Regular Yoga while Pregnant
Can one keep doing regular yoga during pregnancy?
Article by Carry cofounder Heather Christine, prenatal & postpartum yoga teacher, birth doula, doula trainer, physical therapist, and parent of three.
Can I do regular yoga still?
Yep, those of you with a regular yoga practice can continue with modifications, especially earlier in your pregnancy. Hatha yoga classes are a great option. A couple of things to think about when doing non-prenatal yoga or really any kind fitness:
Heat: Make sure that you do not overheat. Don't forget that full water bottle, too. You have anywhere from 30-50% more blood volume than the non-pregnant person next to you. If this was a contest, which it is not, you are already winning and working harder than anyone who is not pregnant. This, along with other changes during pregnancy, makes it important to stay hydrated and to avoid overheated spaces. Many providers recommend avoiding heated or hot yoga or fitness class. Wear layers that you can remove as needed to stay comfortable. It is totally acceptable to sweat. Sweat is a way to stay cool, so don't worry if you find yourself sweating...nice work!
Belly Lying: Early in pregnancy, you may feel okay lying on your stomach, but that will change at a certain point respective to each pregnant person.
Back Lying: This is a common question both for exercise and sleep. The concern with back lying is related to circulation. If you feel dizzy, nauseous, or have a sense that you don't feel quite right when lying on your back then it is time to move off of your back. Otherwise, back lying can be just fine for brief periods of time. You will see that we love offering Legs up the Wall as a final resting pose. While sleeping, if you wake up lying on your back, please do not panic. Your body either knew that it was time to change positions or that it was okay to wake up on your back.
Balance Poses: Every pose or position truly becomes a balance pose due to your ever-changing center of gravity during pregnancy. You might need to place your yoga mat closer to the wall for support (ex: warrior 3 at the wall, or dancer at the wall), or you might need to modify standing balance poses (use blocks for extra stability). Many providers recommend that you avoid movements, poses or activities where you might fall (ex: mountain biking, downhill skiing).
Advanced Inversions: Avoid positions such as headstand or handstand during pregnancy due to falling risk, strain on your core, and elevated pressures on your body. Some advanced yogis feel safe performing big inversions because they have been doing them for years. We like to find the middle ground by considering function: in pregnancy, there is a need to bend over (invert) to pick something up or tie shoes. We invert due to our normal activities during the day, so we practice basic inversions including down dog, legs up the wall, wide legged forward fold and forward fold.
Big Extenders/Belly Stretchers: Big extension poses with back bending are a grey area as we do not have research to tell us if this helps or will actually create more issues with abdominal wall separation or diastasis recti. If we consider the mechanics of the abdominal area and the pressures already present from baby, placenta, etc., applying more outward pressure through the abdominal wall does not seem like a good idea. Cat/Cow is a safe alternative that usually feels very good and you will see it often in our sessions. Extend at your discretion for what feels good. Move into Cat and Cow slowly to truly allow your body to give you feedback. We believe in avoiding Wheel and Camel pose. Bridge pose is a safe back bend for most.
Twists: We recommend gentle open twists where your belly turns outward. There is a debate regarding closed twists, but we twist all the time in our daily activities and should be able to tolerate them in gentle positions. If you already have a kiddo, then you twist all the time getting your little one into their car seat or picking them up from the side! We all twist when we do chores like loading or emptying out the dishwasher. We love poses like Thread the Needle which move from an open outward twist to a gentle closed inward twist for a short time.
Posture: At hip-width, your general standing stance will be wider than your pre-pregnant stance (feet together). Throughout your yoga practice, and even all day too, be mindful to not flare your ribs out. Keep them tucked; imagine carrying yourself like two bowls above each other (one being your ribs, one your pelvis). The positioning of the pelvis often tips forward as pregnancy advances due to the weight of baby and shape of your belly. This is expected and the tipped forward position is your new normal. There is no need to adjust (further tipping your pelvis forward can create back pain and instability, and tucking your tail under to try to correct for it can strain as well). While standing, if you placed a flashlight in your belly button facing out it would angle toward the floor because of the tipped forward position. This tends to be better for baby position because of more space and creates more length in your pelvic floor as well.
Check with your Provider
As always, make sure you check with your provider (doctor, obstetrician, or midwife) throughout your pregnancy, especially if continuing on in regular yoga or fitness classes. If you have a new medical diagnosis such as gestational diabetes, your care is transferred, or includes a specialist or perinatologist, please discuss exercise with them as well.
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