Yoga with a bump
Pretty much the first thing I asked my doctor when I found out I was pregnant was whether I could carry on with yoga. I’ve been practising for around 15 years now, most of which has been ashtanga, and I couldn’t really imagine 9 months without yoga, however good the cause. Luckily medical advice these days is that you can carry on with any exercise that you are already used to doing, and Helen was happy to support me and give me information about the necessary modifications.
I had no idea what pregnancy would throw at me, and no expectations about how long I would be able to carry on practising. But I’ve just come back from a Mysore style practice, and at 39 weeks I’m aware that it might actually be my last before the baby arrives! I’ve reached the point where my bump touches the floor in chaturanga dandasana (though sadly being supported in the middle doesn’t make it any easier); my camel pose (ushtrasana) has a real hump; and my forward bends neither go forward, nor really bend… but I’m glad I’ve kept going.
At first I felt quite self-conscious about missing out or modifying so many poses, especially early on, when we hadn’t told people about the pregnancy. Luckily in Mysore classes everyone is absorbed in their own practice so no-one really noticed. My body didn’t feel any different in the beginning too, so it was frustrating leaving out so many things, from jumping back / forwards, through the cross-body twists and most inversions, to anything that would overwork my stomach muscles or compress my non-existent bump (bye-bye bhujapidasana and supta kurmasana). Mind you, I wasn’t sad to wave goodbye to navasana…
In the second trimester I started to notice some changes – all that extra blood circulating made moving more strenuous, I had to stop lying on my back, and binding and bending became much more difficult as my growing belly began to get in the way. Since then I’ve been gradually adapting the poses to accommodate what I can now do – as yet another one changed, I couldn’t help hearing ‘Another One Bites the Dust’ in my head. Not the most relaxing soundtrack to yoga! But no more distracting than some of the a capella choir singing from the floor above on a Monday evening…
There isn’t a single posture that I haven’t had to modify over the last 8 months, even including dandasana and shavasana (corpse pose). But the essentials of yoga haven’t changed – breathing, focus, working with what my body can do on that particular day. And I’ve developed a new relationship with the postures I can still do – I’ve concentrated more on alignment, and grown to enjoy the poses that show off my bump, like tree posture, or virabhadrasana II (warrior 2), which was never my favourite pose before but now really does make me feel warrior-like.
I’ve been lucky that I haven’t suffered too many ailments and have been able to keep on practising –and no doubt practising has staved off some of the aches and pains that I might otherwise have had: I can’t prove anything, but I’m sure it’s a virtuous circle. I would certainly credit yoga with helping me to avoid some of the pregnancy side-effects like backache and high blood pressure, and with keeping me supple and active. (I have also been swimming and following a specific pregnancy yoga class.)
And I do know that yoga has helped me through pregnancy in a number of less tangible ways: it has kept me in touch with my ever-changing body, helped me adapt to what I can and can’t do, and to my shifting centre of gravity; at the same time, it has also kept me in touch with my pre-pregnancy self – in that sense having yoga as a kind of continuity has really helped me to get my head round everything that has changed (and will soon change even more!). And hopefully the strength, relaxation, focus and not least the breathing will stand me in good stead for the big push any day now!
By Lyn Marven
Lyn also attended some Pregnancy Yoga classes with Jenni Jones which she found most helpful. I trained to be a yoga teacher at the same time as a lovely Midwife Ann Blower who now has a Pregnancy and Postnatal Yoga Class. If you are new to yoga and become pregnant it is recommended that you only attend dedicated pregnancy yoga classes. If you are an existing student of mine please talk to your doctor and contact me before coming to class. Each individuals needs need to be addressed differently.
Lyn, hope all goes well with the birth, look forward to meeting your daughter.