What is yoga?
Yoga is carefully considered movement and breath, which is used to help connect body and mind. It’s a form of exercise that anyone can do, regardless of whether you’re physically fit to begin with. Its focus is on centering the body and mind, through breath and holding stretches/poses for periods of time.
What is Prenatal yoga?
It is much the same, however movements are altered to consider the pregnant form and the safety for both mother and baby. Its aim is to help prepare a woman’s body for labour, both mentally and physically.
How will a prenatal yoga class benefit me?
The technique of deep breathing helps us to connect with our inner self, which can in turn reduce stress and anxiety.
Prenatal yoga involves holding poses which help to stretch and strengthen muscles in preparation for labour. Over time you will be able to hold poses for longer, and you’ll begin to notice a change in your body tone and strength.
The good news is that like other forms of exercise, there are many different styles of yoga—Hatha, Yin, Bikram, Vinyassa and Jivamukti, just to name a few. However, not all styles of yoga will be appropriate for pregnancy. It is always advised to check with your fitness provider first before starting a class.
There are many benefits to prenatal yoga, including:
1. Improving sleep
The body will feel stronger and calmer as a result of yoga, which will encourage a good night’s sleep.
2. Reducing stress and anxiety
Breathing is something we all take for granted. It’s not often that we take the time to listen to our breath and slow it down. Deep, slow, concentrated breaths will help to reduce stress and anxiety, help with relaxation and is a great technique suitable for labour. Try to do this now, if you like.
Breathe in and out 6 times for 10 seconds each breath. Focus on your diaphragm expanding and deflating. Do you feel more relaxed yet?
3. Increasing the strength, flexibility and endurance of muscles needed for childbirth
The exercises taught in a prenatal class are designed specifically for a pregnant body. They target areas such as your back and hips, and will help to alleviate pain by strengthening the muscles in these areas. Targeted exercises will also help to strengthen areas like your pelvic floor, which will help with labour.
4. Decreasing lower back pain and shortness of breath
Yoga as a practice is all about balance. Learning to control your breath and breathing from deep within helps us to connect and control our breathing patterns.
Areas of weakness, such as the back, can be worked on gently to help reduce pain and discomfort.
5. Decreasing headaches
Headaches are often brought on by stress. Yoga helps us to slow down and recentre, whilst reducing tension in the body.
6. Reducing the risk of preterm labour
Stress is never healthy and disrupts our overall feeling of wellness. High stress levels have been known to increase a woman’s chances of miscarriage and preterm birth.
Women who do yoga for one hour a day have been shown to have reduced risks of complications during pregnancy.
7. Lowering your blood pressure
Studies have indicated that prenatal yoga lowers a pregnant woman’s heart rate and blood pressure more effectively than other forms of exercise, such as swimming and walking.
8. Stabilising your moods
Yoga taps into the soul, body and mind. It has a calming effect on all our senses, through the use of movement, breath, mediation and stretching.
9. Managing your weight
Like all other types of exercise, when combined with a healthy diet, yoga can promote a healthy weight during pregnancy.
10. Improving your delivery experience
There is no doubt about it, birthing ain’t easy. It requires a lot of endurance and stamina.
The breathing taught in yoga is calming and helps us to reach a meditative state. Slow, deep, considered breathing during birth can help to reduce stress levels, which helps to relieve tension in the muscles, which in turn results in less pain.
Yoga helps us to strengthen muscles. A stronger body will give you more options, enabling you to birth in a variety of different positions. The stronger you are, the more likely you will be to have a natural birth, and the less intervention you’ll require.
11. Reducing fluid retention
Yoga will help to alleviate and reduce your risk of fluid retention, as stretching helps to stimulate the muscles and encourage better blood flow.
Can anyone join a prenatal class?
It is our recommendation that you always check with your health care provider before participating in any new forms of exercise. Assuming you have the go ahead from your doctor, be realistic and avoid any postures that cause pain or discomfort. Pace yourself and don’t over do it. Last but not least, stay hydrated and cool to avoid any dizziness or nausea.
What should I wear to a prenatal yoga class?
Comfortable stretchy clothing
Wear comfortable stretchy clothing that will keep your body cool and supported. Try for modal yarn, bamboo or cotton for greater breathability.
Most activewear brands now offer maternity options, so it shouldn’t be difficult to find clothing that suits your needs.
Wear a bra designed for low impact exercise. A yoga bra should be supportive with a good amount of stretch for ease of movement, preferably with a racer back design for your arms to move freely. It should be non-wired to help avoid any discomfort or restriction.
What happens during a typical prenatal yoga class?
Prenatal yoga classes usually run for a period of 1 hour, and involve:
- Gentle stretching
Are there styles of yoga that aren’t recommended for pregnant women?
As discussed earlier, there are many different styles of yoga, some are more strenuous than others.
NOTE: Bikram or hot yoga is not recommended whilst pregnant unless you are used to attending the class prior to pregnancy. Check with your health care provider before attending, and let your instructor know you are pregnant. These types of yoga classes involve doing vigorous/extended poses in a room heated to 40°C (105°F).
Hot, unventilated rooms are particularly dangerous for pregnant women and should always be avoided. Hot spaces can leave you feeling unwell (dizzy and nauseous) and can lead to other pregnancy related complications.
Are there special safety guidelines for prenatal yoga?
The most important thing is to always listen to your body. Should a pose or stretch feel unnatural or uncomfortable, stop immediately. It may be that the pose needs to be modified even further to assist your body. Never stay in a pose that feels painful or is putting too much strain on your joints.
- Talk to your health care provider
- Set realistic goals
- Pace yourself
- Stay cool and hydrated
- Avoid certain postures
- Don’t overdo it
How do I choose a prenatal yoga class?
Look for a class taught by an instructor who has training in prenatal yoga. If prenatal yoga is not available in your area, it is recommended to speak to your local yoga teacher to see whether they’re able to accommodate you in their classes.
Some poses will need to be modified to reduce the risk of injury to you and your growing body.
Above all else, enjoy the process.