Backbends and Baby-Bumps. ~ Dina Gougoustamos

Via elephant journal
on Mar 7, 2013
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Pregnant 1

Navigating Ashtanga and Pregnancy.

Once you’re pregnant, your belly is the center of everyone’s attention, in and out of the Mysore room.

Most people not only have an opinion, but feel free to share it with you. Some of the biggest questions masquerading as suggestions you’ll face are, “When are you gonna stop practicing,” or “Are you going to stop laying on your belly,” or “Why are you still doing inversions?” And while well-intentioned, this will drive you mad, especially if your goal is like mine to practice until the day I give birth.

The material “out there” on practicing Ashtanga while pregnant can give you a migraine.

So my advice, don’t even bother researching and reading anything. You’ll read so many opinions and personal accounts on how, what, when, who and where to practice. And that is all they are, personal accounts and opinions.

Every pregnancy is different and the only person you should really listen to is you. Your own intuitions will be sure to guide you in the right direction.

My experience through the first three months of my journey has gone a little something like this.

noFrom the very start of my pregnancy, I chose to ignore the advice of the advanced teachers who instruct women not to practice during the first three months of their pregnancy. It seemed ridiculous to abandon a solid six day a week practice cold turkey. I mean, why? Wouldn’t dumping my daily routine be more harmful than maintaining my daily routine?

And since, at least in my case, because I always felt worse when I didn’t practice (especially during those first few months), I took the advice of my own body and maintained my practice.

However, I did choose to follow one piece of advice from my teacher, David Garrigues. He suggested that I stop practicing Third series. David explained that “doing Third series is almost like having a baby in itself.” And this made perfect sense to me.

In the early stages, my baby needed all the extra energy s/he could get. Third series was kicking my ass anyway and it seemed counterintuitive to continue exerting myself in this way. Funny enough, since the completion of my first trimester, my body has started asking for those Third series postures back again. Maybe it’s the extra hip opening in kashyapasana, chakorasana, or even bhairavasana that its craving.

Despite the extreme fatigue I experienced during the first trimester, (in an ideal world, I would have slept for 12 hours a day, with a two hour nap in the afternoon), I continued to get myself on my mat six days a week. Practicing primary and full second series, with the exception of mayurasana which inflicted too much pressure on my abdomen, left me feeling awake and restored.

Backbend (photo by Heather Morton)Backbends became my drug of choice.

I was able to find a calmness and comfort in dropping back like never before. It’s become a thrilling adventure to see how close my hands can get to my ankles, sometimes ending up only inches away. My personal quest has become to grab my ankles in a backbend during my eighth month. Yes, I’ve got some strange goals.

The greatest gift offered by my practice during this time, however, has been to my ego.

Quite simply, if you want your ego checked, go ahead and get knocked-up.

Instead of “progressing” in my practice, I started to eliminate and modify postures, especially twists. I quickly needed to find acceptance in that my body will not allow me to grab my wrists in pashasana any time soon. Some days this acceptance came naturally and quietly. Other days, there was a whole lot of huffing, puffing and frustration to be had before surrendering to the fact that things will never be the same again, ever.

But most days, imagining the life forming inside me with its own little heartbeat left me in complete wonder and fascination and made my other struggles seem far less important. My baby and I were playing together. We were dancing and I knew immediately which songs s/he enjoyed the most. For instance, karandavasana was a hit, as is anything with a backbend in its name.

Now, at four months, I’ve begun to realize that just like my practice, pregnancy is unpredictable.

I never know what kind of day it’s going to be just as I never know what kind of practice it’s going to be until I get on my mat. The best things I’ve found to do for myself is to maintain a healthy diet, hydrate, rest, and of course, keep practicing.

Of course, as I continue to grow, the only thing I can think of, is not when will I get the next posture, or when will I be able to grab my ankles, or will I ever come up from karandavasana, but instead when will I be able to feel the first kick of this miracle growing inside me.


Dina GougoustamosDina has been practicing yoga for over 4 years. She finds that a devoted Ashtanga practice provides her with a more fulfilled and deeper understanding of life. Her dedication and passion to the practice creates warmth and compassion in her relationships with family and friends, as well as in her managerial role in the restaurant business. Dina is currently lucky enough to practice under her teacher, David Garrigues of the Ashtanga School of Philadelphia. She and her husband are expecting their first child in early August.



