FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
1. When can I start pregnancy yoga?
The end of the first trimester (12-14 weeks) is an ideal time to join a pregnancy yoga class. Before this date your body has some pretty remarkable stuff to do to nurture and ensure that baby gets fully settled and established. Please be open and honest with your teacher about any conditions that you are experiencing. It will enable her to give you personally tailored suggestions for your practice. She may have a helpful solution that will ease some of your pregnancy symptoms too. Of course, seek the guidance of your doctor of your intention to do pre-natal yoga.
2. What can I do before I am able to join a pregnancy class?
Use the first 12-14 weeks to honour the adjustments your body, mind and spirit need to make to create the perfect space and home for baby. Cultivate a practice of just sitting and making a connection with your new inner environment by watching and absorbing the flow of the breath. Develop deep conscious breathing, working gradually so as not to stress the breath. Just watching the breath can be enough to slow and calm it down. Notice how you feel when the breath is shallow as opposed to steady, long and even. Observe and welcome any emotions and sensations as they arise and acknowledge the presence of changes and new feelings with compassion as you develop your new identity as a mum in waiting!
3. Is pre-natal yoga safe?
Yes, definitely. Pregnancy yoga is designed to allow you to discover the best way to move your body without compromising baby’s development. You will be guided through a practice that serves to accommodate the physical and emotional changes that occur throughout each trimester. Your inner landscape will change and you will be able to face it without fear. Your hormones will be impacting heavily on your body and mind! Pregnancy yoga thus works with you to calm the nervous system whilst developing your strength, stamina and relieving physical tension created as baby grows. The nervous system has an influence on the immune system so keeping calm and relaxed with yoga can improve overall general health and well-being. Breath and mindfulness becomes the primary focus. Asana (poses) are secondary.
4. Do I need to have done yoga before?
No. The beauty of yoga is that it meets you where you are irrespective of age, size, ailments or experience.
5. Why must I develop strength?
The body releases a hormone called relaxin during pregnancy. It is this hormone which allows for more fluidity in the joints and muscles so that the body can change shape to create space for your growing little one. This can destabilize you a little. Keeping physically strong will help support your balance as your centre of gravity continually shifts with baby’s movements. It will prevent you from over-stretching too which is easy to do when you discover you have an increased and impressive new range of motion. It can give you the extra strength you need for carrying the extra weight both during pregnancy and for cuddling baby lots post-partum. Developing strength during pregnancy can also help reduce the post-natal recovery time.
6. And stamina?
Pregnancy yoga prepares you for labour by encouraging you to practice being comfortable with discomfort. It gives you a greater awareness to the changes you may feel and empowers you to surrender to what is. It will enable you to accept your birthing experience even if it does go a little off plan. It invigorates you when you may be tired and refreshes the mind. You will find a technique to over-ride discomfort and develop an ability to approach pain differently.
7. I already have a strong yoga practice. Can I continue this?
If you are an experienced yoga practitioner then pregnancy should be a time to step back a little from high impact exercise. It is a time for nurturing and nourishing your body, mind and spirit. You should consciously adopt the practice of ‘ahimsa’ – non-harming yourself, especially if you know you have a tendency towards pushing yourself to the limit.. Let the ego go and adopt a pranayama breathing practice that is soothing such as the brahmari ‘humming bee’ breath or nadhi shodana, alternate nostril breathing. Take your pranayama practice deeper, withdrawing to your most primordial state of being. Exclude breathing practices that are too powerfully stimulating or ill-advised during pregnancy such as kapalabhati, agni sari or breath retention.
8. I have Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction, can I still come to yoga?
This is when the gap in the public joint becomes too wide, causing inflammation and pain. Pregnancy yoga can help relieve inflammation and pain by improving circulation within the joints. Seek the advice of your doctor who will advise you further on what is best for you. In all cases, ensure your teacher knows of this condition so you can be given more specific guidance that prevents you from exacerbating the condition. There should be no long stretches or straddle type movements. There are modifications that can benefit a misaligned pelvis if you are able to move without too much discomfort. If not, then consult a teacher about a more breath and mindfulness based practice. She will be happy to guide you towards relieving discomfort whilst still preparing you for child-birth.
9. What about the pelvic floor muscles?
It becomes crucial for women to develop a greater awareness and control over the pelvic floor muscles when they are pregnant. If they are ignored and weakened it can lead to all sorts of issues such as prolapse and/or incontinence of the bladder and bowels. A strong pelvic floor can help you carry baby more comfortably and can make delivery less stressful too. Don’t ignore these important exercises even if it is your first pregnancy and you think it is not an issue for you. The stimulation of blood flow in the pelvic region can help post-natal recovery and you may be less likely to tear and require stitches. Having a caesarian section will not give you an excuse not to work with the pelvic floor muscles as it is the gravitational pull that weakens the muscles more than the delivery itself.
10. What are the other benefits?
You will develop a set of tools that you can use to ‘move’ your way through your pregnancy and labour. It will inform you of the best postural positions for the various stages of labour and show you how you can work with your body to not only make space for baby but to encourage baby to fall in to the optimal foetal position when the time is right. It will encourage an increased awareness of how to stay present and explore thresholds without becoming detached from the experience. The mind becomes more focused and baby brain may be less noticeable. Breathing techniques will teach you how to surrender and release sensations, reduce stress and tension, thus allowing the body to do what it naturally does – heal and grow. Where there is truth and acceptance of what is, there is no fear, just love.
11. Can I use it to induce labour?
Baby will come only when they are ready. Pregnancy yoga ensures your practice is safe and it will prepare you for when the time is right.
12. Is it better to attend a class or have a one-to-one lesson?
A group class provides the space to pass on the wisdom of child-birth and is a nurturing and supportive community that can be essential during this transition. Women have been giving birth since time immemorial and intuitively know how to but the primal connection with others in a similar position can be empowering. A one-to-one class can be appropriate if you have particular concerns and would like to work more deeply on a personal practice specific to your needs.
Remember, pregnancy is to be enjoyed not endured. It is a special time that deserves special attention.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION OR TO JOIN PRE-NATAL OR POST-NATAL YOGA CLASSES IN THE SHAFTESBURY AREA, DORSET, CONTACT MARIE GLANFIELD YOGA & AYURVEDA
IMAGE COURTESY OF GEMMA LACEY AND CONWAY SMITH PHOTOGRAPHY