Prenatal Yoga: Benefits and When to Start

Yoga is more than a passing fitness fad – it’s an ancient practice that can bring huge benefits to your mental and physical health. In fact, 36 million adults in the US now enjoy the benefits of practicing yoga in 2016!1But did you know yoga can be a great way for pregnant moms to stay healthy, too? Let’s go through the facts on prenatal yoga, and what you need to get started.

What is prenatal yoga?

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Yoga is a mind-body practice based in millennia of Indian culture and philosophy, involving meditation, breathing exercises (pranayama), and physical postures (asana).

You can now find yoga classes in gyms, community centers and schools all over the United States. In prenatal yoga, classic yoga exercises are adapted for pregnant moms’ changing bodies. This allows moms-to-be to enjoy yoga safely – all the way up until late pregnancy!

Benefits of prenatal yoga

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Doctors are clear on the many benefits of regular physical exercise during pregnancy: to name just a few, it helps you control weight gain, lowers the risk of gestational diabetes, and can be a great mood booster. In particular, yoga is thought to help improve pelvic and low back pains, and could even make for an easier birth. Even if you’ve never practiced yoga before, pregnancy can be the time to start!

But yoga isn’t just about the physical exercise: it’s just as much about your mind and spirit. Proper yoga practice encourages you to think about the link between your body and mind. In fact, studies have shown that integrated yoga (rather than a focus on physical fitness) can be particularly helpful for pregnant moms at risk of depression.

When to start prenatal yoga?

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You don’t need to be a yoga before pregnancy if you want to try prenatal yoga. However, experts would recommend that you hold off physical yoga asanas in the first trimester. Instead, think about using this time to learn more about the meditative and cultural side of yoga!

The best time to start prenatal yoga classes is after you’ve entered the second trimester – around Week 14. The second trimester is the time that your pregnancy hormone levels tend to decrease, which thankfully often spells the end of morning sickness. You’ll likely feel more energetic and more like your old self. The risk of miscarriage drops substantially in the second trimester, which may help keep your mind at ease when you exercise.

Pregnancy yoga checklist

For a comfortable start your maternity yoga journey, you’ll need a few things.

  • Loose, comfortable clothes
  • Yoga mat
  • Water bottle
  • Towel
  • Hair ties, if you need them

And – last but not least – a qualified prenatal yoga teacher!

What kind of pregnancy yoga poses do I do in a class?

During pregnancy yoga, your instructor will likely begin with gentle breathing and stretching exercises. They will take you through a series of slightly modified postures for pregnant women. Every pregnant woman is different, so not everyone can do the same series of exercises. However, you might run into some of the following popular pregnancy postures.

Cat and Cow pose

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Kneeling on all fours like a cat and looking at the ground as you exhale, keep your knees under your hips and your wrists under your shoulders, and round your back upwards. Look up as you round your back downwards, pressing your hands into the floor as you inhale.

Cobbler’s pose

Cobbler's Tailor's pose yoga

Put some cushions under your knees so you don’t over-stretch. If you have loose hip joints, keep some cushions on the floor where you sit.

Sit up straight with your back supported by a wall, and place the soles of your feet against each other. Gently press down on your knees to spread them out as far as you comfortably can, but don’t use force. Keep this position as long as you feel comfortable.

Some points to remember during prenatal yoga

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To keep yourself and baby safe, there are few important precautions to take in yoga practice. Avoid raising your body temperature too much and keep hydrated throughout your yoga session – you’ll want to steer well clear of any “hot yoga” or Bikram classes.

Avoid any yoga positions that compress, twist or put a strain on the abdomen and belly. Don’t attempt inverted positions like handstands or shoulder stands. Be sure to tell your teacher if you feel uncomfortable, and stop to take a rest immediately if you feel any tightness or cramping in your belly. It’s okay to break a little sweat, but never push yourself too much during pregnancy.

  1. New survey reveals the rapid rise of yoga — and why some people still haven’t tried it