I’ve been receiving questions lately about practicing Bikram Yoga during pregnancy so I thought it would be helpful to write a blog post about it! This is in no way an attempt to try to convince someone to practice Bikram Yoga through her pregnancy if she’s uncomfortable with that idea, but rather a place for me to share my personal experience and how I teach pregnant students. Also, this isn’t a tutorial on how to do the postures in the pregnancy series (but let me know if you want that!), it’s more about the mindset as well as how and why you might practice when pregnant.
Here are a few things I want to mention right off the bat:
- If you’re an avid Bikram Yogi but you don’t feel that it’s right for you during pregnancy, THAT’S OK! Please don’t give yourself mom guilt before you’re even a mom.
- You might need to go easy or take a little hiatus during your first trimester. Or you might not.
- If you have never done Bikram Yoga before, I personally would not recommend starting the practice when pregnant. Just like you probably wouldn’t pick up running when you’re pregnant if you’ve never run a mile in your life.
- If you’re trying to conceive, Bikram Yoga can be very helpful. By the nature of the practice, you increase blood circulation to every system in your body every time you take a class (including the reproductive system) meaning that when you practice, your body receives freshly-oxygenated, nutrient-rich blood especially to areas that need it.
- Talk to your doc. Even though she might not be too supportive to begin with, she should know what you’re up to. If she really gives you a hard time and you know you want to continue your practice, suggest that she talks to your studio owner. Or even look for another OB/GYN (I don’t say that to be fresh, but sometimes the doctor/patient relationship is not always the right fit on the first try).
When I was newly pregnant with my son, I went to my first doctor’s appointment where the nurse ran through the “no list,” you know, no sushi, no alcohol, no hot yoga. I remember smiling calmly at that last “no” before saying, “well, that’s what I do for a living.” To which she scrunched up her face, lowered her head and muttered, “shoot… really?” I matter-of-factly convinced her that my body was so used to the heat after so many years of teaching and practicing Bikram Yoga, and that I stay really well hydrated, and that the yoga doesn’t actually raise your internal body temperature that she felt comfortable with me continuing my practice. When I met with my OB/GYN, she wasn’t concerned at all. I’m healthy, and I was having a healthy start to my pregnancy; she was quite supportive.
After an uneventful pregnancy (the biggest event being a 70+ pound weight gain), I was induced at 9 days overdue. I had my son, all 10 pounds of him, and I 100% credit the yoga to giving me the strength to – well to be blunt – push out a 10 pound baby. (If you’ve ever taken a Bikram Yoga class you know that there are a lot of instructions to “push,” and, well, yeah… that was running through my head).
My daughter was a similar story, although I didn’t gain quite as much weight (only 65 pounds). She didn’t weigh quite as much (only 9 pounds, 5 ounces). And she wasn’t quite as late (8 days, after getting induced as well).
During my pregnancies, I felt as though Bikram Yoga saved me, truly. It kept my body strong and my mind relaxed. It provided an essential meditation and a place for positive thinking and visualization. It helped me not retain too much water weight (hello sweating). It quite literally trained my body to prepare for labor, delivery, and then early motherhood. Even though babies are tiny, moms need strong backs to hold and feed, especially babies who never like to be put down. After my babies were born, the yoga put my body back together. It healed my achey back and helped me lose the weight I had gained in a steady, sustainable way.
While Bikram Yoga is often viewed and used as an intense workout, my recommendation for practicing when pregnant is to use the yoga in a much gentler way. If you follow the pregnancy series, you’ll learn that there are built-in rests. Some postures are completely changed to avoid putting pressure on the abdomen. It can be really hard for the ego to take these built-in breaks, but I would encourage you to set the ego aside and rest when the time comes. For example, a pregnant student skips Standing Head To Knee all together. Even though all of the other yogis around you will be grabbing the foot, locking the knee, and struggling in this pose, please sit down and rest. Drink your water, take a breath, and enjoy the break. Enjoy all of the built-in breaks in the Bikram Yoga Pregnancy Series.
You know that age old advice, “sleep when the baby sleeps?” And for all you moms, you know how in the moment it’s so hard to actually do it, but looking back you wish you had? Resting in Bikram Yoga is similar advice. Take the rest, you will need it.
Another point to keep in mind is that you have a different body when you’re pregnant; your body is on loan to your baby. If you’re one of those Bikram Yogis who loves the heat and would never leave the room, be open to the fact that when you’re pregnant, you might have a different reaction to the temperature. As a teacher, I always tell pregnant students to go easy on themselves and not to hesitate to step outside if they get too hot. All of these little mental “letting-go” moments help prepare you for motherhood. It was hard for me to recognize that especially during my first pregnancy, but I realize now that taking care of myself when I faced the unexpected challenges in Bikram Yoga prepared me to handle the unexpected motherhood challenges to come.
Was this helpful? Please let me know! Bikram Yoga helped me so much during my pregnancies; I’m happy to share more and different information as well!