Pregnancy brings big changes. Whether this is your first baby or your fourth, the hormones, exhaustion, nausea, and heartburn can really get to you. Add in the natural anxiety that comes with becoming a parent—or expanding your family to include one more—and you’re bound to feel stressed and maybe a little overwhelmed. During this unique period in your life, it’s so important that you take the best possible care of yourself (and your baby, too!). If you have the all-clear from your doctor, taking time for non-strenuous exercise like gentle prenatal yoga can help you de-stress and relieve some of that pesky pregnancy pain. Here I’ll walk you through the basics of prenatal yoga and its many benefits. If the little person growing inside you is (very unintentionally!) kicking your butt, it’s time to hit the mat.
What Is Prenatal Yoga?
Prenatal yoga is simply yoga that is customized for the needs of women in all stages of pregnancy. It’s designed to help you improve your strength and flexibility without straining or overexerting yourself. You can usually find a prenatal yoga class at your local yoga studio or fitness center, your town library or recreation center, or even the hospital where your OB/GYN delivers.
Whether you’re an experienced yogi or an absolute beginner, it’s a good idea to stick to classes that focus specifically on prenatal yoga poses while you’re pregnant. There are some poses you should avoid for now, like anything that requires you to lie flat on your back. You also should steer clear of “hot yoga” classes like the Bikram method while pregnant, as overheating can present risks to you and your developing baby. A teacher who specializes in yoga specifically for pregnant women will demonstrate safe prenatal yoga poses, breathing exercises, and gentle stretching techniques.
If at any time something is uncomfortable or painful, stop what you’re doing and ask the instructor to show you an alternative pose or exercise. As your pregnancy progresses, you may need to abstain from certain poses if they no longer work for you. Listen to your body so that you can give it what it needs at every stage of your pregnancy (and into the postpartum period as well).
The Benefits of Prenatal Yoga
Prenatal yoga is a highly popular form of exercise for expectant mothers, and with good reason. It’s accessible to everyone, from beginners to yoga experts, and you can do it at home if you can’t get to a class. Check out some of the biggest benefits of making prenatal yoga part of your pregnancy fitness routine.
Prenatal Yoga Provides Pregnancy Symptom Relief
Every woman experiences pregnancy differently, and sometimes a woman may have drastically different experiences with each of her pregnancies. That said, most of us face many of the same symptoms, which can range from uncomfortable and annoying to severely painful and disruptive. Practicing prenatal yoga can help to ease symptoms like back pain, morning sickness, and headaches.
Prenatal Yoga Reduces Stress and Anxiety
Feeling anxious about the changes in your body, your baby’s development, and your transition to motherhood? You’re not alone. Pregnancy is a joyful and exciting time, but it can also present serious challenges to your mental and emotional health. When practiced regularly, prenatal yoga can help reduce feelings of stress, depression, and anxiety.
You’ll Enjoy Improved Sleep
When you’re expecting, everyone loves to tell you to “sleep now, while you still can.” That’s not always easy—you’re achy, sore, oddly shaped, and that little person you’re growing loves to practice their Rockette audition or karate routine at 3 AM. Prenatal yoga can help you to sleep better, even in the last weeks of pregnancy when there’s almost no way to get comfortable in bed.
You’ll Be in Shape for Childbirth
I don’t know about you, but when I was pregnant with my first baby, one of my biggest worries was how I was going to get him out. I knew it was going to be one of two ways—and both of them scared me. If you deliver your baby vaginally, regular prenatal yoga practice can make your labor and delivery a little easier.
10-minute PRENATAL YOGA for Beginners – SarahBethYoga
It’s a Great Way to Meet Mom Friends
No one understands what you’re going through these days like your fellow moms-to-be. A prenatal yoga class is a great way to meet new friends, especially since you’ll already have some big things in common. As a bonus, when everyone’s babies are born, you’ll have a little playgroup all ready to go.
You Can Continue to Use What You’ve Learned
For the first few weeks after delivery, you’ll want to keep your workouts gentle as you ease back into your regular fitness routine. You can use everything you’ve learned in your prenatal yoga classes for your first postpartum exercise sessions.
Other Prenatal Fitness Routines You’ll Love
Prenatal yoga is wonderful, but you’re certainly not limited to it if there are other forms of exercise you enjoy. While it’s important to get approval from your doctor before beginning any new exercise program, it’s usually safe for low-risk pregnant women to swim, walk or jog, ride a stationary bike, or do strength training. Exercises you should avoid while pregnant include horseback riding, scuba diving, anything that can cause you to overheat, and anything that might get you hit in the belly area. (So please, skip boxing for now!)
It’s not easy to find the time and energy to exercise while you’re pregnant. I’ll be the first to admit I let it fall by the wayside, especially when I was expecting my second and third babies. I was already so busy with my responsibilities as a mother that, whenever I had a minute to spare, I was more interested in sneaking a nap in than exercising. In retrospect, I wish I’d made more room in my schedule for fifteen to twenty minutes of gentle yoga a few times per week. I’m sure it would have helped with my anxiety, as well as my inability to sleep at night. Be smart—take some time to move your body while it’s growing that precious little person for you. It should make your pregnancy and delivery a little easier on you so that you can focus on welcoming that sweet new member of your family.