Prenatal yoga differs from other forms of yoga because it is designed to adapt to the bodies of pregnant women. It goes beyond just modifying the practice but rather specifically addresses issues that arise during pregnancy. A prenatal yoga practice can be beneficial for the mother dealing with her changing body and even during childbirth itself, emotionally and physically.
Some benefits of prenatal yoga include:
- Reduced body pain and swelling
- Less chances of acid reflux
- Calming down nausea or morning sickness
- Opening the hips for childbirth, especially if they are tight
- Emotional relief
Prenatal yoga vs other yoga
Regular yoga classes, such as vinyasa or yin, may offer modifications for students but they may not be correct for the pregnant body itself. Therefore, it’s best for a pregnant woman to learn about prenatal yoga in order to address their changing body. The weight of the baby is always changing weekly in addition to the positioning of the baby inside the womb. And let’s not forget all of the hormonal changes going on in a woman’s body during pregnancy!
Prenatal yoga classes may be very prop heavy, with the use of bolsters and blocks for support and cushioning. The classes themselves may lean more to the restorative side but can also incorporate flow, like a special vinyasa class designed for pregnant women. The most important thing, however, in the beginning, is for pregnant women to understand any contraindications they may come across in their yoga practice.
Yoga poses, types, and movements to avoid during pregnancy include:
- Prone poses (laying on the abdomen) particularly during 2nd and 3rd trimesters
- Closed twisting (twisting into the leg that is in front)
- Hot yoga is generally not recommended for pregnant women
- Inversions, if never practiced before pregnancy, are not recommended, such as headstand of shoulder stand
- Overly intense workouts
- Narrow stance, instead try a wider footing
Prenatal yoga also helps pregnant mothers-to-be find a community of other pregnant women they can socialize with and relate to. Pregnancy is a unique experience, but it does not have to be experienced alone. It is important to have other like-minded and like-bodied women around to discuss any concerns or discoveries. This can help quell any emotions that come up during pregnancy, too.
Sample prenatal yoga poses
This traditional yoga pose is a slight inversion redeemed safe for pregnant women. It is modified for the growing belly by widening the foot stance. To perform the posture, start on all fours in tabletop position and lift the hips up to the sky. Take 5-10 deep breaths.
This is a standing pose, again, modified by taking the feet a little wider. To perform Warrior 1, stand with one foot facing forward and the other foot behind turned out about 45 degrees. Make sure the stance is wide. Bend the front knee, straighten the back leg and sink down into the hips. Reach the arms up to the sky. Take 5-10 deep breaths.
This is a great one for pregnant women in order to strengthen and open the hip area. Take the feet wide with the hips in external rotation, heels in and toes out. Then, sink the hips down into a wide squat position and bring the hands to the heart or use any creative arm or hand positions. Repeat continuously or hold for a specific amount of time.
This is like a deeper version of the goddess pose. From standing, take the feet wider than the hips and turn them out. Then, squat down, sinking the hips close to the floor. Use a block to sit on if needed. Bring the hands to the heart with the arms inside the legs. Here is a great place to practice kegels, or pelvic floor lifts, which help tone the pelvic floor and prevent organ prolapse after childbirth by keeping the lower abdominal muscles strong. It is also a hip-opening posture.
Strengthening and stretching the muscles of the body to be in a place of alignment for the skeletal structure, in particular the hips, may play a role in the ease or difficulty of childbirth itself. Ideally, with the practice of prenatal yoga, it will help the baby settle into a good position for an easier childbirth, but it is not always the case.
Breathing and meditation
Deep breathing techniques and meditation can also help during the prenatal period. They help stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, or the rest and digest system, to improve immunity and calm the mind. Deep breathing helps spread precious oxygen our body (and a growing baby) crave throughout the system. Meditation techniques help to steady and focus the mind so that during pregnancy a woman can respond to any situation rather than react out of fear. They can both also help during the labor process.
When to start prenatal yoga
It is advised to start prenatal yoga during the second trimester as this is when the baby belly begins to emerge more fully and symptoms from the first trimester may begin to subside. A pregnant woman may be able to keep up with regular activities until this point. During the second trimester, it will be apparent that specific modifications are needed for the pregnant mother to practice yoga. Additionally, those who have never practiced yoga before can also start a prenatal practice at any time.
Moderate, low-impact exercise is recommended to pregnant women for at least 30 minutes per day, 3-6 days per week. This helps the body stay toned and ready for labor. It is important for one to consult their doctor during pregnancy before starting an exercise regimen, in particular if there is any morning sickness, indigestion, or other complications.
Overall prenatal yoga for pregnant women has many benefits, from stress reduction to more ease during childbirth. It is essential for the pregnant woman to find a class to suit the needs of her changing body and learn what is okay to do, what is contraindicated during pregnancy, and how to modify specifically for pregnancy.
Prenatal yoga is designed for pregnant women, even if they have never tried yoga before.
It offers numerous ways to modify yoga postures for the growing belly to support childbirth.
Breathing and meditation help reduce stress and classes help build a sense of community between pregnant mothers.