Acroyoga while Pregnant Series: Month by Month
A month by month look at how our acroyoga practice changed to accommodate pregnancy. We hope to encourage acroyogis, their partners, and their communities to keep moving while being sensitive to the changing needs of pregnant practitioners.
1 Month: Clueless
These two don't know they are pregnant yet! Obviously our practice hadn't changed at all since we didn't know Baby was in the photo here with us.
2 Months: Energy Crisis
Around 8 weeks pregnant we traveled to DC for AcroLove East and spent some time in NYC. We had planned for this to be a Traincation, but since Sarah was tired ALL THE TIME, we slowed down, enjoyed the sights, visited friends and family, and let it become a more relaxing time than planned. We also stopped practicing pops that land on the belly, and found ways to stay out of Baby's space, like adjusting feet lower in Bird and Side Star. Baby was already teaching us how to slow down and go with the flow.
3 Months: All About That Base
Martin is an elegant and mindful flyer, and Sarah was still basing him in some simple poses at the end of the first trimester. Always listening in, not just during practice, but later that day and the next, helped us determine what to keep training and what to let go. After this month, lifting other people, even small flyers, started to feel like strain in the pelvic floor and hips, so Sarah stopped basing and only spotted smaller flyers or when there was a double spot. And since basing is her primary source of strength training, it meant that arms and legs started to feel softer. Small price to pay for keeping a healthy pelvic floor.
4 Months: Finding Balance
Around the beginning of this month body-line drills and twisting poses became a thing of the past & future. With a noticeable change in center of gravity and posture, balance became a new adventure each day. Round ligament pain sometimes made it difficult to know if Sarah was over-training or just experiencing normal pregnancy sensations. We jointly decided that expectations for training would need to go out the window for awhile and we would try to take every day as a brand new experience, coming to jams with no agenda and keeping our lesson plans flexible.
5 Months: Show & Tell
We had already told our families, friends and regular acroyoga partners by this point, but around month 5 Sarah was showing enough that other people noticed. Martin never really sensed a shift in the weight he was lifting, probably because it happened gradually and he got the benefit of an organically increasing amount of weight to lift and press. But other partners noticed and commented on the weight difference! Reactions in jams and on social media were varied. Many were curious about how long we would keep practicing - we were, too! Some people felt scared or nervous to partner Sarah. (See our post, "Acroyoga while Pregnant Series: A How-to for Friends and Partners.") But generally, people were super supportive and encouraging of our desire that Baby experience the joy of movement early.
6 Months: Gravity wins
By this point the belly was getting rather heavy and round, and while we cut more and more poses out of our practice, inversions were delicious. Going upside down relieved pressure in the pelvic floor and low belly muscles and allowed Baby to float a bit more freely. (He was also developing a vestibular system at this time, so we figured all relationships to gravity were valid developmental tools - start 'em early!) Increased blood volume meant that Sarah couldn't stay in any one inversion for long, but we could flow between different poses like Straddle Bat, Shoulder Stands, Star, Rev Star, and Handstands. We could also take breaks and repeat poses often. Shorter bursts seemed to work better than the long flows and revolutions we usually like to practice. Martin let Sarah lead the way, never pushing for more time or more repetitions. We tried to respect the slowing down process and encourage lots of check-ins.
7 Months: Relaxin is no joke!
Pubic Symphysis Disfunction (over-stretching ligaments in the pubic bone area) and Diastasis Recti (separation of the abdominal "6 pack" muscles) are two among many possible issues when mixing the pregnancy hormone relaxin with exercise. And Sarah discovered a touch of each during month 7. But, we still believe the benefits of movement to both mom and baby, and the benefits to our whole family of playing and moving together, are invaluable. So we adjust. Again. This month, recovery time between trainings got longer: Sarah went from training 2-3 times per week to1-2 times and teaching only once per week. And we slowed down, yet again, to take more breaks within training sessions and to allow transitions between poses to become even more controlled and mindful. When Martin needed or wanted more intense training, we had our beautiful acroyoga community around us. More than one jam was spent with Sarah squatting or stretching gently on the sidelines while Martin played with others. That's the beauty of having our community - we could each get what we needed with the support of our acroyoga tribe. Also, by this point, Sarah's self-protective instincts were through the roof! So, Martin was pretty much the only person basing Sarah. If it wasn't Martin basing, it was Martin spotting. And our community understood. We were not only growing our family, but growing closer as a family.
8 Months: Class Dismissed
After month 7 we stopped teaching regular classes. Ironically, this coincided with us finally feeling proficient in how to teach while pregnant! We were relying more on clear words, reacting to the people and poses in front of us, and integrating higher levels of exploration and creative processing into classes, rather than relying on demos and pre-determined cues. These were lessons learned just when we decided to take a baby break, but hopefully, lessons that we'll remember to incorporate when we start teaching again post-birth. We still led a couple of one-off workshops, attended jams, and played and trained together. But we decided a baby break was called for so that we had no obligations and could practice acroyoga when, where, and how the whim arose. That doesn’t mean we ducked out of the scene altogether. The support of our wonderful acroyoga community is so precious to us always, but especially at this time. We wanted Baby to hear the sounds of people laughing and working together and to experience the endorphins, warmth, and positive energy that we feel among our tribe. We wanted him to be surrounded by these brave, creative, lively people; by their energy and love. And he was!
9 Months: Time for Us
With three weeks left to meet our baby, we were making the most of these last moments for the two of us. Lots of poses and transitions were a distant memory now; compression was impossible and, due to some Diastasis Recti, Sarah’s abdominals needed lots of TLC. So, any planking variations, transitions involving a sit up or heavy core work were a hard 'No!' But that still left plenty of options. Inversions brought great relief to the pelvic floor and were much easier to fly on a base than to practice solo. For example, flying Bat, Star, Candle, and Reverse Star were much easier and more comfortable than a headstand on the ground because Martin was doing half the job of balancing. And while Sarah couldn’t hold them long due to head-rushes and limited lung capacity, backbends like Whale, Bow, and Back-bird brought a welcome openness to tight psoas muscles (hip flexors.) Some lunar Leaf variations, like Super Yogi and Anahatasana that open the chest and shoulders, were also lovely since the increasing belly and breast weight started pulling Sarah’s shoulders forward. Martin continued to stay vigilant about foot placement, sensitive to our changing needs, and also helped us both stay mindful of the length and pace of practices and not pushing to the point of exhaustion.
Every body and every pregnancy is different, so we hope our story won't be taken as a challenge nor a recommendation. Rather, we hope, by sharing our story of acroyoga during our first pregnancy, to encourage acroyogis, their partners, and their communities to keep moving while being sensitive to and honoring the changing needs of pregnant practitioners. We hope you'll browse more blog posts in this Acroyoga while Pregnant Series, like, "A How-to for Friends and Partners," and "Why We are Still Playing." We encourage every woman and family to make decisions about how long and how intensely to keep practicing some form of movement after doing your own research, speaking with your midwife or birth professional, and carefully listening inward to your body and your baby.
Check out our youtube channel, TrainMovePlay, for videos of flows and jams throughout our pregnancy.