Pregnancy is one of life’s most joyous and awe-inspiring episodes. All any pregnant woman wants is a healthy pregnancy with a healthy baby at the end of it. Fortunately, most pregnancies today are normal as medicine and science have advanced enough to let us know exactly what it is we need to do to achieve that goal. However, not all methods of having a healthy pregnancy are rooted in modern medicine and research. Procreation is as old as time itself and there have long been ways to prepare and take care of a body during pregnancy so as to maintain optimal health. Yoga for pregnancy is one of them.
Yoga may just be the most holistic practice on the planet right now that is easily accessible to anyone who wants to learn it. These ancient teachings have always been touted as the best path to take for better health in general. Pregnant women can greatly benefit from doing yoga for several reasons which we will look into in more detail in this article. We’ll also cover the precautions you need to take while practicing yoga for pregnancy.
Benefits of Yoga for Pregnancy
- One of the main benefits of yoga during pregnancy is that it is a gentle but very effective way to ensure that you do not put on too much weight during your pregnancy. This is not just about vanity; being overweight during your pregnancy puts your baby at risk too, not to mention putting you at risk for several pregnancy complications as well as diabetes and heart disease later in life. So anything that can safely help you keep your weight in check is welcome. Yoga for pregnancy is that blessing. It makes you stronger, keeps you healthy, cleans out your system and helps you sleep better at night – all tools you need to maintain a healthy weight during your pregnancy and after.
- What’s more, doing yoga regularly during your pregnancy will make it easier for you to return to your pre-pregnancy weight after you have given birth.
- Pregnant women often complain of low energy levels and general mental fatigue. Yoga can help re-energize you by making you stronger and raising your levels of energy.
- The immune system is greatly improved through a regular yoga practice. During pregnancy, any illness that befalls the mother-to-be will also affect the child. It is thus best to stay in as good health as possible. By improving your immunity, yoga reduces your risk of falling prey to sickness and disease.
- Yoga helps to improve the digestive system. So it will be invaluable in ensuring that any wastes and toxins are excreted from the body. Since constipation is a normal problem during pregnancy, you will find great relief if you practice yoga regularly.
- One of the most amazing benefits of yoga for pregnancy is that it can help you through many of the uncomfortable problems of pregnancy such as morning sickness, back pain and even mood swings.
- You can also reduce or manage your blood pressure through yoga for pregnancy.
- In addition, some yoga poses can help to prepare your body for childbirth, thus making labor easier. Research has shown that women who do yoga have an easier time with the whole process of childbirth than women who don’t.
- The deep breathing and meditation involved in yoga helps you get in touch with your body. You may not realize the benefits of this while you are practicing meditation, but you will definitely notice the difference when you are in a stressful situation. Many women choose to continue working during their pregnancy. Those who do not still have the ever-present household chores to deal with, errands to run, people to please, family to take care of. This translates into varying levels of stress depending on how well equipped you are to handle it all. Let’s be honest, many of us do not do so well with stress. Stress during pregnancy can lead to many horrible complications for both you and your baby. By doing yoga regularly, you are making mindfulness a part of your life as well as tweaking your mind to better manage stress. This will work wonders in making your pregnancy easier, but what is more valuable is how it will also mean that you will be better able to manage your pain during labor.
- Yoga during pregnancy can also help alleviate or all out avoid post-partum depression, a condition that affects more women than we’d like to admit. Yoga, like any other exercise, causes changes at a molecular level. It has always been known to be an energy booster and a mood changer. You’ll find that doing yoga makes you calmer and your bouts of depression, anxiety, resentment or anger after birth greatly diminish if you regularly practice yoga.
- If you have never done yoga before, pregnancy is not the time to start unless you begin very early on and progress very gradually. Ideally, a yoga practice should begin months before a pregnancy.
- Don’t do poses which have you lying down on your back or stomach after the fourth month. Not on your stomach for obvious reasons – you’ll crush the foetus. Not on your back because the weight of your growing belly will put a ton of stress on your lower back. Another reason to avoid poses on your back is because it can cause a reduction of blood flow to your uterus.
- Keep water nearby and sip on it every half hour or so, more often if you live in a very hot and humid climate. During your pregnancy, you cannot afford to get dehydrated, and although yoga may seem very gentle it still puts a bit of a toll on you physically.
- You must prevent your body from overheating during pregnancy as if your core temperature gets too high the development of the foetus can be impaired. This is why hot yoga – where you perform yoga in a hot room – is not recommended. However, there are advocates of yoga who say that hot yoga is not harmful during pregnancy. So this really becomes more of a personal decision. If you have been practicing yoga for a long time and feel that you can do hot yoga without a problem, then go ahead and do so. If you are not sure, then hot yoga is best avoided. Remember during pregnancy your first priority should always be the health of you baby and you. The only way to really decide what is right for you is to listen to your body. A good rule of thumb is this – when in doubt, opt out. This applies to a lot of things during your pregnancy, not just hot yoga.
