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.
It is dangerous to the baby for the mother’s temperature to increase while the baby is in utero. This is why there are so many warnings at hot tub spas and saunas encouraging pregnant women not to participate. When a woman's body temperature increases above normal levels they can put the fetus in extreme danger. Why then would you want to practice yoga in a room that is heated above normal body temperatures?
If you have ever taken a hot yoga class, you know how as you warm up in a class and in the room you find that your flexibility vastly increases. Poses that may have previously fell unattainable before, become much more accessible in the heat of the room and you end up feeling strong and empowered but this is not the right way to get to that state in yoga.
Knowing your body and your body's limits is exceedingly important in situations like this to prevent overstretching. Even women who know their bodies will not be able to account for the impacts of relaxin (a hormone released in the body during pregnancy and breastfeeding that relaxes the muscles and soft tissues of the body) on creating deeper flexibility that is unsafe. In combining a hot room which helps muscles stretch with the relaxin in the body which also helps soft tissues stretch you are doubling the chance of overstretching. It is important to be particularly mindful as muscles may take a week or two to heal but tendons and ligaments can take months (for more about relaxin read this blog post about whether to continue practicing yoga at your gym once you're pregnant).
Because of the big changes in blood volume during the course of pregnancy, a woman in her third trimester has 50% more blood than she would normally and there's a tendency for women who are pregnant to get lightheaded more easily. I know for myself that when I am in high heat I already feel lightheaded, couple this at the light-headedness that can happen as a result of pregnancy and there's a much greater chance of dizziness and fainting at a hot yoga class when pregnant.
Hot yoga classes are not designed with pregnant people in mind. Many of the poses would need modification or should be skipped entirely.
There are so many other yoga options available for pregnant mothers, while I know that longtime practitioners may feel confident that they know their body and their limit, I would ask them to question, given these risks, whether it is worth it to practice hot yoga during pregnancy? Is it worth it to potentially put yourself and your baby in danger or do you think that you could go nine months without practicing hot yoga?
Wisdom and insight with a dash of humor to help guide you on your journey through motherhood.