I started prenatal yoga during my second trimester to help support a healthy mind and body, bond with my baby girl, and heighten overall wellness. Yoga is relaxing, spiritual, and it has also helped me adjust to all stages of my baby body.
Prenatal yoga modifies standard yoga poses to help increase strength and flexibility, emotional stability, and encourage proper breathing techniques and relaxation. Pregnancy can cause a significant amount of physical stress on women’s bodies which is why prenatal yoga has become a common practice for expecting women.
The safest way to begin prenatal yoga is to take a yoga class designed specifically for pregnant women. It is important to look for classes taught by a certified prenatal yoga instructor, as they are knowledgeable about the specific poses to avoid and which ones to focus on. There are many benefits to yoga, but it is important to remember that not all yoga is safe for pregnant women. Avoid Bikram yoga, and other forms of hot yoga, at all costs because it can cause your body to overheat (hyperthermia) which can lead to premature labor. Several sources say to limit yoga sessions to 30 minutes, and you must also listen to your body and never push yourself too far. Also, avoid poses where you lie flat on your back or have to stretch your abdomen. Lying flat on your back can put pressure on your inferior vena cava, a large vein that is part of the circulatory system. This would result in decreased blood flow back to the heart, therefore decreasing cardiac output to the lungs which is where blood cells pick up oxygen. If you are at risk of premature labor, it is not recommended you practice prenatal yoga.
I’ve practiced so much yoga that at this stage in pregnancy, I’ve developed a routine of my own to work through at home. I can’t do every pose I used to do, and that’s OK. I do what feels good to my body, and I urge you to do the same.
Check out the 7 major benefits of pregnancy yoga below, and consult your doctor before starting a prenatal yoga class, DVD or YouTube video, or at-home practice.
1.) Relief From Common Pregnancy Discomfort
Since our bodies continually experience a faster rate of change during pregnancy, it is important to develop strength and stamina. We need to be able to carry the extra weight, and handle all the forms of stress our growing baby-belly puts on us. Common pregnancy discomfort includes lower back pain due to a curve created by our growing bellies, nausea, insomnia, headaches, shortness of breath, and tension in the upper back, neck, shoulders, and chest areas.
Yoga poses strengthen our hips, back, arms and shoulders. We may feel pressure on our pelvis as our hips get tighter due to the gradual increase of the baby’s weight. As our breasts increase in size, our upper back and chest have more tension, along with our neck and shoulders. Yoga also helps reduce mental and emotional strain when the physical poses are combined with meditation practices.
While yoga doesn’t relieve all symptoms completely, it can bring significant relief and make pregnancy ailments easier to live with.
2.) Healthier Baby
Women who are healthy during pregnancy often have healthy, full-term babies. As we elongate our muscles and encourage relief of our aching joints, our blood circulation escalates, inflammation and hypertension may decrease, our immune systems function properly, and our stress levels become more manageable. As a result, we create a healthy environment for our flourishing baby and improve fetal development. I always remind myself that the baby feels everything that I do. If you remind yourself of this, you will take more steps to make sure you are in optimal health.
3.) Balance and Relaxation
Pregnancy is an emotional roller coaster! As our weight, baby’s size, and progesterone and estrogen levels increase, our balance adversely decreases. During yoga, we try to focus on holding our poses and steadying our breathing so that we find our balance again. Through mindful meditation and deep breathing, our minds and bodies relax. As a result, we are in a better mood, sleep easier, and our bodies feel more relieved. If mom is at peace then most likely baby is at peace, and that’s a win-win situation.
4). Labor Preparation
Prenatal yoga better prepares you for the birthing process in more ways than one. A key thing to practice during yoga is mindful breathwork. As you deeply inhale, acknowledge how your body is working to circulate your blood, and nourish your organs and tissues with oxygen. Take note of the stress you feel, and as you exhale, let it go. This will serve as great practice for breathing during labor contractions.
Prenatal yoga also strengthens the hips, pelvis, and abdominal muscles in preparation for labor and delivery. It provides the perfect balance of strength and stretch to your muscles. When you have this type of balance, you can relax and fully trust that your body, which was made for birth, will do what it’s supposed to do. This is crucial if your goal is to have a natural birth without an epidural or other pain-suppressing medications.
I imagine that, although the pain and pressure felt during labor exceeds that of what is felt during pregnancy, mindful breathing and muscle tone will help keep you and baby calm, your blood pressure leveled, and your mind focused on bringing new life into the world.
5.) Connect with Baby
The time spent practicing yoga can be considered bonding time for you and baby. Every pose and every breath should be meaningful. Imagine your baby reaping the benefits of such a spiritual practice. The palms of your hands are a great source of energy so take advantage of the poses that call for your palms to be placed near your baby bump. Simultaneously send love, high vibrations, and kind thoughts to baby.
6.) Self-Nurturing Time
A little pamper-me-time has never hurt anyone. Before, and even after birth, nurture yourself the way you will nurture baby. Slow down or take a step back to focus on yourself. Self-awareness is pivotal so plant seeds of good intentions, relax, and breathe in positivity.
7.) Sense of Sisterhood
If you enroll in a prenatal yoga class, you will be in the company of other mothers-to-be who may be looking for a sense of community, just as you are. It can be very reassuring when you’re surrounded by women who understand what it means and how it feels to be pregnant. You could potentially build relationships that last a lifetime.