Bikram hot yoga, the strenuous, 26-posture series introduced to the U.S. by Bikram Choudhury, requires yogis to practice in a room heated to about 105 degrees. Pregnant women can and do perform Bikram yoga right up to their delivery dates using posture modifications. How quickly you return to or begin Bikram yoga class after giving birth is something to discuss with your doctor, but several factors might influence your decision.
"If your delivery was healthy and normal, start your yoga the moment you are out of bed," advises Choudhury in his book "Bikram's Beginning Yoga Class." "Do all the exercises from the third day, no problem." The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, ACOG, offers no firm guidelines on when to return to exercise other than to consult with your doctor, "start when you feel up to it" and to treat yourself gently in the beginning -- especially if you're new to the practice. Experienced Bikram yogis who practiced during pregnancy might be able to return relatively quickly.
Some doctors advise new mothers to avoid practicing postures that place the hips above the head until lochia -- the lightly bloody discharge that occurs after birth as the uterus heals itself -- has stopped, notes Bikram Yoga of Vancouver. This is to avoid triggering pulmonary embolism, which although quite rare, is most common in the first four weeks after birth in women who have had abdominal surgery, according to a study published in "Journal of Thrombosis and Haemostasis." Four postures in the Bikram series require such positioning: Hands to Feet Pose, Standing Separate Leg Stretching Pose, Standing Separate Leg Head to Knee Pose and Rabbit. Your Bikram instructor can suggest modifications if appropriate in your circumstance.
Bikram After Surgery
If you had a cesarean section, episiotomy or other surgical intervention during your delivery, you may need to wait considerably longer -- until any incisions are fully healed -- before returning to practice. It's critical to get your doctor's approval for exercise after a cesarean delivery; complete healing can take three to six months, although you might be allowed to begin earlier. When you do get the OK to return, Choudhury advises that you "confine yourself to the minimum stretch" and work up to full stretching gradually. You also could choose to perform the posture modifications for pregnancy if you find them more comfortable.
If you're breastfeeding, nurse your baby just before class to discourage leakage -- although one advantage of practicing hot yoga is that abundant sweat can disguise any leakage that does happen. ACOG advises wearing a bra or yoga top that provides plenty of support, since your breasts will likely be larger and heavier than normal. To disguise bulky sanitary pads if you're still using them for postpartum bleeding, try wearing a pair of close-fitting yoga shorts with a second, looser pair over them.