I often get asked about how and if I modified my yoga practice during pregnancy. I love speaking to people about it as the advice out there is both lacking and contradictory. There is not enough research on this topic as, understandably, no one likes to run tests on pregnant people.
My personal experience in pregnancy
My personal experience was different for both my pregnancies:
With my son Jack I didn’t have an established and regular enough practice so I stopped practicing in the first trimester. From 13 weeks I started a daily practice that was modified with the typical pregnancy modifications (no deep twists, no jump-backs, no lying on your back, etc). Saying that it was reasonably dynamic as my body was used to regular exercise and working out in the gym.
With Amelie I’d had a strong daily practice for three years so I carried it on throughout. I worried less about modifications, I just constantly checked in with my body and how postures felt. Over time it changed – for instance I stopped upward facing dog at around 6 months as I could feel it pulling apart my stomach muscles. And for me jump backs just didn’t feel good.
I continued working the core during both pregnancies – not the rectus abdominus (which need to stretch during pregnancy not strengthen) but I focused on the deep core muscles. I’ll be doing a separate blog post on this shortly.
Listen to your body
I really believe the key is listening to your body, NOT pushing yourself and remembering you’re nurturing and growing a human. This can be hard for some people so I suggest always erring on the side of caution. If something doesn’t feel right then just don’t do it – the risk isn’t worth it. Keep in mind you have your whole life to exercise and pregnancy isn’t a time for pushing your limits.
It IS a time for moving though and keeping active, strong and healthy (unless you’ve been told by a health professional not to). There are a huge number of benefits for staying active during pregnancy (whether through yoga, swimming, running, walking or whatever you love doing). It helps to:
– reduce labour time
– prevent DVTs (blood clots)
– prepare your muscles for carrying a baby through to term with minimal pain
– prepare your muscles for the long periods of carrying and caring for your baby
– prevent unnecessary weight gain
– keep your muscles as strong as possible for when you return to pre pregnancy sports and exercise
– prevent varicose veins
– prevent stress, anxiety and depression
Tips on what you can do
Now you know why it’s important to exercise, here are a few tips on how and what you can do.
– No contact sports
– Speak to your a health professional and avoid any exercise they advise you to. Especially if you are a high risk pregnancy or if there are complications. However pelvic floor and keeping active by walking daily are usually fine.
– Pelvic floor pelvic floor pelvic floor!
– Continue with exercise such as jogging, pilates and swimming if you have already been doing this exercise and do not increase but maintain the intensity.
– Contact an antenatal/pregnancy specialist trainer or instructor and find a pregnancy yoga class (this is a great way to meet friends too).
– Avoid exercises lying on your back for too long. The research into exercising on your back is still mixed and until it’s been confirmed I advise to avoid it.
– Remember to always speak to a health professional as everyone is different and there may be specific reasons you are advised to avoid certain exercise but please don’t be afraid to move during this time.
My friend Rebecca (https://www.instagram.com/somewhat_rad/?hl=en) has just written an incredible eBook on this subject. It’s a good read for anyone interested in yoga during pregnancy and Rebecca goes into a lot more detail than I have done here. I particularly like her take on whether you can injure yourself doing yoga and her three rules below for poses you practice:
- Do not put yourself in a position where you could fall and hurt yourself, or fall and knock the bump.
- If it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it.
- Accept that the answers to the first two points will change as your pregnancy progresses: so keep checking in, again and again.
To download a copy head to her website (https://somewhatradyoga.com) and sign-up to her newsletter!