Fit Friday: Yoga for Each Trimester

9:00 AM

Guest Post by: Arielle Bertolone

Yoga is a wonderful way to weave movement into your pregnancy. For women brand new to yoga, most prenatal yoga classes being offered will be the best option. Prenatal classes tend to be gentle, but offer low-impact movement, relaxation techniques, and breathing that is very beneficial for mom’s-to-be. A good prenatal instructor should be knowledgeable about the risks throughout pregnancy and will help you modify each pose so you are comfortable.
As a yoga instructor myself, I wanted to explore maintaining a home yoga practice, and a more active practice than your typical prenatal class provides. These are tips for each trimester of pregnancy for yoginis that had a regular yoga practice before pregnancy (or other physical practices).

First Trimester

When I found out I was pregnant, many things crossed my mind- what to prepare for, what would change. As someone who cherishes physicality and movement, how that would be effected came up as well. I learned I was pregnant very early on, so at first everything was great! I was pretty sure I would never get morning sickness, and my energy levels were fantastic. Yoga, pilates, hiking all felt wonderful. I remember thinking I was stronger than ever.

Two weeks later, after throwing up an entire organic salad on the side of the road, I laid down on my yoga mat for home practice, and decided, this is it. This is my practice today. I am going to breathe, I am going to rest.

Throughout pregnancy the body’s wisdom and connecting to your intuitive sense grows. First trimester is especially tricky, because you look perfectly fine, your body seems the same, and most people have no idea you are pregnant. Yet, how you feel in some cases changes immensely. The body is working especially hard before the placenta implants. Though I wanted to be superwoman and rock my yoga practice, some days I physically just could not bring myself to do more than legs up the wall. Some days I was able to rock an entire flow practice with inversions and arm balances. It was dramatically different one day to the next.

  • Many women will feel deeply exhausted, or sick during these first few months. Take those days off, do a restorative practice or go for a light walk. The body feels exhausted because it is working really hard, and sometimes the healthiest thing to do is rest. On some of those days even a restorative practice was torture because I felt nauseous. Netflix was just the better option;)
  • The poses themselves do not need to change much if you were practicing previously. Cross body twists are warned against- if they feel fine in your body, keep on keeping on. Prone backbends (locust, cobra, sphinx, etc.) will eventually be unbearable. Right now baby is a wee little lentil, and unless you are high risk, a little tummy time is just fine. 
  • This is not the time to try your first handstand, or master a new arm-balance. If those poses were solidly in your practice before, they should still feel good. Remember, you are growing a life! If there is any chance you will fall out a pose, trust me, it’s not worth it. 
  • The days you feel great, practice with glee. Tomorrow may bring a whole new adventure. Make sure your sequence is still balanced with some seated poses and relaxation. Tomorrow, your body will thank-you. 

Second Trimester

This is often called the honeymoon phase of pregnancy. What’s great about pregnancy is it is totally different woman to woman. Some mamas report the sick and exhausted phase will go right on through second trimester. I was lucky enough to have that part cease
completely right around my 11th week. This is my experience, I have had a low-risk pregnancy without much complication. I would talk to my midwife or doctor if sickness continues and see what they recommend, especially in reference to physical activity.  Here is what worked for me.

  • I felt great. I felt strong, I was sure glad not to be craving french fries and hating salads! If you are feeling good, have fun! What an amazing, powerful time. Feel powerful. I went to two days of yoga workshops, did backbends and inversions. I had a blast and my body was up for it. Here is where that intuitive sense comes into play. Enjoy it. Enjoy your body feeling just about how you are used to it feeling! That doesn’t exactly last. 
  • Prone backbends and cross body twists will stop being an option at some point in your second trimester. I knew exactly when that point came. If it feels like you are smashing that sweet baby- stop! I stopped doing prone backbends around 16 weeks, cross body twists soon after. 
  • While my practice stayed similar, I changed the focus of my practice. I started thinking about poses that would support giving birth. I also put a lot of emphasis on stabilization. Your body may feel tight at times during pregnancy, but will start to release relaxin- a clever hormone that relaxes the ligaments in the pelvis and helps allow a baby to make it’s way into the world. The only problem is it can destabilize other joints. I have been very enthusiastic about squats and light weight-training throughout pregnancy. Hip stabilizing poses like goddess squat and warrior 2 are great. I have also focused a lot energy on balancing poses since your sense of equilibrium shifts. Use this time to get strong.

Third Trimester

Third trimester was much like second at first for me. Once that bump really starts to grow is when things start to change. I really didn’t feel like I hit dramatic growth until about 28 weeks or so. The increase of blood flow was a big shift for me, as was the heartburn. Apparently shifting your head above you heart, then below your heart REALLY irritates that. Energy levels changed a lot for me again, but increasing my iron intake helped. I do appreciate an afternoon nap quite a bit these days.

  • As in first trimester, some days are just not practice days for me. I love a short restorative practice with meditation on days I’m not feeling an active practice. 
  • I do not do any core work- besides planks and side planks. 
  • I am still loving stabilizing, balancing practices. Squats. Wall squats, goddess squats. 
  • Hips swivels are awesome, also just rocking side to side between poses.
  • Days I have bad heartburn, I try not to bring my head below my heart repeatedly. 
  • I have felt light-headed (probably from increased blood flow) That’s a good sign to slow down. 
Go with the flow! Step wider, make room for this baby that is rocking it out in there, slow down when you have to. This part of pregnancy comes with some dramatic shifts, allow for them, honor them.

My name is Arielle Bertolone- I love yoga, hiking, pilates, running, jumping, playing and delicious food. My husband runs a cold-pressed juice company (lucky me!), and we are a part of an amazing co-parenting team for my almost 13 year old stepson. We decided to start all over again, and are expecting a sweet little girl mid-April! I have been teaching yoga since getting my certification in 2011. I am constantly evolving my teaching and personal practice. I love mixing in many forms of movement and exploration. Pregnancy has been an incredible journey and has taught me how to meet my body exactly where it is in the moment. 

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