I have a number of lovely friends who are preparing for babies this year, and I’ve heard the question asked many times. How often should you practice yoga?
The vaguest, most all-encompassing answer I can give is as much as your body will allow. There are some wonderful benefits to maintaining (and even beginning) a yoga practice throughout pregnancy, so the more you can do, the better. Your body obviously changes from trimester to trimester, week to week, so be mindful of any limitations physically and even mentally and emotionally throughout the journey.
First, get yourself familiar with these 6 things to avoid while pregnant. A good yoga teacher should already know these to help you with modifications, but in case you’re practicing at home or encounter something in class that seems questionable, refer to the basic no-no’s.
You may not be showing or hindered by size yet, but definitely take it easy. Morning sickness/nausea, fatigue and food aversions can leave you feeling mentally and physically weak most of the day. If you can get on your mat at least once a week for a moving practice, great! If not, don’t sweat it. Sometimes, coming to the mat and doing some meditation and pranayama (ujjayi breathing is helpful for managing nausea) for 10 minutes is plenty.
- Stick to gentle stretches to get the blood moving. For me, getting my tired butt off the couch after work and going through some cat/cow or “lazy” sun salutations (ie. go slow and don’t work too hard holding chaturanga) was enough to get some blood moving and tell nausea to go away.
- NO TWISTING or overextending the front side of your body. Just because you don’t have a baby bump to show, you still need to treat your belly area with much precaution.
- Don’t push yourself for 75-90 minutes. If going to a class is in your cards, find a shorter length class. Maybe a 60 minute gentle flow class or restorative. First trimester is exhausting. You have a lot of hormones controlling your body!
If you’ve had an existing practice, this is where the fog lifts and you can get back (somewhat) to a normal yoga routine. If you’re new, second trimester is a great time to start. You get some of your energy back. Food tastes mostly palatable again. You’re not feeling huge and cumbersome. Take advantage of this resurgence in energy to build strength, maintain a healthy heart and work on your flexibility. 2-3 times a week should be plenty without feeling too sore.
- Add in a prenatal class (if you haven’t already). These classes are specifically designed to help alleviate the pains and aches of pregnancy while also preparing you for more manageable labor. It also helps to have the support of a community of other moms-to-be.
- Don’t shy away from a regular yoga class. Mix it up! If you’ve got the energy, you can go to pretty much any yoga class. Notify the teacher before class so he or she can offer modifications. And if anything is beyond your comfort level, skip it and hang out in child’s pose. *I don’t have experience with a heated practice like Bikram or anything over 80 degrees, so call ahead and ask what the studio’s advice is if you’re interested in doing that.*
With size being your biggest deterrent (punny), you’ll likely need to back off your practice in the third trimester. Your balance is off, and you won’t be able to do forward folds the way you did with a smaller belly. But that’s okay. If you’ve been diligent with your practice, you should have super strong legs, arms and back. 2 times a week should be plenty – moving at a slower pace and easing into every posture from a depth standpoint.
- Do lots of gentle stretches for your back. Sciatica can get especially painful in these last months. Sitting for long periods of time with all the added weight can also leave your spine feeing crunched. You’re going to need your back to be at optimal condition to avoid the waddle too!
- Squat, squat, squat. In preparation for labor and birth, this is the time to find those postures that will help open the hips and encourage the baby to drop lower into the pelvis. (Except if your baby is breech!!! Let your teacher know before you start squatting if this is the case. They’ll have other postures for you.)
- Legs up the wall. Make sure to place a cushion or blanket under your hips before you get those legs up so you don’t crush that all-important vein that provides blood to the baby. This posture is especially helpful for cankles and other swelling issues.
If anyone has any specific questions, I’m happy to share what I’ve learned throughout my pregnancy. And if I don’t have the answer, I have some wonderful teachers who I look to for guidance. 🙂