Yoga to the Rescue
It seems like it took me FOREVER to get my pre-pregnancy energy and motivation back. I’m 24 weeks now, and I didn’t start feeling like “me” again until about week 20. Even though my nausea subsided me at week 13, I still couldn’t get my energy and motivation back to hit the gym and have some great weight training sessions. I would skip 3-4 days and then have an “intense” (intense is in quotes because pregnancy intensity is an entire different category than non-pregnant intensity!) workout – leaving me sore for the next 5 days.
I didn’t like this pattern.
Have Compassion & Make Adjustments
For a fitness chick, it’s HARD to go from intense weight workouts 5-6 times per week plus HIIT training to discovering that you’re pregnant and – by nature – having your entire gym outlook change. It is a physical, mental and emotional challenge. I was very hard on myself for wanting to watch another re-run of Keeping Up With The Kardashians instead of going to the gym. Ha!
Not only are you watching and feeling yourself physically change, but I was constantly battling with myself for not wanting to go. I couldn’t understand that. And when I did drag myself there, my workouts seemed terrible. If I went too heavy (which was still much lighter than I was used to), I strained a muscle. I had to use machines because my lower back hurt so badly unless it was fully supported. I couldn’t press the front of my torso against anything because my breasts were 2x their normal size and extremely painful. Not to mention, if someone was using what seemed like the ONLY machine in the gym that would work for me, I would feel like crying. What a mess!
For the first three and a half months of my pregnancy, I didn’t know how to have compassion for my changing self. I knew what was happening in my body was amazing – and I loved that part – but I wanted to still be “me” and have my workouts. After all, it is part of my identity.
The last month and a half I feel like I have finally embraced the process and made the adjustments that match what my body is going through. Instead of feeling guilty that I am only weight training three times per week, I adjusted my split (I normally train one muscle group per workout) to combine muscle groups, get everything in and maintain the muscle I currently have.
Day 1: Legs, glutes, back
Day 2: Yoga
Day 3: Chest, shoulders, triceps
Day 4: Yoga
Day 5: Biceps, legs, glutes (sometimes more back)
Day 6: Yoga
Day 7: off
Yoga During Pregnancy
I teach, study and love yoga. Unfortunately, before I was pregnant, my yoga practice would be the first thing to slip when my schedule got crunched. It is hard to include a steady yoga practice when you’re lifting and training almost every day of the week. A 4-minute Downward Dog in my bedroom was sometimes all I would get in.
The great thing about adjusting my workout split to only include three training days per week is that it left 3-4 days open for yoga! Even though I was upset about my training in the beginning, this was a bonus in disguise because, in my opinion, three days of weight and three days of yoga is much more beneficial to my body during pregnancy and delivery than no yoga at all.
Below is the breakdown of beneficial yoga poses to practice through each trimester. Remember that if you have never practiced yoga before, you need to stick with prenatal yoga only. You don’t want to begin or try regular yoga during pregnancy if you have never done it or haven’t practiced consistently in a long time.
Using your intuition is key – if a pose or a position doesn’t feel right to you – you most likely shouldn’t be doing it.
Also, be aware that you may feel an increase in your flexibility during pregnancy. This is due to an increase of the hormone Relaxin. It loosens your joints, muscles and connective tissues throughout your entire body. Even if you feel like you can stretch far, take it down a notch and don’t push it.
1st Trimester Yoga
Chances are you are experiencing nausea. Yoga can be good or bad for you during this time. In my experience, it relieved my nausea during the practice so I enjoyed it quite a bit. Being my first pregnancy, I was a little scared wondering if it was okay to do or not, so I definitely took it easy and used my intuition. I skipped all deep twists and backbends (and still do) and made sure I kept VERY hydrated and cool. I did go to my hot yoga classes (not Bikram, just hot yoga) but always grabbed the spot by the outside door and under the fan. I stepped outside anytime I needed to cool off and drink my water. Lying flat on my stomach didn’t bother me since my belly didn’t “pop out” until about 14 weeks (although I couldn’t completely melt into the mat since my breasts hurt and were in the way). Other than that, all other poses and sequences felt great!
2nd Trimester Yoga
Lying on my belly was no longer an option so this was my first major modification. I started to realize that regular yoga classes were still great, but were going to start getting a bit frustrating having to modify such a large percentage of class. This is also when you need to stop lying on your back for extended periods of time due to the inferior/posterior vena cava, which is the large vein that carries blood from the lower half of your body back to your heart. It is posterior to your abs and belly and runs alongside the right side of your spine. As your baby grows and you lie on your back, the pressure of the baby against this vein may cut off circulation of that blood flow. You will know if this is happening, so just be aware as you progress through your pregnancy.
I am in my 24th week (5 months/halfway through the 2nd trimester) and don’t feel any pressure when lying on my back on my yoga mat for 1-2 minutes. After that, I change positions, even if I feel okay, just to be cautious. If I am going to lay on my back in Savasana, for example, I will use bolsters to prop up my torso.
Many women enjoy backbending during their pregnancies, but not me. I have a slight Diastis Recti (separating of the abdomen), so I am very careful to not contract, deep twist or stretch out my abs as much as possible. I miss my backbends and can’t wait to get back to them!
You will also want to start separating your legs in any standing or seated forward folds to make room for your belly.
3rd Trimester Yoga
Focus mainly on hip opening poses, poses that give your back some relief and anything that works your shoulders (you’ll be carrying that baby around in no time and need a lot of strength there!) Inversions are okay prior to 34 weeks (after 34 weeks your baby will start to “descent,” and you don’t want to work against that by hanging out upside-down), as long as you feel comfortable and able. In all inversions, modify by using a wall so that you aren’t putting yourself at risk of falling, and you have the support to easily come out of them.
Child’s Pose: Great for hips, back and shoulders
Pigeon: Great for hips and back
Downward Dog variations: Great for back, legs, shoulders and arm strength
Warriors: Great for hips and leg strength
Cobbler/Butterfly: Great for hips and back
Inversions: Great for swelling of the legs and feet