Prepare your body and mind for labour and delivery with prenatal yoga. Practice loving compassion for yourself and baby. Prenatal yoga is one of the best things that you can do for yourself, as well as your growing baby.
If you’re pregnant and looking for ways to relax or stay fit, you might be considering prenatal yoga. But did you know that prenatal yoga might also help you prepare for labour and promote your baby’s health? Before you start prenatal yoga, understand the range of possible benefits, as well as what a typical class entails and important safety tips.
What are the benefits of prenatal yoga?
Much like other types of childbirth-preparation classes, prenatal yoga is a multifaceted approach to exercise that encourages stretching, mental centering and focused breathing. Research suggests that prenatal yoga is safe and can have many benefits for pregnant women and their babies.
Some of the benefits of practicing yoga during pregnancy include:
1. Increase the strength, flexibility and endurance of muscles needed for childbirth
As baby grows within our body, more energy and strength is needed to be able to carry the weight. Yoga poses strengthen our hips, back, arms and shoulders.
Our balance is challenged physically as the fetus grows within our body. Emotionally we are drained due to the increases in progesterone and estrogen. As we try to focus on holding and breathing through each yoga pose, we are able to fine tune our balance, physically and emotionally.
3. Relieves tension of lower back, hips, chest, upper back, neck and shoulders
As baby grows, more stress is put upon these specific muscle groups in our bodies. We tend to have more of a lordotic/lower back curve due to the increased size of our bellies. Our hips get tighter due to the added pressure of baby’s weight in our bellies. As our breasts increase in size, our upper back and chest have more tension, along with our neck and shoulders. Prenatal yoga can decrease lower back pain, nausea, carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms, headaches and shortness of breath
4. Calms the nervous system and reduces stress and anxiety
Through deep breathing, the nervous system goes into parasympathetic mode, which is responsible for relaxation. When our bodies are in that mode, our digestions operate properly, we tend to sleep better, and our immune system is at its optimal.
5. Preparation for Labour
You are working with conscious breathing during each yoga pose, which may sometimes be challenging. This transfers into the time of labor, allowing one to practice being “comfortable with the uncomfortable” through our breathwork. As you inhale, you acknowledge the tension that is felt. As you deeply exhale, you let go of it more and more with each breath.
6. Connection with baby
A prenatal yoga practice allows us to slow down and focus attention on what is going on within our bodies. Through working with our breath and doing each pose, you become more aware of what is going on within.
7. Increases circulation
Circulation is enhanced within our joints and our muscles are elongated during practice. Upon circulation of the blood within our bodies, swelling is decreased and our immunity is enhanced, creating a healthy environment for a thriving baby.
8. Breathwork practice
This is a good tool for labor during contractions. If we are consciously breathing, our blood pressure and heart rate is regulated keeping us in parasympathetic/relaxation mode. Calm mama equals calm baby.
9. Sense of community/sisterhood
Prenatal yoga can also help you meet and bond with other pregnant women and prepare for the stress of being a new parent. It can be very comforting to be with a group of women who understand what we are going through.
10. Nurturing time
This time allows us to stop and slow down from our busy days. Through the practice of yoga, you are setting intention in taking care of not only yourself, but of baby.
What happens during a typical prenatal yoga class? A typical prenatal yoga class might involve:
Breathing. You’ll be encouraged to focus on breathing in and out slowly and deeply through the nose. Prenatal yoga breathing techniques might help you reduce or manage shortness of breath during pregnancy and work through contractions during labor.
Gentle stretching. You’ll be encouraged to gently move different areas of your body, such as your neck and arms, through their full range of motion.
Postures. While standing, sitting or lying on the ground, you’ll gently move your body into different positions aimed at developing your strength, flexibility and balance. Props — such as blankets, cushions and belts — might be used to provide support and comfort.
Cool down and relaxation. At the end of each prenatal yoga class, you’ll relax your muscles and restore your resting heart rate and breathing rhythm. You might be encouraged to listen to your own breathing, pay close attention to sensations, thoughts and emotions, or repeat a mantra or word to bring about a state of self-awareness and inner calm.
Are there styles of yoga that aren’t recommended for pregnant women?
There are many different styles of yoga — some more strenuous than others. Prenatal yoga, hatha yoga and restorative yoga are the best choices for pregnant women. Talk to the instructor about your pregnancy before starting any other yoga class.
Be careful to avoid Bikram yoga, commonly called hot yoga, which involves doing vigorous poses in a room heated to 100 to 110 F (38 to 43 C). Bikram yoga can raise your body temperature too much, causing a condition known as hyperthermia. In addition, ashtanga and other types of power yoga might be too strenuous for women who aren’t experienced yoga practitioners.
Are there special safety guidelines for prenatal yoga?
To protect your health and your baby’s health during prenatal yoga, follow basic safety guidelines. For example:
Talk to your health care provider. Before you begin a prenatal yoga program, make sure you have your health care provider’s OK. You might not be able to do prenatal yoga if you are at increased risk of preterm labor or have certain medical conditions, such as heart disease or back problems.
Set realistic goals. For most pregnant women, at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity is recommended on most, if not all, days of the week. However, even shorter or less frequent workouts can still help you stay in shape and prepare for labor.
Pace yourself. If you can’t speak normally while you’re doing prenatal yoga, you’re probably pushing yourself too hard.
Stay cool and hydrated. Practice prenatal yoga in a well-ventilated room to avoid overheating. Drink plenty of fluids to keep yourself hydrated.
Avoid certain postures. When doing poses, bend from your hips — not your back — to maintain normal spine curvature. Avoid lying on your belly or back, doing deep forward or backward bends, or doing twisting poses that put pressure on your abdomen. You can modify twisting poses so that you only move your upper back, shoulders and rib cage.
Avoid inverted poses, which involve extending your legs above your heart or head, unless you’re an experienced yoga practitioner. As your pregnancy progresses, use props during postures to accommodate changes in your center of gravity. If you wonder whether a pose is safe, ask your instructor for guidance.
Don’t overdo it. Pay attention to your body and how you feel. Start slow and avoid positions that are beyond your level of experience or comfort. Stretch only as far as you would have before pregnancy.
If you experience any pain or other red flags — such as vaginal bleeding, decreased fetal movement or contractions — during prenatal yoga, stop and contact your health care provider.
How do I choose a prenatal yoga class?
Look for a program taught by an instructor who has training in prenatal yoga. Consider observing a class ahead of time to make sure you’re comfortable with the activities involved, the instructor’s style, the class size and the environment. The Yoga Space run pregnancy yoga classes for ladies in their 2nd and third trimester. This class is designed specifically for your pregnancy and is suitable for beginners. Krissy is a mum of 3 and has been teaching Pregnancy and postnatal Yoga for over 13 years. This class will nurture and support you throughout your pregnancy.