Thursday, April 28, 2011

My Pregnancy Bikram Yoga Modifications

When pregnant and doing Bikram Yoga, there are a number of modifications that Bikram's wife Rajashree recommends doing from the start of the 2nd trimester through the end to keep you going to class and doing Yoga.

There are many benefits of this Yoga during pregnancy, according to Rajashree. The normal benefits of Bikram Yoga include working every system in the body.  It is no wonder that it is touted as being fabulous for pregnancy as well.

In addition to her argument, I believe in general in the tremendous benefits of exercise and pregnancy.  One of the leading researchers in the field, James Clapp, wrote in his book that babies born to mothers who exercise through their pregnancies are born healthier and earlier (at 38 vs. 40 weeks in general), and they are more apt to stay in better health throughout their lives.  He also says that mothers, in addition to having slightly shorter pregnancies, enjoy a better level of health and well-being through pregnancy.  He considers "exercise" to be weight bearing (which yoga is) and at a level that Mom considers "hard" (this could change daily) and performed for at least 30 minutes at least 3 days per week.

While doing this yoga, if you do Rajashree's modifications to the letter, you end up sitting out a lot of the postures and, in my opinion,  it is a little too easy if you have been going to class regularly and can normally keep up.  I have asked anyone who will talk to me and is knowledgeable, as well as watched the video and have come up with a series that has been working for me.  I did the regular series through the first trimester, with my logic being it is harder to stop going and then start again than it is to just keep going.  I also feel like it is a waste of time and energy to go if I am not challenged, whatever that challenge is for me at that moment of that day.  One of my teachers says, "If you can, you must," and I like feeling the physical challenge that leads to the mental challenge and calm.  

Below are the 26 poses directly from Bikram's website.  Below his words are what I have been doing (I am now at 30 weeks, which is partially into the 3rd trimester).  Please note that not all my actions are what Rajashree recommends-- they are just what has been working for me.  I feel my belly getting bigger and think I will need to make further modifications as the next 7 to 12 weeks go by, especially to standing head to knee and possibly others.

Standing Deep Breathing Standing Deep Breathing 
 No modification.
Half Moon PoseHalf Moon Pose
  No modification.
Hands to FeetHands to Feet
Modify by making feet wider- as wide as needed to allow belly to go between legs-- this has gotten wider.  I open legs after going down and close them before coming up.  Make sure and bend knees on way down.

Awkward PoseAwkward Pose
  No modification.
Eagle PoseEagle Pose
  No modification.
Standing Head to KneeStanding Head to Knee
  She says to skip it.  I have been moving belly to one side on way down and recently stopped kicking out and hold in the first step.  I think eventually I will need a better modification, but can still grab foot for now without uncomfortable compression.

Standing Bow PoseStanding Bow Pose
 No modification.
Balancing StickBalancing Stick
 No modification.

Standing Separate Leg Stretching PoseStanding Separate Leg Stretching Pose
  No modification.
Triangle PoseTriangle Pose
No modification.
Standing Separate Leg Head to Knee PoseStanding Separate Leg Head to Knee Pose
She says to skip it.  I am modifying this by not touching head to knee.  Still trying to round back and keep legs straight and hips aligned.  Some days I am able to touch ground with hands together, and other days, they separate.  
Tree PoseTree Pose
No modification.
Toe StandToe Stand
I repeat tree, but if I had been more confident in this pose when I had gotten pregnant, I would probably still be doing it.
Dead Body PoseDead Body Pose
I try to lay on one side then the other for Savasana throughout class.  Sometimes I forget and do a Savasana on my back, and it feels fine.  Sometimes I do them on my back on purpose for this first one, after Fixed Firm, and after Camel.
Wind-Removing PoseWind-Removing Pose
No modification for first part.  For second part, do Happy Baby both sets, trying to get spine flat on floor and pulling feet down.   She modifies differently, but her modifications hurt my knees (I couldn't get it quite right).

