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yoga blog

yoga and pregnancy

yoga and pregnancy

Regularly, I receive phone calls that start like this: “-My doctor says I can’t practice yoga this year because of my medical condition. What is wrong? “I am pregnant.” I am always so surprised by this response that I am silent for a while before I can find a response.

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During all of my years at the Buffalo studio, only one pregnant student came through our doors. I have been in the US for about two years now and I am constantly amazed by the way society tends to think about pregnancy. I get the feeling that pregnancy is treated like a disease and pregnant women are told they can’t do anything. But, isn’t pregnancy the most beautiful thing in life? A celebration of life and femininity? Shouldn’t you enjoy every moment of it and make sure you feel good with your changing body?

In the two years that I taught at the Bikram studio in my home town of Amsterdam, I saw more than 50 women keep up with their practice till the very end of their pregnancy. That even included the studio owner who has practiced consistently throughout three pregnancies! All of them said that keeping up a consistent practice helped them tremendously with feeling good and healthy during the gestation, but most of all with the births. I always share this with the women here who call me with their concerns. But now that I can speak from my own experience I hope my efforts to help pregnant women overcome their fears of the hot yoga room will have some more effects.

yoga and pregnancy

Unfortunately, most doctors and health care providers have no idea what yoga is and how yoga and pregnancy can work together. They have an image of people forcing themselves into ‘pretzel’ poses, and assume that this is not good for the growing baby. All the doctors hear when their clients tell them about Bikram yoga classes is the word “heat”. A concern for pregnant women is that the body temperature will rise too much. Contrary to popular belief, practicing in a heated room actually helps prevent the body from overheating. With a regular practice hot yoga helps to regulate all body systems, including the hormonal system and circulation. It helps you to keep your temperature at the desired level.

Another worry with yoga and pregnancy is that there will be too much pressure on the stomach and on the baby. That is why after the first trimester, when the belly starts to grow, pregnant women should start to introduce a few modifications to their postures. All the teachers at our evolation yoga studios can guide women through these modifications to help with both the yoga and pregnancy. The general rule in your practice, pregnant or not, is that you have to feel where your limits are and never push yourself beyond them. Usually the first three months of a pregnancy are the hardest, as that is the time when most hormonal changes happen. This is when a lot of women feel nauseated and have much less energy. For some women it feels better to take it easier and practice a little bit less. And when you do choose to practice yoga during the first three months of pregnancy, you should not feel bad about sitting down a bit more than usual.

All I know is I have not experienced the infamous morning sickness at all. On top of that other negative symptoms have been pretty moderate. ‘You are lucky’ most people tell me. However, I know it’s not luck. My yoga practice is one of the things that keeps me healthy and energized. I hope practicing yoga throughout my own pregnancy will motivate more women to be active and enjoy the great feeling of being in a class. I hope I can inspire more women not to feel like they have a medical condition, feel abnormal, or feel like they should not do anything. I am now in my 4th month. You will see me practicing as my belly grows and I will try to share my experiences in the later stages of pregnancy.

To the celebration of life!

Zefea Samson

Zefea had her first experience with yoga at the age of 4 when her parents practiced with renowned teacher Angela Farmer in the Iyengar tradition. She forgot about yoga during her teens and twenties and trained for boxing and the combat system Krav Maga. Zefea rediscovered the benefits of yoga when she started practicing Bikram Yoga in her home town Amsterdam. From 2006-2008 she represented the Netherlands as the Dutch gold medalist in the International Yoga Championships, finishing in the world's top 10. Zefea experienced new depths of yoga through practicing while pregnant (up till the day of giving birth).

  • http://misspinktwins.blogspot.com/ tracey

    Thanks for writing and, wow!, amazing the difference between europe and the u.s. on this issue. my ‘twin counselor’ informed me that would cause serious harm to my twins with the yoga and when I pressed for details she said that it was unwise to sweat whilst pregnant. All I could blurt out was “what about women who live in texas? or florida? do they relocate to michigan in the summer to avoid sweating?” silly ‘counselor.’ I practiced through week #34. Only reason I stopped was a detached right rib. Gave birth to twin girls at 38 weeks, zero complications, zero bed rest. nausea? yep. but only after I stopped the yoga.

  • Sara Rodriguez

    Silly ‘counselor’ indeed! Sometimes people’s lack of understanding of yoga puts the brakes on a beneficial tool during child bearing. As long as you have established a hot practice beforehand, there is no reason why you shouldn’t continue practice during pregnancy. Always listen to your body and do what feels good for YOU.

  • Nicole Smith

    Exercise and a healthy diet are really vital during pregnancy. It is actually a phase when mind and body are synchronized for the creation and nourishment of a new life. Mothers need to eat well and take proper rest throughout pregnancy. They should try to eat protein rich food with good calcium content. Apart from a healthy diet, exercise is important during pregnancy. If you are not that fit, yoga is good option. Apart from this you can take advice from your doctor or consult online information sources like http://www.first1000days.ie/category/pregnancy/

  • Not sure

    I agree with this to a point, but don’t think it a good idea to begin hot yoga practice when you find out you’re pregnant if you haven’t been doing it all along. Also, is there evidence that doing yoga has a direct affect on whether or not you have morning sickness? I don’t think it wise to make such a blunt statement based upon your own limited experience. I continued yoga during my first pregnancy and miscarried. I stopped yoga during my second pregnancy as I was puking so much I couldn’t do much of anything beyond forcing myself to go to work and back home to bed, and I had a beautiful, healthy, smart baby. I would not draw the conclusion that yoga caused or affected the tragedy of my first pregnancy just as you should not immediately draw the conclusion that doing yoga is the reason that you did not have morning sickness. You are, in fact, lucky in that regard. With that said, I am now pregnant again – pregnant and puking – and am going to start taking a pre-natal yoga class to see if my pregnancy experience can be improved this time around.

    • Zefea

      I agree with you that my experiences are obviously personal. Since I wrote this blog I have had two more pregnancies. The second pregnancy I didnt practice at all, because it was too challenging while taking care of my toddler. It ended with a miscarriage. Shortly after I got pregnant again. I made a point of trying to practice again at least once in a while. It was a challenging pregnancy and birth, but am now blessed with another beautiful child. The last time I was very nauseous and threw up quite a bit. So in my case the relationship between practicing and how I felt seemed to support the experiences of the first pregnancy. I do understand and of course respect that (hot) yoga might not be the most suited for every mamma. I am not aware of any ‘scientific’ proof of my statements. Its however not a secret or mystery that morning sickness is caused by the build up of extra toxins caused by the hormonal changes. Because of that, all the midwifes I have met on my journey advised their clients to do any physical exercise, even just walking around the block, to such a degree that you break a sweat, as that is the most efficient way to get rid of those toxins.
      The bottom line is that you need to do what makes you happy and healthy. In my case, that definitely includes practicing yoga.
      Good luck with everything. Enjoy the rest of your pregnancy and feel free to share some updates with us!