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My Pregnancy Practice Journey… so far.

By Arielle Nash- Degagne

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This is a personal story of my Ashtanga journey during my first (and current) pregnancy.   Please remember that every woman is different, and pregnancies vary.  This story is not meant to be taken as recommendations for yours or any of your students’ practice, it is merely my story… so far.

When students discover that I’m pregnant (although now, at 26 weeks it’s impossible not to notice), I often get the question, “Has your practice changed?”.   My response, “Everyday.”

I had been feeling dizzy consistently during practice, which set off my spidey sense. My husband and had only casually been trying for a month when I was pleasantly surprised with two pink lines, confirming my suspicions. My dizziness had a valid explanation, I was three weeks pregnant and already feeling the effects of increased blood volume and vessel dilation that comes when you’re growing another being inside.  I accepted the feeling as a blessing and a message from the life growing inside me to pay attention.

I made a personal decision to continue with my Ashtanga practice.  Although tradition recommends a woman should not practice in her first trimester, my experience and knowledge in prenatal exercise physiology didn’t give me a reason to stop.  Asana has been a part of my life for eight years, on an almost daily basis, I felt it would actually be more detrimental to stop then to continue at my current level.  Now, that doesn’t mean my practice didn’t change at all.  I became softer and more nurturing towards myself.  On days when I was tired, I still rolled out my mat at 4:30am, but on some of those days an hour of Savasana felt like the right thing to do, so that’s what I did.  On other days, I was piped full of energy, lite and floaty, and able to soar through practice.   The only symptoms I had were a little fatigue in the afternoons, slight nausea that was cured by making sure my stomach was never completely empty and the dizziness. Everything felt good.  Practice has always been a time for me to connect with my body, now I was connecting in a different way.

During my first ultrasound, at 12 weeks, nearing the end of my first trimester, we got the news from the technician.  “There are two babies here.”   What?  Repeat.  “Yes, twins.”  Again please; What?

It didn’t take long for the news to really settle in and for me to let go of the pictures in my head of what I thought this journey would be like.  I considered myself doubly blessed. Two for the price of one!  Well, not really, but you know what I mean.  What I did, and still do refuse to accept is that my pregnancy is considered “high risk” because it’s a multiple.  Of course, it is more complex, however to stamp it high risk seems extreme to me when I’m in great health and show no risk factors or any indication that things will not go well.  That is still my belief today.

There are some things that I need to take extra care with, and of course I get a double dose of hormones and have much higher nutrient requirements than if there were just one on board, but I have welcomed it all.

By 14 weeks I was no longer comfortable in any asana that required me to lie prone (on my stomach) and I was very careful not to go beyond where I had been pre-pregnancy to protect my hormone induced ligament laxity (explanation: both progesterone and relaxin contribute to tissue softening during all stages of pregnancy, causing increased mobility, but also increased instability and risk for soft tissue injury or joint misalignment).  I began to use practice as a means to communicate with my babies.  Every morning, I would mentally ask them if they were ready to practice. One morning, at about 18 weeks, after completing my last jump through and lying down to rest, I felt them for the first time.  They were either telling me to keep going, or giving me a “thank you” for the ride.  Since that day, every morning I get the same response, at the same time.   At 20 weeks I now knew what was meant by the pregnancy glow, that special something that some women exhibit when they start to feel euphoric somewhere in the second trimester.  I felt incredible.  Everyday I became more accepting of my changing figure and growing bump.

It was at about 22 weeks where things started to change drastically.  I was already modifying or simply not doing many postures because they compressed by uterus, tugged on my cervix, caused my round ligament to pull too much, shortened my breath or just plain didn’t feel good; at 22 weeks I gave into it all.   Although I thought I was going “light”, I wasn’t.  It took a reminder from my teacher that certain asana could put too much pressure [on the vessels supplying my babies and on the uterus itself) and it was time to let go; even if it felt really good.  There would be no further benefit at this point to continuing some of the deeper asana.

Now, I’m 27 weeks, entering my third trimester.  Both babies are strong, and have excellent growth.  To a keen eye, my practice is still an Ashtanga practice, it just looks different than it did 6 months ago.  I move slower, but I breathe more deeply. I don’t bend as much, but I feel more.  I am 14kg heavier, but I’m stronger. I’m tired at times, but I accept it and I rest.  I look forward to my reassuring kicks each morning in Savasana.

There are days that I miss jumping back, or dropping back to take my heels, but then I remind myself what practice is all about; self-transformation, growth, acceptance and humbleness.  Now, I have finally learned what it is to practice without being selfish.  It’s not about me anymore.  I’m a mother now, and as scary as that is for me to think about, I couldn’t be happier or more grateful. I’m still standing on my head nearly daily in hopes that these two babies will be born with a little Ashtanga in them.

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