From the very first moment of conception, mother and baby begin moving through rapid change. As the mother’s body starts to prepare to nourish, grow and birth this little being, huge adjustments in the chemistry of her system start not just physical, but also mental and emotional development. For many women this can be the first time that they have had the opportunity to really connect with this inherently feminine side of their being. For new mothers it can be a time of significant uncertainty and unfamiliarity. However, if given the opportunity, it can also be a time when a profound connection and understanding within themselves and the baby can be formed.
Pregnancy can be an amazing time to begin a yoga practice, or for those who already have a regular practice, the perfect space to check in and possibly re-evaluate your needs. No matter your experience, pregnancy can provide perfect conditions to build trust and connection with your own intuition which is deeply heightened at this time.
Most first time pregnant bodies have never experienced such significant and rapid change or had to expand to such an extent. Ligaments, muscles and skin stretch far beyond where they ever have before and can cause significant discomfort. The bodies major organs have to squash and lung capacity is diminished as the uterus begins its accent towards the diaphragm. Seated, standing or kneeling lateral (side) stretches can help to open up the side waist and loosen through the intercostal muscles providing extra room for baby to grow and space for the lungs to expand. The ability for the lungs to open into the side ribs can help relieve some of the breathlessness experienced into the third trimester.
As pregnancy progresses the body naturally gets front heavy, the baby bump becomes prominent, the breasts swell as they prepare for milk production causing a resulting rounding (kyphosis) of the shoulders. Including shoulder opening sequences and gomukasana arms in seated poses can help to retain suppleness in these muscles and an expansive chest. The classic women’s pose Supta Baddha Konasana not only works into the hips, pelvis and groins but is also relaxes the nervous system and is a magnificent heart opener, helping to combat some of the effects of kyphosis. A supported or modified ustrasana can provide a full front body stretch which many women crave with prone poses such as bhujangasana no longer available.
Pregnancy is not a time to push deeply into practice. All the extra relaxin hormone running through the body makes the space between stretch and strain much smaller and injury more of a risk. Support the body with lots of props (use cushions and blankets at home) and make sure you have lots of height under the sit bones in any seated poses. It is particularly important to pay attention to any sharp pain, pinching or instability in the pelvic joints (sacrum and pubic symphysis). Presentation of these sensations will require practice to be modified to start addressing the areas of concern and prevent any further aggravation. Most of all, listen to your body, enjoy your practice and make time for deep relaxation and suitable pranayama.