The first time a pregnant yoga student walked into one of my public yoga classes, I was terrified! I didn’t know what to tell them outside of the standard, “You know your body best and if something hurts, don’t do it. Avoid compressing the belly. Take it slow and listen to your instincts.” And then I worried about them for the rest of class!
All these years later, after attending a few teacher trainings, practicing yoga through my own pregnancy, and maintaining a weekly prenatal yoga class for over five years, I feel that my initial advice holds up. A pregnant person does know their changing body best and if something hurts, they definitely shouldn’t do it! Avoiding compression of the belly in twists and forward folds is a great thing for them to keep in mind and if they practice moving a little slower and listening to their instincts, they will be developing great habits for new parenthood.
Beyond this pre-class conversation, there are a few things yoga teachers can keep in mind when a pregnant person is in class. With an understanding of this basic information, teachers will have some evidence-based, practical knowledge to support pregnant people at each stage of pregnancy.
1st Trimester (Conception – 13 Weeks):
- Their joints may be more sensitive and unstable, so keep an eye out for hyperextension, suggest a blanket to support the knees and show them Dolphin Pose as an alternative to downward dog if their wrists are feeling sore.
- The Constant Up and Down Motion of Sun Salutes may make them dizzy. Encourage them to move slowly. To avoid dizziness, have them put their hands on their hips to rise up to stand. Show them Child’s Pose as an alternative to downward dog if they’re dealing with nausea.
- Being really hot can be dangerous when you’re pregnant. If your class is usually on the warmer side, let your pregnant student know that they might be better suited for a class that keeps the room cooler. Don’t hesitate to position them near a fan or open window and let them know that water and bathroom breaks are OK with you.
- Their low back may hurt. Emphasize core engagement just as you would to a non-pregnant student. Make sure they know it all applies to them as well.
- Lying on the belly can seriously hurt a sensitive chest and after 13 weeks, they might not feel as comfortable anymore on their belly anyway. Teach them how to use a folded blanket or bolster under their hips to provide extra space and consider alternative poses they can do that will provide the same kind of stretch the class is doing (ie: bridge pose instead of locust pose).
2nd Trimester (14 – 27 Weeks):
- If the class is lying down on their backs for more than five minutes, provide your pregnant student the option of props so the spine and head are on a slight incline.
- Whenever you bring the class into a deep twist, have the pregnant person do an open twist instead (twist in the opposite direction) or suggest they skip the twist and substitute a shoulder stretch depending on what is most appropriate to the sequence.
- Offer modifications that will help the pregnant student keep length in their torso (avoid compressing the belly). For example, offer blocks under the hands in lunges.
- If they’re up for vinyasas, put a bolster directly underneath the top of their thighs at the groin line in plank so that when the pregnant student lowers down, their belly can be in space rather than pushing into the floor. Or, just have them lower their knees and lower down halfway to the floor instead of all the way down to their belly.
- Offer Savasana on their left side. Set them up with a bolster under the head, a blanket between the shins and roll a couple of blankets for them to hug. Maybe give the student a short low back massage to let them know you care!
3rd Trimester (28 Weeks – Birth):
- Apply the same knowledge from the two previous trimesters!
- Once the baby bump is big, make sure the student’s feet are wider than hips distance apart to make space for standing and seated forward folding.
- If your pregnant student has high blood pressure, avoid intense inversions like handstand and forearm stand. High blood pressure can be of real concern when pregnant, so it’s a good idea to make sure the doctor has given them the all clear to practice.
- If they seem to be struggling in class or having a hard time navigating the modifications, be sure that you are prepared to recommend a strictly prenatal class for them to attend as an alternative to your class.
As yoga teachers, we are present to reinforce for our students what they already know to be true—that they are capable, worthy and loved. They can generate contentment from within and already possess all of the qualities needed to be their best selves. Your prenatal students will especially remember your valuable teachings throughout pregnancy, in the labor room, and your voice may even echo in their minds throughout the first year of parenthood. If you’d like to serve this community, I invite you to join me at ChildLight’s Prenatal Yoga Foundations Teacher Training. Learn the basics in our foundational training with the option to move on to complete all three modules to earn the Yoga Alliance designation of Registered Prenatal Yoga Teacher (RPYT).
Megan Ridge Morris, E-RYT® 500, RPYT®, YACEP®, CD is a co-owner of ChildLight Education Company and the co-creator of ChildLight’s Prenatal Yoga Teacher Training (also a Registered Prenatal Yoga School / RPYS) and brings her expertise off the mat as a Certified Doula. In addition, she facilitates the Yoga for Babies & Toddlers Teacher Training…read more here.
Why did CEC decide to add a Prenatal TT to their training line-up?
Prenatal yoga is the beginning. We are caring for the parents who ends up caring for their child. Research has shown that a happy person carrying a baby is more likely to produce a happy baby. We teach yoga to children so they grow up with healthy habits for a lifetime and wouldn’t it be awesome if this intention started in utero? We want to give a gift to the parents and do it well. Care from conception through young adulthood seemed like the perfect fit for ChildLight.
What are the benefits of being trained in prenatal yoga?
This training will broaden your knowledge base around how to support pregnant yoga students, not only through poses that help alleviate common pregnancy symptoms, but can also help prepare them for the birthing process and postpartum recovery. The breathing techniques, visualizations, meditations and vocal toning we cover in training are often the big take-aways for people when they look back on their overall pregnancy and birth experience. There is an art to teaching yoga to pregnant people that is sacred, unique and beautiful in a way that stands apart from a typical yoga class. And this knowledge will also be helpful when pregnant people attend a traditional yoga class. Knowing how to share yoga with adults is also quite valuable for any kids’ classes that include a caregiver.
Do you need to have completed a 200-hour teacher training before attending?
Not necessarily, but it is strongly recommended.
Do you need to attend all 85 hours?
No, you would only need to take modules 2 & 3 if you are interested in deepening your knowledge and/or you would like to obtain your RPYT certification with the Yoga Alliance.
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