I wrote about practicing while pregnant back in September; this is the second part of a three-part series, the third of which is about practice after childbirth.

During the last trimester of my pregnancy, I settled into a rhythm of practice, a set sequence that was more or less based on the first half of the intermediate series and bits of the primary series. I wrote before about how it really threw me for a loop to have a blank canvas each day on which to paint my pregnancy practice early on– was I feeling up to a strong practice? Did I want to take it easy? — so in the last trimester, when I was feeling strong but didn’t have super endurance, it felt great to have a routine, a short practice I could do each day and eliminate the guesswork. I got big early, and I carried Malcolm like a basketball, all out in front, so most forward bends (except for those with wide legs) were gone by 6 months. Backbends felt good, as did open twisting, so it just made more sense to start with intermediate, modified, and then do the few primary poses that worked for me. What I did was basically this:

-Surya Namaskara A and B, as usual
-all standing poses, skipping the twists. In asymmetrical forward folds, I would shift to the side a little so there would be room for my belly
-after Warrior 2, on to intermediate series.
-for Pasasana: separate the feet, wrap around the inside of one leg at a time and twist toward the other leg (open twist)
-Krounchasana: this was ok for a while, but I didn’t fold in toward the lifted leg, and when I couldn’t lift the leg anymore, I substituted tiriang mukha ekapada paschimattanasana, without the forward fold
-The next four poses are done on the belly, so I took some liberties:
-For salabasana: hands and knees, balancing lifting one leg and one arm at a time
-For bhekasana: supta virasana
-For dhanurasana and parsva dhanurasana: hands and knees balancing, lifting one leg and holding the ankle with the opposite hand
-Ustrasana (LOVED this)
-Laghu vajrasana (this was fine for me almost until the end)
-Kapotasana: At seven or so months I could get to the floor but not back up again so I started doing this at the wall, not walking all the way down
-Backbends. Dropbacks. (Not standing up by this time, but I dropped back through about eight and a half months)
-This is where I started skipping around. I did pincha mayurasana because I could and I wanted to (though I started using a wall, just in case), and then some combination of the following: parighasana, janu sirsasana A but with a twist instead of a fold, baddha konasana upright, uphavista konasana
-padmasana (not baddha padmasana/yoga mudra or utplutih

At about 37 weeks, I discovered that Malcolm wasn’t in the head down position, which is necessary (at the birth center I went to) for a vaginal delivery. He wasn’t breech; it was more like he was diagonal with his head on the left. It was enough to worry me a little. My midwives assured me that he would probably turn down, but they recommended three things: moxibustion (based on the principles of Chinese medicine, it involves burning mugwort near your pinky toes, increasing blood flow to the uterus and stimulating movement in the fetus. There are studies that say it works quite well to turn breach babies, and I was cautioned not to do it more than once because I didn’t want him to turn THAT much), chiropractic, and not doing inversions anymore. I was happy to comply on all three points, and two weeks later, he was in the correct position.

So. After 37 weeks my practice was a whole lot of squatting, hip openers, standing poses, everything I could do to encourage downward movement. I envisioned teaching right up until I went into labor, but moving around got pretty hard at the end– in all, I gained about 40 pounds– and I stopped teaching in favor of much-needed sleep at about 38 weeks. My home practices after that point were short, sweet, with lots of breathing and very little movement.

I was given this advice early on in my pregnancy: in terms of asana practice, do what feels nourishing for you. Not what you think you should do, or what’s correct– what feels nourishing. This one word was very helpful to me, it made it very easy to put away any guilt I might have had over practicing too little (just child’s pose today? really?) or too much (is that deep backbend good for the baby?). And it probably goes without saying that what is nourishing for me would not necessarily be the same for someone else, so obviously that sequence up above is not my recommendation for other pregnant practitioners, just a record of what I did.

Y’all, our bodies are so smart. It’s our heads that get in the way most of the time– that’s a lesson I’ve learned over and over again in different ways through the course of the last decade. Advice from your teachers, or people who’ve been there is great, asking questions of your midwives/doulas/doctors/etc is great, but ultimately do whatever feels right in your body.

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