When I became pregnant with our third, I was regularly attending hot yoga classes in exchange for teaching a non-heated pilates/yoga combo at a local studio. When I was about 5-6 weeks into pregnancy, I let the owner know that I was expecting and would no longer be able to attend the hot yoga classes. She said, “you know there are a number of women who have continued hot yoga throughout pregnancy. Research it and see what you want to do, but being pregnant does not necessarily mean you need to stop if your body is accustom to it already.” Excited about the possibility of continuing, I did my research.
Of course most of the things I came across were the standard warnings about not overheating while pregnant, but let’s face it, I live in Tennessee where it is hot and humid in the summer. What would those same sources recommend? Not going outside or being active all summer? My philosophy on safety during pregnancy is that you have to look at what others have done, decide for yourself and follow your intuition. After all, who knows your body better than you?
Here are some stories and personal testimonies of women doing hot yoga through their pregnancy that I found particularly helpful.
- One instructor in New York Jennifer Lobo has practiced throughout both her pregnancy. (http://www.bikramyoganyc.com/about_our_founders.htm)
- One from the official Bikram yoga website (http://www.bikramyoga.com/BikramYoga/PregnancyYoga.php)
- Here is a great resource for modifications: (http://bikramyoganewportmesa.com/pregnant.htm)
After doing my research, I made the decision to continue doing hot yoga through pregnancy. As time went on I began to notice certain differences, positive ones, throughout this pregnancy. Here is a small list of benefits that I noticed this pregnancy compared to others:
Less Weight Gain: Despite eating no differently, I gained 30lbs. this pregnancy vs. 40lbs both of the prior times.
No Water Retention: With my daughter I stubbornly wore my wedding ring until the end despite the fact that it was tight. With my son I had to take it off for the last two weeks. This pregnancy I wore it the entire time and it was even loose! Both my second and third baby were born in the winter so I know it wasn’t a difference in outdoor temperature.
Baby Position: My previous two babies sat on my right side. This one laid to my left. If you want to know why this matters. Spend sometime on www.spinningbabies.com to see why this makes difference.
Less Back Pain During Labor: I have not had true back labor from the baby being in a posterior position with any of my children, but I always feel contractions in my back anyway. I think it comes from being a runner and having tight hips. Of all three of my children birth’s, I felt this one in my back the least. I did not feel contractions in my back until transition instead of starting in active labor.
Stronger Abdominal Muscles: I have always practiced some type of yoga while pregnant, but I think the balancing positions Bikram yoga kept my abdominal muscles stronger than other yoga practice. I could tell a difference immediately postpartum.
Better Mental Focus & Relaxation: Bikram yoga is a series of static positions. Many of them focusing on balance. I think my yoga practice taught me a lot of about being fully present in the moment. In labor this translated into me reminding myself at the end of every contraction to release all the tension I could from my body and fully relax in between them. When a contraction would pass, I would remind myself to “let it go, be present, don’t think about the next one.” This mental presence meant that I was able laugh, smile and talk to my family right up until about 5 minutes before Titus was born.
Opportunity to Connect with Baby: At the end of each yoga class I would place my hands on my belly feel the baby move and feel deeply connected to him or her as most moms do. Since Titus birth, I have began to exercise again wearing him in my woven wrap. He will fall asleep and as I stretch, I am taken back to the joy of being pregnant.