Yoga and Health

Can Pregnant Women Do Yoga?

shutterstock_435758488Most pregnant women are wary about taking on physical activities. The good news is, you can still practice yoga while you are on the way. In fact, yoga can be very beneficial for you and your baby. Yoga can also help you deal with pregnancy and labor. Of course, you need to take certain precautions and avoid specific poses which can be risky for your condition.

During pregnancy, your body experiences a lot of changes. Through yoga, it will be easier for you to accommodate such changes. Yoga helps in stretching your muscles and strengthening your lower body, both of which are very important once your belly starts to grow. Yoga also helps tone the lower parts of your body such as your abdomen, hip and pelvic floor. This means that the muscles in these areas are not too tight nor are they too lax. A well-toned and well-balanced pregnant body experiences lesser pains, as your blood circulation will improve. The breathing techniques also provide your body with better oxygen supply which is beneficial both for you and your baby.

One of the well-known benefits of yoga is calming the mind, which is necessary particularly during labor and delivery. A lot of women are afraid of delivery, causing them to tighten up their muscles, making the process even more difficult. Women who have practiced prenatal yoga and apply what they learn in this real-life situation are equipped to remain calm and present during labor. Such practice is very helpful if you plan on having a natural, medication-free delivery. During this period, you can do mindful breathing exercises to relax yourself and allow your body to do what it is designed to do at that moment, which is to give birth.

Taking yoga classes during pregnancy does not only prepare you physically for the big day, it also establishes a connection with you and your unborn child. During the time that you are doing yoga, you are in a space that you can effectively bond with your baby. Yoga encourages you to become more aware of your body and dismiss other thoughts that are not in the present moment. As mentioned earlier, you will experience a lot of physical changes in your pregnancy during this stage of your life, and the mindfulness that you practice during yoga fosters this awareness. Every moment, every breathe and every pose that you do also affects your baby, making yoga more than just a physical exercise.

Prenatal yoga classes, which are geared specifically for soon-to-be-moms like you, are designed to have lower intensity and have gentler flow. Most prenatal yoga classes also offer a lot of props such as bolsters, blocks and belts, making it easier and more comfortable for you to do the poses. Some yoga poses and features are also not present in such classes, particularly hot yoga, or poses that require lying on the back, or deep twists, which can put you and your baby at risk.

Regular yoga sessions are also okay if you are pregnant. However, you should inform your instructor so they can provide assistance and alternative poses that you can do safely. As mentioned, avoid performing poses which require for you to lie on your back as this can cut down the blood supply to your uterus, particularly during the first trimester. Deep twists and intense stretches should also be avoided, especially if it targets the abdominal area. Such poses will cause injuries and strains. Don’t attend bikram or hot yoga classes, since these take place in overheated rooms. This can put you and your baby at risk.

In general, you should steer clear of high-intensity and fast-paced yoga classes at this point. Even if you were doing it before, it is better to stay safe all throughout your pregnancy. You can continue with such classes once you give birth and have fully recovered from delivery. Yoga during and after pregnancy is a great way to get back in shape.

Cat-cow poses, seated forward bend, standing forward bend, triangle pose, butterfly stretch and cobra poses are generally safe for pregnant women. As you enter the second trimester and your body’s gravity changes, you can perform standing poses with your heel to the wall. You can also use a chair for support. Avoid performing handstands, headstands, back bends, and camel poses at this point. Balancing poses on one leg are also unsafe, unless you are supported by a wall or a chair.

During standing forward bends you can breathe easier by leading with your breastbone and extending your spine. With proper alignment, you are giving your ribs better space for movement. If you are seated and bending forward, use a yoga strap behind your feet for better support. The bend should start from the hips so you avoid compressing your stomach. You can also elevate your body by putting a rolled up towel underneath. This provides a comfortable position for your belly, especially once it has become bigger.

Twisting poses can still be done, although the pose should focus on the shoulders and back. Avoid twisting from the abdomen, as this can put pressure in the area and can be dangerous for you and the baby. Twists should feel comfortable and deep twists should be avoided during pregnancy.

Lastly, you should always listen to your body. Yoga teaches self-observation, which you should practice whether or not you are pregnant. At this stage in your life though, you have to be very observant of how your body reacts to such poses. If there are any uncomfortable positions, it is better not to do it. And if you feel that a certain pose puts pressure on your body, it is better to stop than be sorry afterwards. If you are particularly tired, sore and sluggish after a yoga session, this might also be your cue to tone it down a bit. With the help of your instructor, you can also modify your poses so you can continue practicing safe yoga in every stage of your pregnancy.

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