Friday, October 17, 2014

From Power to Prenatal; Transitioning My Yoga Practice

You guys know me a little bit, right?

I'm a fitness fanatic and I like to push myself to the limit. I think I've briefly mentioned this is some of my posts lately, but the transition from my former to current yoga practice has been tough - not just physically, but also mentally and emotionally. It's hard to go from your personal limit - where the line is usually in your head because 9 times out of 10 you ARE strong enough to finish this set - to your pregnancy limit - where your body says "Nope, sorry dude." and you actually need to listen because otherwise your body will crap out and really, you don't want your body making that decision for you when you're 7 or 8 months pregnant.

Working out so hard that you pass out or throw up is not really an option at that point. Not that that's comfortable in any situation. I've only worked out that hard once and I immediately regretted it, but going from a super active and fit person to someone who goes on walks, gets winded walking up stairs, does prenatal yoga, and dances with an Xbox in her living room... has been a challenge.

Despite wanting to push myself to my former limits, my body just won't do that anymore. Now that my belly is actually starting to get in the way during yoga, I thought I'd take some time to document how my practice has changed and why...

Here are some of the ways I've had to adjust my yoga practice to accommodate for this little person.

Take a wide stance everything.

Forward fold - I cannot fold forward with my feet together or even hip distance apart anymore. The belly will not allow, so I take my feet wide apart so there is room between my legs for my bump and I can still get a good stretch in my hammys.

Don't be afraid to step off the mat. I did this for the first time about two weeks ago. I've been doing this modified twist for months, but just recently I had to step my front foot off the mat so my belly didn't get squished by my thigh. I was surprised, but it happened and that was that. Now my front foot is nearly always off the mat in this pose.

No more headstands (at least until this extra weight stops throwing off my balance and compressing my spine). I've been doing handstands and supported shoulder stands when I feel like I need to invert. I can't do regular shoulder stand either because it's too difficult to breathe.

Lift before you twist - In traditional twisting chair, the legs are together and the hands are in prayer with the bottom elbow hooked outside the opposite knee. For a while I would skip twisting chair altogether, until I learned that I could keep my legs apart and support myself with my forearm. I'm still twisting, but not so deep and there is absolutely no squishing going on.

Take breaks - but like, for real - letting myself take breaks was a huge challenge for me because my brain was saying "keep going! you can do it! you are strong", but my body was saying "... and tired", so I gave in and I took all the breaks I needed.

Try puppy pose. Sometimes there is not enough room for a belly in child's pose, and those days puppy pose is perfect, and it's a really nice upper back stretch, which I have desperately needed lately.

Give your wrists a break. Knees and wrists get super sensitive during pregnancy - all those extra hormones - so sometimes you've got to give them a break. All the down dogs and planks can be brutal for even the strongest wrists, so I sometimes come up onto my knuckles, or (as shown) take it down onto my forearms.

Tuck your tailbone for full chuttarunga, or modify by going to your knees. It is essential to protect your low back every time you practice yoga, but especially when pregnant - since that's where the majority of pressure is getting put. To take the pressure off your low back, but still challenge your arms and more, tuck your tail bone in chuttarunga, or go to your knees. Just make sure there's no dipping in the low back.

Use all the props. I'm not usually a big prop fan. I found that prepregnancy I could get into the full extension of most poses without using blocks or straps. I definitely still used them when I thought I needed them, but now I use them all the time. I always have a block, a blanket, and bolster next to my mat just in case I need them, and I use all of them during my hour and a half power yoga class. In prenatal class, I use two blocks, a blanket, sometimes 2 bolsters, and a strap.

Take it easy on the ab work. Obvs.

These changes aren't things that happened overnight. Usually they would happen one at a time. One day I would adjust my twisting chair and a week or so later I found I needed to widen my stance in forward fold. Making adjustments as you go is key, especially since you're body is changing week to week.

*photos taken at 31 weeks 4 days

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