Why We Love Yoga During Pregnancy
March 21, 2017
Looking for a way to relieve pregnancy discomforts? Want to build stamina for The Big Day – aka, labor and delivery? Interested in incorporating breathing and relaxation techniques into your everyday life?
Ding! Ding! Ding! Yoga is a winner.
Of all the ways to exercise while you’re pregnant, yoga tops the charts in terms of prenatal benefits.
7 Ways Yoga Benefits Pregnant Women & Their Babies
The stretches, strength training and flexibility inherent in yoga postures, and the circulatory and oxygenation benefits of its emphasis on breath work are just a few of the reasons why we recommend yoga as a safe, prenatal exercise option.
Before we continue, there are some caveats.
- Never do Bikram or hot yoga while pregnant as it elevates your core temperature beyond what is healthy for you or baby.
- Always work with certified instructors who have expertise in prenatal yoga (there are some postures that are not recommended for pregnant women who are new to yoga, including serious twists or inversions).
- Listen to your body, it will know what’s right and wrong. Communicate any discomforts or need for extra support to your instructor.
- If you have an established yoga practice, no need to dramatically modify it unless you’ve been instructed to by your doctor due to risks or potential complications.
On to the benefits of prenatal yoga classes…
Enjoy a healthier pregnancy
Yoga may support a healthier pregnancy, labor, delivery and baby. A 2005 study of more than 300 women compared two groups – one that did yoga for an hour each day and one that walked for 30 minutes. Researchers concluded that women who had a regular yoga practice were more likely to carry their baby full term and gave birth to babies with healthier birth rates. They also had lower rates of pregnancy and delivery complications.
They build strength where you need it most
Approximately 36 to 42 weeks after you conceive, your body will do some of the greatest work there is to do – it will birth a small human. This is no easy feat, as you can imagine, and it makes sense that the stronger you are, the more endurance it will have to weather the process. Yoga builds strength in places women need it most – the legs, hips, shoulders and arms. Your back and core will get stronger too, although your rapidly stretching abdomen will become less and less effective as your pregnancy progresses.
You establish – and deepen – trust in your body
Through your yoga class, you’ll learn to connect with your body in a deeper way, and you’ll learn to trust it. Trust that it will be there for you when you need it, trust that it will open for your baby when the time comes, trust that it has the strength and stamina to make it through your labor. You’ll learn how to notice when your body tenses or tightens, so you can breathe into and release the tension.
Breath work will become more natural
You’ll be hard-pressed to find anything about yoga that doesn’t have the word breath or breathing attached to it. Breath work is embedded in the yogic tradition. In fact, breath work, without asanas (postures) is a yogic practice in and of itself. Connecting with the breath, following it, breathing into pain, discomfort or fear – all of these are a part of yoga and all are a part of healthy, successful births.
Relief from the aches, pains and discomforts
Gaining 30 to 40 pounds in 8 months, connective tissue that become more lax in preparation for birth, a shifting center of gravity and posture – all of these can cause discomfort from time to time. Then there are peripheral “side effects,” like insomnia, carpal tunnel syndrome or headaches (unusual, persistent or intense headaches should always be evaluated by your doctor since they could be a sign of preeclampsia) – all of which can benefit from a regular yoga practice.
Fall deeper in love with your baby
Attending a prenatal yoga class – or any yoga class – is a way of honoring yourself and your baby. In the quiet of the studio, and with every move you make, you are aware that there is a small life inside you. As the weeks progress, that life will become more and more of a “being” in your mind and heart, and your yoga class will be a sweet way to focus on one another in a loving, peaceful and connected way.
Pregnancy – and motherhood – can do a number on you. We have patients who were chronic worriers and stress balls, who completely mellowed out and “found their groove” through motherhood. There are also patients who have been calm and even keel as a rule, and then experienced surprising post-partum depression or new mother anxiety that felt crippling at times. The rest of us fall somewhere in the middle. While pregnancy may heighten stress levels, as can labor/delivery and new motherhood, an established yoga practice can help you weather the storm and even a few stretches or a minute or two of mindful breathing makes a world of difference throughout the parenting journey.
Bonus Benefit: You can meet new mom friends. Motherhood is much easier when you have a community. If you’re a first-time mom and/or the first of your “group” to have a baby – it can feel isolating when baby arrives. Like a childbirth education class, taking a prenatal yoga class is a great way to meet other women who are about to have babies. This network can lead to friendships and a community that becomes essential in those early years of parenting. Attending a few LaLeche League meetings before your baby is born is another way to establish connections with new moms – and surround yourself with breastfeeding support should you need it.
Find a prenatal yoga class near you, get the go ahead from your OB or midwife, and start reaping the benefits of exercise that benefits your mind, body, soul and baby!