How To (Part 2): Teaching Pregnant Students

Now that you know a bit more about what pregnant students go through emotionally, let’s take a look at the general rule of thumb. And I say “general” because pregnancy is just as unique in individuals as our bones. Remember, you don’t have to be scared to teach them. These students have a big day, possibly the biggest day of their entire life. It’s like the longest marathon they will ever do. They need to move their bodies and learn how to breathe.

Questions to ask first

Before starting to teach, there are questions you should ask as a yoga teacher:

  • Do you have a history of miscarriages?
  • Are there any complications/conditions you are aware of?
  • Have you seen your doctor?
  • How many weeks have you been pregnant?
    • First trimester = 1-3 months = 1-13 weeks
    • Second trimester = 4-6 months = 14-27 weeks
    • Third trimester = 7-9 months = 28-40 weeks

General Precautions and Suggestions

  • Avoid jumping all together
  • Avoid deep twists (simply twist the opposite way to open their bellies)
  • Inversions may cause some nausea
  • Focus on breathing with a slow and steady rhythm
  • Slow down the flow but don’t stay in a pose too long (4-5min)
  • Kegel exercise- this is a little controversial. Some pelvic floor specialists say that most women have too tight of pelvic floors. But more on that in another article

First Trimester

Most people don’t know they are pregnant until a few weeks. I didn’t even know I was pregnant until 6 weeks and some people are unaware even longer. Unless they have been planning this or experiencing certain symptoms such as sudden nausea or tightness in their abdomen, they will start to figure out roughly 4-6 weeks because of their cycles.

If they are healthy bodies with no history of miscarriages, they can either start or continue their yoga practice in this stage. If they have had miscarriages before, they should check with their doctors to see if yoga practice is recommended and I would normally wait till 6-8 weeks of their pregnancy. Until around 8 weeks, there is a risk of causing placenta to detach so keep the practice simple without deep backbends such as Urdhva Danurasana (wheel pose) or Ustrasana (camel pose) or deep twists and avoid jumping. But other than that, they can keep their regular practice.

Second Trimester

This is what they say “the golden stage of pregnancy.” Their skin is supple and shiny, they haven’t lost their vitality just yet but still experiencing new sensations every day. Some students feel just fine to continue their regular practice involving inversions and backbends.

Focus your classes on:

  • Standing poses- they may need to limit/change their lifestyles or usual activities so they need movement in their lower bodies. You can hold poses or repeat certain poses. Utkatakonasana (goddess pose) is a perfect pose to work their legs and match the breath at the same time.
  • Gentle backbends- in order to give breathing space. Some of them will start to notice they become out of breath easily and gentle backbends to stretch their intercostal muscles and diaphragm would be helpful.
  • Hip Openers- keep them upright or use props so they can still keep space for the baby. But those tightening muscles like their priformis will thank you.
  • Pranayama- Not a fast one like Kapala Bhati but Dirgha Pranayama (three-part breath) or Nadi Shodhana (alternate nostril breathing) is perfect. You can also count the length of the breath. Don’t let them retain their breath as it can cause dizziness very quickly.

Third Trimester

Yup, it’s coming. They’re all feeling it. They’re a bit more tired, less space to breathe, they feel heavy and big. Many of them start to get irritable as well as people continue to comment on how big their belly has become or continuous repetitive questions like “how many more weeks?” They no longer feel the glow they had in the second trimester.

There’s also this feeling of inevitable end, which is the delivery date. That anticipation of pain, and their big day can make them feel agitated if they don’t feel supported.

  • Let them do what they can in class- I’ve told my students before if all they do is stay in Supta Baddhakonasana (reclined butterfly pose) for 90minutes, I am totally ok with it.
  • Avoid deep squats- Now their bodies are REALLY ready to give birth soon so at this point, you can still teach them squats but not deep like Malasana (yogi squat).
  • Focus on breathing- Just like the ones in second trimester
  • Chant- This is something I don’t often do but boy, did I chant and sing during pregnancy. There is a direct connection between jaw and pelvic floor. If their jaws are tight, their pelvic floor stays tight. Let them roar and sigh a lot. Remember, it’s about moving energy.
  • Use props- If you have a chair, it would be great. Let them use it because it is difficult for them now to go up and down between standing and floor. Letting them stay in standing poses using props like chairs then once you get down on the ground, let them stay on the floor.

There are of course so many things to consider. I will address them in other articles. These are general ideas. I hope this is helpful. As usual, ask me any questions because pre- and postnatal yoga are something of my passion.

About the author: Tomomi Becot

Tomomi is the owner of Flying Elephant Yoga in Pulau Weh, Sumatra, Indonesia. She started practicing yoga when she first moved to Canada as a teenager in 2000. She then became a certified yoga teacher in 2008 and has been an integral part of extensive yoga teacher training programs both at a 200hr and 500hr level. After teaching and traveling in North America, Mexico, Australia, and Bali, Indonesia, she established her own independent yoga school in 2014. Her classes are based on vinyasa or flow mixed with her own personality and experience, and various styles of yoga she studied along her journey. With the background of vinyasa, power vinyasa, yin, pre- and post-natal yoga, she encourages her students to observe their minds while nurturing their own individuality. Her classes are about honoring both the traditional and the modern, physical and mental aspects of yoga.

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