I cannot tell you how many times I am asked this question at my postnatal yoga classes. It is a question that has been implanted by our culture that has led women to believe that there is something about their body after the baby comes that is not okay.
The subtle message we’re being told as women is “whoa you look amazing and radiant when you’re pregnant, glowing!” and then “whoa, it's time to get your body back!” There’s a huge disconnect in celebrating pregnant bodies that is not also celebrating postpartum bodies. It’s almost as if we’re being told that we can’t have a body after we have a baby, we have to that “pre-baby” body which completely negates the experience of having had the baby and what the body is like after that.
As a prenatal and postnatal yoga teacher, I'm constantly surrounded by parents-to-be and new babies in my prenatal and mom and baby yoga classes. I love my job, I love supporting pregnant moms on the journey of pregnancy and I love meeting their babies and encouraging their continued growth once their babies are born.
I'm constantly being asked “if I have children,” “if I want to have children” and “when I'm having children.” I've been told I would be an amazing mother and that I must be the most prepared person ever to get pregnant.
I'm a firm believer or that mothers can make the right choice for their bodies and for their babies during pregnancy and postpartum, however I do think that education is extremely important. Exercise during pregnancy can run the gamut and a great deal of what should guide you is listening to your own body and what is or isn't working for you. What can often happen, however, is we can override our body's knowledge and push ourselves to do things just because we did them before we were pregnant. I wrote this article not to shame anyone for choices they have made, but simply to provide some insight as to why I wouldn't recommend hot yoga to anyone who is pregnant.
There have been numerous studies released recently talking about the benefits of yoga for pregnancy. It is certainly true that there is much that yoga can offer a pregnant person. Yoga can address stress and anxiety, tight muscles and the changing pregnant body and can help you find a connection to your breath that can be so important in labor.
As a result, many pregnant mamas are seeking out yoga classes as a way to support themselves during pregnancy. However, most yoga classes are not the safest exercise during pregnancy. The regular classes offered in gyms and community centers, as well as many classes at yoga studios, cannot provide the modifications necessary to keep mama and baby safe.
Walking out of yoga classes one evening, I overheard several of my Prenatal Yoga students talking to one another after class. One of the students said to the other:
“I was doing plank pose in a class at the gym and I noticed my belly muscles were becoming this cone like shape on either side of my belly. Do any of you notice that?” There were murmurs of “Oh yea” or “I’ve got some separation between my abdominals.”
Our birth culture in the United States does an excellent job of preparing moms for childbirth and labor (that is, if you have the time resources and access to the classes that can help guide you). What we don't do a great job of is preparing new moms for the time after baby is born.
I can't tell you how many students have related to me the story of having their baby handed to them at the hospital or at the birthing center and walking out the door thinking:
We've talked previously about the importance of strengthening rather than stretching the hip muscles when they are sore. Often times when muscles aren't being used effectively, we will feel soreness as smaller supporting muscles step up to bat (and fail pretty quickly).
During pregnancy, with the increased weight of baby as they grow and the added strain on joints due to relaxin (hormone that softens our muscles, tendons and ligaments, find out more in this blog post), hips are often the number one complaint. But remember, if hips are aching, try strengthening them first! Most of the time this will help to alleviate some of the discomfort you feel.
Wisdom and insight with a dash of humor to help guide you on your journey through motherhood.