Yoga During Pregnancy
The duration of pregnancy is often divided up into three trimesters, each consisting of 3 months, and a fourth, the early postpartum trimester. A yoga practice can be easily adapted during each stage of your pregnancy in order to meet your specific needs and guide you along your beautiful journey. Even in the pre-conception phase, I recommend to every woman to start collecting their treatment team (ie. Family physician, OB/GYN, midwife, doula, naturopathic doctor, pelvic health physiotherapist, chiropractor, massage therapist, acupuncturist, counsellor, spouse, birth partner, etc). Your care team will then work together to best support you during all phases of pregnancy. This sets you up for a positive birth experience and an easier postpartum recovery. A strong support system is key throughout your entire pregnancy and postpartum experience.
Please keep in mind that it is always recommended to consult with a healthcare practitioner prior to starting any new exercise or physical activity routine during your pregnancy, which does include yoga. If you already have an active yoga practice it is still a great idea to connect with your care team to suggest specific modifications for each stage of your pregnancy. The purpose of this blog is to outline the stages of pregnancy and the themes that align best for you and growing baby.
Early Pregnancy (One to 16 Weeks): First Trimester
Less is best in these first weeks as you adapt to your hormonal changes and the rapid and crucial early formations of the nervous system that your wee little baby undergoes. Instead of sticking to your usual fitness routine, step back and discover the power of deep breathing. Take this time to reflect, ease into a slower pace and honour the need to rest. When you feel the overwhelming fatigue during these first few weeks, use yoga to rest deeply and surrender to these changes with a positive attitude. Developing breath awareness in this relaxed state will enable you to use breathing as a powerful tool to reduce anxiety and embrace this incredible and delicate period of transformation for both you and your baby.
Self-nurture. Slow movements accompanied by the flow of your breath creates a grounding and nurturing effect in early pregnancy. Promote a sense of calm and the strength in stillness.
Mid Pregnancy (16 to 34 Weeks): Second Trimester
Once the placenta becomes fully functional, hormone levels balance out and your pregnancy is well established. This is the time to focus on building strength and stamina, aligning your spine and maintaining a neutral pelvis with your ribs. Your body is adjusting to making space for two to “breathe” as your baby grows up towards your rib cage. Most of all, this is the time to enjoy your pregnancy. Yoga will give you energy, strength, and agility, expand your breathing capacity, and help you to find the right balance between activity and rest. As you sense the first flutter of movements of your baby, yoga can become a focus for you to develop a deeper connection to your beautiful growing baby- your little sidekick.
Stamina. Standing poses in mid-pregnancy provides overall strengthening for your body. They give a wonderful feeling of vitality while taking pressure off your low back. Feeling grounded, rooted, and strong.
Late Pregnancy (34 to 40+ Weeks): Third Trimester
In these last weeks, it is common to experience a greater heaviness and reduced stamina in movement and activity. You will experience a natural desire to focus on labor and delivery. The purpose for yoga now is to keep you comfortable and prepare you physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually for labor and welcoming baby to the world. Energetic and flowing movements that alternate with supported stretches with longer periods of deep breathing and relaxation will have greater focus in this stage of pregnancy. Throughout your entire pregnancy yoga should be focusing on the power of femininity, inner strength and connectivity to yourself and baby. Yoga is a beautiful practice to encourage awareness and opening of the pelvic bowl in preparation for labor and delivery. Your baby will respond to your deep breathing, pelvic awareness, and easing tension in pelvis and hips to provide him or her with an optimal position for birth.
Inner power. Seated yoga poses in late pregnancy can be relatively more comfortable. Restorative and supported yoga poses can assist with relieving tension, improving breath expansion, and preparing for labor and delivery.
Early Postpartum (Birth to 16 weeks): Fourth Trimester
Bonding with baby, resting and recovery is the primary focus in the early postpartum phase- the early weeks. In the later weeks of the early postpartum phase the focus will be on regaining good posture, core stability, and returning to regular activity. It is important to connect with your care team to ensure that your inner core and pelvic floor are coordinating efficiently with your diaphragm mobility. Yoga is a fantastic practice for coordinating breath with movement and re-engagement of the deeper core unit to assist with returning back to regular physical activity or your pre-baby yoga practice!
Toning. After the joy of welcoming your baby into the world, use the power of your breath to tone the deepest core muscles and return to the activities that you love to do.
Please reach out at any time during your pregnancy should you have any questions regarding your current yoga practice and how-to best support and/or modify your practice during every stage of your pregnancy. It truly brings me so much joy to be a part of a woman’s care team and to support her during every stage and every experience of the journey of pregnancy.
Kim Deschamps, physiotherapist, pelvic health therapist, yoga therapist
Pelvic Health Therapist