Tools for Teaching Prenatal Yoga: The First Trimester
Pregnant women should avoid most inversions because you don't want to encourage circulation away from the uterus. And because of the low blood pressure pregnant women usually experience, inversions can cause dizziness. The one exception, however, is Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog), which is fine for short periods of time. Because of the physical demands during the first trimester, these women should not do high-energy sequences such as intense vinyasa series and Sun Salutations with jump-backs. Avoid teaching them most backbends (although Setu Bandha Sarvangasana [Bridge Pose] is OK) because these stretch the abdominal muscles too much.
A vital part of a prenatal routine is relaxation. "One thing I want every pregnant woman to do is lie down every day for 20 minutes in side-lying Savasana (Corpse Pose)," says Lasater. "Rest deeply every day. Labor is the metabolic equivalent of swimming nine miles, so a mother needs to learn how to rest and listen to her body."
Lay the pregnant student on her left side for Corpse Pose at the end of class (all side-lying poses should be on the left side, to avoid pressure on the vena cava vein, which moves blood from the lower part of the body—the uterus—to the heart). Arrange blankets and bolsters under her right knee, belly (if she is starting to show), right arm, and head so all parts of the body are supported. If she begins a habit of recuperating after physical activity now, she will fine-tune her ability to relax on cue, which is a crucial part of labor and delivery.
Building Strength, Encouraging Rest
During the first trimester, the sensations of pregnancy are still new, so a student might be tempted overdo a sequence. Encourage your students to practice with a new awareness of the baby inside and of her body's need for rest. Your job as a yoga teacher is to help your pregnant students learn to appreciate the benefits of a gentler, more introspective yoga practice.
Here, in summary, are some important things to remember when teaching a woman in her first trimester:
Brenda K. Plakans, mother of three-year-old Eamonn and six-month-old Alec, lives and teaches yoga in Beloit, Wisconsin. She also maintains the blog Grounding Thru the Sit Bones.
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