Pregnancy: modifications in the ashtanga yoga practice – Part II

← Part I

Many times people ask me which postures to do, which ones should be avoided, what changed in my asana practice. But actually, it is the least important thing, honestly. It majorly depends on one’s practice (as always), on each body type, each pregnancy, each emotional state. Moreover, everything changes so much week after week, it requires so much attention! We are two people doing yoga in one body. Some settle has to be done.  Many times I felt it was about letting go. Each week something else has to be let go of, but all of the sudden it was not about that, it was about sustaining. Keeping up a practice out of love, wanting to offer all I have, everything I am.
I don’t think stop doing kurmasana at the 7th month is an indication for all but yes, no matter in which posture, is to pay attention to how the baby reacts, adapts to the practice. One friend told me one day: “It is preferable the baby wouldn’t have to compite with practice”. That was an excellent piece of advice. Another one told me: “And yes, you just don’t decide anything else on your own anymore”. So true. I found lots of love and containment in my group, in my community. Tons of love.

 

Preparation: It is known you can keep up the same level of physical activity you had prior to the pregnancy but you can not increase or raise it. That is why it is advisable not to start from fresh with the practice of ashtanga yoga once you are already pregnant. Generally, it is highly advisable arriving to pregnancy with healthy habits already acquired like some sort of physical activity and conscious nutrition, it makes everything easier. In my case, I always thought I was going to keep practicing while pregnant because I’ve heard the decision of avoiding practice during the first trimestre was a personal one. But as soon as I saw the positive result in the pregnancy test I knew I was not going to practice. Something was starting to change.

First trimester: honor life

In my particular case, I din’t get nauseas but I was very tired and sleepy. It is a very introspective moment. Actually, the whole pregnancy is like that but much more at this stage. Many times I felt the need to practice, mainly to get more energy but after the 3rd sun salutation I couldn’t keep up with the breathing. I was exhausted. And I realized it was just fine. It is a moment to honor, the body directs all its energy to that explosion of life occurring inside. And as a first step into motherhood, it is good to let it be. On the other hand, I could develop and anchor myself on a seated meditation practice which was very rewarding.

Second trimester: sensibility all over the place

At this stage, the tiredness went away and I felt full of energy again. I felt so vital, joyful and bright. I resumed practice but in a very different way. No jumps, no twists and no postures which required too much uddiyana bandha like setu bandhasana, dropbacks and utpluthih.

Releasing uddiyana bandha at the beginning can be quite hard but then there’s nothing you can do about it. It’s kind of hard to know where to take the strength from, it feels like going backwards on the path pf concentrating the energy, on relying on bandhas; instead of that you will pretty much use your legs, arms and moola bandha. Personally, I learnt a lot from it, trying to unlink those two bandhas can be a very useful exercise. Also keeping the idea of always elongating the back and grounding through a stable sacrum, focusing a lot in holding moola bandha. Which was quite helpful to develop my focus, something that goes away pretty fast during the pregnancy!

It’s also kind of weird at the beginning because the belly takes a while to be visible or even noticeable, at least a considerable amount to make you adapt the postures. It is difficult because you are physically able to do all the postures but you have to allow the uterus to expand.

Also you start to get used to not receiving many adjustments anymore (if you were going to a shala). But again, I gained the ability to develop a self-practice in a very personal way. I started practicing a lot more at home, going inside, further more focused.

It was a truly emotional period, hormones all over the place, lots of sensibility everywhere. And for me, it was something I needed a lot, allow myself to open to that, to that emotional lack of control. Let myself being taken over by my emotions. And my practice was always there for me, something I could go back to, my anchor.

Third trimestre: the preparation

On the 7th month, Mati and I went for a month to Matthew’s workshop in Santo André, Brasil. We already planned so before the pregnancy and now it develops in such a different way as planned, like many other things. The countdown begins. I start to feel moola bandha is no longer easily accesible. It is the moment to start letting it go, relaxing, expanding. The breathing starts to be much more difficult, there is no more space for the diaphragm any longer. But at the same time I am thankful to just being able to practice. To just open and expand my body with every inhale, and let go with every exhale.

I believe, out of personal experience, ashtanga yoga truly is for everybody. We are the ones who make the practice, transmitting the qualities to it. It is our truthful mirror. It only depends on us it can become more restaurative.

Thankful of being able to take one hour and a half every morning to listen to my own breath and feel how my daughter was that day. I felt very lucky of being able to have that connection on a daily basis, being able to make that time and to offer it to her. Beyond the connection and the emotional contention, it was physically key to go through the pregnancy. The woman’s body suffers many structural changes in a very short span of time during the pregnancy and after it. Being able to cope with that, strengthening my back, relaxing my muscles, working with my pelvic floor and my breath, where all tools which enabled me to just enjoy a healthy pregnancy and deliver.

 

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