From First to Last With Someone Who Just Went Through It

By Rachael Allen

First Trimester – What have I gotten myself into?

Every pregnancy is different but often the first trimester can be challenging. Your body is going through so many changes and adjusting to changing hormone levels. You have just signed up for a huge life change that is a big mixed cocktail of emotions and you can’t even choke it down with an actual cocktail. You may have nausea and low or high blood pressure, which make doing yoga seem like the last thing your body wants. If you’re not trying to hold down ginger ale and saltines, consider yourself lucky! Your body shape hasn’t changed that much and you can probably still participate in your regular yoga routine without making that many modifications.

You may consider giving up hot yoga for now. Your baby isn’t able to regulate his/her own body temperature until even a little while after they’re born. Your body temperature is also a little higher than normal so hot summer days, hot yoga and hot tubs may not appeal to you anyways. Also, since your blood pressure has probably changed you may get dizzy easily so watch yourself in inversions. In forward folds always come up with a flat back and lead with your chest. Rolling up from the floor may make you dizzy and it’s not great for your back anyways.

This is a good time to think more about your yoga practice off your mat. Practice self-forgiveness, if you can’t keep any prenatal vitamins down today, if you’re taking a prescription for nausea, if all you can keep down is macaroni and cheese, then that’s what you’re doing. Don’t get too wrapped up in having the perfect pregnancy. It isn’t possible.

Working on your meditation practice and breathing techniques are helpful as well. If you ever find yourself about to throw up, pass out or murder someone on the streetcar, try a really simple breathing exercise. Trying to breathe in for 4 counts and out for 4 counts until you can get off at the next stop might be the difference between you and the news report, “Pregnant Woman Arrested for Verbal Assault on TTC: Carried away screaming about overwhelming body odours and the bad manners of fellow passengers…”

Second Trimester – Did I really just Google Kim Kardashian’s pregnancy style?

Sometime around the second trimester you may start to feel better. Some of the terrible symptoms of the first trimester hopefully start to disappear. If you’re feeling okay, you may want to get back into a more physical practice again. You need to be strong for labour and strong for carrying your baby around. You may want to focus your yoga practice on building leg and arm strength. Prenatal yoga does not need to be easy. Challenge yourself on the days you have the energy.

For goodness sakes, please forget about having abdominals for now. They’re separating to accommodate your growing baby. Avoid crunches and boat pose – you may injure your abdominals and they will not heal back together properly. Give the baby space! Let the muscles separate and then let them heal after. You cannot rush this part. It’s a hard thing to share your body with this growing baby. It often feels like they have taken over. It is only temporary.

Bonus: your hips are widening so they will start to feel achy. It helps so much to stretch out all sides of your hips and legs. Happy baby and wide-legged child’s pose seem like they were invented just for you.

Third Trimester – More and more modifications

There’s no denying that you are pregnant now. People are congratulating you without fear of calling out your weight gain and touching your belly like personal space was never a thing. You’re tired and short of breath and your organs have shifted right up under your nose, but you’re in the home stretch! Yoga is your best friend if you’re into it. It’ll help with the back and hip pain. Stretch your calves in downward dog to help with middle of the night cramps. Downward Dog and cat/cow stretching is also good for helping your baby get off your bladder and giving them the space to move into an optimal position.
Your focus this trimester will be to open your hips to make way for the baby to pass through.

Here are the most helpful modifications I found during this time:

1. Forward folding started to feel like the opposite of what I needed so I switched that for Malasana or seated squat. This pose helps open up your hips an extra 30%!

2. Chaturanga without abdominals is not safe, so just put your knees down. You still need to keep up your arm strength if possible.

3. Coming right down onto your belly for anything is not possible so just come into a wide-legged child pose instead. It feels great on your hips anyways.

4. Standing poses will now require a wide-legged stance for balance and to fit your belly through when folding forward.

5. When your baby really starts occupying all the real estate in your belly you will notice laying on your back feels like it might bring on a stroke. Your baby is pressing on a major artery and this action is no longer good for you or the baby. (Get a body pillow for sleeping. I named mine Satchmo, it is my special friend and I could not live without it). Modify by laying on your side. You can put a block, bolster or blanket between your legs and support your belly to make it more comfortable.

Off the Mat Modifications:

Forgive yourself – strive to do your best to take care of yourself and your baby. Do not strive to be perfect. It’s not fun or realistic.
Find someone to talk honestly about your fears with.
Find a mantra, breathing technique or meditation that you can go to in labour and times of stress.

Recommended Reading:
Expecting Better by Emily Oster – this book was extremely helpful in figuring out what I really couldn’t eat, drink or do during pregnancy. Know the risks and the baseless claims so you’re not depriving yourself of all things fun and delicious.
Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth – the biggest takeaway from this book is how to work on embracing childbirth and how fear disrupts your labour.