How to Practice Yoga while having a ROUGH Pregnancy
I’ve been pregnant twice now. Both pregnancies weren’t great. I mean, they could have definitely been WORSE, but they were no walk in the park either. In the end, both of my babies are healthy and I’m healthy too, so I realize I am super, super lucky. I also realize that my complaints are nothing compared to some things that other women go through, and this is not meant to ignore or underestimate more serious situations at all.
That being said, my pregnancies, which were great, were also very uncomfortable. I pretty much felt like crap the entire 9 months, both times. I was really nauseous all the way through, so much so that I had trouble eating or even drinking water. I threw up a handful of times during my first pregnancy, but thankfully didn’t throw up at all my second time round. (THANK YOU Diclectin!!) I also had some pretty bad SI joint issues, intense heartburn during the second half of both of my pregnancies, and lots of fun other little symptoms. (itchy skin and brittle nails, anyone?) The good thing about having two identical pregnancies with identical issues is that I have mastered the art of dealing with these particular issues and I thought I’d pass some of my findings onto you.
1. SI Joint Issues
My pelvis and back issues were pretty awful. During pregnancy #1, things got so bad that I could barely walk. Stepping onto uneven pavement, or down from a curb sent sharp, stabbing pains into my lower back. I had to brace myself for each step since the pain was so intense. I had to change my yoga practice radically, and had to take up more strengthening exercises as well to help keep my body in check. Here is what I learnt:
If you suspect something is off about your pelvis/ SI joints, go see a specialist, like a prenatal chiropractor or osteopath first. Follow any instructions and practice any exercises that they recommend for your body. You might, like myself, benefit from dropping the yoga practice for now. Regular Vinyasa and even prenatal yoga classes usually have way too many wide-legged poses for a pregnant body with serious SI joint issues. Try to bring some strength training into your life and focus on strengthening your upper hamstrings and glutes especially. Keep the feet hip distance apart, no more, no less, in every yoga pose and exercise you do. Pilates and personal training are both good for strengthening the glutes and hamstrings. So is working with a one-on-one yoga teacher who has some trainings in other types of movement (like one of our teachers!) That way you can maintain whatever few yoga poses are left that you are still safe for your body, and then mix in other types of strengthening exercises to keep the muscles surrounding the pelvis strong.
If you do have to stop practicing yoga altogether during pregnancy, just know that A) it’s not the end of the world. You can practice in a year or two. It sounds like a long time, I know, but it’ll all be ok. And B) Part of the yoga philosophy is letting go and non-attachment. Also not harming yourself (or others). So if the physical yoga practice isn’t good for you because it’s hurting your body, let it go for now! You can still practice meditation, you can read about yoga philosophy, and you can spend time in nature and with good people, and that’ll help nourish your soul. It’ll be ok. You’ll come back to it and you’ll be fine, and actually better for it!
My heartburn was awful. I had to sleep upright at night, from about the 2nd trimester on. (I had the tightest hip flexors ever during pregnancy due to this!) It didn’t matter what I ate, or when I ate it, the heartburn was just always there. Some things did make it slightly better though. Tums did nothing, but Gaviscon helped a bit. Apple cider vinegar remedy made it 1000000x more intense. (You’re supposed to put a shot of apple cider vinegar in some water and chug it. And then wait for the reflux to build and get more and more fiery and then you start sweating profusely and dry heaving. It’s amazing……But seriously, some people do swear by it.) Drinking plain cow’s milk helped me the most. Here’s what else worked for me:
Drink fluids away from meals. Try to time at least half an hour before and after eating to drink fluids. That way you let your digestive juices do their work uninterrupted. You’ll still get heartburn, but just not as bad. Obviously watch what you eat as well. No spicy foods, caffeine and chocolate can be bad, greasy food, etc. But I found that even if I lived off of white bread and water (which I pretty much did during pregnancy #1) I still had really intense heartburn constantly. I used to pop Gaviscon while teaching and while taking Pilates or personal training classes just to keep things somewhat under control.
In yoga practice: lots of ups and downs, like during sun salutations will make you want to die. Don’ do that. Anything with your head upside down, like a standing forward fold and laying on your back? Bad, obviously! Keep your posture upright and even do savasana in an upright position, so your not laying there just dying from your heartburn the whole time! Modified prenatal savasana on the side or on the back, slightly elevated can work for some, but from my experience, sitting upright is the way to go.
If you are missing the energized feeling of sun salutations and a more movement-oriented yoga practise, start to do something new. Vigorous walking or working out in a gym (moderately, of course!) to get the heated feeling you are missing and get your heart pumping. Your yoga practice will have to be much more gentle since you will need to keep the trunk upright at all times. Isn’t pregnancy grande?
3. Nausea for Days and Days and Days
I was nauseous the full 9 months both times. I took Diclectin the 2nd time around, and boy was that helpful! It does make you more tired and dizzy than usual, and I’m not gonna lie, that sucks. But it does help a lot. Pregnancy #1, I ate mainly white carbs as everything else, especially vegetables, made me sick. Pregnancy #2, because of the Diclectin, I could eat really healthily like I normally do, so that was awesome. I did still have a few things that repulsed me (random things! Like tea. What the hell.) But for the most part I could eat a balanced diet and drink fluids and take TTC without gagging.
For me Diclectin was the ONLY thing that really helped. Strangely, plain salted potato chips helped me a little bit too. I have no idea the science behind that one, but it hey! Some people do have luck with ginger chews, and soothing teas like peppermint and ginger, and even homeopathics.
In your yoga practise, listen to your body. Don’t force anything. Take things day by day and minute by minute and if you need to just rest, rest. If yoga is feeling good, do yoga, but slow down or stop if the nausea starts to overwhelm you too much. I found that some days were better than others, so really just take things day by day and do what feels right. I didn’t find any particular yoga poses to be helpful or to worsen my nausea, but keep in mind due to my other ailments, I didn’t really practice a lot of yoga while pregnant! Basically just listen to your body. If it feels good, do it. If it makes you feel worse, just stop. You don’t have to power through.
Overall, pregnancy is a transitionary time. Transitions are hard. Transitions are times of letting go of things and making room for the new. Transitions are exciting and scary and can be uncomfortable. In my first pregnancy, I fought the transition a bit. I hung onto my yoga practice despite it being best for my body to leave it temporarily. Even though I practiced a lot less, and revised my practice immensely during pregnancy #1, it wasn’t until pregnancy #2 that I learned that no…. I needed to stop doing yoga. Period. And my body was so much happier for it.
The giving up of your old body and your old habits and your life during pregnancy prepares you for the changes ahead. As much as pregnancy sucks, and believe me, in my opinion, it really does suck, I’ll give it one thing. Pregnancy gets you ready for the crazy ride that’s just up around the corner. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll be sleep deprived, and your hair will fall out (or at least mine did because, again, AWESOME) but somehow, you’ll also be happier than you even knew possible.