Bikram Yoga & Pregnancy

In most cases it is perfectly possible to practice Bikram yoga when you are pregnant. For your own peace of mind it is always good to double check with your doctor or midwife.

When you are pregnant, you only do what you can in the classes (just like everyone else). No need to force anything. If have practiced Bikram yoga regularly for a while before you got pregnant, you can continue to practice with us from the beginning of your pregnancy. If you are new to the practice, it is usually best to wait until after the first trimester, when your body is more stable.

Always tell us that you are pregnant so we can give you a little extra attention in class. We can then also (when the time comes) guide you through the „pregnancy modifications”. These are modified postures that replace some of the regular Bikram yoga postures that will no longer feel comfortable when you are at a certain stage in your pregnancy (for example the postures where you lay on your belly). See below for an overview of what the Bikram serie looks like when you are pregnant. For questions regarding Bikram yoga during pregnancy you can always email us or ask us your questions at the front desk.

My own experience

I knew I would continue to practice yoga throughout my pregnancy. Working with dozens of pregnant women in my yoga classes over the years had only strengthened my belief that pregnant women can do anything. Including Bikram yoga. My pregnant students have always been (and continue to be) the strongest students in class, in any stage of their pregnancy. When I got pregnant myself, I was excited to be able to go through the same experience that I had guided my students through all these years. And what an experience it has been.

Practicing during pregnancy

As the amazing person inside me (and my belly) grew, it was amazing to notice what my body was capable of. The pregnancy modifications enabled me to continue the practice as my body went through this incredible transformation. Just like I teach all students every class, I had to now teach myself to acknowledge and accept things as they were from day to day, class to class. I connected to my body in a way I had never experienced before. As my pregnancy progressed, it was more and more like I was taking class together with the little one inside. I am convinced he practiced right along with me and helped me through some of the more challenging classes of my life. He was then (and still is) my greatest teacher. Practicing through the nine months of my pregnancy (right up to 2 days before my due date) was wonderful, sometimes challenging and always rewarding. The first few months, practicing helped me through nausea and hormonal mood swings. In the following months the practice kept me from having any of the „normal” pregnancy discomforts like major weight gain, puffiness, swollen feet, constipation, food cravings and I’m sure many more unpleasantries. The practice also helped keep me clear-headed and stress free (most of the time) even with everything that had to happen in preparation of this amazing little person. The yoga helped me stay focused and connected to my body.

Practicing yoga when giving birth

No, I did not do 26 postures and 2 breathing exercises while in labor, obviously. I did, however, manage to stay present in my body through my breath and to breathe calmly and slowly for most of the process. It turns out that this helps (a lot) when giving birth. Since this was my first time in the birthing process, I had no idea if the cramps I felt were actual labor or just some of the pre-labor preparations. I just continued to breathe along with the waves of cramps. My midwife figured I had a while to go since I was still able to talk with her and breathe through the cramps. However, when she checked how far along I was, I was already at 70% of the whole process. I had just enough time to move into the giant bath tub to let our son be born under water. I truly believe I would have had an entirely different and much more challenging experience had I not practiced yoga.

Practicing yoga after giving birth

After birth, I did what I tell all my students who have just had babies: I took class again as soon as my body told me it was time. For me, this was about a month after our son’s birth. I knew I had my work cut out for me. Yoga has taught me on and off the mat to let go of expectations. The only thing I could ask of myself as I started my practice again was to be open to what was to come and to be patient with my body.

Just as I took care of my newborn son, I had to nurture and take care of myself in the same gentle way. Each class is an opportunity to try again and to dive deeper into the practice. I reconnected to my body in a way I had never connected to my pre-pregnancy body. It was like going through all my years of practice in fast-forward. Each class felt different and each class I felt my strength and flexibility return. But most importantly, each class I grew more and more patient and accepting of my body and more and more compassionate towards myself and others in the practice.

I teach my students how important it is to surrender to the practice and to leave all expectations at the door. To truly surrender and be accepting of what is in the moment takes a tremendous amount of courage and trust in yourself and in your teachers. Finding this trust and the courage is all the more challenging when you find yourself in a body that may look very similar to your pre-pregnancy body, yet feels completely different.

Bikram yoga, and other forms of hatha yoga, is so much more than the physical feats a person aims to achieve. When you let go of what you want to accomplish within a posture and acknowledge and accept your present state of being, is when you will start to make huge strides in your practice. So I guess what being pregnant and giving birth and being a new mom has taught me so far can be summed up in this one sentence: When you get out of your own way and accept where and who you are in this moment everything else magically falls into place.

Even if (or especially when) you are just establishing your practice or you are dealing with an injury, illness or physical change, it is important to get to class as much as you can. With anything that requires practice, the more you do it, the better you get at it. Being consistent, determined, and patient is crucial no matter where you are on your yoga journey. Even through the ups and downs, a regular practice will make you a stronger practitioner. Being present and attentive as you work on the technique and form of the postures makes all the difference in the world. Mastering the physical aspect of the postures is only part of the work. The real journey starts when you begin to find stillness while connecting body, mind and spirit through your breath. When you learn to slow down and enjoy the view on your yoga path, is when you realize it is the journey that makes it worth while to have a destination.

by: Bettine Meijer (founder of Bikram Yoga Haarlem)

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