Yoga and Pregnancy
The only thing we can say for certain about pregnancy is that every woman experiences it differently. For that reason, anything said definitively or any instruction given on what to do (or not do) for a successful, easy pregnancy should be taken with a large grain of salt. What may be true for one woman may not be true for another. Almost all advice should be accompanied with the disclaimer to consult with your OBGYN or other healthcare provider on the appropriateness for you.
At the same time, you will find that many OBGYNs and healthcare professionals find it equally as difficult to provide definitive “shoulds” or “should nots” for pregnancy. Also depending on their background and training, OBGYNs and Healthcare professionals are likely to disagree on a number of issues.
Exercise and pregnancy is one of these topics; even more so yoga and pregnancy.
Why? In most cases conclusive scientific data does not exist. Science is one reason you find that pregnancy recommendations have changed over the years. As each new study comes out, we know more, but almost nothing conclusively. On some topics, what doctors took as fact just 15 years ago is now said to be false.
Yoga itself is relatively new to the West and yoga during pregnancy newer still. What we do know is that we will continue to explore and learn more about both benefits and contraindications of yoga and pregnancy for a long time into the future.
The best any expectant mom can do is listen to advice, both from other moms, as well as healthcare professionals; but take nothing as hard fact. Most of all, always listen to yourself, seek second and third opinions where necessary, and do your own research.
Generally, whatever level and type of exercise you were doing before pregnancy is safe to continue into pregnancy.
This is the predominant thinking today, and most OBGYNs will tell you this. This makes sense. Women have been giving birth from the beginning of the human race. If women were not able to continue to go about their regular lives while pregnant, most families and possibly even the human race would have not survived. In many countries today women who till the fields have no choice but to continue to do so even when they are pregnant and they delivery healthy babies doing so. Of course high-risk pregnancies are certainly the exception.
In general, if you had a strong yoga practice before pregnancy, continuing that practice is safe but common sense should prevail. However, keep in mind:
- If a posture is uncomfortable, especially due to an expanding belly, skip it or modify in such a way that the intent of the posture is still there but the discomfort is relieved
- It goes without saying that postures performed while lying on your belly should be eliminated altogether
- Extreme caution should be taken when performing spinal twists and backbends. Most, but not all, (depending on your level) will require significant modifications.
- Many inversions are safe, although some will require modifications; but no advanced posture of any kind should be attempted if you were not highly proficient at that posture before becoming pregnant.
- You should always listen to your body and proceed with caution, understanding that while pregnant you have a new body to become aware of, and a new life to nurture and protect.
As a yogini, you should be in touch with your body and know what is right and not right with regard to your practice, your health and that of your baby's. As your pregnancy progresses, you will naturally start ramping down the intensity of your practice and eliminating or modifying postures, but this does not necessarily mean that you move to a low level of physical activity. For some experienced yoginis, their practice at 9 months pregnant may be a more physically challenging practice than a non-pregnant, healthy woman. It is all a question of the level at which you were when you got pregnant. Therefore the best thing that you can do for you and your baby is to be at your peak physical fitness before you get pregnant and sensibly continue that same level of activity throughout your pregnancy.
Most of all, enjoy your new practice and avoid grieving for you old practice. It will be there after pregnancy like an old friend that has been waiting on you; only you will be wiser and you will have learned exciting new subtleties about certain postures, your practice and yourself!
And before you know it a little yogi is here: