This week’s post is from Certified Adamantine® Yoga teacher and expecting yoga practitioner, Cathy Struecker.
I was definitely more cautious with my yoga practice during my first pregnancy because the experience was so new and I didn’t want to do anything to put myself or my baby at risk. Not that I want to do that with my second pregnancy either, I just know my body and my Adamantine® Yoga practice a lot more intimately this time around so feel more confident about when and how to make modifications to my practice.
As with any form of exercise during pregnancy, you should first seek medical clearance from a physician before beginning a new physical activity program, including yoga. And once you have that clearance, seek out the guidance of a qualified yoga teacher or personal trainer who has experience working with prenatal clients and can give you sound advice on modifying your current routine/practice or developing a practice built around your needs at the time and as your pregnancy progresses.
One of the most important things I can tell you if you are newly expecting is to pay close attention to what your body is telling you throughout your pregnancy. If something doesn’t feel right, don’t do it. If you are timid about moving through a posture or transition, don’t do it. I am in my second pregnancy and about 27 weeks along and am just beginning to add more modifications, BUT, with my first pregnancy, I probably started modifying things around 12-15 weeks. And before that time I was pretty cautious about deep rotations because of the risk that it can pose to the unborn baby. At this point I know my body pretty well and can read when something is just not right or when I simply can’t do something anymore because of the size of my belly; and that is when I begin looking to modify various postures.
Work under the supervision of a certified Adamantine® Yoga Teacher regularly during your pregnancy to ensure you are maintaining a safe practice for both you and your baby. Some of the things to be aware of if you are expecting and that you’ll want to consider eventually modifying:
- Gentle rotations are still safe throughout your pregnancy as long as they are not deep and from the thoracic spine (shoulders & back) rather than abdomen. The body still craves this natural movement of the spine so it’s important to continue to incorporate them in some way:
- Revolved Triangle with knee bent and hand on inside of foot (eventually modifying this to pyramid when your belly gets too big to feel much benefit through the outside of your leg or you find that your hips are too far out of alignment). A certified Adamantine® Yoga teacher can advise you on this alignment.
- Shoulder Roll 1 without reaching or binding your hands can be a significant spinal rotation and can often times help fulfill this direction of mobility.
- Supine Spinal Twist (without force) in place of Plow (if too uncomfortable) until it’s time to omit much work in the supine (on your back) position (around start of 2nd trimester)–this could then be replaced with an easy seated twist at the end of your practice.
- It’s not necessary to continue to promote the natural exaggerated curve in the low back that occurs during pregnancy because the center of gravity changes. As your belly begins to grow, you’ll notice that your lumbar curve will naturally be enhanced; therefore, postures like wheel or even cobra (also because of the pressure of lying on your stomach) can become uncomfortable or begin to create too much tension in your low back that is difficult to release or overstretch your abdominal muscles.
- A couple passes at Cat (rounding back on all 4’s) in place of wheel helps to stretch across your back and strengthen your core by pulling inward with your naval.
- Bridge can be used in place of wheel to continue to strengthen your hamstrings & glutes and open hip flexors. It can also open your chest more if you “walk” your shoulders underneath your body and clasp your hands underneath you.
- Modify Sun Salutation & transition from plank to cobra to downward facing dog when it becomes uncomfortable to lie on your stomach by adding in a full push-up (to maintain strength) from plank, then dropping to all 4’s & passing through cat and neutral spine before lifting into downward facing dog.
- Forward folds and prone (face down) positions will eventually become uncomfortable and a bit more challenging to do. Your stomach just seems to get in the way taking some of the benefit out of what maybe used to feel like a really good stretch.
- Standing Forward Fold with knees soft/bent or feet slightly wider than hips can help make more room for your growing front side while allowing for your spine to maintain length.
- Modify Shoulder Roll 2 by stepping through to an easy seated position. Use the forearm or wrist of 2nd side to hold your 1st side arm at shoulder height across your body. Place the pressure with your 2nd side forearm on the forearm of the 1st side & keep this arm straight and palm open to the front just as in Shoulder Roll 2.
- Lotus or ½ Lotus with your head resting on 1 or both fists can still give you the benefit of the hip stretch in this position. Another option once this becomes too uncomfortable is to add an easy seated twist in place of the forward fold in this position. Both of these modifications obviously may not give you the feeling that the inversion of full Lotus provides, but are safe alternatives to allow for your hips and spine to continue to benefit.
If at any time during your pregnancy you feel as though you are trying too hard to move through or “achieve” a posture, modify it or take it out. That forceful/violent energy does not play a role in any yoga practice. And certainly not when the goal of yoga during pregnancy is to create a calm and relaxing practice that can help you adjust to the ever-changing physical demands of your body and prepare you for labor, delivery and parenting.
It’s an exciting time, but can also be discouraging with the realization that you don’t have any control over the changes you are encountering and can’t do things one week that you could just do a couple days prior. But that’s the beauty of it all–embrace the changes and know that they won’t last forever. It’s your body’s way of teaching you to better love and care for yourself & your well-being.
It’s safe to say that I do not have a typical yoga practice during pregnancy as I have just recently begun to remove wheel from my sequence and am still comfortable taking postures in both the prone and supine positions. For me, if I can finish my practice feeling better than when I started and sustain that feeling throughout the day, I have done what I need to do. But I often let my ambition take over and forget the importance of creating calm & joy while reducing stress, unnecessary expectations & anxiety during this time in my life. Welcoming the present for what it is and allowing more acceptance in your life can be exceptionally rewarding in the end.