Not that your role as a yoga instructor isn’t honorable already, but to be present during the nine most important months of someone’s life—to help support the changes that happen in a pregnant body—is really something. Likewise, pregnant women can derive countless benefits from prenatal yoga. It will help them develop stamina and strength, calm the nervous system, and relieve the tension of their upper and lower back, hips, neck, and shoulders. Even so, there are a few factors to consider while teaching and we’ve provided them below:
Beware of pregnancy stages
Knowing the trimesters of pregnancy (and how they place changing demands on the body) will help you guide your expecting students in the right poses. For instance, although there’s little to see on the outside, the body still undergoes huge changes in the beginning, like the challenges of nausea and fatigue. This stage is also considered the most fragile since the risk of miscarriage is at its highest. It’s not until the second trimester when pregnancy becomes more visible and energy levels go back up. Women also experience new weight on the front of their torso, which puts a strain on the back. And when the third trimester rolls around, the baby is big enough to dramatically affect the body’s functioning. As an instructor, you can ensure that your class provides an escape from the physical and mental demands with modified breathwork, relaxation techniques, and poses that create a sense of openness.
Emphasize safe poses
Speaking about moms-to-be, the Huffington Post says, “When you’re pregnant, parts of your body hurt that you didn’t even know existed. Weird aches and pains pop up out of nowhere and your growing belly can make finding comfortable positions nearly impossible.” Enter: prenatal yoga. During class, make full use of safe poses that build flexibility and stamina, as well as stretch the body to make room for the growing baby. They include the Extended Side Angle Pose, the Cat-Cow Stretch, the Mountain Pose, the (supported) Squat Pose, the Child’s Pose, the Easy Pose, and the Bound Angle Pose. On the other hand, inversions and prone postures like the Locust Pose and Bow Pose should not be practiced.
Skip the core work
Some core work can be considered a prenatal yoga no-no because the belly needs to expand instead of working to build abdominal muscles. (Your students can focus on getting their abs back into shape after the baby arrives). In fact, Jillian Michaels, the popular personal trainer, shed light to Everyday Health magazine on the do’s and don’ts for exercising while pregnant, saying, “Don’t twist or compress your abdomen, torso, or spine. So, no overhead presses or weighted squats. No crunches. No twisting yoga poses.” Similarly, when it comes to inversion poses (beyond the risk of falling and injuring themselves or the baby), the core strength needed to hold themselves upside down can make the whole practice dangerous.
Keep the breath steady
A primary benefit of prenatal yoga is breath awareness. Not only can steady, balanced breathing lead to healthy nerves, a calmer temper, and a slower heart rate, but it also serves as an anchor to help your expecting students stay grounded while learning to deal with the stresses of pregnancy and motherhood. To help them receive the benefits of intentional breathing and balance without any additional stress, guide them to a comfortable seated position (like the Easy Pose), bringing both hands to their knees with palms facing up and toward the sky. As they inhale, ask them to gently close the left hand, leaving the right hand open. As they exhale, ask them to close the right hand and open the left. It’s important for them to not hold their breath but simply letting their breath flow, which will nourish them and their baby.
With the right understanding, you can be that person to help them go through their delivery more easily. What a gift. And if you know of more factors that your fellow yoga instructors should consider, please share them in the comment section below!