Adapting your yoga practice for pregnancy

There are many changes taking place in the body during pregnancy and it is important that a yoga instructor recognize them in order to teach a safe and effective pre natal class.  The major skeletal changes occur in the hips.  The pubis bones making up the pelvis will soften and move slightly further apart.  The woman will experience anterior pelvic tilt, which is a slight change in the position of the pelvis.  This repositioning  can create a small arch in the lumbar spine and a slight external rotation of the femur, which in turn will lengthen and stretch the hamstring muscles.  The body can become more susceptible to injuries such as hip dislocation and hamstring tears during this time.  As pregnancy progresses and weight gain is more apparent there will be pressure on the joint in the lower body.  Yoga practice can easily be adapted for all of these changes.  Intense wide leg postures should be avoided or held for only short periods of time.  Any pose that opens that hips such as Butterfly should be practiced with a counter pose like Cow Face or Eagle to subsequently close the hips.  Try to avoid putting undo pressure on the lower spine in poses like Warrior I or Equestrian by hugging in the ribs and reducing the arch in the lumbar.  Practice forward bends with care.  In standing forward bends keep the feet apart and the toes turned in slightly to avoid excessive stretching of the hamstrings.  In sitting forward bends try a more gentle stretch which may include a slight bend in the knee.  No two women experience pregnancy in the same way so student teacher communication is very important.  Students should always be encouraged to listen to their body and ease out of any pose that causes extreme discomfort or pain, this is the easiest way to avoid injury.