Prenatal yoga can be a great way to prepare for childbirth. We asked a seasoned hot power yoga practitioner and mother of two—Holly Allgaier—for her advice when considering practicing while pregnant.
Holly in her yoga studio with her kiddos
When Holly got pregnant, she had to figure out on her own how to keep her baby and herself safe while maintaining my yoga practice. As a hot power yoga teacher, she knew this was particularly important, since power yoga can be rigorous, especially in a heated space. As she did more research, she realized how much there was to learn. She wanted to empower everyone to continue yoga during pregnancy because it can provide so many important benefits: supporting pregnancy, labor and postpartum healing, but she also worried about harming her students, so she wanted to get better informed about how to help. During her second pregnancy, she completed a 90-hour Prenatal Yoga teacher training, building upon her experience of practicing yoga while expecting. It's her goal to best support Mamas during their individual journey and beyond.
Pregnancy and Yoga
Pregnancy can be such a bizarre time, as our bodies become unrecognizable and do all kinds of weird and uncomfortable things that are beyond our control. Whether you are someone who loves to work out, can’t stand exercise, or anywhere in between, yoga can be a wonderful option for pretty much everyone during pregnancy. Prenatal yoga is a safe and healthy form of exercise and helps to soothe the body through the discomforts of pregnancy. Having a regular yoga practice during pregnancy can help to prepare your body and mind for labor, because keeping physically fit and strong throughout your pregnancy will certainly help lead to an easier birth. Another important part of prenatal yoga is breath work. Holly always makes sure to include a breathing technique in each class, which can be used during pregnancy and labor. Prenatal yoga is also a wonderful way to connect with other mamas to be, whether in your physical community or in an online space.
What You Need to Practice
Prenatal yoga does not require much in the way of preparation or gear. Absolutely no experience is needed. Comfy clothes are a must, so wear whatever you can move in comfortably. A yoga mat can be helpful, but not necessary, as well as yoga blocks and bolsters–pillows, blankets, and books work too. In Holly's yoga classes she do a lot of poses using the wall or a chair. An exercise ball can be a fabulous tool for pregnancy and also something you can use during labor and even postpartum, but again, not necessary.
Practicing Throughout Pregnancy
For the most part, during the first trimester of pregnancy, you can continue any exercise (including yoga) you were doing before pregnancy. Of course make sure to check with your healthcare provider for your specific body. As you progress in your pregnancy, a few yoga poses to avoid are belly down positions and deep twists in the abdomen. Inversions and deep backbends are not typically taught in a prenatal yoga class, but are safe to continue if you are an experienced practitioner and these still feel comfortable. Blocks, pillows and blankets can help a lot for moving more easily through a yoga practice, whether it is specifically prenatal or another type of class.
A few of Holly's favorite poses for pregnant bodies are hands and knees, hip circles and figure-eights (on knees, or standing), lunges and squats, half pigeon and other hip openers, and of course the ever-important pelvic floor toning.
To find a prenatal yoga class, check out your local yoga studios or hospitals to see if they have any in-person offerings, or try some free classes on Youtube. You can sign up for Holly's classes here, which are currently virtual, but should be in person by the fall–if you happen to be in Western Massachusetts.