There's no denying that pregnancy is one of the most beautiful aspects of being a woman, but it can also come with a number of not-so-wonderful symptoms.
From headaches, swollen ankles, and stomach cramps to painful pelvic discomfort, growing a tiny human is hard work — and it can take a major toll on your body. Fortunately, practicing yoga during pregnancy just might be able to help.
Interested in learning more? 8 Sheep Organics has your back! Read on to discover everything you need to know about yoga for pregnant women.
First Things First, What Is Prenatal Yoga?
Simply put, prenatal yoga is a yoga practice specifically designed for — you guessed it — pregnant women.
Like regular yoga, prenatal yoga is considered a mind-body practice that incorporates breathing techniques (pranayama) and physical poses (asanas) with meditative practices designed to help keep stress in check, calm the nervous system, and strengthen the body — from head to toe.
How Is Prenatal Yoga Different From Regular Yoga?
The biggest difference between prenatal yoga classes and regular yoga classes is simply that everyone in the class is a pregnant mama! This creates an experience that is tailored more specifically to address the lower back aches, pains, and discomforts of pregnancy (pelvic pain, anyone?).
Additionally, many yoga positions that directly compress the belly are not safe for pregnant ladies, so prenatal yoga tends to steer clear of any poses that could potentially put you or your growing baby at risk.
Some of the positions that you won't find in a prenatal yoga class include:
- Poses in which you lie flat on your back without support
- Deep backbends, twists, or binds that compress the abdominal area
- Postures and actions that contract the abdominal muscles
- Holding poses for longer than ten breaths
- Deep forward bends or hip openers
- Belly down or prone poses
- Forward folds with feet together
- Pretzel poses
Some of the positions that you may find in a prenatal yoga class include:
- Downward facing dog pose
- Standing side stretch
- Wide knee child's pose
- Balancing table pose
- Goddess pose
- Bound angle pose (Baddha Konasana)
- Cat-cow pose (Marjaryasana Bitilasana)
- Yoga squat (Malasana)
What Do the Experts Say?
Believe it or not, this form of exercise is so beneficial that the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) encourages all pregnant women with uncomplicated pregnancies to do 30 minutes or more of moderate exercise per day.
Experts also say that prenatal yoga is one of the safest forms of exercise an expecting mama can do to stay healthy during every stage of pregnancy.
Before joining a class, be sure to get the go-ahead from your OB/GYN or midwife. Prenatal yoga may not be a good choice if you're at increased risk of pre-term labor or have certain medical conditions, such as high blood pressure and diastasis recti (ab muscle separation).
Yoga is also not recommended for those with a history of miscarriage — this is especially true in the first trimester, which is when nearly 80 percent of miscarriages may occur.
Although there are many incredible benefits of yoga, it's always best to be on the safe side and move forward with caution.
Speaking of benefits…
What Are the Benefits of Prenatal Yoga?
Classes may vary depending on the yoga teacher, but more often than not, you can expect to do some deep breathing exercises, gentle stretching, and modified yoga poses before cooling down and finishing the session with a few relaxation techniques.
Much like other types of maternity-preparation classes, prenatal yoga is a multifaceted approach to exercise that encourages focused breathing, mental centering, and light stretching.
With that in mind, some of the top benefits of prenatal yoga include:
- Improved cardiovascular health
- Increased flexibility and circulation
- Improved respiration
- Decreased discomfort
- Increased energy and vitality
- Protection from injury
- Improved core strength
- Improved sleep
- Reduced risk of overheating
- Improved overall wellness
Yoga helps the body stretch, relax, and focus on breathing. Those with a bun in the oven often gain many incredible advantages from yoga because it can help them reconnect with their body and embrace their journey.
Your body changes quite drastically from the first trimester to the third trimester — and prenatal yoga classes can help support you through every step of the way.
But that's not all; prenatal yoga classes can also help you meet and bond with other moms-to-be and prepare you for the ups and downs of parenthood. Think of it as one big support group for like-minded mamas where pregnant women can connect with other pregnant women making the same choices and lifestyle changes — but with stretching.
In other words, prenatal yoga is not only good for you and your developing fetus, but it can do wonders for your soul, spirit, and mental health, too.
What Are the Best Yoga Poses for Pregnancy?
There are many yoga positions that are considered safe for pregnant women. Some of the most popular poses that you're likely to see in your prenatal yoga class may include:
- Cat-Cow Stretch — this back-arching pose is excellent for soothing back pain
- Gate Pose — this side pose stretches the upper body
- Cobbler's Pose — this seated pose opens up the pelvic area
- Legs-Up-the-Wall — this pose can reduce edema (AKA swelling) in your feet and ankles
- Garland — this hip-opening pose is great for toning the inner thighs
- Happy Baby — this popular prenatal pose can help relieve tense muscles
- Warrior II — this standing pose helps to open the hips while strengthening the legs and arms
- Chair Pose — this simple pose strengthens the pelvic muscles
Any Safety Tips for Mamas?
As a matter of fact, we have quite a few! Here are some ways that you can practice yoga safely:
- Always listen to your body and pace yourself. Pregnancy is not the time to start an inversion practice. If you're overheating or struggling to catch your breath, you're probably pushing yourself a little too hard. Take a break and get some water.
- Steer clear of hot yoga (Bikram yoga). This type of yoga takes place in sweltering temps of over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, which isn't safe for you, let alone your developing baby. High heat for prolonged bouts of time can cause hyperthermia — a serious condition that occurs when your body temperature is abnormally high.
- Drink plenty of water, not just when you participate in prenatal yoga class, but anytime you're working out, regardless of how much of a sweat you break. Hydration is of the utmost importance — especially when you're expecting.
- Be mindful of your bump and avoid sudden twists, bends, or turns.
- Use props like blocks, chairs, or walls to keep your body balanced as your center of gravity changes due to your growing belly. Even in certain poses that aren't traditionally associated with balance, you may feel wobbly.
- Find a reputable instructor who is experienced in prenatal yoga. As mentioned earlier, this type of yoga involves modified poses that are safe for pregnant women. Let the yoga instructor know that you're pregnant and ask about their knowledge and expertise.
If you're new to yoga, your muscles may feel a little sore after class — just like they would with any other exercise routine.
To soothe your aches and pains, we suggest taking an indulgent bath with our Therapeutic Bath Salts. Simply sprinkle some bath salts into warm water and enjoy a relaxing soak after your prenatal class!
A Final Word
Prenatal yoga is a powerful tool that every mom-to-be should use. It transforms the entire pregnancy journey from something that is ultimately just happening into something that you wholeheartedly experience. It can prepare your mind, body, and spirit for parenthood while soothing some of the many aches and pains that are all too common with pregnancy.
Not only that, but the mindfulness that comes with meditation and yoga can help ease your worried thoughts to keep your mind in the present moment and attuned to the incredible little miracle that you are growing inside of you.
Thinking about giving a prenatal class a try? Be sure to talk with your healthcare provider first and drink plenty of water to keep dehydration at bay. And most importantly, remember to always listen to your body — take it easy and go at a comfortable pace.
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