Pre-natal Yoga – What’s Safe and What are the Benefits?
Pregnancy. One of the most magical experiences a woman goes through. There are many changes that occur when you become pregnant, not all physical. Physical fitness is no exception. Your normal fitness routine will need to be adjusted to accommodate your changing body, to ensure you feel healthy but also safe throughout your pregnancy – the pre-natal period is not the time to push yourself too hard.
We realise how tricky it can be to find the right kind of exercise for you throughout your pregnancy. D- during a pregnancy, exercise is about feeling both mentally and physically strong, to ensure that you can approach this life changing event with calmness and confidence.
Well this is where pre-natal yoga comes in. Pre-natal yoga is a great type of fitness to do during your pregnancy – it will maintain your fitness and has also been proven to improve sleep, reduce anxiety and help your body in preparation for labour.
However, we also understand that you might be feeling unsure what aspects of yoga are safe to do while pregnant. It is important to know which exercises are safe, and the modifications you’ll need to make to ensure you are getting the benefits from this form of exercise, without negatively affecting your pregnancy.
What is pre-natal yoga?
Pre-natal yoga is a multi-faceted approach to exercise that can be undertaken throughout all stages of your pregnancy. Poses and exercises vary, but they usually include slow breathing exercises, teaching mothers-to-be how to reduce shortness of breath, gentle stretching, moving between postures and a relaxation at the end.
Hatha yoga and restorative yoga are also great options when pregnant, but it’s advised to avoid hot yoga (Bikram) or intense vinyasa flows. If you aren’t attending a specific pre-natal class, make sure to tell the instructor that you’re pregnant and how far along you are. If you are working with a personal trainer they should be both yoga certified and pregnancy certified.
When can I start pre-natal yoga?
You can start pre-natal yoga as early in the pregnancy as you want – as long as you have had a chat with your doctor and they are happy with you to continue with exercise. It is very rare that your doctor will not give you a green light and often only in cases, where the pregnancy is deemed high risk.
If you are unsure about where to start or want some more info about pre-natal yoga fitness, it would be beneficial to have a chat with a pre- & post-natal trainer. They are trained in guiding mums-to-be through their pregnancy with effective and safe exercises, as well as being on hand to provide dietary advice, to ensure you feel healthy and happy throughout your pregnancy.
How much yoga can I do during my pregnancy?
This really varies from person-to-person, as well as on your yoga experience, and generally how much exercise you did before falling pregnant. Pre-natal yoga can be most effective during the second and third trimesters as there is a real focus on breathing techniques and prepping the body for the birth. You might also meet some friends in the same boat as you along the way, if you decide to join a class!
In terms of weekly frequency, it is advised to partake in no more than three pre-natal yoga sessions per week.
Make sure not to overdo it though – it is important to ensure that you avoid high intensity exercises (as it spikes your heart rate too high), ones that require you to lie flat on your back or ones that involve the twisting or crunching of your abdomen, as these may be harmful to the baby. You want the exercises to energise you – not exhaust you!
Ideal pre-natal yoga exercises include: strengthening your pelvic floor muscles, your glutes (which will reduce any back pain), and lengthening and posture correction poses. Below are five poses that will safely strengthen your muscles and posture:
- Cat/Cow Pose: Ideal for easing back pain, rocking gently between these two poses stretches the spine and allows your belly to hang, easing the tension. You can also use this exercise to move your baby into the optimal position during birth.
- Table Pose: with a neutral spine, lift your knees off the mat slightly and then drop them back down. Make sure your wrists are under your shoulder and knees under your hips.
- Balancing Table Pose: take a big inhale to prepare and lift the opposite arm and leg. You can take it up (a gentle) notch by pulsing in the position or if you want more resistance, use a resistance band.
- Bound Angle Pose: This particular yoga pose not only allows you to practice deep breathing and good posture, but also allows you to give yourself a relaxing foot/calf massage to ease the strain of the added weight of your belly.
- Seated Side to Side Rock: an exercise that can be done throughout your pregnancy, it mobilises the movement of your pelvic floor muscles, which will also be beneficial during the birth!
What are the benefits?
There are SO many benefits, but here are a few:
- Mindfulness: pregnancy yoga is fantastic for really honing in on the breath and focusing on the moment. It gives you the opportunity to stop and quiet the chatter in your brain. The focus on the mental state during yoga really benefits mums who may be experiencing emotional highs and lows, due to the influx of hormones.
- Supporting The Body: yoga offers you a safe and healthy way to stretch muscles, and strengthen the body to accommodate a growing belly as well as easing the process of supporting a growing belly. Especially from the second trimester onwards, you will notice you require additional support.
- Connecting to the body: what better time to feel connected to your baby than in a relaxing pre-natal yoga class or private training session. A pre-natal yoga fitness session will allow you to take time away from your work and home life, and encourage you to deepen the relationship with your baby. Giving you the time to really appreciate how magical it is that you’re growing someone inside you!
- Breath work: a huge focus for yoga in general is the breath. This can have real benefits when pregnant as you will learn to control your breathing, slowing it down, which can serve you very well when it becomes time to deliver the baby. Also it will allow you to trust your body and not enter the fear-tension-pain cycle that can impact your efforts to remain present and calm while in labour.
- Relief from common ailments: Circulating the blood throughout your body in a healthy way through stretching and toning your muscles can ease common pregnancy discomforts, such as nausea, lower back pain, and shortness of breath.
Pre-natal yoga is not only a safe way to continue your fitness journey while pregnant, it can also help prepare you for the birth of your little one and allow you to connect with other mums-to-be. As with all forms of pre-natal exercise, the poses mentioned in this post should be taken with a combination of professional instruction, listening to what your body wants/needs, and medical advice.
So, as long as you are practicing a form of yoga that is safe for pregnancy and feels good to you, go right ahead and enjoy all of the lovely benefits for you AND baby.