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.
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.)