Our Foundation Friday series delves into the basics of yoga—looking at its postures (asana), breath (pranayama), philosophy, and all the other essentials—giving you the foundations upon which to build a solid practice. Today we're sharing tips on prenatal yoga.
Our post today comes from Emily NcNicoll (who you may remember from Monday), our prenatal-passionate yogalifer. This piece was written specifically for teachers and is equally important for an expecting yogi to understand the limits of her body and practice.
Pregnancy in Yoga by Emily McNicoll
Although it can be intimidating to have a pregnant lady walk into your class, it is a wonderful chance to serve a woman that is going through a lot of change and would likely appreciate your support. Remember that knowledge is power and keeping educated with simple guidelines can make a big difference to your teaching experience and the way in which you serve your community.
Just like asking people about injuries, being informed about a pregnant woman in class is important. A simple “If you’re pregnant, come have a chat with me before class starts” is a good way to let a woman know she is seen and cared for by her teacher. Also, talking with front desk staff at the studio can be a good way to stay informed. Knowing the basic do’s and don’ts about practicing yoga while pregnant is a great way to build confidence as a teacher and a great service to all potential students.
Things to keep in mind and at heart:
Pregnant women produce high levels of a hormone called Relaxin. One of the roles that this hormone has is allowing for the ligaments around the pelvis to relax therefore allowing the bones of the pelvis to shift for childbirth. In terms of any exercise that involves stretching, it is very important for a pregnant woman to stay away from acute sensation in her joints (i.e knees) as Relaxin can make her ligaments and tendons more susceptible to injuries than a person who is not pregnant. My advice to the woman is to engage firm foundation of hands and feet (hasta and pada bhanda,) avoid hyperextension, and ease away from any painful sensations.
Pregnancy tends to induce heat in the body as it is literally working to grow life. With this in mind, encouraging woman to ask the teacher to cool down the room when she is feeling too hot is really important. A cooler room is often a relief to a pregnant woman as her internal temperature is high. I often bring a sweater when I teach prenatal so all the woman can remain comfortable, myself included!
Just like paying close attention to painful sensations and her own temperature, encouraging a pregnant woman to set her own pace and listen to her body is important. Teaching modified postures first and then offering more challenging variations is a great way to allow a woman to empower herself with choice. One day she meets her mat she may be up for a lot of physical challenge and the next day it could be different. This is why as a teacher being educated in modifications and prop use is really important.
When a woman asks about other classes that she can attend, going through a studios schedule with her and advising her of a few “don’ts” is really important. Here are the things she should know when exploring her yoga practice:
Always talk to the teacher before class to inform them of the pregnancy.
No hot or warm yoga. As explained above, a pregnant womans body temperature is on the rise. It is important not to aggravate this further. Also, pregnancy is thought to be a good time to introvert and build the bodies energy. Hot yoga can easily exhaust energy reserves which are needed for childbirth and being a mother. This is another great reason to encourage a woman to go at her own pace as only she will truly know what she’s feeling and her own personal needs.
No core yoga. A little bit of core engagement is encouraged (like 20-25% of her capacity) as it helps to tone and strengthen the pelvic floor and support her spine and hips. A core yoga class would not be recommended.
No arm balances. Unless a woman already has a strong inversions practice, staying away from arm balances is a safe bet. The risk of her falling out of the posture must be considered. Keeping her and her child safe is obviously important. Likewise when doing one legged balancing postures. Pregnant woman should be encouraged to use a wall when getting into and out of the poses with the option to play with taking hands off the wall. Some women find their balance to be way different when they are pregnant and the wall is there for her safety.
No deep twists. Gentle twists are a great way to lengthen and restore the spine but deeper twists with core engagement are a great way to encourage elimination. Keeping a soft lower belly and lots of room for the uterus is important.
A couple other things to consider:
The feet in forward folds should be a little wider than hip distance apart. In the beginning stages of pregnancy it will leave space for the womb and with in the later stages it will be the best way to accommodate the babies growth.
In the second and third trimester laying flat on her back is not recommended. The baby can put pressure on the mothers aorta (a main artery) and cause loss of blood flow to the brain and heart. Modifying reclined postures like savasana with bolsters is a good way to keep her more upright. You can also recommend resting on the LEFT side with a bolster between the thighs and one under her head. The left side is important due to the position of the aorta.
Know your oils! Some essential oils can cause uterine contractions. If you’re using oils in class be aware of the contraindications and when in doubt, don’t use them.
If you're interested in prenatal classes at Yogalife Studios, please get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling either of the studios.
Our next round of prenatal yoga classes start December 4th at Yogalife Studios South with Sara Cueva and December 5th at Yogalife Studios North with Emily McNicoll.