Ever wondered about pregnancy and your Bikram yoga practice? BYC chats to two mothers to be about their experience practicing Bikram, during pregnancy. Aileen Keohane, who began practicing at BYC over a year ago, and Dia, a Bikram teacher who began teaching at BYC when it opened in 2011.
Don't forget to view our link to Bikram yoga pregnancy postures
Congratulations on expecting your first baby! Are you excited?
Thank you very much and yes I am very excited and a little terrified as well! You can read all the books and be as prepared as you can but human emotion pops in now and again to remind you of what a huge undertaking it is to become a mother.
When you discovered you were pregnant how did you feel about continuing your exercise regime?
On discovering I was pregnant I immediately went on the search for advice regarding my practice. I had been practicing a year at that stage and really didn’t want to stop. As far as I can remember I came to practice the very next day and spoke to Dia and she was incredibly kind and gave me advice on how to continue my practice safely. At that stage the only people who knew were Joe and my parents so it was quite emotional sharing the news with someone else but Dia was so calm and lovely that I thought I can do this and I’m in a safe and nurturing environment, so I actually felt really blessed! From that day on my yoga changed and I became more mindful in my practice. Kate asked me shortly afterwards how I was doing and I remember saying, I’m not just doing postures anymore I’m doing yoga!
On all my initial visits to my midwife, GP and hospital consultant I told them I was doing Bikram yoga and all were advocates of continuing, especially as I had a regular practice prior to becoming pregnant. They of course advised caution and to listen to my body but I think they were more concerned with my karate practice! And as I have gone through my pregnancy I truly believe Bikram yoga has contributed greatly to a very positive experience overall. Initially I had no sickness or lack of energy as I continued into the second trimester and changed to the pregnancy series in class, I had none of the usual complaints. I am now in my third trimester I am still doing very well and still practicing! The bump does get in the way a little now as I have only a few weeks to go and my standing head to knee pose has taken a back seat……. For now!
How has practicing Bikram affected your pregnancy? How has pregnancy affected your Bikram?
Bikram has had such a positive effect on my pregnancy in every way really both physically and emotionally. The general systems of my body, digestive, immune, circulatory and respiratory are all working away as normal and I attribute this overall wellbeing to my continued practice. Also in pregnancy you have lots of appointments and a thousand things to buy and get ready and in all of that running around is really difficult to get time to yourself or time just to be with the baby and try to connect on some level. I have used my Bikram classes to do this, to take complete time out of the madness and also it’s nice to have time just me and the baby. I genuinely think although it may sound mad that the baby likes his/her Bikram classes. When the kicking started initially I always felt it strongest during savasana after the standing series. I am hoping after listening to all the instructions in class the baby will have a far more beautiful bow pose than me!
Do you hope to continue your practice until full term?
Yes absolutely! You learn in pregnancy to really listen to your body and as long as I listen to my body I can practice safely. I may be a little less dynamic and certain postures need further adjustment as I go on but as long as I can do something and have enough energy I will continue to practice!
How long have you been practicing and teaching Bikram Yoga?
I have practiced for 8 years, taught for almost 3 years. I have been teaching here at Bikram Yoga Cork since it opened in November 2011. Before that I taught in Massachusetts, USA and in Dublin.
How far along are you currently in your pregnancy and how often do you practice at the moment? I am currently at 35 weeks. Before I was pregnant I liked to practice 4-5 times per week. Now, mostly because of other time constraints during the week, I am only able to practice an average of 2-3 times per week. At this point in the pregnancy, this actually suits my time and energy levels just fine though.
Please tell us a little about how the Bikram Yoga postures are modified for pregnancy.
The Bikram series of 26 postures + 2 breathing exercises essentially doesn't change. When I practice in a class, the teachers teach the same series but what I can do in some of the postures has to be modified to accommodate my expanding belly. There are photos on the Bikram Yoga Cork website that show most of the posture modifications for pregnancy. Essentially any posture that causes a compression of the belly (Hands-to-Feet, Standing Head to Knee, Separate Leg Head to Knee, the four postures of the spine strengthening series, Half-Tortoise, Rabbit, Head to Knee with Stretching, and Spine Twist) are all modified to varying degrees to allow me to work around my belly. Some of the modifications result in a lessening in the intensity of the posture, but overall the same groups of muscles are worked and I'm able to move with the class. Many postures aren't modified at all.
What benefits are you seeing for yourself as you continue your practice throughout pregnancy?
I sincerely believe that my practice and the time I spend teaching in the hot room are having tremendous benefits for me during pregnancy. I haven't had any swelling in the ankles or any water retention (no huge surprise there!). My back feels pretty good so far - all the work I've done through this practice in the past, as well as currently, to strengthen my back muscles are really paying dividends now! I feel my leg muscles working harder than usual in the hot room these days, as the extra weight forces them to work hard in postures like awkward and eagle. My sense of balance and center is maintained, despite the massive changes to my body - I don't feel like I'm top-heavy either in or out of the hot room.
Would you recommend pregnant women practice Bikram Yoga?
It is really important to have a regular practice before doing this yoga while pregnant. I recommend at least 6 months of regular practice before becoming pregnant. You have to know your body and be familiar with the yoga so you can work safely and effectively in the room while pregnant. There are other types of pre-natal yoga out there if you're new to yoga and want to start while pregnant. If you have a regular practice, there is no reason not to continue. All the research I've read indicates it is important to continue your regular physical activities when you're pregnant and that anything (within reason) you did before you can continue with now.
Is it recommended to practice Bikram Yoga while in the first trimester of pregnancy?
There is some concern about the first trimester of pregnancy in general, as it is a very delicate developmental time for the baby. Doctors are often concerned with rise in body temperature during this time, but much of the research I've looked at relates to prolongued fevers and spending lots of time in the sauna or a hot tub. This is a personal choice really, but if you are at all concerned, there is no harm at all to take the first trimester off your practice and then return after your first scan. Rajashree has recommended taking time off during the first trimester as a general policy, just to be on the safe side. But again, this is a personal choice as science has not come up with a definitive answer to this question. Personally, I practiced throughout my pregnancy.
Inspiring women who are loving the hot room through out their pregnancies. Thanks to Aileen and Dia.
Interview by Jane Mc Namara.