I was still going to my usual “Tough-Power-so-intense-I-tremble-and-sweat-Yoga” kind of classes (which are a fantastic complement to triathlon training) at Gym n Tonic before I found out I was pregnant… in fact, until about week 6 or 7 of my pregnancy. I soon changed classes as soon as I started to feel a little more tired, bloated, sensitive to heat and smells, etc!
Some Yoga teachers will tell you not to practise Yoga at all during the first trimester and others will tell you that you can just carry on as normal until you need to change things to make room for the bump. I think a compromise is probably most healthy. I don’t believe it is necessary to stop everything… I never have and I know hundreds of other women who have had perfectly healthy pregnancies, deliveries and babies and they didn’t stop being active either.
Over all, during the last three months I have enjoyed Yoga more than ever before. In fact, it's been one of the best things about my first trimester!
There are some things that we should take into account or at least understand though.
If you feel like something is going to make you puke, you probably won’t enjoy it that much, and it is unlikely to help you relax. There are a few things that can help though:
· Try moving your practice from the morning to evening
· Eat something small and “stomach settling” before you go
· Wear cooler clothing, or practise in a cooler room than usual (Progesterone, which increases 10 fold during pregnancy, will increase your basal body temperature and I find that being in a warmer room makes pregnancy nausea even worse.)
· If all else fails, ease off around the weeks that nausea is typically at its worst, e.g. 6-10 weeks, then see how you feel
Obviously, we could try to sleep more to combat this, but sometimes that’s just not enough, or simply not possible. If you’re feeling tired, some ideas are:
· (the opposite of above) Move your practice from the evening to earlier in the day
· Try a less intense class
· Try a shorter class
· (same as above) ease off and give yourself a break for a while and pick up again once you have more energy
During pregnancy increases in progesterone, huge increases in oestrogen and production of relaxin all combine to, amongst other things, loosen and soften the (smooth) muscles in your internal organs, the muscles (skeletal) that move your bones and keep you standing, your tendons and ligaments. This softening and loosening, combined with the increasing size of the uterus, mean that some modifications to any yoga practice are sensible. I’ve mentioned temperature of the room, timing and intensity – there are also poses that either should not be attempted at all or that should ideally be modified. As a general guide, pre-bump, try following the “Bra Strap Rule”. This is for first trimester twisting, and goes something like this:
· Instead of playing a full-on game of twister with yourself, simply keep your baby facing the same direction as your pelvis.
· Then, gently twist your chest, shoulders and neck — the part of the torso above the bra strap line — for a subtle, but noticeable, opening of your upper body. Slowly build up to 25% of your normal rotation.
· As always, once you’re there, be sure to breathe deeply, consciously, deliciously.
There are some more detailed tips for safe yoga poses on HealthAndYoga.com:
1. Ardha Titali Asan (Half Butterfly)
How to do?
Sit with legs outstretched. Bend the right leg and place the right foot as far up on the left thigh as possible. Place the right hand on top of the bent right knee.
Hold the toes of the right foot with the left hand. While breathing in, gently move the right knee up towards the chest. Breathing out, gently push the knee down and try to touch the floor. The trunk should not move. Movement of leg should be achieved by the exertion of the right arm. Repeat with left leg. Slowly practice about 10 up and down movements with each leg. DO NOT STRAIN.
It is an excellent practice for loosening of hip and knee joints, which shall enable faster delivery.
2. Poorna Titali Asan (Full Butterfly)
How to do?
Sit with legs outstretched. Bend the knees and bring the soles of the feet together, keeping the heels as close to the body as possible. Fully relax the inner thighs. Clasp the feet with both hands.
Gently bounce the knees up and down, using the elbows as levers to press the legs down. Do not use any force. Repeat up to 20-30 times. Straighten the legs and relax.
Tension from inner thigh muscles is relieved. Removes tiredness from legs.
3. Supta UdarakarshanAsan (Sleeping Abdominal Stretch Pose)
How to do?
Lie on the back. Interlock fingers of both hands and place hands beneath the head. Bend knees, keeping the soles of feet on the floor.
While breathing out lower the legs towards the right, trying to touch the knees on the floor. At the same time move the head towards the left, giving uniform twisting stretch to the entire spine. Repeat on the other side by bending legs towards left, and head towards right.
Removes constipation, improves digestion. Relieves stiffness and strain of spine caused by prolonged sitting.
Note: I think that twists when pregnant should be done gently, not pulling or straining and the twist should only be from the upper back rather than the hips.
