Practicing Yoga during pregnancy
The practice of
yoga gives you the opportunity to create a world (your body) for
your baby that is healthy and peaceful. "What a child learns in the
womb cannot be learned on earth".
coordinates movement, breath and awareness. It addresses health and well being
on several levels: physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual. Because of
its many benefits and the pleasure derived from its practice, the time-honored
art of yoga is becoming increasingly accepted everywhere as part of self-care
during pregnancy and preparation for childbirth
Yoga holds a number of benefits both before and during pregnancy, however these
practices call for modifications in order to accommodate the growing baby and
protect the placenta. If you experience cramping, bleeding or prolonged
cessation of fetal movement, stop practicing immediately and call your doctor.
Benefits of practicing yoga during pregnancy
relies heavily on breathing
techniques to make the exercise fruitful. Exhale and inhaling deeply
provides oxygen to the whole body, something we desperately need during
pregnancy. The fetus stands to gain the benefit of this charged blood
pumping in. While doing the exercise, breathing and moving the body sets the
pace, and each is incomplete without the other. The results of this
coordinated activity are phenomenal.
Yoga exercises also help in pre and
postnatal depression, basically by relaxing the mind and putting a lot of
fears at rest. The primary advantage of practicing Yoga is that the
essential breathing exercises provide a mental calmness to the would-be Mom.
This peace descends to her baby, and also helps her to take the crucial time
of childbirth in her stride.
Physically speaking, the mild yogic exercises help maintain muscle tone,
especially for the back and pelvic muscles that take such a tremendous
beating during the nine months of pregnancy and about a year thereafter,
till the baby is a toddler.
Yoga Nidra (Yogic Sleep) also relaxes the mind and body to such an
extent that in many cases it even helps during the trauma of
childbirth. The gentle toning and
do wonders for preparing the body for caring the baby as well a delivering
Here are certain general precautions to be taken while practicing yoga:
Always practice as if the belly (baby) were larger than it actually is.
Adjust your pregnancy yoga practice to a lower level and intensity than that
of your pre-pregnancy practice.
Avoid poses that stretch the muscles too much, particularly the
abdominal muscles. Remember, you are more apt to tear and strain muscles now
because the pregnancy hormone relaxin, which allows the uterus to expand,
also acts on all connective tissue.
Avoid performing any poses on your back after the first trimester as
that can cut blood flow to the uterus.
When bending forward, bend from the hips, not the back. Maintain as much
distance as possible between the breast bone and the pubic bone to make
the pelvis upright when stretching the chest and the front of the thighs
When practicing twisting poses, twist more from the shoulders and back
to avoid putting any pressure on your abdomen.
Perform standing poses with your heel to the wall or use a chair for
support to avoid losing your balance and risking injury to you or your baby.
Avoid jumping, jump-throughs, jump-backs, or rolling. Step or crawl
During First Trimester
Do only light stretching once pregnancy is confirmed (about Week 5). The
time off gives the placenta a chance to become firmly rooted. If too much of
your energy goes into yoga practice, your body may reject the pregnancy.
There is some evidence to suggest that light yoga practice during the first
trimester will help a woman retain her pregnancy by helping to eliminate toxins
from the body. The lessening of nausea during or following yoga practice may be
an indication of toxins being eliminated. If you have severe morning sickness,
you should probably save your energy and wait for the morning sickness to end
(usually by Month 4) before resuming yoga practice. If you feel all right
practicing with morning sickness, try not to practice on an empty stomach. Drink
water during practice to prevent dehydration and uterine contractions.
During Second Trimester
Before beginning make sure the room is not too hot. Also, drink small
amounts of water during practice if your throat becomes dry or if you feel
nauseated. Don't try to work up a huge sweat while you practice.
While performing Suryanamaskar
A [sun salutation A]:
In the forward-bending movements, keep the chest at least 80-85 degrees from
the floor. Place the hands in front of the feet rather than aligned with the
feet. Step rather than jump. When you first start to show or feel your belly
just needs the extra space, start the sequence with the feet hip-width apart in
samasthiti before you bend forward.
forward, keep the chest at least 80-85 degrees from the floor,
particularly in poses that place the legs together. Focus on pulling
up rather than folding forward
Suryanamaskar B [sun salutation B]:
When stepping forward from downward dog into a lunge, allow the back heel of
the back foot to lift off the floor (but keep the ball of the foot firmly
planted) to avoid compression of the belly; your hands and arms will need to
take up more of the weight from now on. After your front foot is stabilized in
the lunge position, set the back heel back down on the floor at the usual 80-85
degree angle to the front foot. Keep the back leg and back foot active and firm
in the virabhadrasana position. Start the sequence with feet hip-width apart in
samasthiti in Month 6
or whenever more space is required.
Navasana - Boat Pose
This asana increases strength in mid section while simultaneously
lengthening the back muscles. Prevents nagging back pain.
From seated start with the knees and bring the hands to a forty five-degree
angle. Have a sense that the tailbone is rooting and the back is lenghtening at
the same time. Think, back length/abdominal strength. Extend one feet straight.
Try not to sag in the lower back. Alternate each set with one foot on the floor
while extending the other leg. Having one foot on the floor will help with
balance and prevent strain on the lower back and abdominal area.
Note: If the back rounds even slightly slowly return back to seated position.
Hasta Padangusthasana (Modified)
In this asana, your lower (standing) leg, your pelvis, and your torso should
all be in Tadasana (refer to the actions for that pose). Do not let the raising
of one leg deter you from establishing Tadasana in the rest of your body,
particularly in your pelvis and hips.
As the belly becomes more prominent, move
the leg to the side of the belly rather than the front. Work on lengthening the
leg away from you rather than folding towards it.
