|Naturally, many pregnant women have concerns about hot yoga during pregnancy. Beginning at five weeks of pregnancy in 2006, I wrote this blog to be of assistance in helping you to make educated decisions about exercise during yours.
At the studio, we’ve had several women in low-risk pregnancies have their doctors tell them that they could not practice hot yoga while pregnant, with little information on the classes. Please take the concerns of your physician or midwife seriously. Women with high-risk pregnancies must first obtain a doctor’s note to participate in classes at Blaze Yoga and Pilates.
Many doctors, however, incorrectly assume that practicing in a hot room is akin to being in a sauna or Jacuzzi and that is where their concern develops. Both a sauna and a Jacuzzi are much hotter than a standard hot yoga class. The biggest difference is the inability for the body to cool itself when in a sauna or Jacuzzi. Sweat (evapotranspiration) and moving air (convection) are the cooling mechanisms for a practicing yogi. Neither of these are existent in a Jacuzzi and only one (sweat) in a sauna where the air is heated up to 40 degrees hotter than a Bikram Yoga or Inferno Hot Pilates class.
Studies conducted in Los Angeles (with non-pregnant students) and Northampton, Massachusetts (with pregnant students only) have found that temperature change in a hot yogi is negligible during class (average 0.6 degree temperature change). Most physicians recommend that a pregnant woman keep her temperature below 102 degrees; this is well-below that range. Please note that exercising outdoors in the summer increases the internal temperature nearly twice that much.
As a healthy woman with a low-risk pregnancy, neither the yoga nor the heat should be cause for fear. With that in mind, you should NEVER practice hot yoga pregnant without first informing and consulting with your teacher. There are modifications to all postures that compress the abdomen, aorta, and diaphragm or exert too much pressure on the perineum and pelvis.
Armed with the correct modifications for pregnancy, the next concerns of a pregnant woman should be nutrition, hydration and exhaustion. The average woman burns approximately 330 calories during a 90-minute hot yoga class. A pregnant woman’s metabolism is much higher, so she may burn even more. Be sure to eat high quality meals to replace the lost calories and minerals. It is also advisable for the pregnant woman to eat a small, easy-to-digest snack about an hour prior to class.
Proper hydration is critical during gestation to maintain amniotic fluid levels, increase blood volume and ensure proper function of the kidneys. Be sure to drink water before, during and after class. At least an additional liter of water per day is recommended when practicing. Stop and sip water during class whenever you need it.
Finally, listen carefully to your body regarding your limits. Especially in the first trimester, you may find yourself more tired or lose control of your breath more easily. Listen to the signs to slow down and do so immediately. Don’t be surprised if your practice changes dramatically in the first trimester even though your belly is still small. There are an incredible amount of changes occurring (increase in uterine muscle, development of an additional two liters of blood, roller coaster hormone changes and more) in the first twelve weeks. Sit down, take a break, have a drink or even leave the room when you need.
Sara Curry owns and operates Blaze Yoga and Pilates in Portsmouth, New Hampshire with her husband, Jaylon. They live in Southern Maine with their two children, pictured right. Sara practiced yoga throughout both of her pregnancies. In fact, her second child was born just eight hours after this picture was snapped!