While prenatal yoga has numerous benefits for mother and baby and can be practiced up to the point of giving birth, it is imperative to be cautious as an instructor and practitioner. Safety is of utmost importance in prenatal yoga as the body undergoes constant change from week to week. Below are my top ten safety tips for practicing yoga throughout pregnancy.
1. An expectant mother must never lie on her back after 3 months of pregnancy. At three months and beyond, the fetus will be heavy enough to put pressure on the lower back, which will lead to back pain. Also, some women may experience dizziness or feel lightheaded lying on their back as the fetus can put pressure on the Vena Cava, which can affect the mother’s circulation and the supply of blood to the fetus.
2. Twisting Poses should be avoided. An expectant mother could rupture the placenta or cause the uterus to go off center in twisting poses.
3. Be cautious with all backbends throughout pregnancy. Mild backbends such as Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge Pose) will be safe in the first trimester. Deep backbends such as Urdhva Dhanurasana (wheel pose) are best to avoid beyond three months of pregnancy. Some serious practitioners will be tempted to continue practicing Urdhva Dhanurasana into late stages of pregnancy, but it is important to remember the body is constantly changing from week to week and as the body changes, further risks will arise.
4. Be careful not to overstretch any area of the body, particularly the groin. The hormone relaxin becomes present in pregnancy, which relaxes the muscles and joints in preparation for birth. The muscles become more stretched, but are tight, which make the body more prone to injury.
5. Take extra care in balancing poses as the weight of the belly increases and one’s centre of gravity is altered.
6. Be mindful of the risk of back injury and take extra care in protecting the back in all postures. As the weight of the fetus increases, pressure will be placed on the lower back. Stretching the back in yoga will certainly help to ease back pain, but be cautious to avoid injury.
7. Avoid inversions if they were not practiced before pregnancy. Inversions such as Sirsasana (Headstand) are safe throughout pregnancy as long as they were regularly practiced before pregnancy. However, it is best to practice near a wall to avoid any risk of falling. Approach headstand with great care and avoid if you do not feel completely confident in the pose.
8. Remember to stay hydrated during practice. Take extra care with your body during yoga practice and frequently drink water to avoid dehydration.
9. Replace any calories burned, but of course with nutritious food choices. It is important to provide ample calories to the growing fetus. Try to replace any calories burned in physical activity, but focus on nutrient rich ingredients to provide the most nourishment for your developing baby.
10. Most importantly, listen to your body during practice. Each woman’s body will react differently to pregnancy. If any discomfort is felt, your body is warning you to take extra care.
-Somer Lynn (Pre/Post-natal Course)