A pregnant woman adjusts to many changes in her body throughout her pregnancy. During those nine months, each trimester brings its own set of challenges she needs to adjust to. When teaching prenatal yoga, you must be aware of the challenges of each trimester so you can adapt to the woman's new abilities and needs.First TrimesterIf you have a newly pregnant woman in your class, first be certain she has her doctor's approval to participate. While most women are encouraged to continue exercising and many physicians recommend yoga, under some circumstances yoga might not be the right activity for your client.Even for women who have the okay to participate in yoga class, check to make sure they are taking the right class for their energy level. Pregnancy, especially in the first trimester, can be exhausting. The new mom-to-be might be better suited to a restorative class than a class featuring a vigorous flow. You should also try to find out if the woman has been pregnant before. If pregnancy is a totally new experience for her, she may be less aware of how her body will react to activity.Most standing poses are safe during the first trimester. Any poses which require balance should be done near a wall to minimize the risk of falling. You can include hip openers, but be cautious-- and encourage your students to be cautious-- as hormonal changes are already naturally opening the hips now and they can be pushed too far.Avoid inversions when teaching prenatal yoga. Also avoid standing twists, though seated twists can help reduce back pain. Avoid all other poses that strongly compress or stretch the belly.Second TrimesterBy the second trimester, most pregnant women will have adapted somewhat to the changes in their body and may have more energy to support a practice. However, by this time the changes in their physical shape may make it more difficult for them to practice the way they are used to.
Most standing poses continue to be safe, but wide-legged poses can put a lot of pressure on the pelvic floor. You can adjust some of these poses by having the student sit in a chair and stretch their legs out.In addition to poses that open the lower back and address back pain, poses that open the chest and alleviate upper back pain may be desired now. Pregnant women develop additional breast tissue that may cause discomfort.You should not allow a pregnant woman in this trimester to lie flat on her back any extended length of time; use bolsters to prop up her upper body. This will ensure a safe, continuous blood flow. Prone poses may be challenging due to the woman's shape; you may need to modify poses by adding supports under the woman's hips to elevate the body and make room for her belly, or by doing a standing version against the wall.At this point in her pregnancy the woman may begin having concerns about delivery; breathing exercises like Alternate Nostril breathing help practice the skills she will need during labor.Third TrimesterThe woman's baby is likely to be very active at this point and the woman very aware of all of the baby's moves. Focus your yoga instructions on poses that help make more room for the baby; this will also help the woman become more comfortable. All poses that require balance should be done with a chair or near the wall. Cat pose or pelvic tilts can help move the baby to a more comfortable position. Spend a lot of time working with the expectant mother on breathing, both to help prepare for labor and to help her relax now.ConclusionAs you work with pregnant women more, you will develop an understanding of the changes they are undergoing and the changes you need to make to your yoga instruction. You can have the joy of knowing your instruction is helping two people to get healthy through these poses.