You're teaching a general yoga class, and one of your regular students announces they're pregnant. Should you turn them away? Or do you accept them to continue their practice? The short answer is that you can allow them into the class (if you feel comfortable doing so). Still, you should be aware of the contraindications and best practices.
Pregnant students may prefer to remain in general classes for various reasons! Pregnancy classes don't start until 14 weeks; they may feel uncomfortable seeing a new teacher or the timings are wrong.
For example, I have had two pregnant students in my general yoga classes in the past week. One was 26 weeks pregnant, and the other was 36 weeks pregnant. Their reasons for attending were different; one preferred the timing of my class, and the other wanted to stay with me in my general class (sticking to her routine).
As many foundation courses do not mention pregnancy, you'd be surprised how it can transform your student's body; structural, psychological, physiological and emotional changes and many common side effects are happening. Yoga is generally not advised within the first 14 weeks of pregnancy. However, many students want to maintain their practice to ensure good well-being.
If you accept a pregnant student into your general class, you should understand how it can impact their practice.
If yoga occurs during the first trimester, it should focus on pranayama, relaxation and gentle asana. Many postures are contraindicated during this period.
Here are seven best practices to ensure you safely teach pregnant students:
There are many additional pieces of information you need from a pregnant student. You need to know the following:
Ensure they sign a disclaimer form accepting full responsibility for their pregnancy yoga practice. Revisit the form at the beginning of the second and third trimesters, as their health may change.
Having the pregnant student at the front will allow you to keep an eye on them, and they won't be tempted to copy what other students are doing. It's easier for you to remind them of the modifications if they are at the front.
Make sure that you discuss the modifications before class starts. This ensures the student understands what to do beforehand, and you can continue teaching your general class.
Blocks, bolsters, and blankets are crucial to making classes accessible. Props will offer the pregnant student more stability and support, allowing the student to practice yoga safely and comfortably.
The student must be aware of how they feel on the day and amend their practice. Practising this awareness and trusting their body's feedback will also help with labour prep.
Remind the student to be aware of the changes in their blood pressure. They can transition slowly and take extra breaths as required. Also, remind them not to push themselves in asana; they should be kind towards their changing body.
Maintain open conversation with your pregnant student so you know where they are at. Check-in with them before, during and after class.
Most insurance providers will only cover you for topics you qualify for. It's worth asking your insurance company if you'll be covered teaching one-off pregnant students in your general yoga classes.
While you don't need to be a pregnancy specialist to accept a pregnant student into your class, basic knowledge is required. Always make sure they have been given the green light from their doctor and that you have their health disclaimer form.
Using the steps above, you can hold a warm space for your pregnant student. Remember to constantly refer back to how you feel and how confident you are teaching them.
Nadia Raafat is a senior yoga teacher, pregnancy specialist, and teacher trainer.
Nadia is hosting a one-day online workshop:
Accommodating Pre & Post Natal Students into General Classes, Sunday 21 January 2024, 9AM-5pm.