Congratulations, you’re pregnant! At this point there’s no bump and other than a missed period and possibly sore boobs there may not be any other symptoms. That doesn’t mean you won’t feel a change although from the outside life may be going on a normal around you. You may have told your partner, family or a few close friends, or nobody. Every pregnancy is as unique as every new person and for some it may a surprise while for others it may be long awaited. If you are a regular yoga practitioner you know how good yoga is for the times of certainty or change. It helps us connect inwards, feel grounded and gives us time out from our busy lives. It also helps to alleviate stress so when I found out I was pregnant I reached for my mat as a safe place to practice and let the news sink in. But the day you see that little cross on the pregnancy test is generally not when most women start in a pregnancy yoga class, maybe not for the reasons you think.
Yoga is a fantastic way to maintain health and well being both physically and mentally and health care providers will often recommend pregnancy yoga to women so why not start pregnancy yoga at week 5 or week 6?
Common symptoms of early pregnancy include extreme tiredness and nausea so maybe you don’t feel much like putting on your sexy leggings and hopping on to your yoga mat for a sweaty flow. That’s pretty normal. You might even have told your yoga teacher and been advised to wait until the second trimester and join a pregnancy yoga class, or maybe you are totally new to yoga and you’ve heard its a good thing to do when your pregnant but you’re nervous so when should you start?
Many regular yoga teachers often recommend you wait and join a pregnancy yoga class. Two reasons, firstly its not just the mums-to-be who are nervous. A yoga teacher with a full class of people some of whom who are looking for a strong Asana (physical) practice may feel nervous about having you there even if you feel great. They may not have been given much training about what’s suitable for pregnancy and so they are afraid you might hurt yourself or your baby, they may worry that if anything does go wrong you will blame them or the yoga class. You may blame yourself. It is not your fault. Many newly pregnant women fear for the health of their tiny baby. The rate of miscarriage in those early weeks of pregnancy is one in five, so its normal to be nervous. Often doctors recommend keeping the news to ourselves until the second trimester for that very reason. Early miscarriage has not be linked to yoga or even more vigorous forms of exercise. In fact exercise is recommended during pregnancy (though no contact sports, or deep sea diving.) Most early miscarriages are believed to be due to genetic problems with the baby’s chromosomes (DNA building blocks). They can also be caused by a problem with the placenta. Sadly there is nothing anyone can do about this.
Yoga, or lack of yoga are not causes of early miscarriage. There are some yoga teachers and exercise instructors who will take the opposite attitude and encourage you to do everything as usual from your practice but that is not always a better solution because some things are not recommended when you’re pregnant. That brings me on to the second reason.
Pregnancy yoga is different to a regular yoga class. There are lots of similarities but some yoga poses are not recommended in pregnancy, also as women get further along in their pregnancies they tend to slow down and of course pregnancy is a very specific part of life’s journey with specific needs like preparing for motherhood so a pregnancy yoga class is specifically geared towards this. Pregnancy yoga classes will tend to be slow, maybe too slow for you early in your pregnancy if you are feeling fit and fine. They also avoid any poses where you are lying on your tummy, obvs right. But in the first few weeks you can lie on your tummy so long as it feels good. You may find that in those first few weeks a regular yoga class with a couple of modifications suits you just fine. Teachers and classes differ and some pregnancy yoga teachers may prefer for you to wait until the second trimester to join so they have a group where everyone is over that higher risk stage, sporting bumps and ready to start working on preparing for labour and birth. .
The good news for most mums to be is that the second trimester tends to be easier than the first. The nausea abates, energy levels come back and you can proudly sport your bump and tell friends the good news. This is when most yoga teachers recommend you sign up to your pregnancy yoga class. These classes will have alternate poses from lying on your tummy. Did you know you should also avoid any poses where you are lying flat on your back, deep twisting, deep back bends and strong core work? Pregnancy yoga classes vary but most tend to focus on pranayama, pelvic floor work, relaxation skills and safe Asana, some will include yoga nidra (relaxation) for positive birth and breathing for labour. It is a time of turbulent hormonal changes, life changes and re calibration of relationships with partners, family and at work.
Yoga is an amazing tool for helping us to ride the stormy seas. It’s connection with the body is deeply grounding and the way we learn to use the breath can have positive effects of hormones, and on how we feel and act. The time on the yoga class may be the time we need to work things out or just to chill out and let our bodies get on with what they are doing. It is a time to connect with this new baby and this new way of being.
So when is the best time to start pregnancy yoga?
The best time to start yoga if you haven’t already is right now. Yoga can help reduce stress with its focus on mindful connection to the body through the breath. The skills we learn on the yoga mat can help us through challenging times whether pregnant or not as for your pregnancy yoga class, check with your local teacher as soon as you find out your pregnant and have a chat to see what will work best for you and your baby.
For a video on the breath for labour check out https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NoBvpd8sMUU