Pregnancy is a beautiful journey that brings about remarkable changes in your body and life. As you navigate this transformative time, it's crucial to adapt your yoga practice to ensure both your and your baby's well-being. In this post, we'll explore Pregnancy Yoga - what it is, how it is different to other yoga practises, and the benefits of exploring it.
If you'd like to find out how to adapt your existing yoga practise, hop on over to my other blog on that here.
I know that for me, it was in my pregnancy journey that I noticed just how bonkers our culture is about it. Expectations of serene women floating with a Mona Lisa smile, and all the stereotypes creeping in of morning sickness (I fortunately didn't experience that), all the comments on my appearance and weight, through to assumptions that I must be really excited (I was absolutely bricking it!). My pregnancies didn't follow the culture norm expectations, and I struggled to find info that was neutral and factual to support me. This blog post intends to share some of the info that I couldn't easily lay my hands on.
What is Pregnancy Yoga?
Pregnancy yoga, also known as prenatal/antenatal yoga, is a specialised practice designed to support expectant mothers throughout their pregnancy journey. It combines gentle yoga postures, breathing exercises, pelvic floor exercises, meditation, and relaxation techniques to promote physical and mental well-being during this transformative phase, to support both you, your changing pregnant body and wellbeing, as well as your little one.
Pregnancy Yoga is by nature quite different to regular yoga classes. This can feel quite noticeable if you have a regular and more dynamic practise. I personally took some time to adjust, and in both of my pregnancies ended up hugely scaling down my regular yoga practice, sticking to strength based work (in my case Kettlebells), and pregnancy yoga only. Initially I found this frustrating as I was so used to, and continued to be capable of doing, so much more. But pregnancy yoga is just that - it is for pregnancy; it is there to nurture you and your incredible changing body, support little one as they grow, and help to prepare you for your birthing experience. And I am so grateful now that I took the time to do this for this relatively short time in my life.
In my pregnancy yoga classes, we focus on things to support you in your pregnancy journey:
Gentle stretches targeting areas often affected by your changing body
Strengthening - focusing on key areas that we can strengthen in pregnancy to support our changing body and growing body, all of which will support you in your birthing experience
Birth preparation and support
Differences from Regular Yoga
Pregnancy yoga is tailored to the unique needs and changes that come with pregnancy. There will be different options to explore based on your experiences in your pregnancy (e.g. we would adapt certain poses if you have been experiencing Pelvic Girdle Pain), and based on the trimester that you are in.
Here are some key differences to a regular yoga class:
1. Emphasis on Modifications: Pregnancy yoga modifies traditional yoga poses to accommodate the changing body, providing comfort and safety for both the mother and the baby. Postures support wider stances to create space for baby, shorter stances to minimise the occurrence of overstretching due to elastin in your system, and removing postures from sequences that are contraindicated during pregnancy (closed twists, prone on belly, for example).
2. Gentle Approach: The focus is on gentle movements that enhance mobility, strength, and balance without straining the body.
3. Breathing Techniques: Specialised breathing exercises help expectant mothers manage stress, connect with their bodies, and prepare for labour.
4. Pelvic Floor Exercises: Pregnancy yoga includes exercises to strengthen and relax the pelvic floor muscles, which play a crucial role in childbirth.
Benefits of Pregnancy Yoga
1. Physical Well-being: Pregnancy yoga improves flexibility, strength, and posture. It also alleviates common pregnancy discomforts like back pain, swollen ankles, and fatigue.
2. Stress Reduction: Breathing exercises and relaxation techniques help reduce stress and anxiety, promoting a calm and positive mindset.
3. Connection: Prenatal yoga encourages a deep connection between the mother and her growing baby, fostering a sense of bonding and awareness.
4. Labour Preparation: The breathing techniques learned in pregnancy yoga can be invaluable during labour, aiding pain management and promoting focus.
5. Community: Pregnancy yoga classes provide a supportive environment for expectant mothers to connect, share experiences, and build a sense of community.
Dos and Don'ts of Pregnancy Yoga
1. Consult Your Doctor: Before starting any exercise regimen during pregnancy, consult your healthcare provider to ensure it's safe for you and your baby. Yoga is not recommended during the first 12 weeks, and because of this, yoga teachers will not be insured to teach you if you are before your 12 week check.
2. Choose a Qualified Instructor: Look for a certified prenatal yoga instructor who understands the unique needs of expectant mothers.
Always tell your instructor if you are expecting, even if you are attending a class that is not pregnancy specific - they will be able to offer options suitable for you.
My classes run both in-person, and online, with recordings sent out to all as well. I have have completed multiple pregnancy yoga qualifications (both Yoga Alliance and Yoga Alliance Professionals, as well as specialising in Pelvic Girdle Pain for Pregnancy and Postnatally, Caesarean Birth Recovery, and Diastasis Recti Recovery). Find out more and save your space at https://www.estherabreyyoga.com/pregnancy-and-postnatal-yoga
3. Listen to Your Body: Honour your body's limits and never push yourself into uncomfortable positions. This can be easier said than done when expecting as you are getting to know your incredible pregnant body and the signals may be different to before.
4. Stay Hydrated: Drink plenty of water before, during, and after your practice to stay hydrated.
5. Use Props: Props like cushions and blocks provide additional support during poses.
1. Overexert yourself: Pregnancy is not the time to push your physical boundaries. Avoid intense poses or overstretching. As mentioned above, your body will be extra bendy during pregnancy, and postnatally, and so shorten your stance, and go less deeply into postures during this short time if your life.
2. Lie on Your Back: From 16 weeks onwards, avoid poses that involve lying flat on your back, as it can compress blood vessels.
3. Do Hot Yoga: Hot yoga or practicing in excessively hot environments can lead to overheating, which is not safe for your baby.
4. Do Inversions: Poses that involve going upside down can put undue pressure on your abdomen and are best avoided.
5. Do Deep Twists: Deep twisting poses can strain your abdominal muscles and affect blood flow to your baby.
In conclusion, pregnancy yoga is a nurturing practice that offers a holistic approach to supporting your well-being during this remarkable journey. By embracing its gentle postures, mindful breathing, and relaxation techniques, you can cultivate physical strength, mental clarity, and a profound connection with your growing baby. Remember to always prioritize safety, listen to your body, and savour each moment of this transformative experience.
I'd love to welcome you to a Pregnancy Yoga class soon - there are PAYG options, or 6 class pass, both for online and in-person sessions.