5 Principles of practicing yoga while pregnant
The SHORT version (the What to do or not to do) & the LONGER version (The Why?, why can't I do whatever feels good?)
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1. Don't lie on your bump or compress it with twists 2. Research changes in your body: eg. relaxin hormone will loosen your joints, so avoid deep stretches even if they feel good. Don't retain breath or pump/force the breath in pranayama (breathwork). Avoid head below the heart if you have blood pressure issues / dizziness (eg. avoid down dog, or forward folding). 3. Don't do any deep backbends 4. Balance: changes due to the extra human on you! So adjust, feet apart, use a wall, etc. 5. Consult your doctor or midwife; work 1-2-1 with a pregnancy teacher you trust, and do your own research.
LONGER version (Why, why can't I just do what feels good?)
1. Don't compress the belly - don't lie on your belly and don't do any deep twists ; only gentle, open twists from the mid-back (naval upwards) are safe.
2. Read & research to understand changes in your body: eg.
- Increase in relaxin hormone will loosen your ligaments around the joints to prepare your body for expanding, making them less stable - so avoid deep stretches even if they feel good;
- Always remember you need to breathe for your baby too: you will have 50% more blood in your body for your baby, who needs a constant oxygen supply from you; so your blood pressure will vary more than normal and you might faint easier. Don't hold poses as long as normal and rest more:
- Don't retain breath or pump/force the breath in pranayama (breathwork) as it will affect oxygen flow to the baby.
- Exhaling through the mouth while pregnant can help practice for your birthing breath.
- Avoid head below the heart if you have blood pressure issues / dizziness (eg. avoid down dog, or forward folding).
3. Don't do any deep backbends - your stomach muscles will most often start to separate as your bump grows, and any deep backbends increase the separation as you stretch the tummy, even if it feels nice in the moment (it will mean more physio post birth, and who wants that?!); your lower back may also be compressed in the process, which is already under strain from the extra weight pulling on it.
4. Balance: your balance will shift as your bump grows, so be mindful and adjust - feet can always generally be hip-width or bump width distance apart, and have a wider stance or use a wall behind you or blocks for support; Don't take risks where you might fall.
5. Always consult your medical professional; Don't do anything that doesn't feel right; and obviously this will shift during the 9 months. generally don't start new types of physical exercise when pregnant as you won't know what feels right or not if you aren't used to it. When in doubt, ask your doctor or midwife; work 1-2-1 with a pregnancy teacher you trust, and do your own research.
Everyone experiences the miracle of pregnancy differently. Back pain, swollen ankles, etc are common. For me personally, I enjoyed it immensely until I was around 7.5 months at which time I started experiencing excruciating pelvic pain (PSD) even while lying down. This was due to pressure and baby's position, and my own specific anatomy of where the extra weight strained my body. At the start (around 6-7months) I wasn't sure if lunges and poses like lizard or yogi squat had a good kind of stretching pain about them or not, but later they became unbearable and I think I should have stopped those earlier. (But other mamas enjoy them!) It was so painful I had to stop walking, not to mention standing yoga poses, although I could still do seated yoga or the occasional shorter movement. The only things that helped were my osteopath and a wide pelvic belt my physiotherapist recommended, and not going anywhere. Thankfully things returned to normal shortly after I had my baby.