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Teaching for Two

You’ll need to study up to provide the optimal environment for pregnant students. Until then, here are a few important tips from prenatal yoga experts.

By Rachel Brahinsky

Once the fetus is large, full standing lunges can be difficult, both in terms of balance and pressure on the joints. To work on equilibrium safely, our prenatal experts suggest gentle balancing poses, such as Tadasana (Mountain Pose), with bent knees and a little extra tuck in the tailbone to lengthen the lower back.

Eventually, it’s smart to limit Plank Pose and Chaturanga Dandasana (Four-Limbed Staff Pose). Of course, after a certain point these are no longer an option physically, but there’s also some risk of developing repetitive strain problems, which Flashenberg notes can develop more easily in swelling pregnant arms.

You may encounter some students who just don’t want to slow down, especially among those who already have a strong practice. Prior suggests being direct and clear. For example, on the issue of heat, she says, “There are women who do hot yoga through a whole pregnancy—no problem. There are also women who smoke and drink [she didn’t use this word: through] the whole pregnancy—no problem. We’re talking about taking no risks.”

The same goes for teachers who become pregnant. Instead of pushing yourself in class during pregnancy, says Prior, “use an assistant, and learn to use your voice.”

Of course, along with all the cautions, remember that there’s a good reason many women discover yoga for the first time during pregnancy—because of the wonderful benefits it gives. Yoga strengthens the body, opens the hips, and helps women learn to relax through intensity. Plus, “the sense of community in a prenatal yoga class is amazing,” says Prior. “You get students who otherwise never would take a yoga class. You have women who never would have met for any other reason. They become friends, and over the years, so do the kids.”

For women who discover yoga in pregnancy, Flashenberg adds, “A lot of them make it part of their lives. I think they become more conscious and, hopefully, become more conscious parents.”

For more information, visit the Prenatal Yoga Center, the San Francisco Kundalini Yoga Center, and Mamaste Yoga.

Rachel Brahinsky is a writer and yoga teacher in San Francisco.

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