Exercise is usually encouraged during pregnancy and prenatal yoga is a great way to satisfy your need for physical activity while reaping many other benefits as well. Prenatal yoga is not just a yoga class full of pregnant women, but rather the poses presented by a well-trained instructor are somewhat different and tailored to the physique and specific needs of moms-to-be.
Prenatal yoga focuses on several key areas of the body. One of the most important is the back, particularly the lower back, which is strained as a baby gets heavier and expectant moms have to use back strength to support their growing bellies. Pregnant women find that their center of gravity is constantly adjusting with their evolving bumps. This is why many moms-to-be lose their balance easier or find their own movements clumsier than usual. Building the muscles of the low back and lengthening them will help support the added weight of the baby and may also make labor easier. Many women find that labor begins in their back and when they are already experiencing low back pain, labor can be considerably harder. A stronger back going into labor can relieve some discomfort.
Additional areas of concentration in prenatal yoga are the hips, pelvic floor, muscles between the ribs and overall better circulation. Stretching and opening the hips not only alleviates some of the pressure that occurs in this region during pregnancy, it also helps prepare you for labor and delivery. If you plan to deliver vaginally, you’re going to appreciate strong hips and the ability to control your pelvic floor. This makes pushing during contractions easier and helps regain form and muscle control postpartum.
Strengthening the muscles between the ribs can help combat the body’s natural response to heavier breasts, which is to hunch the shoulders inward. As this happens, breathing can become labored and uncomfortable. And yoga is an excellent form of activity to increase circulation, which is incredibly important since pregnant women have approximately 50% more blood in their bodies to support a growing baby. Good circulation keeps the baby fed and oxygenated and helps prevent pregnancy edema.
Prenatal yoga instructors are specifically trained to teach poses that compliment, strengthen and lengthen a pregnant woman’s body. Prenatal yoga tends to use a lot of props to support the body in performing poses, especially as women progress throughout their pregnancies. Of course there are certain poses and positions that prenatal yoga instructors know to avoid altogether, such as twisting, lying on the back for a long period of time, bending forward or lying on the stomach.
Some women who are very experienced in yoga debate whether to continue with their regular yoga practice and modifying moves, versus taking prenatal yoga classes that may feel too easy. This is a personal decision. Regular yoga instructors may be willing to help serious yogis modify their practice within a regular class, especially towards the beginning of a pregnancy when expectant moms are able to do more. However, as the pregnancy progresses, it may be wise to switch to an advanced prenatal yoga class designed for the needs of a pregnant woman’s body.
Like regular yoga, prenatal yoga is a wonderful practice that can help center your body and mind during an exciting and somewhat anxious time in your life. Yoga helps develop pain management and coping techniques as well as breathing patterns and mantras that may be helpful during childbirth. Prenatal yoga also gives pregnant women as sense of community and can lead to friendships with women in your area whose babies will be born around the same time as yours.
We hope you find strength, relief and peace in your prenatal yoga practice. Namaste!