The first time a pregnant woman walked into one of my public yoga classes, I was terrified! I didn’t know what to tell her outside of the standard, “You know your body best and if something hurts, don’t do it. Avoid compressing the belly. Take it slow and listen to your instincts.” And then I worried about her for the rest of class!
All these years later, after attending a few teacher trainings, practicing yoga through my own pregnancy, and maintaining a weekly prenatal yoga class for over five years, I feel that my initial advice holds up. A pregnant woman does know her changing body best and if something hurts, she definitely shouldn’t do it! Avoiding compression of the belly in twists and forward folds is a great thing for her to keep in mind and if she practices moving a little slower and listens to her instincts, she will be developing great habits for new motherhood.
Beyond this pre-class conversation, there are a few things yoga teachers can keep in mind when a pregnant woman is in class. With an understanding of this basic information, teachers will have some evidence-based, practical knowledge to support pregnant women at each stage of pregnancy.
1st Trimester (Conception – 13 Weeks):
- Her joints may be more sensitive and unstable, so keep an eye out for hyperextension, suggest a blanket to support the knees and show her Dolphin Pose as an alternative to downward dog if her wrists are feeling sore.
- The Constant Up and Down Motion of Sun Salutes may make her dizzy. Encourage her to move slowly. To avoid dizziness, have her put her hands on her hips to rise up to stand. Show her Child’s Pose as an alternative to downward dog if she’s dealing with nausea.
- Being really hot can be dangerous when you’re pregnant. If your class is usually on the warmer side, let her know that she might be better suited for a class that keeps the room cooler. Don’t hesitate to position her near a fan or open window and let her know that water and bathroom breaks are OK with you.
- Her low back may hurt. Emphasize core engagement just as you would to a non-pregnant student. Make sure she knows it all applies to her as well.
- Lying on the belly can seriously hurt sensitive breasts and after 13 weeks, she might not feel as comfortable anymore on her belly anyway. Teach her how to use a folded blanket or bolster under her hips to provide extra space and consider alternative poses she can do that will provide the same kind of stretch the class is doing (ie: bridge pose instead of locust pose).
2nd Trimester (14 – 27 Weeks):
- If the class is lying down on their backs for more than five minutes, provide your pregnant student the option of props so spine and head are on a slight incline.
- Whenever you bring the class into a deep twist, have her do an open twist instead (twist in the opposite direction) or suggest she skip the twist and substitute a shoulder stretch depending on what is most appropriate to the sequence.
- Offer modifications that will help her keep length in her torso (avoid compressing the belly). For example, offer blocks under the hands in lunges.
- If she’s up for vinyasas, put a bolster directly underneath the top of her thighs at the groin line in plank so that when she lowers down, her belly can be in space rather than pushing into the floor. Or, just have her lower her knees and lower down half way to the floor instead of all the way down to her belly.
- Offer Savasana on her left side. Set her up with a bolster under the head, a blanket between the shins and roll a couple of blankets for her to hug. Maybe give her a short low back massage to let her know you care!
3rd Trimester (28 Weeks – Birth):
- Apply the same knowledge from the two previous trimesters!
- Once her bump is big, make sure her feet are wider than hips distance apart to make space for standing and seated forward folding.
- If your pregnant woman has high blood pressure, avoid intense inversions like handstand and forearm stand. High blood pressure can be of real concern when pregnant, so it’s a good idea to make sure the doctor has given her the all clear to practice.
- If she seems to be struggling in class or having a hard time navigating the modifications, be sure that you are prepared to recommend a strictly prenatal class for her to attend as an alternative to your class.
As yoga teachers, we are present to reinforce for our students what they already know to be true—that they are capable, worthy and loved. They can generate contentment from within and already possess all of the qualities needed to be their best selves. Your prenatal students will especially remember your valuable teachings throughout pregnancy, in the labor room, and your voice may even echo in their minds throughout the first year of motherhood. If you’d like to serve the expecting mother community, I invite you to join me at any of the following ChildLight Yoga Prenatal Yoga Teacher Trainings in 2018. Learn the basics in our foundations training with the option to move on to complete all 3 modules to earn Yoga Alliance certification as a Registered Prenatal Yoga Teacher (RPYT):
Feb 9-11: Prenatal Yoga Foundations (1) - Harrisburg, PA
Mar 9-11: Prenatal Yoga Advanced Teaching Concepts (2) - Harrisburg, PA
Apr 6-8: Prenatal Yoga Teacher Certification - RPYT (3) - Harrisburg, PA
May 4-6: Prenatal Yoga Foundations (1) - Bethlehem, PA
Jul 23-25: Prenatal Yoga Foundations (1) - Dover, NH
Jul 26-28: Prenatal Yoga Advanced Teaching Concepts (2) - Dover, NH
Jul 29-31: Prenatal Yoga Teacher Certification (3) - Dover, NH
Dec 2-8: Prenatal Yoga Teacher Training Retreat (1-3) – Joshua Tree, CA
Megan Ridge Morris, E-RYT® 500, RPYT®, YACEP®, CD is the co-creator of ChildLight Yoga’s Prenatal Yoga Teacher Training (also a Registered Prenatal Yoga School / RPYS) and brings her expertise off the mat as a Certified Doula. In addition, she facilitates the ChildLight Yoga for Babies & Toddlers Teacher Training and also serves as Administrative and Marketing Goddess for the ChildLight Yoga Trainings division…read more here.
Why did CLY decide to add a Prenatal TT to their training line-up?
Prenatal yoga is the beginning. We are caring for the mother who ends up caring for her child. Research has shown that a happy woman carrying a baby is more likely to produce a happy baby. We teach yoga to children so they grow up with healthy habits for a lifetime and wouldn’t it be awesome if this intention started in utero? We want to give a gift to the moms and do it well. Care from conception through young adulthood seemed like the perfect fit for ChildLight Yoga.
What are the benefits of being trained in prenatal yoga?
This training will broaden your knowledge base around how to support pregnant women, not only through poses that help alleviate common pregnancy symptoms, but can also help prepare a woman for the birthing process and postpartum recovery. The breathing techniques, visualizations, meditations and vocal toning we cover in training are often the big take-aways for women when they look back on their overall pregnancy and birth experience. There is an art to teaching yoga to pregnant women that is sacred, unique and beautiful in a way that stands apart from a typical yoga class. And this knowledge will also be helpful when pregnant women attend a traditional yoga class. Knowing how to share yoga with adults is also quite valuable for any kids’ classes that include a caregiver.
Do you need to have completed a 200-hour teacher training before attending?
Not necessarily, but it is strongly recommended.
Do you need to attend all 85 hours?
No, you would only need to take modules 2 & 3 if you are interested in deepening your knowledge and/or you would like to obtain your RPYT certification with the Yoga Alliance.
More questions? Email email@example.com