Editor: Thaddeus Haas

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10 Responses to “Backbends and Baby-Bumps. ~ Dina Gougoustamos”

  1. Georgia says:

    Thanks for the encouraging article Dina! You make being pregnant seem so easy, unlike most women who use it as an excuse to stay home and become immobile. Keep up the yoga challenging practice!

  2. art says:

    Has your male yoga teacher ever had a baby? How would he know that Third Series is almost like having a baby? Did he have a baby in a past life?

  3. dmasouras says:

    This phrase is meant to mean that my growing baby will need all the extra energy it can get. It's not to be taken in a literal sense.

  4. Kelly Roth (Wilder) says:

    Dina! So great to see you're happy an healthy and expecting! Being a mom is the best, and while I'm not familiar w Ashtanga, I think it's great that you intend to stay active with the best interest of your baby in mind. I ran through both of my pregnancies, and more so with our second who is now a month old and strong, and happy and healthy. You're labor will be, well, labor, but you will power through and recover so much stronger than those who don't. Don't be discouraged by those who judge you, listen to your body and your doctors and you will be fine!!! Good luck and keep in touch!!!

  5. dmasouras says:

    Hi Kelly! So good to hear from you! Thanks for the encouraging words! I'm happy to hear that you are still running and staying active!

  6. Jacqui says:

    "The greatest gift offered by my practice during this time, however, has been to my ego. Quite simply, if you want your ego checked, go ahead and get knocked-up."
    I can't tell you how much this quote resonated with me. I'm 7 1/2 mos pregnant with my first and I couldn't agree more with this article. As yogis, we are working towards entirely separating our consciousness from our ego–a difficult task that may never be 100% accomplished. But I'll tell ya–pregnancy requires that separation almost immediately. It's been quite an adjustment practicing with a growing baby inside–an amazing experience that teaches me something new about my practice almost daily.
    Good luck to you as you progress through the pregnancy and into motherhood! I, myself, am very curious to see what happens to my practice, in terms of finding the time to get on the mat and my body's recovery once I take that giant step to becoming a mom!

  7. dmasouras says:

    Thanks Jacqui and the best of luck to you during this exciting time! Adjusting my practice, sometimes on a weekly or even daily basis has been quite challenging. It's something that you couldn't possibly understand unless you experience it personally. Some days are easier than others, but there are different challenges to face every time I get on my mat. I'd like to think that this could only make us better moms and of course make the transition into motherhood much more fluid. I guess time will tell. Again, good luck to you!

  8. HeatherM says:

    Hi ya, Please credit the photo (re: Heather Morton) which was found in my post here:

    Thanks very much.

    On a note about pregnancy and yoga…and being 6 months myself and in Mysore, India right now, I continued to practice during my first pregnancy (this is my 2nd) and had been a seasoned practitioner since 2000 of many advanced postures of yoga. At around the 8th week, I lost the baby. Miscarriages are not fun.

    Now, fast forward 1 year later…at 43 (no fertility treatments), I find myself blessed and fortunate and was able to conceive again with a healthy developing child. This time I STOPPED ALL backbends and as instructed by my teacher Yogacharya V. Venkatesha.

    It's all fine and good to talk about listening to your body. However, when you may be used to pushing your body beyond its limits, one's mind (ego) may not respect the new life and the new state of things to emerge. This is a WHOLE new learning and not always easy to follow, respect, listen to, etc.

    That said, each MUST woman find their own way and practice….and what is truly right for them. I would suggest reading about other's experiences, talking with knowledgeable yoga teachers and people who can lend some advice. But in the end, one needs to decide for themselves.

    I had to give up a lot of the physical practice, which I thought I would be very, very sad without…However, there is an entire shift of energy, of meaning…and understanding one thing…re: ASANA is only ASANA…Deeper yoga is pranayama, meditation…and as laid out by Patanjali himself.

    Love and peace to your little one… and to you.

    I call the movements and kicks…"my little turtle."

  9. suzi says:

    This blog is very nice. After reading this post, I gain some knowledge about Backbends and Baby-Bumps. This article is really very important and informative. Thank so much for share with us, dina.