Does your confidence shatter when a pregnant woman walks into your yoga class?
Many teachers are unsure of how to modify for pregnancy and are afraid of hurting the student or her baby. It’s important to remember that pregnant women aren’t super delicate, but also best not to completely ignore the fact that a person is pregnant and fail to modify anything.
So here are a few pointers to help teachers better nurture your pregnant students and make sure that they feel included.
If a woman is less than 14 weeks pregnant, she is likely able to do everything you planned for the rest of the group. However, here are a few examples of things that can start affecting a woman’s yoga practice as early as six weeks pregnant:
1. Her joints are more sensitive.
This means that holding plank or downward dog for a while may make her wrists very unhappy. Show her quarter dog as a modification. Also, offer a blanket under the knees in table.
2. The constant up-and-down motions in sun salutations can cause dizziness and nausea.
Suggest that she move very slowly, do child’s pose instead of some vinyasas, keep her hands on her hips when coming up to stand, etc.
3. Lying on the belly can seriously hurt sensitive boobies.
Offer other options whenever possible.
4. Being really hot really sucks.
Set up her mat by a window / fan and suggest that she take plenty of water breaks.
5. New aches and pains can arise very early in pregnancy.
Her low back may hurt and the sacrum often feels unstable as the joints loosen. Emphasize how important it is for her to keep her low back supported by drawing her tailbone in and abdomen back in every active pose.
6. It’s hard to get through a 90-minute class without having to pee.
Casually let her know that it won’t disrupt the class if she needs to get up and go. Best not to hold it in as this can cause infection!
As for modifications after the first trimester (14 weeks+), stick to these standard rules:
1. Don’t let her spend too much time flat on her back. If the class is lying down for more than five minutes, prop up her spine and head on a slight incline.
2. During breathing exercises, let her know she shouldn’t hold her breath at any time.
3. Whenever you bring the class into a deep twist, have her do an open twist instead (twist in the opposite direction).
4. Do your best to offer modifications that will keep length in the front of the torso (avoid compressing the belly). For example, offer blocks under the hands in lunges.
5. If she’s up for vinyasa’s, put a bolster on her mat directly where her pelvis would land when lowering down in plank so her belly can be in space rather than pushing into the floor. Or just have her put her knees down and lower half way instead of all the way down to her belly.
6. Once her bump is big, keep her feet a little wider than hips distance in all standing and seated forward folds.
7. Offer Savasana on her left side. Set her up with a blanket under the head, a bolster between the knees, and have her hug a blanket or two in her arms for comfort. Give her a short low back massage to let her know you care.
8. Above all, don’t be scared when a pregnant woman walks into your class. More than likely, she will intuitively know how to take care of her changing body. You are there to encourage her to listen to her body. There’s no need to over instruct, just find subtle ways to remind her of how special and beautiful she is!
It’s so exciting to see women come back every week with their growing bellies. You may not even be aware of the large role you play in the labor experience. Your pregnant students will remember your valuable teachings when it’s time to squat and breathe!
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Author: Megan Ridge Morris
Editor: Renée Picard
Photo: Bonbon at Flickr