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.
It is exceedingly important to seek out teachers who are specifically trained in prenatal yoga. I recommend finding prenatal yoga classes at local studios, teachers who have been trained in prenatal who can offer modifications in a regular class or seeking out videos and online resources by certified teachers. In the last few years, Yoga Alliance, a national organization that certifies yoga teachers, began offering certification in prenatal and postnatal yoga. Teachers who have gone through specific training in this area can then become certified to offer support to pregnant women. Seeking out a teacher with these qualifications will help ensure that you're doing yoga that is safe for your body and baby during this time.
Why are regular yoga classes unsafe?
Relaxin: Relaxin is a hormone that is released into the body almost immediately following the start of pregnancy. Relaxin helps to soften the tissues in the body in particular preparing the pelvic floor and pelvis to open during labor and childbirth. Relaxin however, is something that needs to be addressed by a yoga teacher offering classes to pregnant women. Because of the presence of this hormone in the body, it is easier to overstretch muscles and it is also easier to overstretch tendons and ligaments. Ensuring that poses do not move too deeply into flexibility can help ensure that a pregnant woman is not doing a great deal of damage to her body in a yoga class. Strengthening also becomes key to help support joints that are becoming a looser and less stable in the body.
Blood Volume: Higher blood volume in the pregnant body has multiple effects on exercises during pregnancy. Pregnant mamas tend to get lightheaded much more easily and can lose sensation in limbs in extended length and poses that are held for a long time. Higher blood volume also leads to higher body temperature and can make it easier for mamas to become overheated. And, if a person sweats profusely during practice it becomes much more difficult to replace those lost fluids.
Balance: Changing center gravity and balance are also key to remember in yoga for pregnancy. As your baby grows, the center of gravity shifts and finding balance not only in balance poses but even in traditional standing poses, like Warrior II, become increasingly difficult.
Contraindications: There are also many poses that are contraindicated during pregnancy and it is important for teachers to know what these poses are and how to modify them appropriately for a pregnant person. Poses that should be avoided during pregnancy include any kind of abdominal work, poses on the belly, deep twisting, and any pose that puts undue strain on joints or pressure on the belly.
This is a lot for a teacher to keep in mind during class, particularly if they have not been trained in how to do so. As a result, I highly encourage pregnant mamas seek out a practice that is specifically designed for a pregnant body and taught by a certified teacher. Can't find a teacher or studio in your neighborhood? Bring the practice to your home and try videos online.
Wisdom and insight with a dash of humor to help guide you on your journey through motherhood.