As always in a gentle practice which prenatal yoga should be we eliminate Ashtanga, Power Yoga, Hot Yoga, Core Yoga…. and all strong styles based on Vinyasa and dynamic flow. Vinyasa however is a great option for pregnancy (fluent movements, moon energy, female power, harmony of breath and movement, etc.), but needs to be modified, properly planned and adjusted to prenatal conditions.
Think about your students – pregnant women with all these symptoms, complaint, challenges – what do they need? How can Yoga provide it? When you feel them, and understand what they go through you know what the choice is, you know how to help!
In Vinayasa first we exclude Ujjayi breath, Uddijana Bandha, advanced and strong asanas, fast pace and long holding. Planks, Chaturangas and other postures which require a lot of strength and engagement of abdominal muscles should be modified and softer, and if we cannot offer any gentler and safe modification – simply we remove it from the list of practice, and learn to let it go!
The sequence can remain – more less – the same, except for arm balances (we can replace it with balances against the wall, squats or partner yoga), core muscles (instead of which we can perform pelvic floor exercises), deep twists (we can still twist slightly or to the “fake side”) and inversions. Back bends are modified (no prone back bends, no deep back bends!), but still can be performed. Inversions can be replaced, e.g. by other exercises with legs upside down (viparita karani) or asanas and other techniques (massage) stimulating the lymphatic system and releasing “heavy legs”. On the other hand we should add into prenatal practice more relaxation and breathing techniques, but remember to avoid retention and strong pranayama such as kapalabhati or bastrika. Pregnancy is a beautiful opportunity to incorporate other Yogic practices, such as chanting, meditation,
mindfulness, painting mandalas, creating alters, etc. Pregnancy itself is a karma yoga, so philosophical aspects of pregnancy can be added, as well as nutrition workshop, or educational classes.
Another beautiful option is Hatha or Hatha Flow with modified sequencing, as all the supine and prone positions are by definition not welcome! I would keep the sequence as in Vinyasa – starting from standing, and then slowly coming onto the mat. Hatha might be slower and more restorative than Vinyasa, so perhaps if you offer classes in the morning and evening gentle Vinyasa would be better for the morning time while Hatha in the evening.
Restorative yoga is one of the best aspects of prenatal yoga. What is the key to understand here is that stress and challenges of pregnancy are usually not balanced in every days routine, and yoga can perfectly fill up this gap. To teach pregnant women to make themselves comfortable and relax is a great idea, cause they should learn it before the labor. Feeling the body, listening to it – that’s what the aim is here! The beauty of restorative yoga is – it is always needed! During pregnancy as well as after and before the restorative yoga is never enough!