Power Yoga while Pregnant
by Chelsea Raff, written the day she went into labor with her first baby
It’s hard to believe, but this time last year I was participating in 502 Power Yoga’s Teacher Training program. I left that program with many things, and one of them was the strongest yoga practice of my life. I felt powerful and adventurous—truly up for anything! Fast forward a couple of months to when my husband and I found out I was pregnant. We were so very excited (and a little terrified)! One of the first things that crossed my mind was, “What will happen to my yoga practice?” I had worked so hard to build strength and flexibility, both in my physical body and my mind—did I have to give that up? Nine months later, I can answer unequivocally, “No!”
There is no one size fits all advice for continuing your practice while pregnant. The most important thing is that you listen to your body—I cannot stress that enough. Luckily, I was surrounded by wise yogis who gave me great advice. Here are some of the tips I found most useful for continuing my yoga practice through pregnancy:
Hold the heat?
Heat (tapas) is one of the pillars of Baptiste Power Vinyasa Yoga, and our studio is heated to between 85 and 90 degrees for most classes. I encourage you to speak with your doctor if you’re concerned about practicing in a heated environment, especially in early pregnancy. My doctor reassured me that 90 degrees was not dangerous. Of course, you must listen to your body and watch for signs you may be overheated. I always brought a full water bottle to class and drank from it liberally.
Take a step back
If you have a practice of jumping back and forth to chaturanga, it’s a good idea to take step back from that (literally). Take this opportunity to appreciate your sun salutations and vinyasas in a new way. Believe me, they will be just as powerful and challenging!
Ditch the deep twists
Deep, closed twists such as twisting crescent lunge and twisting chair can constrict blood flow to the uterus and should be avoided. Modify by twisting with your torso upright so that you still experience a rotation along your spine, while maintaining space in your abdomen.
To invert, or not?
As always, listen to your body. However, if you had a strong inversion practice before, then you should feel comfortable continuing as long as you feel steady. Personally, tripod headstand felt amazing to me throughout my pregnancy. What I may have lost in core strength I made up for by using my new belly as a counterweight!
Embrace the blocks!
Do not get discouraged by the need to modify as your pregnancy progresses. One of the many reasons I love Baptiste Power Vinyasa Yoga is that it encourages modifications and the use of blocks and straps for everyone, at every level of practice. These are powerful tools that have the ability to help you gain access to something new. I have come to love using a block in many places, especially extended side angle and triangle – I’m able to find length and expansion through my upper body that would have otherwise been lost during the last several months.
Give up what you must
Yes, there are poses to which you will have to temporarily bid adieu (we shall meet again one day soon, locust…) But that’s not what I mean here. For me, one of the most challenging aspects of my practice has been dropping ego. Maintaining my practice the last 9 months didn’t come easily. There were times when I walked off my mat frustrated and ready to give up. But I didn’t&emdash;and for that I am so grateful. My life, both on and off the mat, has been a constant practice in equanimity; between knowing my body and mind are strong (even during so much change) and knowing when to take a step back (and being okay with it!).
Regardless of whether you’re pregnant or just dealing with change in your life, I encourage you to show up on your mat, listen to your breath, listen to your body, and know that you’re capable of so much!