Cobra PoseCobra Pose
 Fish Pose, as she recommends. I don't get into it as she shows, though. I start with hands under my bottom, palms down, and press up into the pose, keeping them in the same place throughout.

Locust PoseLocust Pose
 Her modification for the one-legged part, which I do, is to be on all fours and lock one leg at a time and lift it high.  For the second part, with both legs up, I do Bridge Pose instead.  

Full Locust PoseFull Locust Pose
I do the Wheel Pose here.  This helps make the class harder for me, and I love how it helps my spine flexibility and shoulder strength (among other benefits).  I struggle a bit getting out of it, but it has gotten smoother. I started doing this one early so that I would be strong enough to hold my extra weight later.

Bow PoseBow Pose
  I do this on all fours, one leg at a time.  One leg is in the opposite hand, holding almost to the toes, and looking up and kicking up.

Fixed Firm PoseFixed Firm Pose
 No modification.

Half Tortoise PoseHalf Tortoise Pose
Her modification, which I do, is to separate knees to accommodate belly as it grows.  I find this one getting harder and harder to get in and out of.  I also feel less of a stretch than I used to-- I think my back must be rounding less with my knees out of the way.

Camel PoseCamel Pose
 No modification.

Rabbit PoseRabbit Pose
She says to skip this.  I first modified it by putting head on the ground away from my knees as much as needed.  Now I skip it and sit on all fours but round up and back towards my heels, lengthening my arms out with shoulders down until I feel the stretch in my lower back.

Head to Knee Pose and Stretching PoseHead to Knee Pose and Stretching Pose
Janushirasana and Paschimotthanasana(Sanskrit)
No modification for the single-leg part.  I modify the forward stretch by replacing both legs together with putting them in a butterfly position and still pulling forward.  For both parts, moving my belly over with my hands helps.

Spine-Twisting PoseSpine-Twisting Pose
Her modification doesn't work for me-- I can't seem to get enough room for my belly by just straightening the bottom leg (and haven't been able to for a while).  Instead I do a lying gentle twist with knees on one side and torso on the other with arms outstretched.

Blowing in Firm PoseBlowing in Firm Pose
Kapalbhati in Vajrasana(Sanskrit)
No modification.

 As for the sit-ups, I do as many as I feel comfortable with, but on the days when I can do more, I feel my postures are better/ I have more energy for them.  Some days I can't do any, though, and some days I can do them all.

Also, I drink a LOT of water.  I drink a big glass before class, a liter during class and a liter between the locker room and way home.  When I get home, I often drink another liter with Electro Mix in it, or a coconut water.  Also, I often bring a snack to class, and eat my apple or banana, or drink coconut water, in the locker room.  It is hard to try not to eat for 3 hours before class, so I often end up eating a piece of fruit within an hour of class.  Pregnancy heartburn, though, has been the major annoyance during Yoga, and if I can really wait longer and eat lighter during the day, then my practice is improved.

***************Update at 34 weeks: It is getting a bit squished in my belly and I am rarely doing sit-ups anymore, and for standing head to knee, I can just just barely reach my foot and have been holding a toe or two to keep my back rounded.***************************************

++++++++++++++Update at 36 weeks: I don't do any sit-ups, and do all sivasanas on one side.  My practice still feels great.++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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  1. What excellent and well thought out modifications. I applaud you for sharing them. Lots of wisdom to continue the practise. I pratised throughout my entire pregnancy. I do not understand the general suggestion from some doctors to wait during the 1st trimester as when that is when the still forming fetus is MOST protected! I also have medical training so I believe this advise comes from general practitioners (not OBGYN's) and is overly cautious. I would always concur however with extreme caution with women with any pre-existing condition. Namaste.

  2. I would love a video version of this! I'm trying to do your mods and keep forgetting them, which causes a break in my flow :(

  3. I would love a video version of this! I'm trying to do your mods and keep forgetting them, which causes a break in my flow :(



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