Can I Do Inversions When I'm Pregnant?

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Question

I'm in the joy of being pregnant (6th week) and am getting confused about what yoga postures to do and what not.

Someone told me, not to do inverted poses at all. During Ananda Yoga Teacher Training we learned not to do them after the first trimester. What could be the reason for not doing them at all from the first moment?

Answer

Blaz Bertoncelj
Ljubljana, Slovenia

Some people counsel against inversions in the first trimester because that is the period when the placenta is attaching to the uterine wall. They feel that inversions could possibly interfere with that process. Others disagree with that opinion.

Traditional yoga teachers usually give this answer on this issue: do not do inversions after your third month of pregnancy. Why not? It could be dangerous for a developing baby, because the human body was not developed to be upside down.

Doing yoga asanas under "normal circumstances" differs from doing it while someone is ill or pregnant. The Ananda Yoga Teacher Training course gave some very sound advice about this. Ananda Yoga's emphasis is on experiencing bliss, and on the classical spiritual approach of yoga. Thus in Ananda Yoga Teacher Training you get the basic knowledge about what is safe to do with your body during times like this.

I remember a big discussion about this topic in Yoga International — I remember the story from one yoga teacher and her explanation that she did inversions even when she was 8 months in pregnancy and she did not have any problems. And besides that, she thinks that she had an easy birth because she did Sarvangasana.

So you can get many explanations for "pro and con" but for me the usual safe and sound advice, basic principle, or even LAW, is: listen to your body because every body has its own intelligence. Be careful but still be open for messages from your body cells who are also an expression of the Divine. As meditation is the ART OF LISTENING, so is practicing yoga asanas.

One day it is good to do inversions, but who can say that the next day your body and mind will like it? After some deep practice and experience you develop the inner feeling what is right for your body (in your case also for your little baby) and what not.

Give more emphasis on yoga nidra (conscious relaxation) and pranayama, especially with those you can harmonize your nervous system (like Nadi Shodhanam pranayama — alternate nostril breathing) and do not do so much stimulated pranayama (like Kapalabhati pranayama). Of course after the third month do not lay on your stomach, because your baby will be upset.

Do exercises and preparations for asanas with which you will open your hips (like butterfly or Baddha Konasana, which is a passive butterfly). Just stay in sitting position with knees down where it is appropriate and put the emphasis on exhalation so you can release the tensions in your hips.

And what I think is also a good idea: begin as soon as possible to work with small muscles in your pelvic area (they are very deep in the pelvis, some of them form the pelvic diaphragm) because they will help you in preparing your body for birth, and also because these kind of exercises are very good for every woman, because they work as prevention for incontinence (when you can not control your urination). Women's incontinence is very big TABOO theme all over the world.

Do it 3 times per day, even when you sit or waiting. Tense and relax those deep muscles (many of them are sphincters - of anus and sexual organs). A yogic exercise which is very similar is Mhula Bandha (root lock).

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