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Yoga And Pregnancy: A Safe, Effective Fitness Option For Moms-To-Be

This article is authored in part by Salena Quinlan Shults, Owner/Instructor, Yoga on Main.

Some things just go together, like peanutbutter and jelly or Sonny and Cher. For us, yoga and pregnancy belong in thatlist as well. Yoga has been shown to help improve heart health, reduce depression symptoms, and relieve chronic pain, among many otherbenefits.

In recent years, we’ve seen a large increasein the popularity of yoga. The 2016 Yoga in America Study found that 36.7 million Americans practice yoga, up from20.4 million in 2012. Of those practitioners, 72 percent are female.

Many pregnant women do yoga throughout theirentire pregnancies, just as both of us did. Some women might wonder if it’ssafe for them and their developing babies to practice to full term, and otherswho want to start practicing might be nervous about it. 

Expectant moms often ask us when they have tostop doing yoga, and the answer is: You don’t! We highly recommend yoga for most pregnant women, both from our personaland professional experiences. Yoga has several benefits that are specific topregnancy and recovery. Below, we outline how it helps, suggest poses to try,and offer tips for finding the perfect instructor.

A healthier, happier pregnancythrough yoga

Yoga is a great way to relieve pain. Women whopractice yoga while pregnant can experience reductions in:

  • Back pain
  • Leg pain
  • Preeclampsia risk, or high blood pressureduring pregnancy
  • Laborpain, potentially due to improved core strength

Unlike other forms of prenatal exercise, whichfocus on physical effects, yoga also has been shown to have many psychologicalbenefits for moms-to-be, such as lowering levels of anxiety and depression, which can help youhave a happier, more balanced pregnancy. While we don’t recommend complicatedposes in the delivery room, the breathing and relaxation techniques can help relieve pain during labor. 

After baby comes home from the hospital, yogahas been shown to reduce the effects of postpartum depression, aserious concern for many women. On the physical side, yoga can help withre-establishing core strength, which can minimize the risks of pelvic floordisorders related to childbirth.

These benefits can help you manage thestresses of work, life, and family concerns during and after your pregnancy. Socarve out an hour to focus on yourself and the new life you’re creating – itcan do so much good for you and your baby!

Safety tips for prenatal yoga

Some women are concerned about certain poses potentiallywrapping their babies up in the umbilical cord or making them uncomfortable inthe uterus, but that’s not the case. A study that appeared in Obstetrics & Gynecology monitoredfetuses and women between 35 and 38weeks of pregnancy as they performed 26 different yoga poses. The study found:

  • No changes in the babies’ heartrate
  • No changes in fetal movement
  • No changes in the women’s heartrate, temperature, or oxygen levels in the blood
  • No contractions, fluid leakage, orvaginal bleeding

The one form of yoga we recommend avoidingduring pregnancy is hot yoga, which is when yoga poses are performed in aheated studio. The effects of hot yoga haven’t been well studied in pregnantwomen, but research has shown that too much heat very early in pregnancy might increasethe risk of neural tube defects, a birth defect thatinvolves a malformation of the spine or skull. Later in pregnancy, bloodvessels dilate to get rid of excess heat, causing blood pressure to fall.

Most other forms of yoga are safe throughoutpregnancy, though you might need to modify your workout to accommodate yourgrowing belly and altered center of gravity. Talk to your nurse or doctor tolet them know you plan to do yoga during your pregnancy. It’s usually noproblem, especially if you’ve been doing yoga before you got pregnant. However,there are some conditions that might warrant further precaution, such as:

  • A smaller-than-normal baby, alsoknown as intrauterine growth restriction
  • High risk of preterm labor
  • Pregnancy with twins, triplets, orother multiples

Strike the right yoga pose

Many yoga practitioners advise pregnant womento avoid deep twist or inversion (upside-down) poses, which put the head belowthe heart. There aren’t many studies that support these precautions, but themost important thing is to be careful and listen to your own body. Don’t doanything that feels wrong or painful. 

These are some of our favorite poses that canease pregnancy symptoms or help you build strength:

  • Cat to cow: This back-arching technique is greatfor relieving back pain.
  • Garland: This deep squat is thought to helpturn a breech baby to the proper head-down position.
  • Happy baby: Aptly named for pregnant yogapractitioners, this pose can help release tense lower back muscles. This is aninversion pose, so check with your doctor and yoga instructor before trying it.
  • Legs up the wall: This inversion pose can help reduceswelling in your feet and ankles. Check with your doctor and instructor first.
  • Planks: These help build abdominal strength,which is key for labor and recovery. Planks can be tougher to perform as yourpregnancy progresses, so don’t overexert yourself.
  • Warriors: These standing poses are some of themost commonly practiced to help build overall strength. You also can do doubleduty by performing Kegel exercises at the same time, which aid indelivery and recovery after childbirth.

How to find the right yoga class andinstructor

Though most forms of yoga are safe forexpecting moms, we recommend looking specifically for a prenatal yoga class,especially if you’ve never done yoga before. Prenatal yoga classes are tailoredspecifically for pregnant women. If you want to start yoga during yourpregnancy but no prenatal yoga classes are available, start with a gentle yogaclass for beginners. 

Once you’ve found the class you want, call thestudio and ask to speak with the owner or instructor. Let them know you’repregnant, and ask about the experience and knowledge of the instructor who willbe teaching your class. Though it’s not mandatory that all yoga teachers becertified, YogaAlliance maintains a database of certified, registered yogainstructors that offer prenatal yoga. These instructors are required to meet educational standards inteaching methodology, human anatomy and physiology, and practical trainings.

Namaste!

How to find the right yoga class and instructor

Though most forms of yoga are safe for expecting moms, we recommend looking specifically for a prenatal yoga class, especially if you’ve never done yoga before. Prenatal yoga classes are tailored specifically for pregnant women. If you want to start yoga during your pregnancy but no prenatal yoga classes are available, start with a gentle yoga class for beginners. 

Once you’ve found the class you want, call the studio and ask to speak with the owner or instructor. Let them know you’re pregnant, and ask about the experience and knowledge of the instructor who will be teaching your class. Though it’s not mandatory that all yoga teachers be certified, Yoga Alliance maintains a database of certified, registered yoga instructors that offer prenatal yoga. These instructors are required to meet educational standards in teaching methodology, human anatomy and physiology, and practical trainings.

Namaste!

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