4. Chakki Chalan Asan (Churning the Mill Pose)
How to do?
Sit with legs stretched out in front of the body about one foot apart. Interlock fingers of both hands and hold the arms out straight in front of the chest.
Make large circular movements over both feet, trying to take the hands over the toes on the forward swing and coming as far back as possible on the backward swing. Practice 10 times in each direction.
Excellent asan for toning the nerves and organs of pelvis and abdomen preparing them for pregnancy. Useful in regulating menstrual cycle. Also an excellent post natal exercise.
5. Kashta Takshan Asan (Chopping Wood Pose)
How to do?
Sit in squatting pose with feet flat on the ground and one and a half feet apart. Clasp fingers of hand and place them on the floor between the feet. Straighten the arms and keep them straight throughout the practice. Elbows should be inside the knees. Imagine the action of chopping wood. Raise arms as high as possible, behind the head, stretching the spine upward. Look up towards the hands.
Make a downward stroke. Expel the breath making an "Ha" sound and removing all air from the lungs. Hands should return towards the feet. This is one round. Practice 5-10 rounds.
It loosens the pelvic girdle and tones the pelvic muscles.
6. Marjari Asan (Cat Stretch Pose)
How to do?
Sit with buttocks on the heels (Vajrasan). Raise the buttocks and stand on the knees. Lean forward and place the hands flat on the floor. This is the starting position. Inhale while raising the head and depressing the spine so that the back becomes concave. Exhale, while lowering the head and stretching the spine upward.
At the end of the exhalation contract the abdomen and pull in the buttocks. Head will be now between the arms, facing the thighs. This is one round. It may be done for 5-10 times .Be careful not to strain yourself.
This asan improves flexibility of the neck, shoulders and spine. Tones female reproductive system. Can be safely practiced during first 6 months of pregnancy.
7. Kati Chakrasan (Waist Rotating Pose)
How to do?
Stand with the feet about half a meter apart and the arms by the sides. Inhale while raising the arms to shoulder level. Exhale and twist body to left. Bring right hand to left shoulder and wrap left arm around the back. Look over left shoulder. Hold breath for 2 seconds, inhale and return to starting position. Keep feet firmly on ground while twisting. Repeat on other side. Do twisting smoothly without any jerks. Do about 5-10 rounds.
Tones waist, back and hips . Induces a feeling of lightness and used to relieve physical and mental tension.
Note: I think that twists when pregnant should be done gently, not pulling or straining and the twist should only be from the upper back rather than the hips - keeping the belly button facing the same way as your knees.
8. Tadasan (Palm Tree Pose)
How to do?
Stand with feet together and arms on the side. Raise arms over the head, interlock fingers and then turn the palms upward. Place hands over the head. Inhale and stretch the arms, shoulders and chest upwards. Raise heels to come up on the toes. Stretch whole body from top to bottom. Lower heels while exhaling and bring hands on top of the head. Relax for few seconds and repeat whole round 5-10 times.
Helps develop physical and mental balance. Entire spine is stretched and loosened, helping to clear congestion of the spinal nerves. Also stretches rectos abdominal muscles keeping them nerves toned.
9. Utthanasan (Squat and Rise Pose)
How to do?
Stand erect on feet about a meter apart, with toes turned out. Interlock fingers of both hands and let them hang loosely in front of the body. Slowly bend knees and lower buttocks. Straighten knees and return to upright position.
Strengthens muscles of middle back, uterus, thighs and ankles
Note: some yoga teachers do not recommend deep squats if you have a low lying placenta. You would not yet know this during the first trimster, but something to be aware of when you're further along.
10. Kandharasan (Shoulder Pose)
How to do?
Lie flat on back. Bend knees, place soles of feet flat on the floor with the heels touching the buttocks. Feet and knees may be hip width apart. Grasp ankles with hands. Raise buttocks and arch back backward.
Try to raise the chest and navel as high as possible, without moving feet or shoulders. In final position, the body is supported by the head, neck, shoulders, arms and feet. Hold pose as long as it is comfortable. Release ankles and relax.
Realigns the spine and relieves backache. It massages and stretches the colon and abdominal organs, improving digestion. Tones female reproductive organs and especially recommended for women who tend to miscarry. Should not be done in advanced stages of pregnancy.* Under expert guidance, it has been successfully used to turn the baby when it is a breech presentation.
Of course, whenever I was practising Yoga I told the expert in the room, so that I always had specific, first hand guidance to keep me and “Sprog” safe and to help me derive maximum benefit from my practice.