Sunday, September 12, 2010

Inversions during Pregnancy from a Yogi’s Perspective

Since my pregnancy has taken over this blog in addition to my baby blog, I figured it’s time to start providing more substantive information about practice during pregnancy. Maybe you’re not pregnant, and maybe you never want to be pregnant, but you’re bound to either teach or be friends with a pregnant yogi who could use a few pointers. So, listen up!

I’m going to start by tackling a long-standing controversy: Should pregnant women avoid or embrace inversions?

Upside Down or Right Side Up?
Some prenatal yoga books and videos assert a blanket recommendation to avoid inversions during pregnancy. But what do the experts say? It depends on your pre-pregnancy practice. If you did not practice inversions before pregnancy, it’s not wise to learn inversions during pregnancy. Even if you did practice inversions before becoming pregnant, this is not the time to experiment with inversions or push yourself in inverted poses that are challenging for you. However, if you practiced inversions comfortably before becoming pregnant, it’s probably beneficial to continue the poses through pregnancy.

Benefits of Inversions during Pregnancy
I turned to Geeta Iyengar’s Yoga: a Gem for Women and David Coulter’s Anatomy of Hatha Yoga to read up on the benefits of inversions during pregnancy. Here’s what I found specific to Sirsasana (Headstand):
  • Ensures proper blood circulation to the uterus
  • Creates space in the pelvic cavity for the baby to move around
  • Relieves venous pressure in the legs, which may relieve and prevent varicose veins
  • Promotes hormonal balance by increasing blood flow to the head and neck. This is especially good for the thyroid gland, as a deficiency in thyroid hormone can lead to miscarriage.

When to Stop Inversions
Geeta says she and her father have guided pregnant women through inversions all the way through the third trimester, so you may not have to stop. However, Geeta and Senior Iyengar teacher Patricia Walden advise that inversions should be discontinued if you experience heaviness in the pelvis or if breathing becomes difficult. If you do have to stop inversions, consider switching to Viparita Karani (legs up the wall pose) to continue reaping the benefits of inversions without assuming unnecessary risks.

Bottom Line
As with all yoga poses during pregnancy, let your intuition be your guide. If it feels good, do it. If it doesn’t, stop.

(Frantic disclaimer: This post is for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for advice from your health care provider or a real live yoga teacher.)

8 comments:

vickigraff said...

I'm also a pregnant yoga practictioner. I'm 24 weeks, and have found headstand (back at the wall) to be fine, although I can't hold it as long without getting hot. Shoulderstand I stopped about a month ago, but I've been using a chair, which gives me more extension on the front of my spine and abdomen and chest.

Viparita Karani - legs up the wall with sacral support - is just about my favorite pose these days. It gives room to breathe and feels good on my tired feet at the end of the day.

Good luck in your practice and pregnancy. Namaskar.

Weight Loss said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Satyam said...

Great thoughts all the way around...

I am a yoga teacher (male) and have worked with quite a number of pregnant students. I follow the usual progression: keeping off the belly and no prone positions, lots of hip and heart openers, and keeping off the back in the later months.

That said, one of my more active students is now 6 months pregnant and she has been keeping up and feeling good in challenging classes. Just today she did a beautiful version of scorpion pose. But again, this is a pose she has been practicing for a good while. In addition, this pregnant yogini is extremely fit and 26yrs of age.

Thanks for sharing,
Satyam

Anonymous said...

i'm 28 weeks pregnant and have been doing yoga throughout my pregnancy...this includes head and shoulder stands. i asked my obgyn today about inversions and she said "absolutely no way i should continue and that it's like laying on my back...cutting off blood supply to me and baby." i'm very upset b/c i enjoy doing these and it gives me a great sense of calmness and balance in life. suggestions or comments? i'm starting my third trimester this week.

writeonyoga said...

My philosophy throughout my pregnancy has been to do what feels right for me. Eventually headstand didn't feel good anymore, so I stopped. Handstand, forearm stand, and shoulder stand still feel good, so I'm still doing them at 30 weeks.

I also recommend the book Iyengar Yoga for Motherhood. It has very specific guidance plus lots of feel-good poses for pregnancy. Good luck!

sab said...

i'm currently 10 weeks pregnant, 37 years old, and have been practicing yoga off and of for 17 years. i'm very comfortable with inverted poses, but do not always incorporate them in my practice.... and as of late, my practice has not been consistent at all. would it still be safe to keep practicing inversions now?

Unknown said...

I am 37 weeks pregnant! I am still able to do Srisasana A without any discomfort or anxiety. I can get into the pose with wide legs and I maintain it for 10 breaths or so. I have explored inversions through my pregnancy, and I feel there is a real benefit to maintaining the practice of inversions, only if it is already something you are able to do pre-pregnancy.

Kolla said...

Great post!! 29 weeks here. Practice definitely slower and more relaxed before, but still very fulfilling (inversions included). Biggest difference is that I think I smile more in class than I used to, and that is not a bad side effect at all :)