Pregnancy yoga – what you need to know to get started safely

If you’re new to pregnancy yoga, you might feel unsure about how to get started and how to practise safely. Firstly, you’re not alone. Most of my pregnancy yoga students feel a little unsure about practising yoga when they first get started.

pregnancy yoga

Why is pregnancy yoga so great?

Pregnancy and birth are sacred parts of becoming a mother.  They are literally life changing rites of passage.  Typically in the West, we don’t honour these times of transformation as well as other cultures. We often gift the mother-to-be with everything she will physically need for the baby. But what she really needs is our love, support and wisdom.

There is however a growing consciousness around mothers and the need to return to the ‘village’ approach when birthing and raising children.

Motherhood transforms our physical body, our thoughts and our emotions. The way we approach these changes will heavily influence how we feel about ourselves in our new role as a Mother and how we feel about life in general.

If we resist or ignore the transformation and continue on as we always have, life becomes a struggle.  But if we honour and celebrate these changes it is easier to surrender and embrace our new lives as mothers.  By valuing the changes  we go through to become a mother we can empower ourselves in this new role.

Pregnancy yoga helps you soften and surrender to the process of becoming a mother. It helps you learn to trust that everything will unfold exactly as it should, without needing to control or try to change the process.

It is also a beautiful way to grow your own network of women going through the same experience and I thoroughly recommend joining a class if that option is available to you.  The connections you make during these classes will be so valuable to you when you are in the depths of your mothering experience.  You will NEED the support of other women going through the same experience to cheer you on, and to listen when you need to vent.

What are the benefits of pregnancy yoga?

Yoga has the power to impact all of us on many levels.

  • It strengthens and stretches our body.
  • It teaches us how to both challenge and care for our bodies.
  • It connects us to our breath and how to use it consciously.
  • It teaches us to quieten the mind so that we can find peace amongst the chatter

During pregnancy it has even more benefits for both mother and baby.

  • improves blood and oxygen flow
  • increases flexibility and balance
  • can aide digestion and increase energy
  • can help relieve lower back pain and general aches and pains
  • may help relieve nausea and headaches
  • relieve cramping and swelling in legs
  • helps you to connect with and become more comfortable with a changing body.
  • can help to reduce anxiety and fear
  • will empower you with techniques to relax that will be needed during labour and birth
  • fosters a connection with your baby that will aide you during labour
  • helps you trust your body and it’s ability to birth
  • teaches you breathing techniques that will be powerful tools during birth

Before I get into the general guidelines for yoga whilst pregnant, keep in mind that the whole purpose of yoga is get you to listen to your own body and trust your own intuition.  If you feel uncomfortable during any pose (just as if you feel uncomfortable with any situation or choice that you face) you should stop, reassess. Ask questions.

You may find the recommendations don’t apply to you every day and some days you feel strong and can do more than others. This is why now more than ever we need to connect mind and body, and be aware of the choices we are making, for our safety as well as our babies.

General guidelines for practicing yoga whilst pregnant

  • Adjust poses to accommodate your growing belly and changed centre of gravity. Widen your stance to hip width or wider. Avoid closed twists which constrict the belly.
  • Be careful not to overstretch. Hormones are already allowing your ligaments and tendons to relax more than usual.
  • Avoid abdominal work which can increase abdominal separation (this is not the time to build a 6-pack!).
  • Move slowly especially when moving from high to low. Changing blood pressures may make you feel feint.
  • Practice correct alignment of the pelvis to help with back pain, sciatica and instability of the pelvis.
  • Avoid deep back bends. Weakening core muscles mean that you do that have the muscle support to practice these poses safely.
  • Avoid lying flat on your back after the fourth month. This can affect blood flow for yourself and to your baby.
  • Avoid overheating by wearing cool clothing and resting whenever you need.
  • Use props to support your body.

How your yoga practise should change throughout the 3 trimesters

TRIMESTER ONE

 Conception to Week 12

What’s happening to your body?

  • Sore breasts
  • Possible nausea and vomiting
  • Feeling bloated
  • Exhaustion
  • Heightened emotions
  • Increased oestrogen and progesterone
  • Increased blood flow
  • May feel belly cramps as uterus grows
  • Acne from surging hormones
  • Bleeding gums
  • Possible heartburn
  • Insomnia
  • Need to frequently urinate

What’s happening with your baby?

