The Controversial Question
Before I write too much about this topic, let me start off by saying that I do not have the answer to the controversial question: Is Bikram Yoga Safe When You Are Pregnant?
If you are pregnant then I highly recommend that you talk to your GP and your OB before deciding to do any type of exercise. I also encourage you to trust your instincts and be guided by your own personal judgement.
Only Consider Bikram If You Have Done It Before
If you have never done Bikram yoga before… then don’t even think about it! Pregnant women should only consider practicing Bikram if they have done at least 50 classes. The Bikram yoga website says that you can continue your practice with Rajashree’s Pregnancy Yoga Series only if you have been a regular Bikram Yoga Practitioner for more than a year.
The Bikram Yoga Website also says that you should:
- Avoid any new form of exercise while pregnant
- Follow your doctor’s advice and
- Practice the Rajashree’s Pregnancy Yoga Series, after the 1st Trimester (so, not during your first 12 weeks!)
I’m Not A Bikram Yoga Expert – I Still Stand In The Back Row
I have been practicing Bikram yoga for about 3 years now but I am certainly not an expert. I go through phases of practicing almost every day and then I get off track and forget to practice for months. I’ve tried the 30 day Bikram yoga challenge (a few times) but the consistency of my practice has always been interrupted by work and other busy life stuff.
Although I have been practicing for ages, I still struggle like a beginner sometimes. I still stand in the back row and I am still working on my wobbly balance for the standing head to knee pose. The reason why I am sharing this is because I don’t want readers to think that you need to be a yoga guru before practicing Bikram while pregnant. You don’t. However you do need to understand the postures correctly. You need to be comfortable in the hot room and you need to do lots of classes to learn the series well enough before adapting it.
I am not an expert. Bikram yoga is the hardest form of exercise that I have ever done in my life, yet I truly believe that I get enormous amounts of benefit every time I practice and I know in my heart that it is the right thing for me to do while I am pregnant.
My GP Said No To Bikram Yoga
As soon as I found out that I was pregnant, I asked my GP about practicing Bikram yoga. It was one of my very first questions along with which hospital to go to and what foods I should/should not be eating.
My doctor said “NO!” to Bikram yoga. In fact she was completely against the idea and she told me in a very stern voice not to do it. I felt very upset and highly discouraged after that conversation yet the idea didn’t leave my mind.
Practicing Yoga In A Hot Room Is Not Safe For The Baby – According to my OB
I then asked my obstetrician about practicing Bikram yoga. I thought that getting a second opinion would be beneficial and it might help me to feel better about the situation. To my surprise (I’m not sure why i was surprised) my OB also said no. She said that practicing normal yoga was absolutely fine but doing it in a hot room was not safe for the baby and I should make my own “grown up” decision about the risks involved.
My Mother’s Group Also Said No
I told my online mother’s group about my situation. I love my mother’s group – everyone is very supportive and I trust the advice that is shared. We help each other in all the decisions that we need to make about our babies and I was secretly hoping that I might find another mother who was also willing to practice Bikram while pregnant to give me some encouragement. However, everyone in my mother’s group was also against the idea.
My husband sided with the doctors of course and told me that I should do what is best for the baby. Neither of us wanted to take any risks whatsoever and I certainly did not want to put our baby in any type of unnecessary danger.
So Many Opinions and Yet I’m Still Not Happy
Even though I received two professional opinions, as well as advice from my mother’s group, I still felt like I needed to do it. My rational for the decision was this: None of the people that I asked have ever practiced Bikram yoga themselves. They don’t know what it is really about. They have a misconception that it is just intense exercise in a hot room and that I might cook the baby.
I Felt Disappointed
I felt very disappointed about not being ‘allowed’ to practice Bikram yoga. Bikram yoga is something that I have always wanted to do during my pregnancy. When I practice Bikram, I feel amazing. It’s not about sweating or loosing weight or any type of fitness stuff… Bikram helps me to connect my mind and my body. It gives me a heightened level of self awareness and I feel healthier and more focused after ever class. I believe that practicing Bikram yoga will be healthy for my baby. I believe that it will help me to feel a stronger connection with my baby and I believe that it will prepare me for the birth.
I’ve watched my yoga teacher (the studio owner) do the classes while she was pregnant and I have also watched other women practice in the class over the years. If they could do it, why couldn’t I do it?
I decided that more research needed to be done before I made my decision.
In the Media: Channel 7 Sunrise
My yoga teacher was on Channel 7 Sunrise promoting Bikram Yoga along with a few other beautiful pregnant women. Watch the clip to see what they say:
Why is the Heat so bad?
The biggest concern about Bikram yoga is the heat. The room is set to 40 degrees. If a pregnant woman has a high temperature then she could cause harm to the baby.
My opinion: Whilst it is very hot in a Bikram yoga room, our bodies have a natural way to cool the body down. That is why we sweat. Sweating is a cooling system for the body. As long as you have experience from being in the hot room then the room temperature should not affect your body temperature.
In my very first Bikram Class, while pregnant, I took my temperature before I went in to the room. It was 36.4. I then took my temperature again right after one of the most intense postures of the series, triangle pose and my temperature was 36.5. My temperature only raised by 0.1 degrees. I then took my temperature again at the end of the class during savasana and my temperature was 37 degrees – all temperatures were within the safe zone.
Will The Postures Hurt The Baby?
All compression postures have been taken out of the Rajashree’s Bikram Yoga Series. While everyone else is doing the compression postures, you get time to rest. These postures include:
- Standing head to knee post
- Standing separate leg head to knee pose
- Bow pose and
- Rabbit pose
- The sit up – you never do the sit up!
What is different about the Rajashree Pregnancy Series?
Some of the floor postures have been adjusted in to different poses, specifically for the Rajashree Pregnancy Series. These include:
- Wind removing pose
- Cobra Pose
- Locust Pose
- Full Locust Pose
Some poses have slight standing or sitting adjustments. These include:
- Separating your legs in all of the standing poses
- Separating your legs in hands to feet pose
- Separating your legs in wind removing pose
- Separating your legs in half tortoise pose
- Separating your legs in stretching pose (after head to knee pose)
- Extending your leg in spine twisting pose
How Can You Practice Bikram Yoga Safely?
- Tell the teacher that you are pregnant
- Learn about all of the adjusted postures before you do your first class
- Read Rajasharees Pregnancy Yoga Book
- Do a private lesson with your yoga teacher before you join a full class
- Sit next to the door/window to ensure that you get a cool breeze coming through during rest periods
- Take a thermometer in to class and check your temperature whenever you feel the need to
- Take lots of water in to class and be sure to hydrate before, during and after class
- Leave the room whenever you need to
- Use flip charts with pictures to remind you of each posture as you move through the series
- Take some food along with you and eat straight after class
Do you think Bikram yoga is safe for pregnant woman? I’d love to hear your opinion. Please leave a comment or send me a tweet.
Photo Credit – Reshni Ratnam from The Courier Mail
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