Yoga: The Expansion Of My Body And Yoga Practice in Pregnancy, by Erica Schott
Soon after I found out I was pregnant, my doctor advised me not to play volleyball as the contact could be dangerous and to stop running because I have exercise induced asthma. I have always led an active lifestyle and was initially discouraged about having to discontinue activities that I love. Thankfully she did not tell me to stop practicing yoga and instead encouraged it as ‘an excellent form of exercise during pregnancy’.
And so as my body has expanded over the past eight months, so has my yoga practice.
One of the first people I told about my pregnancy was my regular yoga teacher. I felt this was important so that she could advise me on poses to avoid and those which would be advantageous. I also did quite a bit of reading to further understand the benefits of practicing yoga while pregnant, which I have learned and also experienced to be endless. Not only can yoga assist with relaxation and flexibility of the hips (both essential during pregnancy) it also helps with breathing, strength and balance.
Pranayama breathing in yoga (the expansion of the breath in and out through the nose) is incredibly helpful during pregnancy for calming and centering, and from what I have heard is an invaluable technique for pain management during labour. Increasing my focus on the breath during my pregnancy has also helped me with my asana (yoga postures) practice especially when I have felt like taking a nap instead of practicing.
Another benefit of yoga is that it helps to build full body strength. As the stomach expands, strength in the lower body becomes important to carry the added weight and to adjust for changes in balance, and after the baby is born strength in the upper body is helpful on a daily basis.
If you had a consistent yoga practice before becoming pregnant, continuing with yoga is perfectly healthy, as long as you are aware of the precautions, such as only doing open twists, not spending more than a few minutes on your back, and avoiding inversions. If you are someone who would like to introduce yoga into your life for the first time during pregnancy, and I highly recommend that you do, many sources recommend waiting until your second trimester (week 12) to start practicing, checking with your health care practitioner and then seeking out pre-natal yoga classes.
During the first four months of my pregnancy I struggled with “morning” sickness that lasted from the moment I woke up until I fell asleep at night. During this time, when I felt well enough to go, practicing yoga was the ONLY time I felt like myself. As I moved further along in my pregnancy I started to feel better and during my 4th and 5th months I completed the in-class component of a yoga teacher training program. I am now in my 8th month and am still practicing. I have continued to expand my restorative postures, my focus on breathing, and the time I spend meditating.
Pregnancy has been one of the most joyous times in my life so far, but there have been challenges, so I am thankful to have had my yoga practice to lean on.
Erica Schott and her husband are expecting their first child in June 2013. She has been working in Mental Health as an Occupational Therapist for the past seven years. She currently works at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in an outpatient clinic for individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia. Erica has facilitated a yoga group for her clients there for the past four years with a volunteer instructor. She has been practicing yoga for about five years and is currently doing yoga teacher training at Downward Dog Yoga Centre in Toronto.