If you are pregnant and looking for ways to stay fit, you might be interested in prenatal yoga. Not only is prenatal yoga a great exercise to take up, but it is also a fantastic way to prepare your body for childbirth.
Before you start prenatal yoga or any exercise regimen be sure to discuss it with your doctor to make sure it's right for you. Find out the benefits of yoga below.
Benefits of Prenatal Yoga
Many childbirth preparation classes focus on centering your mind, stretching your body and breathing exercises to help you get ready for the big day. Prenatal yoga is no different. Research shows that prenatal yoga is a safe exercise for pregnant women and can have many benefits for you and your baby.
For example, studies have shown prenatal yoga to
- improve sleep
- reduce stress
- increase strength and flexibility
- decrease lower back pain, nausea and headaches
- decrease the risk for preterm labor and hypertension
As an added benefit, you will meet other women who are pregnant during your class. It can be encouraging to have someone who can relate while your body is going through a lot of changes.
What Happens at Prenatal Yoga?
During a typical prenatal yoga class, you'll be encouraged to focus on breathing and stretching. These exercises will give you skills that will help you during childbirth.
- Breathing: Learning to breathe deeply and slowly in and out of your nose will help you reduce shortness of breath you may encounter during the birthing process. It's also a great way to help you relax. If you are focused on breathing, you aren't focused on pain.
- Stretching: By gently moving your arms and legs, you'll be stretching out your muscles in a gentle way. This can be beneficial as your body continues to grow. Stretching can also help you ease some of the aches and pains that come along with pregnancy and childbirth.
- Posture: Yoga involves moving your body into different positions to help you achieve the greatest stretch. These postures will build the strength and muscle tone needed for childbirth. You'll be focusing on breathing and stretching as you do these postures. As babies and bellies grow, so does your center of gravity. Focusing on strengthening your back and abdominal areas will help your body adjust to the pressure of your growing belly.
- Relaxation: At the end of each yoga session, you will want to cool down and get your heart rate back to normal. Part of this is listening to your own breathing and focusing your mind. The skills you learn here can help you relax during childbirth.
Safety of Prenatal Yoga
Like all exercise programs, discussing your plans with your doctor is a great place to start. While prenatal yoga is a gentle exercise program, it may not be right for everyone.
For most pregnant women, 30 minutes of exercise is recommended most days of the week. If you don't have time or don't feel up to it, the thirty minutes can be broken down into three ten-minute sessions that add up to thirty minutes a day. The point is to move your body and stay in shape as you prepare for labor. It's important to pace yourself. You don't want to overdo it and if you are out of breath and can't speak normally you are probably pushing yourself too hard. You'll also want to drink plenty of water. This will help prevent overheating and keep you hydrated.
If you are taking a prenatal yoga class your instructor will direct you in exercises that are safe for you. If you are in a regular yoga class, be sure that you are only doing the postures that are appropriate for pregnant women. You'll want to avoid lying on your back and any bending or twisting that puts pressure on your abdomen.
Listen to your body. Start slow and avoid strenuous positions that make you uncomfortable. If you have any concerns, it's OK to walk out of the class. Don't be afraid to discuss any questions or modifications with the yoga instructor and your doctor.
Yoga After Baby
Don’t forget, yoga is also the perfect workout after you have your baby too. You don't even have to go to a special class. Just remember what you have previously learned or rent a DVD from the library. When you feel ready, start with gentle yoga, simple breathing and stretching to get your body moving again. As you may have already guessed, finding time to practice yoga or any exercise as a new mom is hard. A good place to start is to take 15 minutes while your baby is napping to try a few gentle yoga moves each day. This can work miracles for energy and body strength. Also, as your baby eats, try relaxing with deep belly breathing. This action of the muscles can help speed up the recovery time. As always, check with your physician before you begin any new exercise program.
What are your thoughts about prenatal yoga? Have you ever tried it? Let us know in the comments below.