When I was pregnant I was surprised to find very little in the way of a straight answer to my question about whether or not to continue practicing yoga inversions. I spoke to my friends who teach prenatal yoga and they all said different things.
An inversion is a yoga posture where the head is below the heart including:
Handstand (adho mukha vrksasana)
And, this may surprise you, but downward facing dog (adho mukha svanasana) is also counted as an inversion.
Many women take their first yoga class while they are pregnant and, for some, it is the start of a lifelong commitment. Others may decide to just do a few classes to learn some techniques for labour and delivery. On the other end of the spectrum are the experienced yoga practitioners who are learning how to modify their own practice according to their changing body.
If you have a regular yoga asana practice then you may decide to modify your inversions during pregnancy with extra props, such as the wall. Certainly, if you have never practiced yoga asana before then pregnancy is not the right time to start learning headstands and handstands!
Personally speaking, the only inversion that I practiced while I was pregnant was downward facing dog. I had a very healthy pregnancy but it just didn’t feel right to me to be upside down while I was pregnant. I tried it once and I decided to come straight down because it didn’t feel good. However, I know other women who found sirsasana (headstand) to be of great comfort while they were pregnant as it relieved some of the pressure on their lower body. There is a theory that if your baby is in the breech position then headstand can help to turn the baby. My baby was head down and ready to go so I chose to keep my feet firmly on the ground!
Don’t get me wrong, there were days when I missed having a handstand practice. I missed the feeling of lightness in my body. However, you will only be pregnant for 40 weeks of your life! It really isn’t that long if you decide to wait. For some women, I would even venture that it is a good opportunity to slow down and take a break! If you are feeling anxious about missing your high-powered yoga classes and worrying about losing your figure or hindering your asana progress then perhaps you need to reconsider how you define yoga.
Prenatal yoga is about expanding your mind as much as it is about preparing your body for labour and delivery. It is a time to look inward and reflect. It is a time when you start to cultivate your “Mother’s intuition”. The key element to a prenatal yoga practice and indeed any yoga practice is learning to listen to your body instead of relying on what other people tell you what you ‘should’ be doing.
Ultimately, this is not a question of should you or shouldn’t you practice yoga inversions during your pregnancy. Rather, it is a question of what feels right for you and your baby. Perhaps, like me, you wanted someone to tell you how to adapt to your pregnant body but the only person who can really answer this question is you. Spend some time moving gently with your changing body in a private and comfortable place. Over the coming months, this will be a place of nurture and growth. Listen, breathe and enjoy it!
Disclaimer: please practice yoga under the guidance of an experienced instructor.