A Yoga Teacher's guide to teaching a Pregnant Student

Five points to remember when a pregnant woman attends your general yoga class

by Suzanne Swan

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So you’ve covered pregnancy in your teacher training course, or maybe you’ve even been pregnant before, but can you remember what to say in the 5 minutes you have with her before class begins?

This is especially important if your pregnant student is under 14 weeks or over 36 weeks. Here's a refresher on some key points to remember: 

1.    Gather some history.  Has she practiced yoga before and how many weeks pregnant is she? If she is under 14 weeks or over 36 weeks, ask her to listen to her body and trust her own instincts to slow down. Due to the increased physical demands on her at these times, Pranayama and Restorative poses are important practices. Nausea, heartburn, ligament pain and fatigue are common. During Standing poses, have props available for her if she feels dizzy or fatigued.

2.    Give her general guidelines for practicing yoga safely. She needs to modify poses to make space for her growing belly.  Instruct her to avoid inversions, closed twists, backbends and poses that compress the uterus or overstretch the abdominal muscles.  Give her supported modifications using props (blocks, chair or wall) or offer substitute poses that are similar but less demanding on her changing body. Give her yogababy’s handout to read before she commences the class: Guidelines for safe yoga poses during pregnancy.

3.    Focus on building stability and strength rather than flexibility and endurance. Relaxin, which is a pregnancy hormone, loosens the muscles, tendons and ligaments, increasing her risk of injury.  Help her to learn to trust her instincts by guiding her to listen to her body and not to over-extend herself by taking too wide a stance or holding poses for extended periods. Let her decide whether to shorten her pose, do only 75% of her stretch capacity, or use blocks, a chair or a wall to provide stability in the poses.

4.    Slow down your instructions. She is going to need time to make adjustments when moving between poses. If you believe the original pose is not suitable for her, encourage her to rest in modified Child pose or Butterfly pose, or offer her a supported modification or some other substitute yoga pose (refer to Guidelines for 25 safe yoga poses during pregnancy)

5.    Check in with her at the end of class. A pregnant woman is strong and capable of practicing yoga and needs to be encouraged to have confidence in herself. Refer her to a Pregnancy yoga class if she mentions health conditions that are not within your expertise. Pregnancy yoga classes offer pregnancy and birth advice, and the support of other pregnant women.  Research has shown that the building of a community is one of the key success factors for wellbeing as a new mother.

You are welcome to print out the yogababy Guidelines for safe yoga poses during pregnancy for your students as long as it remains in its original form.