How to Safely Adapt Your Yoga Practice During Pregnancy
There are so many changes that take place during pregnancy to support your growing baby and helping your body to prepare for labour and birth. It is important to know how to adapt your yoga practice to benefit yourself and baby the most during this transformational period.
Here are 4 ways to adapt your yoga practice to serve you and your baby throughout pregnancy.
1. Ease off…Always stay within 70-75% of your body’s range of motion!
Your body starts to produce a hormone called relaxin, which functions to relax and soften smooth muscle in the body so that your uterus can expand, the cervix will soften and which will allow more flexibility of the connective tissues in the pelvis during birth.
However, these effects aren’t limited to the pelvic region, and therefore this loosening of smooth muscle and connective tissue happens throughout the whole body.
So it is super important to be mindful of your range of motion to avoid over stretching or injury.
Prenatal yoga is not so much about becoming flexible (as your body already produces these hormones to help you out) but about strengthening as well. It’s all about finding the sweet balance between stability and mobility. Remember labor and delivery is about being strong and having endurance.
2. Avoid lying on your back for long periods of time
The vena cava is responsible for oxygen-poor blood returning to the heart. This can become compromised in pregnancy as baby grows larger by putting more pressure on this blood vessel when in a reclined position.
This can cause a variety of symptoms from increased heart rate, decreased blood pressure, faintness, dizziness, shortness of breath and a lower blood oxygen content for both mama and baby.
This is why it is advised after the 1st trimester to avoid laying flat on your back. So remember to modify any reclined yoga positions and to take savasana (corpse pose) either while lying on your left side with a pillow or bolster in between the thighs to stabilize your hips or use other props to help elevate the chest and heart to relieve any pressure on the vena cava.
3. Always take note of your changing body and adapt your posture when necessary
A yoga practice will help you to gain body awareness which is crucial during pregnancy and postpartum. As the center of gravity shifts throughout pregnancy it can lead to various postural changes.
- tilting the pelvis forward (hanging on the supporting ligaments of the hips)
- exaggerated lumbar curve OR flattened lumbar curve (tucking the tail under putting more pressure on the pelvic floor)
- rounding of the upper back with shoulders rounding forward
- hyperextended knees
- collapsed/fallen arches from softened supportive arch ligament supporting excessive body weight for a prolonged period of time.
Checking in with your body on a regular basis through your yoga practice can help you to counterbalance the above postural changes.
Take a wider stance if necessary, notice if you begin to tilt or tuck your pelvis, where is the balance through the feet, are you hyperextending through the knees. Notice any changes and then adjust your practice accordingly.
4. Remember you are now practicing for two!
“From the moment of conception, the unborn baby experiences the thought and actions of the mother because the mind and body are inseparably one” – Deepak Chopra
Use your yoga practice to find a deeper connection not only to your body and breath, but to your baby too. Life can get busy. With baby on the way your day can fly by with work, baby preparations, etc. So use your yoga practice as a time to connect and bond with baby.
Some ways to do that are:
– Spend a few moments at the beginning and end of your yoga class to send your baby loving thoughts, make birthing affirmations, tell them a story, whatever feels right in that moment.
– Place one hand on your belly and one on your heart while doing some breathing exercises.
– Visualize sending love (or any other emotion) down from your heart to your baby.
– Rub your belly while lying on your side in savasana.
– Chant/sing to your baby (the auditory sense is first present at 14 weeks of gestation).
– Meditate with your hands on your belly.
Practicing yoga throughout your pregnancy gives you the opportunity to connect with your body (and baby) and respond to it’s needs. It helps you to ease the discomforts of physical and hormonal imbalances which arise during your pregnancy journey. Remember that prenatal yoga is different than your regular yoga class. The focus/goal is different and it’s important to adapt your practice to honor and support this transformational process you are experiencing on a physical, emotional and spiritual level!
Happy practicing mamas!