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How to Adapt Your Yoga or Movement Practice for Pregnancy: First Trimester

Congratulations on your pregnancy!

First trimester is often the toughest trimester for many pregnant people due to the immediate increase in hormones that start to change and affect your body. Motivation to move during these three months may be difficult, but it can also help you to feel better, if only for a few hours. We'll start first with the core and breath, which I believe set the foundation for a healthy movement practice while pregnant and also post-partum. As I briefly mentioned in the intro post for this series, movement during pregnancy is not just for your present body - it is also for your post-partum body so that you can feel and be your best for your new little one and others. I’ll also go over listening to your body and moving in ways that feel good and comfortable for you as you progress through this trimester.

Start Core & Breath Work Now

If you've never learned how to engage your core properly, now is the time. The LYT™ method teaches core and breath in tandem, which makes perfect sense when you look at the roles the diaphragm and the pelvic floor play in our core container. I like to teach what is often called diaphragmatic or 360-degree breathing. I actually have another blog post about this type of breathing - check it out!

Learning how to activate your core properly now, at the beginning of your pregnancy, will set you up for success at the end, for labor, and also post-partum. As your body's posture continues to change throughout the next 9 months, your knowledge and awareness of your core and breath will help you maintain as neutral of a posture as possible, which will limit some of the typical 2nd and 3rd trimester aches and pains that you may experience later on.

A note on baby safety - core work and yoga do not cause miscarriage, however the risk for miscarriage is highest during first trimester. This does not mean you shouldn't move or do core work, but do what you feel comfortable doing.

Practice What Feels Good

Speaking of doing what you are comfortable with, you may not be comfortable doing much of anything. You may be feeling really weak and nauseous or extremely tired or any of the other fun first trimester symptoms that many pregnant people experience. Listen to your body and do what feels good, which might change day-to-day. Personally, there were days when I didn't want to move, but when I did I felt better afterwards, and there were days when I could not even get up off the couch and movement did not happen and that is ok! First trimester for me was about learning to let go of expectations and control*, almost as if my body was preparing me for first-time parenthood!

If you do choose to move, here are some things to consider. Your abdominal muscles are likely not going to be stretched out at this point to cause any damage to the abdominal fascia when doing core work, which is another reason why I suggest learning core control now so you can feel what proper core engagement is supposed to feel like with a relatively normal core structure. However, you may have a lot of bloating due to hormones, heartburn and/or pelvic sensitivity. Core work, especially the kind that I teach in my LYT™ classes, can help with bloating, but you may notice inversions like Down Dog, Dolphin, and handstands or even just lying flat on your back worsen your heartburn so you may want to avoid those positions. Lying on your stomach is still pretty safe since the baby and your uterus are so small at this stage, but it may not feel right for you and you can always stay on hands and knees. It's also generally a good idea to avoid contact sports or activities where your risk of injury is typically high throughout your entire pregnancy.

Speaking of handstands and other balancing poses or activities, you may notice your limbs feel more loose and even a bit more wobbly than usual. This is due to the hormone relaxin that is already hard at work relaxing your ligaments to prepare the body for your growing baby and birth. This and your center of gravity beginning to change all make balancing poses more difficult. Pre-pregnancy I did handstands everyday - I love them! But probably around 10-12 weeks I stopped doing them because my wrists just didn't feel stable enough and I did not want to risk falling and hurting myself or my baby. If you've been handstanding since you were 5 years old in gymnastics, then maybe you will feel comfortable continuing throughout pregnancy, but I advise against pushing yourself to do something. If you're already questioning whether you should do a movement or activity, you probably shouldn't.

Stay tuned for second trimester tips next week!

*In all honesty, still working on the relinquishing control thing. 😆

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