Addressing Joint Instability in Pregnancy

Qu: I've practiced yoga (vinyasa flow style) for more than 10 years and currently in my second pregnancy. My lower back and hips hurt so much after my flow class and it's hard to walk.  I had no problems in my first pregnancy at all. Any advice?

A: Congratulations on your second pregnancy. As you can imagine, not all pregnancy is created equal. Nine months of carrying a baby changes everything inside you and frankly the body is never the same afterwards. The systems that hold the body together shift and lose stability, more so second time around. 

If you have been continuing your regular flow classes as usual, you are placing added strain on the spine and pelvis. You are most likely experiencing the pain associated with joint instability. It's because the focus has been on flexibility alone. When your muscles are overstretched or the stretch happens in the ligaments, it cannot support the joints well. Misalignment occurs and any movement can then aggravate cartilage or nerves.

Many seasoned yogis who become pregnant have an intense determination to maintain their level of practice throughout their pregnancy. It's not always beneficial. Go easy on your body now and avoid further injury. Second pregnancies require additional care. 

If your are experiencing sciatic pain, focus on a gentle stretch and strengthening of the gluteus medium and the piriformis. If the discomfort is in your lower back, then focus on maintaining a neutral spine in most of your body's movements and relax the psoas muscle. Focus on Kegel exercises and belly breaths to connect to your core muscles as well.

Specialised prenatal yoga classes or workshops can educate you on the subtle shifts that happen inside the body, showing you which muscles become tight (hypertonic) and which become weak (hypotonic). A qualified prenatal teacher can introduce you to yoga movements that address the imbalances. The practice may be slower, but your body will thank you for it.