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.

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.

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!

About the Author

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Zefea Samson 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).