Conversations at the Sanctuary: Practicing Yoga During Pregnancy
Whether you’re an experienced yogini who’s expecting, or a mama-to-be who’s new to the mat, pre-natal yoga can provide great support for you and your baby. Our pre-natal yoga teacher, Lay Peng, sheds light on its many outstanding benefits
As a woman’s body undergoes physical and physiological changes throughout pregnancy, should she continue to exercise? After all, movement does get harder as the months go by.
“It’s important to stay active, especially during pregnancy,” Dr Melanie Tjahaja, a chiropractor at One Spine Chiropractic, advises. “The increased load in front makes maintaining a strong and healthy body even more crucial. Exercise also promotes positive moods, which is beneficial for both mum and baby.”
Cham Lay Peng, an experienced Pre and Post-natal Yoga instructor who obtained her certification from Dr Jean Byrne back in 2009, in Australia, agrees. “A pregnant woman’s body undergoes many changes during the gestation period,” she shares. “This includes an expanded belly, looser joints, slower digestion, and a hormonal system on a roller coaster ride! And for Mummies working in desk bound jobs, it’s a double whammy as the lack of movement for long durations can contribute to a congested pelvis, limiting the space for baby’s movements during pregnancy and labour.”
If you’re an expectant mum-to-be reading this, you’re probably no stranger to physical discomforts like backaches and shoulder strains, so here’s how a regular yoga practice can help. “These bodily ailments are due to the additional weight that pregnant mums have to carry,” Lay Peng explains. “In yoga, we practice breathing exercises that can help with better oxygen intake and enhanced focus, bringing on a deeper sense of calm for mums.”
In support of pregnant mums having a Pre-Natal Yoga practice, Dr Melanie explains, “‘It’s extremely beneficial for pregnant mums to practice regularly. Yoga helps to maintain a balanced body, which ensures equal weight distribution and helps to avoid unnecessary aches and pains. The stretching and strengthening of relevant supporting muscles also allows for an easier birthing process when the time comes.”
Here, Lay Peng provides insight to the wonderfully supportive world of Pre-natal Yoga at The Yoga School. Read on for everything you need to know to get a clearer picture about this nurturing practice:
Q: How is Pre-natal Yoga different from regular yoga?
LAY PENG: In our Pre-natal Yoga class, women come together, practise together and support each other. The class addresses common issues like lower back pain, fatigue, feeling out-of-breath, etc… It can be liberating to know that you are not “suffering” alone, and it feels great to have others practising and strengthening together with you as you each walk your personal motherhood journey. Our Pre-natal Yoga class aims to create the kind of community support which women in traditional villages get from one another. Many of our practitioners continue their friendships after birth – they even have playdates together with their little ones!
Q: How can a new practitioner prepare herself better for her first class?
LAY PENG: As long as there are no complications (for example, persistent bleeding), and the obstetrician has given the green light, any pregnant mum can come and attend our Pre-natal Yoga class. At The Yoga School, everything that is needed for the class – blankets, bolster, etc – is provided. Mummies-to-be can bring light snacks and water along in case they get hungry, feel low in sugar, or get thirsty. For a first timer who is new to yoga, she should practise patience – give herself time to connect with her evolving body, to get acquainted with it slowly, and ease into the poses gently. After all, patience is a skill-set that will come in handy later, not just during labour, but through motherhood as well!
Q: What poses can practitioners expect to do during a Pre-natal Yoga session?
LAY PENG: In general, our Pre-natal Yoga class follows the following sequence – body and breath awareness, warm-ups, stretching and strengthening, cooling down, and final relaxation. We often do poses such as Child’s Pose, or Cat and Cow, as these put emphasis on releasing pressure in the back, through stretching and strengthening. Expect to practice poses from the Squats and Warriors series too, as they are wonderful poses which help to strengthen birthing muscles and open up the hips for labour.
Q: Heavily pregnant women may find it increasingly difficult to get into yoga poses. Are there support tools for assistance?
LAY PENG: Props like bolster, blocks and/or chairs can be used to create space and support for mummies in their late trimesters. For an instance, she can rest her torso over a bolster in Child’s Pose to give ample space to her growing belly.
Q: Pre-natal Yoga classes are suitable for pregnant women who are 12 weeks pregnant and more. How far along can mums-to-be continue to practice?
LAY PENG: It really depends on how comfortable the mummy feels, but many of our practitioners follow through till they deliver. Fun fact: I’ve actually had a couple of mummies come in for class in the morning, and then proceed to the hospital to give birth later in the evening! However, mummies who are at risk of premature labour or vaginal bleeding should seek their obstetrician’s approval before embarking on any physical routine. I always advise my students that if in doubt, it’s always best to err on the side of caution and check with their obstetricians.
A regular yoga routine is a self-care routine that nurtures and nourishes an expecting mum, so that she is supported not just physically but emotionally and mentally as well, preparing her for the demanding labour that’s to come. A strong and healthy mummy who feels empowered has a more positive outlook. She’ll also tend to enjoy the journey better!