Let me first start this off by saying I am not a healthcare professional or personal trainer. I am speaking on my own personal experiences and still recommend consulting with your physician before starting a health or fitness regiment while pregnant. Generally speaking, everyone’s pregnancy is different with several variations of limitations that come along with it. I am hoping to help even just one person during their pregnancy by reflecting upon, and sharing, my own personal experiences.
When I found out that I was pregnant I was scared what that meant for my business. Anytime you look up practicing yoga during pregnancy it puts so many limitations to your personal practice. Most articles and websites that I had read claimed that if you continued to practice poses that involved abdominal or spinal twists that it could prevent your embryo from properly attaching itself to the uterus which would result in all sorts of problems including miscarriage. This absolutely terrified me. The articles encouraged you to stay away from inversions and I wanted to know how much of this information was factual and proven through significant research. I worried that I wouldn’t be able to demonstrate enough of the poses and that the clients I had would become bored with the classes I was teaching. At the time my business was brand new and I worried that I wouldn’t be able to build the clientele that I needed in order to grow my business. I contemplated closing the studio down and going back to my previous career as an Early Childhood Education professional. Five months later, I could not be more thankful for my decision to keep the studio open and continue to follow my passion for teaching.
After meeting with my OB/GYN and discussing my profession I addressed my concerns about continuing to be so active throughout my pregnancy. She asked me what I had done exercise wise before getting pregnant and I explained to her that I had been doing pilates and yoga for the last year. She reassured me that I could continue to do the same activities that I did prior to becoming pregnant as long as it didn’t cause any discomfort or pain. The only thing she advised me not to do was push myself harder than I was used to. Pregnancy is not a time to loose weight, it is a time meant for maintaining what you have already achieved.
Leaving my appointment I felt relieved that I had not shut down the studio and continued to fight for my dream of running and operating a successful business. Knowing how I felt before talking to my healthcare provider I had the idea of reflecting upon my personal experiences to help relieve some of the stress other expectant mothers might be feeling about doing yoga and pilates. There is so much information out there that is inaccurate and cause women so much stress about activities that are proven to aid in the birthing process. I thought it would be a great idea to bring some positive light to the topic. We have enough to be stressed out about already as expectant mothers!
A few benefits that I have learned along the way is that hip opening poses and stretches can help your labor progress faster. These stretches prepare your hips for the vast changes they will have to go through during labor. Breathing techniques are a huge contributor to a smooth labor, giving you the ability to stay calm and in control. Yoga is constantly aligning your breath to movements, bringing attention to lengthening your inhales and exhales. Becoming aware of your natural breath, and using your exhales to push deeper in to a pose are fantastic strategies to push through those painful contractions. Mindfulness and meditation mimic that of the hypno-birthing technique and helps you escape the painful reality of giving birth. This may be different for everyone, but who wouldn’t want to make their natural labor less painful?
At the moment I am six months pregnant and happy to report that I have participated in 12-18 hours of yoga and pilates every single week since I found out I was pregnant. There were days that my energy was low that I took it easy, but by listening to my body and giving it extra rest when I needed it has helped me continue to participate in the activities that I love. As my belly continues to grow I modify certain postures that require you to lay on your stomach, and I do what I can to keep moving throughout the class. I have personally found that the benefits to continuing to exercise vastly outnumber the negative outcomes. I do get more sore than I did pre-pregnancy, yes I do get winded more easily, yes it is hard to get your center of balance back, but this is all temporary and does not hold a candle to the benefits I am receiving. Pilates has helped keep more core strong which will be very helpful during delivery. I am constantly working on muscles that support my core to aid in my balance being a bit off. Yoga has helped me relive stress and stretching out areas of tension all over my bodies.
There is no doubt that the benefits of yoga are never-ending, but I never realised how much easier it would make my pregnancy. Don’t get me wrong I had my days where I did nothing but lay on the couch and nap just like everyone else, but getting up and focusing on my breathing and giving myself some much needed me time has led to a happier and healthier pregnancy in general. In the everyday hustle and bustle and life you forget to take a moment to think about what exactly you want. Not speaking for anyone but myself here but I often times get lost taking care of others and putting their best interests before my own. I would much rather use the spare hour I have during the day to prep Jonathan’s lunches for the week or put away some of our clutter that builds up over time then to ever think of what I would rather be doing for myself. Yoga allows me to push all of that to the side for just an hour at a time and really focus on what I need mentally. During this pregnancy I have been particularly stressed about the risks of miscarriage. Knowing fully that they are out of your hands and happen naturally it still scares me and causes me to stress out. Jon often jokes around that if stressing yourself out was a full-time job I would be amazing at it. Stress is such a common link to many delays after birth, and trying not to stress out almost makes the problem worse. I always take the little time I have during meditation to check on myself mentally and figure out what I need to work on to be more relaxed outside of the studio. I always leave feeling lighter at the end of the night.
As far as pilates goes, listen to your body. If you are tired that day then obviously take it easy. If you are sore for a few days make sure to take the time for your body to recover. Your body is going through so many changes over the course of nine months and you have to be mindful of that. It is okay to slow down and take a step back. It is said that regular exercise throughout pregnancy is meant to make your labor and getting back in shape postpartum much easier. I for one rely on my physical fitness as an income so this is something that was very important to me. I am not looking to be perfect after having a baby, I know that it still takes a long time to get back to your pre-pregnancy body, but I want to remain to feel fit and strong. Continuing to be able to participate in my fitness classes and feel good about myself and what I can physically accomplish. Appearance will slowly come over time. I have set a few guidelines for myself personally. Again I have to emphasize that I am only speaking on personal experience and still think you should consult a physical before making these decisions for yourself. I try and keep my heart rate under 160 beats per minute(I notice extreme fatigue at anything higher), I try and keep my body temperature from rising to quickly. When I am to hot my hands normally get swollen so I will start to take it easy after that, and lastly just listening to how my body feels that day. If I have more energy I put more in to my workout and vice versa.