Pregnant and wondering how to approach your yoga practice in the early days? There are all sorts of different – and sometimes conflicting – ideas about what we should do in the first 12 weeks. The most important advice I can offer is to listen to your body. In the next nine months you will become more aware than ever of what you need in terms of exercise, diet, emotional support etc. The sooner you can learn to trust in these feelings and act accordingly, the better. You are at the very start of your pregnancy and in the next weeks, hormone levels will alter, your blood supply will increase, your baby will develop all its organs and your uterus will support the growth of the placenta. That is a lot of amazing work for your body to do in a short period of time. So take it easy.
Not practiced yoga before?
Then allow your body to rest for the first few months. There is no need to introduce anything now that you haven’t done before. Many women feel tired and sick in the first trimester and may not feel like doing much. This is fine. If you find that you feel ok and want to exercise, the best “yoga practice” you can do is to take yourself off for long walks. Let the fresh air clear your mind and start to strengthen the legs, preparing your body for carrying your baby.
Adapting your regular practice?
Many practitioners believe it is fine… and safe – to carry on with your regular practice or classes (do make sure you tell your teacher if you are pregnant so you can discuss what approach to take). Whilst it may be safe to continue with a vigourous practice (especially if you experienced and have a regular dynamic practice), I suggest taking a slightly more mindful approach that involves trying to listen to your body, experimenting a little and being honest about what actually feels good. Avoid anything that “crunches” the abdomen and start to think about making space for your baby. It is always a good thing to mix up our practice and avoid getting in a rut. So enjoy that process.
There are all sorts of changes happening in the body. Changes in hormone levels will already be affecting flexibility and softening connective tissue. It is easy to stretch too far so work within your usual “edge”. Hurting yourself now could mean months of discomfort – it isn’t worth it.
Many practitioners will practice inversions into late pregnancy but I would suggest avoiding them in the first trimester. The same goes for too much jumping. Avoid anything that could disturb implantation of the fetus. Let the body do its thing and save inversions for the second trimester when energy levels will also be higher.
If asana is out of the question, practice pranayama. Try resting one hand on the heart and the other on the womb. On an inhale feel the breath rising up from the lower hand to the upper hand. On an exhale, notice the breath travelling down the body. In Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine, there is a belief in an energetic connection between the heart and womb. Breathing in this way allows the heart to nourish the womb. It can be hard to fully accept that you are pregnant when there is no bump to show for it and this is a great way to tune in with your baby and take a few moments to reconnect.