prenatal yoga instructor trainingBy Marie Jerard, E-RYT 200, RYT 500

If you have long been avoiding teaching yoga to pregnant students, you can complete a few basic training requirements that will allow you to move ahead without worry. As a certified instructor, you can enroll in a specialist prenatal training program for yoga teachers. Since pregnant students will necessarily have different needs than yoga students who are not pregnant, you will undoubtedly want to learn about the anatomy and physiology of pregnancy itself. Once you’ve been officially designated a Certified Prenatal Yoga Teacher (CPYT), you’ll be qualified to lead women through the various physical and emotional challenges that precede childbirth.

Avoid Twists and Hardcore Inversions

As a newly minted prenatal yoga teacher who is qualified to teach pregnant students, you will want to stay away from particular techniques. Poses that require women to rigorously twist their abdomens, from side to side, can ultimately compress this region of the body. During the first trimester, women should likewise avoid jumping in and out of asanas, headstands, handstands and other poses that require them to hold their bodies in a delicately balanced position for several seconds. As an instructor, you should also advise pregnant students to avoid postures (asanas) that create internal abdominal pressure. Since the stomach area is designed to expand during pregnancy, students can forget about “no gain, no pain” methods for training their abs, until after their babies have been born. Compressing the fetus is just not in the baby’s best interest.

Recommend Poses Specifically Designed for Pregnant Women

While some poses should be avoided, you will still be left with dozens of other positions that can be quite helpful to women in various stages of pregnancy. The seated twisting poses, for example, can be easily replaced by open seated asanas such as Easy Pose or Bound Angle Pose. These particular poses, in fact, can strengthen both the pelvic muscles and the thighs. The Triangle pose, which can also be perfectly designed for pregnant women, can improve body posture and provide relief from the chronic backaches that are so common after the first trimester. Light warm-up exercises, of course, can help with blood circulation and gently eliminate the knots that have developed in certain muscle groups.

Monitor Your Pregnant Students Closely

While you may have completed the required training, you should still give your pregnant students some extra attention. If someone seems to be struggling with the easiest poses, then you might ask her to take a short break. By heading off potentially troublesome issues, before they snowball into more severe problems, you can guarantee that all your students remain perfectly safe as they continue on toward childbirth.

In An Ideal World

In every studio, there should be a procedure for accepting students before they enter your class. To take last minute walk-ins is to invite disaster. Here is a perfect storm: A new student shows up to your Power Yoga class five minutes late, without speaking to you or anyone on staff. At the end of class, she tells you she is three months pregnant and has a history of miscarriages. The reality is: This is the way people are. If you teach Yoga classes, you have to be prepared to protect people and their unborn children.

Procedure and Protocol

With that said, set up procedures that protect your students. Consider special prenatal classes or private sessions. Pregnant students really do belong in a designated prenatal class. There are some instructors who can teach students with a variety of medical conditions and they remember every modification for each student. Be honest with yourself, if you can’t handle more than the modifications for each trimester, do you think your pregnant students should be in a typical class?

The bottom line is: Learn how to teach students who are pregnant, make sure your students have consulted with their physicians, know the warning signs, modify for each student, and make sure your class size has a limit that works for the safety of all your students.

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