Yoga and Pregnancy: the Pros and Cons

This is the first part of a mini series of posts on Yoga and Pregnancy.  Far be it from me to tell any woman, mama or mama to be what to do. Oh heck no.  I know how incredibly difficult it is to house a tiny human –the fear, the anxiety, the nausea–pregnancy is no joke.  In fact, it is ALL the darn work involved with pregnancy that made me say to my husband, when they first put my absolutely adorable and healthy son on my chest, “you’re getting fixed.  I’m NEVER doing that again.”

That was baby #2.  

Talk about a way to get started on a blog post right?

Well, now that I have your attention, let’s talking about this super important concept–with the biggest caveat being  — You do You. If you are pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant, listen to yourself (and your doctors, of course.)  The things that I will talk about are 100% from my own personal experience practicing and teaching yoga throughout (mostly) both of my full term, healthy pregnancies.  If something doesn’t sit right with you, then just leave it right here and do what feels right with you.

As a yoga studio owner, yoga teacher and –well, mom, I get asked a lot about prenatal yoga.  Often times, people ask if we have prenatal classes at the studio (we do not–i will go into why later), then they ask me if they should practice (and of course I say, yes, if they want to), and then they ask if I practiced yoga while pregnant.  (yes, I did, but it wasn’t that simple.)

Before I dive into the Yoga part–I want to address something about pregnancy.  You may or may not already know this, but basically from conception, your body starts going bananas (that’s my scientific term for it)–i’m just kidding, but your body does do some pretty amazing stuff.  I mean, beyond creating a human and huge boobs, your body also has to make way for that new life to leave your body. It does this by creating an excess in a chemical to help your joints relax. These “Relaxins” are actually at their highest during the 1st Trimester (which may surprise most readers.)  

Relaxins perform many duties–from helping the baby implant, to keeping the mother and baby alive by allowing more blood flow throughout the arteries, and ultimately, making room for the little darling to make its grand entrance.  It is this miraculous chemical that is also responsible for yoga related injuries during pregnancy, which is why I caution all the mamas to be. When you are more mobile than normal, you may want to get into a stretch a little more than you would otherwise–this doesn’t just stretch the muscle, it stretches the connective tissue.  Muscles expand and contract for a living–connective tissue? Not so much. It is this balance–this yoga practice, if you will that must be minded

The Pros of Practicing Yoga while Pregnant

  1. Yoga is a great way to relax and mentally prepare for the shift in your life that is about to happen.  Granted, there is no amount of meditation that’ll prepare you for the sleepless nights and sore nipples, it is a great way to tap into the resources of your mind to control the thoughts, to control the breath and to control the body.  Trust me, those practices will come in handy both in child birth and child rearing.
  2. Yoga can help you feel more connected to yourself and your little baby.  I’m an avid yogi–i practice yoga nearly every day, so of course I’m going to say that there is nothing quite like a regular yoga practice to really put you in touch with what’s going on…deep down.  I used to run long distance, and I could always tell if something was going on cardiovascularly, and even joint wise–but it wasn’t until a good regular practice that I felt like I could tell what was going on in the smaller or deeper parts of my body.  When you practice yoga while pregnant, you move your changing body every day with your breath and you pay attention to what it feels like in that moment. I swear to you–it was the daily yoga practice that kept me from what some women call Pregnancy Clumsiness. Since I practiced daily, I knew where my body was in space and time and I rarely had any of those episodes.
  3. Yoga can help you feel connected to other mamas -if you get into a really good prenatal class, you can make friends with other moms to be and that can be comforting and rewarding on many levels.  You know, there’s nothing like having someone to commiserate the weight gain, sleepless nights, constant potty breaks, growth charts, etc.

Cons of Practicing Yoga while Pregnant

  1. As talked about above–those extra relaxins can wreak havoc on your body if you push yourself too hard during yoga class.  I suffer from postpartum plantar fasciitis because I never slowed down and over stretched my feet while pregnant. I do see a LOT of women going to YIN while pregnant, and I ALWAYS caution them not to go to their edge because –well, yin was designed specifically to stretch that connective tissue.  If you’re already super stretchy and you go in there and over stretch the connective tissue, that stuff isn’t going to go back like a muscle would so you really could have some long term damage. I used to practice yoga with a woman that still dealt with hip pain she first started having while pregnant doing frog pose in a yin class.  Her son was 10 at the time.
  2. It is hard to modify if your yoga teacher isn’t experienced with pregnancy and yoga.  As a studio owner and Online Yoga teacher, of course I want folks to practice, but if you do choose to practice while pregnant and you never have practiced before, either take the time to go to a knowledgeable teacher, or do your research.  If you do come practice yoga with us at Thrive Yoga and Wellness, rest assured, our teachers (and all our Teacher Trainees) have training and experience with pregnancy modifications.  We are here to help!
  3. It is easy to over do it.  This may go without saying, but remember, you are making a little human.  Your body is doing a LOT. Even though you may not FEEL like it is. For most people, the first trimester is a doozy anyways, but if you’re one of the lucky ones that feels amazing the whole time, be cautious not to over do it.  I know from my own experience, some days I would feel like a rock star, go out and do my practice and then need to sleep like a solid 12 hrs (that was before I had my daughter)–with my second pregnancy, I was just Plain out of luck.  But–I can tell you, when I did over do it, I was more tired and more sore than I would have been had I not been pregnant. Soooo–don’t over do it–either in the stretching or the physical nature of the practice!

Did you practice yoga while you were pregnant?  Do you have questions for me if you’re thinking of practicing and you are pregnant?  Maybe you want to know something about yoga and pregnancy and you aren’t even pregnant yet?  Be sure to shoot me an email at jennifer@thriveyogaandwellness.com.  I’d be happy to share my experience with you and to help you in whatever way I can.  If I have any advice for a new mama to be it would be this. Practice giving yourself some Grace.  Your life is about to change–for the better–if things don’t or aren’t going like you thought they should–practice some self love and be kind to yourself.  You are enough.

If you’re already past that whole baby making stage of life and you’re finding yourself so busy you can’t get to the mat, then Thrive Online is the PERFECT place for you!  Inside the Thrive Online community, you get a whole library of fitness inspired yoga sequences that are anywhere from 8 minutes to 60 minutes where you practiec in the comfort of your home, but you get the benefit of a teacher right there with you.  In the Thrive Online Community, you’ll have access to live, interactive practices where if you want, you can practice with me and get real time feedback from me! Not only that, you’ll be surrounded by a group of encouraging, wellness minded friends that’ll help you on your journey to wellness. For the price of one drop in class, you’ll have access to amazing, high intensity, low impact yoga inspired workouts that’ll help you burn calories, get stronger, improve your balance and build stamina and cardiovascular capacity!  No other online yoga community offers the one on one attention and community support, which is key to your motivation and success! I hope you’ll check out my program and I can’t wait to see you on the inside!