Pregnancy Yoga: Your questions answered.

At Bumps and Burpees, we like to provide our mums-to-be with a well-rounded fitness programme. Suitable for all stages of pregnancy, we have classes to suit your mood and energy level. One of our most popular is of course YOGA. We are so lucky to have a couple of expert pre and post natal yoga teachers who create beautiful classes for you to enjoy. Yoga is so beneficial but we do get a lot of questions about the classes, the safety aspects and specifics around help for labour and birthing. So we sat down with Stacey Epstein, one of our fabulous yogis, to ask her all of your questions.

Why is yoga good for you when you are pregnant?

Yoga is wonderful during pregnancy as it has many benefits, from aiding the physical body to release tension and the aches of growing a little human. The physical side of a regular yoga practice will help keep and build strength, flexibility and endurance of the muscles which is great for labour. Yoga also offers you space and time to connect to your pregnancy, yourself and your baby. Prenatal yoga will also teach you movements and breath techniques (Pranayamas) that you can use during labour, like upright birth positions and how to breathe through contractions. The combination of all this can help to alleviate anxiety and stress too, contributing to better sleep.

Do I need to have done yoga before?

No you don’t, prenatal yoga is often the entry point for women to yoga and many continue to practice after baby is born too. 

Is yoga safe to do in the first trimester?

This is a more nuanced question to answer, in general yes – with small caveats. We often continue doing all sorts of things in the early days not aware that we’re even pregnant. That knowledge doesn’t drastically change the physical safety of many exercises including yoga. However holistically, the yogic view would encourage you to honour the huge amount of hormonal changes the body is going through especially in the first trimester and encourage you to rest.

Best poses to help strengthen for labour and delivery?

One of the best yoga practices for labour and delivery is actually the breathing throughout class. Being able to practice focusing on your breath while you move through the practice is great preparation for riding the waves of your contractions. Physically the warrior poses and squats like goddess and malasana are all great strengtheners for the legs, glutes and pelvis. The pelvic floor work in class will also help. Practicing releasing the pelvic floor on your exhale in the third trimester is great preparation. Additionally practicing any poses like downward dog against the wall and table top /all 4’s will help. Your body often tells you to move in labour but sometimes we can’t think of what to do. If your body knows and is familiar with swaying hips and gentle poses already, your intuition will tell you what you need to do. 

What poses should I not do when pregnant?

From the beginning you need to be conscious of not over stretching even if it feels good. With the hormone relaxin now coursing through you, it is much easier to over stretch than when you’re not pregnant. You’ll need to avoid any pose that crosses or closes across the body almost like a crunch. Parivritta Utkatasana (twisted chair pose) or Ardha Matyendrasana (1/2 lord or the fishes – a common seated twist) are a no go.

While pregnant you want to avoid any poses that increase abdominal pressure, like plank, Navasana (boat pose), and the forward and jumping back during a vinyasa but aren’t limited to these specific ones. Anything that can create internal abdominal pressure that is too much on the linea alba (soft tissue between the abs muscles) will look like doming or coning. Once you see or feel this, you shouldn’t continue with poses that create it. 

Later in your pregnancy, lying on your back can mean baby puts pressure on your vena carva. This may make you feel dizzy. With my second pregnancy, this happened a lot earlier than with my first. As your yoga practice helps to cultivate awareness of your body, you’ll know when to stop practicing these. 

I have a regular vinyasa yoga practice when should I stop that and switch to pregnancy yoga? 

So long as you practice with awareness and modify to avoid doming and twists etc, as mentioned above  you can continue so long as it feels good to you. being mindful that as your pregnancy progresses your poses won’t look the same and I generally recommend shortening all standing posture stances and  in the third trimester I’d encourage you to swap or add in pregnancy yoga to get the benefits specific to pregnancy from those classes which include pelvic floor, birth prep breathing etc. 

Can I keep doing inversions like crow and headstand? 

I’d avoid crow fairly early on, as it creates a decent abdominal ‘crunch’ and baby will quickly fill that space. First off with any inversion like headstand, forearm stand or handstand there is the obvious risk of falling. So you need to evaluate if the benefits of the pose are worth that risk to you.  If you have a strong and steady headstand prior to pregnancy you can continue with it. It can feel lovely for the lower back. But like all other poses, stop practicing this or other inversions, even the simplest of inversions like downward dog if you have abdominal doming. For added safety I’d stay by the wall, as even if you’ve done the pose for years, your pregnancy is new to your body and your centre of gravity is always changing throughout your pregnancy. 

I hope you have found this useful, but we are always available should you have any more specific questions before beginning your pregnancy yoga practice. Pregnancy Yoga is one of 6 weekly classes available on the Pregnancy Plan at Bumps and Burpees, find out more here.

If you would like to give it a go then you can take part in your first pregnancy yoga class for free by clicking on the link below. You will just need to add your contact details to access the platform but no payment is required.

free pregnancy yoga class

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