“How is yoga beneficial during pregnancy?”
Yoga is not just about gaining strength and flexibility, and finding calm in moments of stress; it also helps slow down our busy lives. And, prenatal yoga is a very safe form of exercise. Executed with the use of props to support the pregnant woman as baby grows, the mother can maintain the standard yoga poses but in a modified way. Prenatal yoga also teaches the powerful connection of breath and movement, encouraging the woman to let go of tension trigger points in her body. All of these elements combine to cultivate a deeper understanding of how the woman’s body moves and what she can do to relax in an uncomfortable situation, both physically and mentally. Many of the elements of a prenatal yoga class can be utilized by the mother as she moves through labor and delivery, including poses to ease labor pains, breathing techniques, and meditation.
“What if I’ve never done yoga before?”
There are various modifications for a gentler practice or for those mommas who are new to yoga. It’s a good idea to follow third trimester modifications in particular until you feel comfortable adding more challenge to your practice. Move slowly during the transitions between poses. Trust your body and listen to it if you need to come out of a pose or simply take a break. Check in more often on how the pose feels versus how you think it’s supposed to “look.”
“Can I practice yoga in my first trimester?”
This is completely up to you. Some schools will say to rest during your first trimester as your body adjusts to this new state. Others say it is perfectly fine to continue your exercise program as you begin your pregnancy. Personally, I always needed a bit of exercise to help me feel better. I certainly took many naps and rested when I needed to, but I enjoyed maintaining and modifying my yoga practice during my first trimester. As long as there is no medical reason to stop your practice, it is an individual preference. Your body is changing daily, if you need to rest during your first trimester, we look forward to you joining us during your second!
“How long throughout my pregnancy can I practice yoga?”
Again, as long as there are no medical contraindications, you can practice yoga up until baby arrives! Obviously your practice will be very different than it was in the beginning of your pregnancy, you will learn to instinctively trust your body and how it needs to move. There are many modifications we can take during the third trimester to accommodate our growing baby. You may choose to simply stretch or meditate as you await baby’s birth day. Allowing yourself to slow down and find those moments of quiet is a yoga practice. It is not only physical poses. Listen to your inner voice, you will be amazed how it guides you throughout the final weeks and days of your pregnancy.
“How will prenatal yoga help to prepare me for labor?”
In my opinion, this is one of the best reasons to practice prenatal yoga! As we physically move on our mats, we are not only gaining strength and increasing flexibility, we are becoming very aware of how our body moves and what helps us to feel good. We recognize that we have an incredible strength within us, even as baby grows and our bodies change. We connect in the most amazing way to the power of our breath, recognizing how it can create a sense of calm and peace throughout our bodies, yet it provides us power when we need it. Gaining a greater understanding of your body and trusting that it is designed to grow AND birth your baby is one of the most amazing gifts you can receive from your prenatal yoga practice.
“I am getting dizzy when moving from an inverted pose (head below the heart) to standing.”
With increased blood volume, we can feel dizzy or lightheaded when coming up to stand after having the head lower than the heart. First try moving very slowly up to standing. Allow your knees to bend softly, and let your hands find support on your thighs as you stand. If this still bothers you, remain at a flat back, head in line (parallel) with the heart. You can accomplish this by placing your blocks at the highest level underneath your hands for support. You will still benefit from the stretch without dipping the head lower than the heart creating dizziness.
“What poses can I do to alleviate sciatica?”
A growing baby and shifting pelvis can cause the sciatic nerve to be compressed. Deep hip stretches such as pigeon, or cow face pose may help to relieve some tension in this area. Chiropractic adjustments, massage or acupuncture may also be helpful. Unfortunately for some women, due to the level of relaxin loosening the pelvis and baby’s position, relief from sciatica does not happen until baby shifts or is born.
“Can I practice inversions during my pregnancy?”
This is also something that is an individual preference. If you had a strong inversion practice before pregnancy, you may feel comfortable continuing this practice. Keep in mind, your body is releasing relaxin, the hormone that helps your joints to loosen, this may create extra pressure on wrists, shoulders, or your neck. Keep your muscles engaged as much as possible to support your inversion. I would recommend not holding the inversion as long as you normally would since the increase in blood volume will be moving to your head and away from baby. Also, as baby grows your balance will be ever changing and shifting, making it easier to fall out of your regularly solid headstand or handstand. Use the wall for support if you choose to invert during pregnancy.
“Where can I find props to use during my practice?”
Many yoga studios will also sell blocks and straps. If you only purchased one prop, I would recommend buying blocks. You can get creative by using a towel or belt as a strap, a blanket from home, and one or two supportive pillows in place of a bolster.
*The above should not be construed as medical advice. Individuals should consult with their own physicians before starting any fitness or exercise regime.
Guest Writer-Amy Griffith
Nationally certified Prenatal Yoga Instructor, Amy Griffith, is one of America’s leading prenatal fitness and lifestyle experts. From www.AmyGriffithworkout.com, she provides free advice, including eBook and video content, to her Army of followers and fans. A former professional dancer performing as a Radio City Rockette for 3 seasons, as well as in the Broadway musical “42nd St” and the nationally touring show “Spamlot,” Amy has spent her entire adult life devoted to fitness and healthy living. After getting married and deciding to focus on becoming a mother, Amy wanted to find the best strategies to ensure a healthy pregnancy. None of her friends had any answers outside of generic recycled advice, so Amy embarked upon on a crusade in the interest of herself, her unborn son and her family at large. What Amy discovered was that Yoga had amazing solutions and that she could teach other moms-to-be to trust their body more on what it can do naturally. She went on to study at Sonic, Center for Yoga Studies, and The Prenatal Yoga Center in New York City.
After her studies completed Amy and her husband moved back to her hometown, Erie, PA, and she has since been combining the experiences she’s had as a dancer and student of two of the top yoga institutes with the swagger she picked up in the big apple to teach the most dynamic prenatal fitness class in the region. Not only does Amy offer physical motivation for her students, but she also inspires them mentally and supports them emotionally.
Amy’s newest venture is her new fitness video that offers a safe, well-structured physical workout for expectant mothers. Learn more online at www.AmyGriffithworkout.com.