January 8, 2010

Pregnant Bikram -you will not "cook" your baby

Bikram (hatha) yoga has been a life changing experience for me from the first day I tried it back in early 2000. And through the past 8+ months it has been an absolute life saver. I go into a hot, humid room nearly daily, for 90 minutes and sweat out loads of bloat and unwanted toxic fluid build-up that can accompany pregnancy, and stretch out my poor aching morphing body until everything feels lose, comfortable, relaxed and flexible again. It is the only thing that has made me feel like “myself” as my body has slowly taken on its new pregnant shape.
I work on strengthening my core, so that I can push this little girl out, I strengthen my arms so that they look good and that I have strength to hold my baby girl for hours on end nursing her and cuddling her close. I strengthen my legs so that they stay tone, trimmed and strong, and man, it does wonders for your rear!
I’ve been able to maintain my balance and center of gravity for the most part, and it is the only thing that relieves the achy-achy back that we have to deal with through the later few months and weeks of pregnancy.
As the relaxin hormone has been released into my body, I’ve been able to utilize it to stretch out my muscles and ligaments in preparation for delivery. The truth is, I’ve become more flexible than I’ve ever been the past few weeks, going deeper into every pose than I thought possible for myself at this point.
Bikram does have an entire pregnancy series which is a modification of the original series developed by his wife who also continued her practice through her pregnancy.
The studio I’ve been attending since I’ve lived back in Arizona has been outstanding in its support of my practicing through pregnancy, and I’ve had great encouragement and guidance from one of the instructors who also continued her practice through her pregnancy, and beyond, and had dramatic results.

This is what I hope to accomplish through maintaining my practice as well… after all, who doesn’t want to bounce back quickly?
I’ve been met with a lot of praise and encouragement for my decision and commitment to carry on my practice through pregnancy, and of course I’ve been met with a lot of glances, raised eyebrows, and flat-out disgust by others. I’ve been accused of “cooking” my baby, of restricting blood flow to her developing little self, and putting myself at risk for falling, over-heating, raising my blood pressure and more.

Let me say a few things to clear the air for you. First of all, if you have never before practiced Bikram or any other hatha (hot) yoga, I am not suggesting that you begin a practice when you find out you are pregnant. As I mentioned I’ve been practicing for 9 years, and my doctor felt very comfortable with me continuing on as I had been, knowing that my body was adapted to the conditions in the hot, humid room, and exercising comfortably at such humidity and temperatures (in fact, she has been practicing yoga through her recent pregnancy as well!). If you are interested in doing Bikram or another hot/hatha yoga through your pregnancy and are not yet pregnant, your doctor and the Bikram studio (for one) wants you to have been practicing that style of yoga for at least six months prior to becoming pregnant if you wish to continue throughout your pregnancy. There are other styles of yoga that are very beneficial and are safe to start after you’ve learned you are pregnant, and you can discuss those options with your doctor and the studio you are interested in attending.
Secondly, our bodies are amazing! They are adaptable to many environments, like the one I live in here in Arizona. Our summers are brutal as you might have heard, so when I have to live in 115˚ summer weather, taking 90 minutes out of my day to practice yoga in a 105˚ room doesn’t seem so awful.

Our bodies are able to maintain homeostasis in such a variety of environments. It will work hard for you to maintain your internal temperature of 98.6˚ through thick and thin. Even when we do get a temperature, it is our body’s defense mechanism going into high gear to burn up bacteria and foreign invaders to keep us alive and kicking. Being in a hot room, performing slow, steady, precisely executed movements is not going to cause you to overheat or “cook” your baby. During my practice is one of the times when my little one moves the most… in between every posture. And I feel so good about all the freshly oxygenated blood that I am sending straight down to her as I deeply breathe and circulate new nutrient rich blood through my body. I believe that the breathing techniques I’ve learned will be an amazing asset through my labor and delivery, as well as the ability to maintain my deep, purposeful breathing throughout a variety of postures that raise my blood pressure. I’ve learned how to control my blood pressure and breathing through the stress of the postures, bringing it back to normal in between each posture. This will come in very handy as I am going through contractions and pushing through delivery.
The ways I’ve been able to stretch out my hips, strengthen my core and focus on one spot in the mirror for a minute or more will also be invaluable during my labor and delivery. And one of the best benefits of my Bikram yoga practice is that I have had not even a full day of that terrible bloat, or kankles, or similar. I’m 34 weeks pregnant and still wearing my wedding rings and don’t have that “puffy” look to my face. This is through no good luck, but through the daily sweat of my yoga practice.

Only you and your doctor can decide if a hatha yoga practice through your pregnancy is right for you, I’m just letting you know what it’s been like for me. A lifesaver!
Lastly, if you do the appropriate modifications provided, you will not harm your baby by practicing yoga through your pregnancy. They modify poses so that you do not do any inverted or compression postures, and keep your chin up so that you do not risk restricting blood flow from your carotid artery to the placenta and baby. They modify the appropriate standing postures so that falling out of postures is unlikely, and they keep you laying on your side for any savasana poses so that you are not on your back at length. Most importantly, listen to your body. Our bodies are amazing, as I mentioned above, and will tell us when to back off, when to stop, when to take it easy and when to push ourselves. Trust your body and yourself. You’ll love the results!

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