Exhausted and out of breath. Knees wobbling to the opposite directions you tell them to. Climbing the Everest. That’s how it felt to finish just one sun salutation every now and then. And if that wasn’t hard enough to digest for an active run-all-day-around-and-upside-down-kind of a person like me, there was also that snap mood switch effect. One moment you feel top of the world and the next you cry and howl because nothing is right in the Universe.
This is the story of my first trimester on the yoga mat.
I have been practicing ashtanga regularly for about 2 years before my pregnancy. As every woman has a different background and every pregnancy is a very individual process, the following information and the tips that I’m sharing are not meant to be direct recommendations for everyone. What I’m writing is based on what I have learned and experienced myself and I hope by sharing this all will be interesting to other women who practice ashtanga while expecting a baby.
Practicing ashtanga during the first trimester is both viewed as a no-no and yes-yes. For example Guruji and Sharath are known to recommend that you don’t practice at all during the first trimester since it is a very sensitive time for both the mother and the baby.
Same says Saraswati in her interview: “All women are different and react differently with the pregnancy in the beginning. Some are very tired and feel nauseous, and vomit, others are feeling well. It is best to not do the practice during the three first months to see how the pregnancy is going. Even if you feel strong and healthy it is good to let the body rest because so many things are changing in the body during this time.”
I did consider taking a complete rest from the practice until the beginning of the second trimester, but the days without yoga felt lethargic and stiff with a flaky mood. It felt more natural to keep the practice going to nurture the body and baby. So after getting the green light from our doctor, I decided to continue, with proper modifications of course.
I kept on practicing the whole primary series added with a few backbends and arm balances from the intermediate series. I loved staying longer in some asanas, carefully entering them and taking extra breaths just to relax in the poses. Overall my practice was much more softer and gentle, concentrating more on the healing aspect, not the internal cleansing or intensity. Yoga made me feel centred and gave a wonderful opportunity to bond with the new life my body was so busy creating inside. The time on the mat also gave me a chance to reflect how I was feeling that day, how the body and our lives were changing.
Here are some of my observations and tips from the first trimester on the yoga mat:
Expect the unexpected, every day is dramatically different and there is no agenda to yoga. Some days I felt good to do the whole Primary sequence, other I could only manage one sun salutation or just to breathe in child’s pose. And that’s okay! The most important thing is to listen to your body and move with intuition, what feels good today might not feel good the next. Taking it easy and slow is good, the body is building a home for the baby and going through big changes, simply 10 minutes of deep breathing can be just what you need.
Morning sickness was super mild for me and it disappeared once I ate something. This sometimes postponed my early morning practice to a pre-lunch yoga as I had to have my breakfast first thing I woke up. Some days I had to move my practice to the evening too.
I left out the deep twists such as Trikonasana B, Parshvakonasana B, Marichyasana C&D. The jump backs and throughs changed into stepping one leg after the other and I eased both the moola bandha and uddiyana bandha to avoid intense strain in the pelvic and abdominal area. Backbends and inversions felt amazing, so did the headstand and I kept on doing whatever felt comfortable.
Taking extra breaths in and between asanas felt amazing. My body was often telling me(and still is) when to just stop and take a few long breaths before continuing. I got out of breath much faster than normally and sometimes felt heavy and sleepy. Sometimes it even felt like my legs and hands went opposite ways and were overly flexible. The body is loosening up on certain areas while preparing to carry and deliver the baby so some asanas that used to be tight, suddenly felt really easy to get into. This is important to realise not to overdo anything even if it first feels comfortable.
It’s important not to break an intense sweat or over heat the body as this can affect the development of the baby. I felt better to practice in a lightly ventilated space and keeping a water bottle right next to the mat. I was often sipping water during the practice to avoid dehydration.
Ashtanga gives energy and keeps the mind calm and clear during the hormone storms. If i didn’t practice in the morning I felt lazy and moody the whole day. Keeping good physical and mental health is important for the baby and yoga certainly has lot’s of benefits during and after pregnancy. With regular yoga the body stays strong and flexible for the delivery plus it helps to relief pregnancy symptoms such as lower back pain, nausea, tiredness, swollen feet, digestive issues, headaches etc. I feel really lucky I don’t really have any bigger “side effects” being pregnant and I do believe it’s this yoga doing the magic.
“Mothering is my first practice, Ashtanga is my second.” -Pamela Luther
I’m now 22 weeks pregnant and continue to practice ashtanga. Second trimester is so different from the first three months as the body has began to change shape and the balance is shifting. By the time this trimester is over I will be travelling to Mysore to practice at the KPJAYI institute and I feel incredibly lucky to go there during this pregnancy 🙂