Yoga for Pregnant Women
Yoga is one of the most ancient forms of exercise and provides countless benefits for physical, mental, and spiritual health and wellbeing.
As long as your health allows it, practicing yoga while pregnant can be a wonderful addition to your self-care routine, and provide an ideal low-impact workout during each trimester of your pregnancy.
Here’s everything you need to know about yoga for pregnant women, it’s perks and benefits, and how to make sure it’s a safe option for you.
The Benefits of Yoga During Pregnancy
Pregnant or not, yoga is an excellent way to de-stress and unwind. It's focused on the mind-body connection and helps you to cultivate a practice of deep breathing and focus.
Yoga’s roots are in ancient India and it’s since been practiced by people around the world for thousands of years as a form of exercise for the physical body, but also as a powerful practice for reducing stress and anxiety. For all these reasons, it’s extremely beneficial for those living busy, hectic lives with little time to slow down.
When pregnant, yoga can provide an ideal lower-impact option that still burns calories without adding unnecessary strain to the body. Practicing yoga while pregnant can be great for reducing stress, improving sleep, and strengthening muscles used during childbirth while also reducing pain such as lower back tightness.
Pregnancy can make you feel as though your body is not your own, since it’s changing almost daily. Yoga encourages a mind-body connection and helps to promote self-love, so it can help you accept the changes your body is going through and be more appreciative and mindful of the physical changes you're going through.
Before beginning any new fitness routine that could tax your body, it’s important to run it by your healthcare provider. This becomes even more important while pregnant, so be sure to get your doctor’s approval before beginning or continuing any existing yoga routines while pregnant.
With your doctor’s approval, a great first step is to find specific pre-natal yoga classes. These are often taught in person or available as online classes. Pre-natal yoga classes will introduce you to poses specifically for pregnancy, like stretches for reducing back pain and poses to strengthen muscles used in childbirth. Plus, it will introduce you to other expecting mothers who share a similar interest.
Finding a pre-natal yoga class is especially beneficial if you’re a first time or budding yogi without much prior experience. For those established yogis with a regular yoga practice, you can generally continue to practice yoga as usual unless instructed not to by your doctor. You should be careful not to push yourself, though, while you are pregnant. Always be sure to check with your healthcare provider to ensure your activities while pregnant are safe.
How to Safely Practice Yoga for Pregnant Women
Yoga can be extremely beneficial for expecting mothers, but that doesn’t mean you should go into a yoga practice without taking certain precautions.
What’s off limits for pregnancy yoga? Avoid any movements that are too intense or that include twisting, curving of the back, backward ends, or anything that puts stress on the abdomen. You should also avoid lying on your back or belly, especially as you enter the third trimester.
Depending on the trimester you’re in, you may need to alter the intensity of your practice to be more gentle to make sure you’re not overly taxing yourself. While you may feel energetic and think you can push yourself, especially early on in your pregnancy, take care not to overdo it as this could lead to injury or strained muscles. If you’re unsure if a pose is safe to do while pregnant, adopt the “better safe than sorry” attitude and skip it until you can ask your teacher or doctor for the go-ahead.
While yoga can be fairly intense depending on the style of practice, opt for restorative, stretching movements and stay away from anything that gets you out of breath, or makes you feel like you can’t maintain a conversation: this is an indication that you’re pushing yourself too hard and should scale back.
It’s also important to stay cool during your practice so forms of yoga like hot yoga or even classes held in studios with no air conditioning that get overly hot or humid should be avoided.
Even while practicing low-impact yoga, be sure to stay well hydrated, take breaks as needed, modify anything that feels too strenuous, and listen to your body at all times.
With the proper precautions and a few basic safety measures, yoga for pregnant women can be a beautiful and healthy experience.