(Cover photo: Yoga instructor Jaime Cryan showcasing the crescent pose. Credit: Tracy Green)
By Tracy Green
As more and more women adopt healthy lifestyles and engage in intense exercise, pregnancy can throw a well-established workout plan out the window. Staying fit and healthy is important to pregnancy, and while every woman and every pregnancy is different, exercise is certainly still possible throughout all three trimesters.
Jaime Cryan, a four-time Ironman finisher, 24-time marathon finisher, and certified yoga instructor, is still teaching Power Yoga weekly at eight months pregnant. She and husband Brendan expect their first child Feb. 22. (We also highlighted Jaime in our “FIT6”. Here’s the link)
Her two keys to a fit pregnancy: “Engage in activity every day — if approved by your care provider — and make it something you enjoy,” she said. “And eat when you’re hungry. Stop eating when you’re full.”
The exercise has to make mama and baby both happy. Cryan said if it isn’t comfortable, don’t do it. Quality instructors will know how to modify exercises to accommodate pregnant and post-natal women.
While Cryan’s current level of activity is still impressive, it’s much different than what she was doing before. She was a three-sport athlete in high school who went on to play Division II tennis as both an undergraduate at Kentucky Wesleyan and a graduate student at Bellarmine University. After graduating in 2008, she ran her first marathon in 2009.
“Intense exercise has been the name of the game since I started competitive sports at a young age,” said Cryan. “After years of competition and pushing my body to the max, pregnancy came as a welcomed break!”
The hardest part to staying fit, she said, are the time and physical constraints.
“In preparing for our new addition, my to-do list has doubled and the thoughts in my mind have tripled. Some days it’s difficult to step away from work, errands, the nursery and Babies-R-Us… but I always feel better when I do!”
And then, of course, there are changes to the body.
“It’s a beautiful and amazing process!” Cryan said. “It has required me to become more in-tune and compassionate with my body as well as more creative in the exercises and activities I choose.”
Finding a balance between staying fit but safe is a challenge, and women should discuss it with their care provider. For Cryan, a miscarriage in her first pregnancy led her to modify her routine and decrease intensity during this pregnancy.
A year ago, Cryan was going out for 14-mile runs. “Now it’s four-mile walks,” she laughed. She also replaced jumping lunges with static lunges (using five-pound weights), took the Stair Climber down from a level 12 to a level 4, and completes her yoga sun salutations with bent knees instead of straight legs. Cryan began practicing yoga in 2009 and decided to advance her practice and deepen her knowledge by becoming an instructor in 2012.
“I continue to be humbled by the challenges of my practice and teaching. Yoga has taken me to places I never imagined and introduced me to some of the most amazing people!”
Her yoga practice is inspired by a healthy body and stable mind.
“Just like everything else in this life, you get what you give,” she said. “Investing in yourself, through body and mind, is one of the best things one can do.”
Cryan’s teaching style emphasizes an athletic-style of yoga that flows from pose to pose. Her goal is to challenge her students while still being able to smile.
“I want them to feel stretched out while strengthened. I want them to sweat while being completely in control of the breath.”
But, she said, she tries not to take herself or her yoga practice too seriously. “That can be tough for a Type-A personality!”
Every yoga practice is unique to the beholder, and practitioners have to be compassionate with their bodies. And while Cryan’s style includes a lot of strength and connected movements, the mind-body connection is still emphasized.
“Distractions on your mat prepare you for distractions off your mat — life’s distractions,” she said.
All yogis have a favorite pose or two, and ones that they’re working to achieve. Cryan said wheel, which is a backbend, is her favorite, allowing for everything from strengthening to stretching to energizing. Meanwhile, she has paused her pursuit of one pose.
“My pregnant belly is in the way of my Birds of Paradise, but it’s well worth it. After the baby, I look forward to my journey back to the posture.”
Jaime’s three recommended yoga poses for pregnant women (and everyone else, too):
Pose: Crescent Lunge/Low Crescent
Why: Strength building, hip opening, mind diverter! Important postures to assure you keep some balance while your center of gravity is shifting during pregnancy.
Pose: Horse and Goddess Squat
Why: A great laboring position to practice while opening and strengthening. “These are important postures to build stamina for a strong you and strong baby.”
Why: Core strengthening, power-building and energizing. “Hello, labor and delivery muscles!” Cryan said. “These postures aid in an easy labor and postpartum recovery, but easy is a relative term.”