10 Things You Should Know About Pre-Natal Yoga
Shelly Prosko, PT, PYT-C, CPI
[dropcap]Being physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually healthy during pregnancy is something that most women realize is important. As Yoga becomes more and more popular and mainstream in our western world, it is a natural progression for pre-natal yoga classes to be offered to address a pregnant woman’s health holistically. However, there are some precautions that one should be aware of before participating in a yoga class when pregnant.[/dropcap]
Here are some general tips to keep in mind if you are participating in a pre-natal yoga practise or exercise program of any kind:
1) Do not overheat. Keep body temperature within comfortable limits. Avoid dehydration, which is more likely to occur in a hot yoga environment. Fluid losses increase your heart rate and decrease blood volume, potentially causing fetal stress.
2) Keep heart rate from elevating to a high, rapid, uncomfortable rate and always maintain your breath. You should always have the ability to talk.
3) Do not overstretch muscles. You may feel like you can ‘go deeper’ into many of your yoga postures, but this is only because your relaxin hormone is high, therefore decreasing the ligaments’ abilities to stabilize your joints. Overstretching muscles around unprotected or unstable joints can lead to injury. A hot yoga environment also potentially increases the risk of injury because the muscles become extremely extensible resulting in possible overstretching beyond the joint’s safe limits.
4) Avoid prolonged supine (lying on back) postures after around 20 weeks or first trimester. This position can potentially occlude the inferior vena cava and consequently compress the subrenal aorta. This compression can then reduce maternal cardiac output (resulting in decrease oxygen to tissues, including fetus).
5) Caution with standing balance postures! Your center of body mass will change dramatically, causing your balance to become altered. Walls and sturdy chairs can be used for extra support.
6) Avoid aggressive forward bends or twists. As always, listen to your body and watch for signs of distress or pain and modify as necessary.
7) Do not perform any pranayama (breath work) that involves retaining the breath or overheating the body.
8) Yoga inversions, such as headstands, are controversial. The main danger during inversions is the risk of falling and injuring yourself or your baby during the fall. As a general rule, if you practised inversions prior to your pregnancy, it is safe to continue IF you are tolerating the pose with great ease and your breathing is not labored. Currently there is no evidence supporting the fact that inversions are dangerous during pregnancy.
9) Postures in the prone (lying on stomach) position are not dangerous, however, they tend to become very uncomfortable and physically impossible, therefore, inappropriate.
10) Pay attention to any ‘warning signs’ such as light headedness, unusual nausea or vomiting, increased low back or pelvic pain, or any pain in general, decreased fetal movement, spotting or fluid leakage, or any other symptoms that you are unsure about. Yoga will not necessarily ‘cause’ these symptoms, but if you have pregnancy related conditions, you may need to avoid exertion or certain yoga postures.
Please always inform your doctor before you participate in any pre-natal exercise class or activity, including classes such as ‘pre-natal yoga’, also inform your instructor if you are attending class.
Pregnancy results in many physical changes of a woman’s body and consequently can cause issues such as low back pain, pelvic pain, incontinence, postural changes, and balance problems just to name a few. In fact, over 70% of pregnant women experience low back and pelvic pain (Mogren, 2005). One may think that continuing with their regular strengthening, stretching, and core strengthening routine, or enrolling in a pre-natal yoga class may help their current pre-natal aches, pains, and other issues. Unfortunately, simply attending a regular fitness class, yoga or pilates class isn’t always safe and appropriate when you are pregnant. The good news is that there is a great deal of evidence showing that specific exercise programs designed and delivered by physiotherapists can relieve low back pain, pelvic pain and urinary incontinence in pregnant women (Morkved, 2007). A physiotherapist assessment followed by an individual treatment program, which may include yoga postures, can help you safely and effectively participate in a home program or class setting in order to gain the specific strength, stability, flexibility, balance, postural control, and pain management required to maintain a healthy pregnancy.
It is important that you let your therapist or instructor know when you are in pain or feel uncomfortable in any way. As always, know and respect your own limits and ‘listen to your body’.
This article was not intended to diagnose or treat. Please consult with your physician prior to participating in any exercise program or yoga class.
Shelly Prosko is a Registered Physiotherapist, Yoga Therapist and Pilates Instructor at Sun City Physiotherapy in Winfield. She can be contacted at www.physio-yogatherapy.com
Shelly is a Registered Physiotherapist, Yoga Therapist and a Certified Pilates Instructor. She received her Physiotherapy degree at the University of Saskatchewan, Canada in 1998, her Yoga Therapist training through Professional Yoga Therapy Studies in North Carolina (www.professionalyogatherapy.org) and her Pilates certification through Professional Health and
She has treated a wide variety of musculoskeletal, neurological and cardiorespiratory conditions while working in private orthopaedic clinics and long term care facilities across Canada and the United States. Shelly was the physiotherapist and clinic manager at The Morris Center For Sports Medicine in Watkinsville, Georgia for 7 years. In 2006, she relocated to Alberta and continued to work in the private orthopaedic clinic setting and was actively involved in the occupational rehabilitation programs at CBI Health.
In 2009, Shelly settled in the Okanagan and continues to follow her passions at Sun City Physiotherapy offering private Physio-Yoga Therapy sessions and by incorporating Yoga Therapy and Pilates into her physiotherapy treatments. She also teaches specialty Physio-Yoga Therapy classes in the community. She believes that bridging the gap between Western and Eastern healthcare philosophies is essential in order to achieve optimal health. Consequently, her treatments are individually based and are a unique blend of both approaches. Please visit www.physio-yogatherapy.com for more details.
In addition to her many skills as a health care practitioner, Shelly is also an accomplished figure skater and has traveled the world with many professional ice shows. She is also passionate about music, dance, acting, trapeze, and spending quality time with her family and friends.