- Practice yoga in a well-ventilated room. This is easily accomplished if you are at home practicing on your own, but if you are taking classes in a studio it might be a bit of a problem. Many yoga studios are closed rooms with no windows. Or they keep the windows closed because they have the air conditioning on. If there are no windows in your yoga class, lay down your mat near the door so at least you can get a bit of a draft from under it. If the windows are closed because of the AC, speak to your instructor and class mates before you begin the class to ask for permission to open the window if you feel too stuffy.
- Dress appropriately when you are doing yoga. Loose clothing is a must. Anything that’s tight around the waist or which constricts your breathing from being too snug is a strict no-no. Also try wearing cotton as this will help absorb the sweat and let your skin breathe.
- You must practice on a yoga mat. Period. This is more important when you are pregnant than when you are not. Here’s why. The yoga mat cushions your joints in addition to helping you get a good grip during your practice. Without a mat, it is very likely that you will slip and fall – something that should be avoided at all costs when you are pregnant as sometimes even a very small fall can result in injuries to the foetus. For extra grip, there are now special no-slip yoga socks available that will really stick to the yoga mat and help you get better balance.
- If you are taking a regular yoga class i.e. one that is not geared toward yoga for pregnancy, then make sure to tell your instructor that you are pregnant and how far along you are so that the poses can be modified for you if necessary. If your instructor is not well-versed in yoga for pregnancy, move to one who is for the remainder of your pregnancy. However, if you just follow these simple precautions listed here and avoid some poses (we’ll list those later in the article) you should be able to continue with your current class without a problem.
- Very intense poses which pull and stretch your muscles should be avoided after the fourth month. Your body produces the hormone relaxin during your pregnancy. Relaxin helps to loosen muscles so that the uterus and other parts of the body can comfortably expand to accommodate the growing foetus. This hormone also loosens the connective tissues in the body, which means that you are at higher risk for strains and injuries if you do very intense stretches.
- From the pregnancy second trimester onwards, you will be growing exponentially which will affect your center of gravity. You will start to feel a little unbalanced as you get used to your expanding body. This is not your imagination, it is actually happening. Plus the relaxin is starting to work overtime as your body expands. Which means that your pelvic muscles are getting softer than they were in their pre-pregnancy state, which in turn affects your balance. You want to work with your body, so avoid doing one-leg poses which work against your body’s abilities at this time. These require intense concentration and balance which your body is simply not equipped to manage right then.
- Generally, very deep twists are not recommended during pregnancy. However, the calming effects of yoga twists cannot be denied. So while you can do only the very basic twists, protect your self by twisting from your legs and shoulders while putting only the minimum or no twist around the abdomen. Even if you do not know how to do this, just remember to only twist as far as you feel comfortable. Once the twist starts to feel tight you know you’re pushing too much.
- The most important thing to remember when doing yoga for pregnancy is to listen to your body and stop immediately when you feel even the slightest discomfort. Let your body be your guide.
- Also remember that you will need to change your yoga practice or modify the poses as your pregnancy progresses. You may be able to do a posture without trouble one month and be too big to even try it the next. Your instructor should be able to suggest the needed changes. If you are practicing on your own, remember to change your practice as the months go by.
Yoga Poses to Avoid During Pregnancy
We’ve already mentioned that any pose which has you lying down on your stomach or back should be avoided plus any that put a strain on your muscles. While it is obvious to eliminate some poses based on these guidelines, other poses may not be so easy to recognize as being harmful during pregnancy. Following are some of the yoga poses that you should avoid while you are pregnant:
- Any kind of back bend.
- Poses that have you balancing on one leg. If you wish to do these poses anyway, use a wall or chair for support.
- No handstands.
- No headstands.
- Ustrasana (Camel Pose)
- Urdhva Dhanurasana (Upward Bow or Wheel Pose)
Always check with your doctor before beginning any exercise during pregnancy, not just yoga. Your body is going through literally thousands of changes during pregnancy and you need to respect that if you want a healthy pregnancy. One of the ways to do this is to ensure that you are physically fit before you embark on any form of exercise. You should easily get the go-ahead from your doctor because yoga is known worldwide for being one of the most therapeutic forms of exercise that calms and heals the body and mind. Remember that your first priority is the baby – so even if you know you are healthy and a doctor’s checkup is just a technicality, do it.