pregnant studentsBy Faye Martins

What should yoga teachers know about pregnant students? Pregnancy is a wonderful experience for women, but it comes with its fair share of discomfort and pain. Few things are as taxing on the female body as creating and supporting another life. Yoga practice is an effective way to strengthen and eliminate stress in the pregnant body, but there are some special considerations to keep in mind when teaching pregnant students.

Taking a prenatal yoga teacher training course would be wise, if you intend to teach pregnant students. I recently read a comment from a pregnant student, who didn’t take kindly to the safety precautions given by her certified prenatal Yoga instructor. In fact, she flat out implied that Yoga teachers are only worried about protecting their own liability. To set the record straight, a pregnant student who doesn’t care about the safety of her unborn child can leave my class anytime. As teachers, we’re seriously concerned with the safety of two lives (mother and child), when our students are pregnant. This is why I strongly recommend all pregnant students attend a specialized prenatal yoga class with a teacher specialist.

During the first trimester, students should not jump in or out of yoga poses, but most poses may be performed without any difficulty. The baby is protected by the pelvis, and the uterus itself is still very small. It may be difficult for pregnant women with a background in yoga practice to hold themselves back and exercise restraint, but that’s exactly what they must do. No challenging poses should be attempted during pregnancy. A special focus on hip openers starting now or during the second trimester will make labor and delivery easier, and as such are highly recommended.

Things become a little trickier during the second trimester. The female body begins to secrete a hormone called relaxin, which serves to prepare the body for the changing and stretching required accommodating the growing uterus in addition to labor and delivery itself. This hormone does exactly what its name implies, and makes the muscles and joints softer and more pliable. This is essential, but it also leaves pregnant women much more susceptible to injuries from overextending into poses. This is the main reason that most yoga instructors recommend a gentler practice for pregnant women. If a woman has been practicing yoga training for a while and wishes to continue to practice at an intermediate or advanced level she will need to be particularly mindful, making sure to never go too deeply into an asana.

Starting in the second trimester and continuing through the third, women will need to make substitutions in order to protect the uterus. Many poses that require the practitioner to put weight on the belly may be modified, or a similar pose may be substituted all together. Abdominal strengtheners, twists, jumps and pranayama should be avoided. Any asanas that disrupt the center of gravity should be avoided as well, or performed using a wall or chair for added stability.

Additionally, pregnant women should avoid Corpse Pose and all other poses that bring the body into a supine position for prolonged periods of time due to the risk of aortocaval compression syndrome. Vigorous practices such as Hot Yoga and Ashtanga should be avoided as well during the duration of the pregnancy.

Practicing yogic exercises throughout pregnancy serves to make women more comfortable with their bodies during this time of change. Pregnant women are more challenging for teachers to work with, but they are also some of the most rewarding students a yoga teacher could ask for.

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