When I found out I was pregnant, I was pretty determined to NOT let my new condition change my life or my yoga practice too drastically. I already knew the baby was going to change our lives forever (and boy, has he!), but for those months before he arrived, I wanted to enjoy my child-free life as much as I could.
This meant I didn’t want to stop going to ashtanga or a vinyasa class just because I was prego. I wanted to stay active and moving for as long as my body would allow. I remembered a woman who came to ashtanga right up until she had the baby, and she was still rocking out the full primary series (with modifications, of course). That was the standard I wanted to hold myself to.
Let’s talk about what you should avoid during pregnancy. While I used this detailed description of practicing ashtanga during pregnancy as a guide, it’s a lot to remember, and I ended up having to look up what posture the sanskrit names were referring to. So I’ll break it down easy-like for you.
The simple rule to follow is: Don’t do anything that involves the belly area and could hurt the baby.
1. No twisting. I know this one sucks because pregnancy is the time you desperately want to pop your back, but wringing out your organs is not a good idea at this time. Yes, this includes those initial weeks when you aren’t even showing.
2. No jumping. Step into chaturanga. Step from downward dog forward. No need to jostle the baby around. As you get further along, you’ll be asking more of your back muscles to keep yourself in chaturanga or plank, so again, there’s no need to jump into and out of any postures.
3. Don’t fold into any postures where there is an obstruction to your belly. There are a lot of seated forward folds in the primary series that has a foot or heel pressed near the hip crease. You can keep doing the foot placements, but skip the folds.
4. Don’t lie down on your belly. This becomes very obvious when you start to show, but even in postures like chaturanga where you may not have the strength to hold your body completely off the ground, modify with your knees down. Don’t squish the baby!
5. No lying flat on your back for extended periods of time. I kept some of the supine postures in my practice. I just tried to limit them. (And honestly, I did them because after sleeping on my side every night and feeling cranky, that was my little “cheat” throughout pregnancy.)
6. No deep backbending. This includes more than full wheel. Chest-openers like upward facing dog or camel should be modified to focus on the chest opening and not the entire front of your body. Since your joints become more flexible, thanks to pregnancy hormones, you could unknowingly overextend yourself.
Now, inversions are a bit controversial. The idea of your energy (and blood) flowing in the wrong direction of the baby has a lot of teachers and practitioners wary of going upside down. Discuss these with your teacher. For sure, don’t try it if you’ve never done it before and or if you haven’t already been stable in it for a while.
If you follow these basic rules to avoid hurting yourself and hurting the baby, you can pretty much keep attending your usual yoga class with modifications. It’s best to let the teacher know that you’re pregnant before class starts so he or she can keep an eye on you and offer a variation that’s safe. And if all else fails, just skip the posture. Hang out in child’s pose. Be good to your body.