. Yoga is not a competitive sport and each mama is responsible only for her own choices. Don't let others make your choices for you!
I wrote this article for Marmapoints. It has some great suggestions for yoga teachers and students, if I do say so myself!
As someone who teaches two styles of yoga: prenatal and heated vinyasa, I've come to learn this particular fact quite well. A few weeks ago I inadvertently started heating my prenatal yoga class when I turned on the heater instead of the fan.
The class was not amused.
As a I child I remember countless times my mother told me about how she specifically planned my birth for January so that she wouldn't have to be pregnant in July. This never made a lot of sense to me, as I was literally four years old when she started sharing this particular tidbit. Now that I swaddle myself with pregnant women on a biweekly basis, I've started to realize that she shared with me because my mother is a Virgo. This means her mother must have shared with her JUST how fun it was to be pregnant in Cleveland with an August baby. Before air conditioning.
Having no babies of my own, I practiced my prenatal yoga teacher training with the aid of a microwaved bag of corn which I tucked into my shirt/pants. I believe this to be a close estimation of how it feels to be pregnant (temperature wise, at least). Imagine carrying your laptop in your pants after surfing the interwebs for an hour. This is how pregnant women feel all the time.
Keeping mama cool is so important, because in utero, baby cannot regulate his own temperature. He doesn't get to sweat, or say he's thirsty, or ask for a timeout from the 98 degree hot tub he lives in.
The most uncomfortable times to be pregnant include:
1. Being outside in the heat, especially in a car.
2. Anything that involves exertion (which is why swimming is the BEST). Yoga is a close second.
3. Cooking or being around cooking appliances.
5. All times in-between.
Things You Can Do for A Hot Pregnant Woman:
1. Do not tell her she looks hot (unless you are her partner and you are taking a calculated risk even then, my friend).
2. Offer a cool foot bath and foot massage with a cooling lotion, like aloe vera or a pregnancy approved minty foot rub.
3. Get her to a pool. Swimming, as long as the provider is on board, is cooling and relieves stress on the joints.
4. Cool the car before she gets in, if possible, and park in a shaded area.
5. Take care to keep the bedroom as cool as possible and offer her a cool washcloth to place on her forehead or neck. Sleeping in the basement never sounded so good.
6. Make sure she gets plenty of water to drink. Keeping her fluid levels up is crucial as she's sweating for two and trying to maintain an adequate level of amniotic fluid. Ask her provider if you're not sure how much she should be drinking.
When the going really gets tough, think about taking some time to go see a mid-day movie and bathe in the air conditioning, or try a frozen treat. Chocolate dipped frozen bananas are a personal favorite and are easy to make and relatively nutritious.
I'm one of those people who loves making your life easier (and I believe in you). I am an experienced registered prenatal yoga teacher and a lactation educator.
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