Prenatal yoga is a great way to maintain or create strength and flexibility as the body prepares to create life. Practicing yoga during pregnancy has many benefits. Some of these benefits include improved sleep, reduced stress, minimized lower back pain as well as lessened nausea and headaches. Since the body is going through so many changes during pregnancy, it is important to decrease the intensity of the asana practice, focus on how you’re feeling and to modify poses as needed.
Each trimester, pre-natal yoga looks a little bit different. During the first trimester, pregnant women should stick with ujjayi pranayama breathing as oppose to breathing techniques that involve the belly. Jumping and jolting should both be avoided during yoga and in regular day-to-day activities. Twisting should also be minimized during the first trimester. During this time, it is good to focus on pelvic awareness exercises and shoulder strengtheners. This is also a great time to get familiar with the use of props during practice as they will become essential in the trimesters to come.
The second trimester is the one where the most activity and intensity is possible during practice. That being said, it is still vital to practice ease during pregnancy and listen to your body. During the second trimester, it is good to practice hip openers like malasana (yogi squat) and eka para kapatasana (one legged pigeon pose). Avoid jarring activities and use pelvic neutrality exercises in Tadasana (mountain pose) to cultivate alignment of the spine. This is the trimester to practice standing asana to help leg strength. Use props such as chairs and blocks to help stability.
During the third trimester it is essential to continue to work on postural alignment. Since the belly is biggest at this time, use a chair to assist standing postures. Practice birthing visualizations during pranayama and meditation. Lengthen the time of savasana. While laying on the side of the body, use props between the knees (a block or blanket) under the head (a pillow or blanket) and under the upper arm (blanket or pillow) for comfort and relaxation.
After delivery once practice is again possible, focus on slowly increasing energy and re-developing muscle strength. It is best to avoid abdominal pressure and core work for at least 6 weeks. This is a time to focus on the self reflective aspects of practice as oppose to obtaining the “perfect pose”.
During pre-natal yoga, it is important for the yoga teacher to provide modifications for yoga poses and help prepare the mind, body and soul for giving birth. When teaching a class to someone who has recently given birth, it is essential to provide consistent encouragement and to focus on self transformation.
“Teach what is in you, not as it applies to you, to yourself, but as it applies to the other.”
- T. Krishnamacharya