Yoga During Pregnancy
Pregnancy is a wonderful milestone in the lives of many women. However, it certainly comes with its stresses. You may notice your own body changing in strange ways, a higher tendency for mood swings as a result of hormonal changes, or a feeling of discomfort in your own skin as your body adjusts to bring new life into the world. There’s plenty of do’s and don’ts to adhere to to make sure your pregnancy goes as smoothly as possible.
For women that are accustomed to exercising regularly pre-pregnancy, it can be a difficult adjustment. There’s certain activities, such as high intensity interval training, that you will need to refrain from once you hit a certain point in your pregnancy. Thankfully, yoga is not one of those things. You can safely practice yoga throughout the entirety of your pregnancy.
Prenatal vs. Standard Yoga Classes
Even at the beginning of your pregnancy, it’s always a good idea to let the teacher know that you’re expecting. It’s very important that the teacher is aware so that they can provide you with any modifications necessary to keep you safe or more comfortable. This is especially true if you choose to attend a standard yoga class rather than a specific prenatal class. Though this is certainly okay to do, if you go to a “regular” yoga class and do not tell the teacher that you are pregnant you run the risk of performing postures that are potentially harmful for your pregnancy.
While all yoga classes are safe for pregnant women to attend, there are definitely some advantages to attending specific prenatal yoga classes, if your schedule permits. These classes will be guided with the challenges of pregnancy in mind, such as shifts in your center of gravity compared to before you were pregnant. The Asanas the teacher chooses for a prenatal class may also differ from a standard yoga class because they can focus on strengthening muscles that will help during the birthing process, which is definitely beneficial for seasoned yogis and newcomers alike.
Asanas for Pregnancy
Many of your favorite poses will still be accessible to you during pregnancy. These include butterfly pose, side angle, and cat cow. Others will be accessible to you with slight modifications, such as using a chair or the wall for support to avoid any falls. Though in the past pregnant women were advised to stay away from Asanas such as downward facing dog and happy baby, they are now understood to be safe during pregnancy. This is thanks to a study conducted by Rachel Polis, M.D. Dr. Polis, a gynecologist, observed 25 pregnant women in their third trimester for this study. The women performed 26 postures in one-on-one yoga sessions. The guided postures included stretching poses, standing postures, and even twists. The results were very positive. As Dr. Polis explained, the postures “were really well-tolerated by women in our study. Women’s vital signs, heart rates, blood pressure- these all remained normal.” This is very promising news for women who are pregnant but still want to flow through their favorite Asanas. Though it’s still advisable to refrain from inversions and postures that require lying flat on the stomach, such as bow pose, there’s many Asanas that women can practice even late in their pregnancies.
Beyond the Physical
Asanas are an important component of every yoga class. But, yoga provides so much more for its practitioners. While the Asanas serve to strengthen the body and increase flexibility, the practice of yoga also does wonders for calming the mind. These added benefits of prenatal yoga may be even more valuable for expecting mothers.
The breathwork component of a yoga class can be especially beneficial for women who are pregnant. Yoga teaches its practitioners to breathe through some uncomfortable postures. This breathing technique may certainly come in handy when a woman is in labor. Along with calming the mind and serving to make uncomfortable sensations more bearable, deep breathing has physiological benefits. Deep, conscious breathing serves to keep heart rate steady and calm the nervous system. A calm nervous system correlates to better sleep and stronger immune system, two very important things when pregnant. Along with these benefits, moments of relaxation are at their most valuable during pregnancy.
To achieve this sense of calm, you may also consider beginning (or maintaining) a meditation practice throughout your pregnancy. Just meditating for a few minutes can shift your mood for the entire day, and keep you relaxed during the stresses that accompany pregnancy. Practicing self care and taking some “me time” to practice meditation is a great way to stay relaxed and keep your body and mind healthy.
While it is safe to practice yoga at any point in your pregnancy, there are some precautions you’ll need to take to ensure the safety of you and your baby. Inversions and balancing postures may put you at risk because of the potential for falls. If you had a strong practice prior to becoming pregnant and feel confident in these postures, they are safe early in your pregnancy, but should still be avoided later on. Always listen to your body and definitely don’t take any risks. As always, a relaxing pose such as sitting with your eyes closed or a wide legged child’s pose are great options when you don’t feel that you should perform one of the suggested Asanas.