  • Brain is beginning to form
  • Heart is beating by week 3
  • Umbilical cord is passing nutrients to the baby by week 14

How you might be feeling

Of course every woman reacts to pregnancy differently, and you may find your mood can rapidly swing between all or some of the following emotions during the 1st trimester.

  • Excited
  • Scared
  • Exhausted
  • Overwhelmed
  • Fear of miscarriage
  • Worried about how a baby will change relationship and career
  • Concerns over financial situation and security
  • Fear of birth and how you will handle pain

Yoga in the 1st trimester

Unless you’ve already been practicing yoga regularly you shouldn’t be taking up a physical practice during the first trimester.  And even if you have previously had a strong practice, you may find yourself naturally not wanting to get on your mat during this early stage of pregnancy.  This is the time to take it really easy on your body. After all it is already doing the HUGE job of creating a human, it doesn’t need any extra challenge or stress.

If you’re brand new to pregnancy yoga you can download my free guide here.

Try this 1st trimester pregnancy yoga class below.

TRIMESTER TWO

Week 13 – Week 28

What’s happening to your body?

  • Sore aching back
  • Bleeding gums
  • Breast enlargement
  • Congestion
  • Nosebleeds
  • Discharge
  • Frequent urination
  • Hair growth
  • Headaches
  • Heartburn
  • Constipation
  • Swelling
  • Hemorrhoids
  • Skin Changes – sensitivity and stretch marks
  • Varicose veins
  • Weight gain

What’s happening with your baby?

  • Tissue is forming into bones
  • The sex of the baby is determinable by week 14
  • The baby begins to hear at Week 16
  • You may be able to feel it move
  • Hair, fingerprints and footprints develop
  • Baby responds to voice

How you might be feeling

Women tend to see this period as the passing of a storm. During the second trimester pain, nausea and sickness begin to subside. While all of the other symptoms are still there, women have more energy and are better able to cope with them.

  • Increased sex drive
  • Many women stop feeling sick
  • Fatigue, nausea and pain subsides
  • Increased energy levels
  • Hormones increase but also balance out more
  • Happy and excited
  • Fear of miscarriage decreases as chance of miscarriage lessens

Yoga in the 2nd trimester

In the 2nd trimester you are most likely over the morning sickness and feeling more energised. Enjoy the chance to do a stronger practice but still be mindful of listening to your body. Poses should be modified to accomodate your growing belly and changing balance. This is also a time to start preparing for birth.  Relaxation poses offer a perfect opportunity for you to connect with your baby.

Try this 2nd trimester yoga class below.

TRIMESTER THREE

 Week 29 – Week 40

What’s happening to your body?

  • Abdominal cramps
  • Breast growth
  • Fatigue
  • Heartburn
  • Lack of bladder control
  • Leaky breasts
  • Clumsiness
  • Braxton Hicks contractions
  • Swelling
  • Shortness of breath
  • Back aches
  • Feeling hot

What’s happening with your baby?

  • The 5 senses kick in
  • Brain development causes dreams
  • Skin becomes opaque
  • Fully developed bones
  • Eyes are open
  • Rapid weight gain
  • In the final weeks it drops down into pelvis

How you might be feeling

In many ways the third trimester can feel like the first all over again. The pain and the hormones are still raging and so you become more tired and emotional. Therefore, rest and relaxation becomes vital.

  • Anxiety
  • Decreased sex drive
  • Tired
  • Unable to sleep
  • Nervous
  • Excited
  • Self-conscious

Yoga in the 3rd trimester

There is no reason that you can’t practise right up until you give birth (I did!) but you need to be mindful that your growing belly will make some poses feel impossible. Your balance will also be non-existent, so you should use props heavily to support your body.

Avoid lying flat on your back during the 3rd trimester as the weight of your belly can restrict blood flow in main vein that runs down the back side of your body. During the 3rd trimester is a good time to focus your yoga practise on relaxation and preparation for birth.

 

Try this 3rd trimester yoga class below.

I hope you’re feeling ready to get started with pregnancy yoga now. If you have any other questions, feel free to drop them in the comments below.

What’s your next step?

  1. Download my free pregnancy yoga guide.
  2. Choose one of the classes above to practise that suits your current trimester.
  3. Join my Online Yoga Circle for more pregnancy yoga classes, birth preparation course and postpartum recovery.

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