Yogamama: On pregnancy and yoga

Often pregnant women encounter more “don’ts” than “do’s” — with respect to exercise as well as diet. Our columnist (and yoga instructor) reminds us that when it comes to yoga practice, we should simply do what feels right.

Photo: Corbis

Yogamama: On Pregnancy and Yoga

Practice the Do’s and Push the Dont’s Aside

I’m a yoga teacher, and I come across many concerned newly pregnant women who are unsure of what they can safely do in their practice. It seems there are so many “don’ts” in pregnancy these days — from soft cheese to caffeine to headstands — it’s difficult to know what is a “do.”

I think the “do” depends on you. Just as a runner who becomes pregnant may be thinking about tossing her Nikes for colored Birkenstock sandals, or women with a vigorous yoga practice may opt for something more gentle, like prenatal yoga. While some women may find comfort and relaxation in a soft and slow prenatal yoga class, I got anxious and fidgety at the thought of it.

I’ve always found respite from the stresses of life through daily movement. This is one thing that led me to Ashtanga yoga almost 15 years ago. So when I became pregnant at close to 40, I worried I’d have to give it up for the health of the baby. Luckily, after consulting my doctor, I realized I didn’t have to. I did have to make some adjustments to the practice and let go of some of the poses as I grew bigger and bigger, but thankfully my baby and I happily continued chuturunging, back-bending, and standing on our heads for almost 10 months.

I certainly don’t recommend these poses for every pregnant woman. But if you have a regular yoga practice and have a normal pregnancy, you should feel free to practice, breathe, and sweat. (But don’t take my word for it — do what feels right to you! And if you do practice, drink water often.)

Here are some of the poses I found very helpful throughout my pregnancy.

SURYA NAMASKAR A sun salutation that stretched me out, got me breathing, and worked out the kinks.

UTTHITA PARSVAKONASANA An extended side angle that stretched my sweet spots: shoulders, chest, spine, waist, and groin.

PASHIMOTTANSANA A seated forward bend that stretched my entire spine. It also relieved constipation and indigestion, two problems many pregnant women have.

BADDHA KONASANA This butterfly pose was a joy for hips and lower back. It also helps with digestion.