To avoid reducing
the blood flow to the uterus, do not stay on the back for more than
3 minutes at a time. If you experience difficulty breathing, nausea,
or dizziness while doing poses on your back, omit such poses
(bound - angle or cobbler pose)
Sit tall on the fronts of your sits bones with the soles of your feet together,
knees splay open lifting your spine away from the floor. You may need to sit on
a blanket if you hips are tight. Also know you can place pillows under your
knees if it is too strenuous on your inner tights.
The pelvis, pelvic floor and lower back are opened and energized with this
posture. Flexibility is developed in the hip joints, groins, knees and ankles.
Tightness and tension across the lower back is alleviated.
This asana strengthens the thigh and back muscles which are so important when
carrying, and also delivering, the baby. The woman stands with feet apart turned
to one side, inhales and extends the arms wide to shoulder height, exhales and
turns to the side, inhales and extends arms over her head, exhales and bends the
Savasana [corpse pose]:
Lie on your left side in a fetal position to avoid compressing the blood
flow to the uterus. Use a rolled towel or mat under your head to make the neck
more comfortable. You can also place a rolled blanket or bolster between your
legs and hold one between your arms to make your belly more comfortable.
upward dog, keep the belly soft and move into the arch deliberately and slowly,
concentrating on keeping the hands flat on the floor and the arms straight. If
there is any undue tightness in upward dog, do not do full backbends. The
placement of the placenta and the individual angle of your uterus may influence
your ability to do full backbends, so don't worry if you have to give up
backbends. If you can do backbends comfortably, work into the arch slowly and do
not try to make it perfect or tight. The belly should not feel tight or
uncomfortable. Allow the psoas, frontal hip bones, and tops of the thighs to
soften. Pay attention to whether your lower back is tightening in the backbends.
Due to the increased weight of the belly, the lower back naturally tightens over
time to support the front of the body, so avoid inadvertantly tightening the
lower back during backbending as well. However, even slight backbending will
help "pop" the spine and alleviate backaches from the weight gain. Do not do
drop-overs or flips, since there is a risk of overstretching the abdominal
muscles in these movements. An alternative to full back bending is the modified
Omit extreme twists, which may cause placental abruption:
Utthita trikonasana B [extended
triangle pose B]
Utthita parsvakonasana B [extended sideways angle pose B]
Marichyasana C [marichya pose C]
Marichyasana D [marichya pose D]
Omit poses that press the heel into the uterus while folding
Ardha baddha padmottanasana [half-lotus bound, standing
forward bend] (modification: don't fold, and wrap the arm behind
the back to grasp the big toe only if the belly does not feel
uncomfortably tight in this position)
Marichyasana B [marichya pose B]
Marichyasana D [marichya pose D]
Garbha pindasana [embryo in the womb pose] (modification:
sit in an easy cross-legged position and don't roll) Seated
lotus and half-lotus poses generally, unless you can keep the
lotus very loose and not tweak the knees
Omit poses on the belly or that would compress the belly:
Bhujapidasana [arm pressure pose]
Kurmasana [tortoise pose]
Supta kurmasana [sleeping tortoise pose]
During Third Trimester
Follow all of the above guidelines plus the following:
While performing forward bends, adjust legs to hip-width or wider distance to
accommodate the growing belly. For the last 6 weeks of the pregnancy, omit
navasana and other poses that involve
a reclined position (where the knees are higher than the pelvis), which can work
against Optimal Foetal Positioning.
Suryanamaskar A & B:
Continue placing the hands in front of the feet in the forward-bending
movements, using the fingertips rather than the palms to touch the floor in dwi
and trini (the second and third vinyasas) and the like. If the belly becomes so
large (e.g., Month 8) that it becomes too difficult to step forward in
suryanamaskar B without straining the hip or front knee, omit suryanamaskar B
and substitute suryanamskar A (total 10 A's).
Marjaraiasana (Cat posture)
Is invaluable at this time. This involves kneeling on all fours, breathing in
whilst gently looking up and then, on an out-breath, gently rounding the spine.
The hammock of muscles of the abdomen which cradle the baby are strengthened and
toned with this exercise. Again this helps to make both mother and baby
comfortable. The whole of the pelvic region is gently massaged. Also it can
reduce lower back tension and the baby is encouraged, by gravity, into the
favorable anterior position. In the hollow spine position, care should be taken
not to over-extend the abdominal muscles.
With right leg folded in and left leg extended, pull back the toes on your left
foot with your left hand while holding your left wrist or forearm with your
right hand. This modification allows to maintain the hand-foot energy flow in
the forward bends while providing support for the lower back. No need for
straps! You can also simply hold the sides of the calves.
Hand position in seated poses: Instead of holding your toes with both hands,
slide one hand up to the wrist or forearm of the opposite arm while continuing
to lengthen the chest.
Do not practice inversions in the third trimester. Such poses will place undue
pressure on the placenta. The last 8 weeks of pregnancy are a time to encourage
the downward flow of energy and the correct downward positioning of the baby's
head (Optimal Foetal Positioning) to facilitate labor.
If something does not feel right, or if your baby seems to object to a certain
pose, do not do the pose. Every pregnancy is different.
Yoga is a low-impact exercise that can help expectant moms to stay in shape. And
the breathing meditations practiced in a yoga class may come in handy during
labor! If you are interested in practicing yoga during your pregnancy, be aware
that certain postures should be avoided (such as those that involve laying on
the back or belly). During pregnancy, hormones cause joints in the body to
become loose (thatís why women often increase in shoe size).
Yoga postures can
help to stabilize and strengthen these joints and promote flexibility in the
muscles and fascia.