Pregnancy is an exciting (and — let’s be honest — stressful) time. It’s a period full of changes in pretty much every aspect of your life. And with so much information out there for mamas-to-be who are looking for ways to keep their bodies and babies healthy, it can feel a little overwhelming. Like, where’s the best place to start with a pregnancy workout routine?
Here’s the thing… a good prenatal workout isn’t just about your physical health. Mental and emotional wellness are key, as well!
What is prenatal yoga?
Prenatal yoga is a type of yoga designed for pregnant women.
According to the Mayo Clinic:
It focuses on breathing, gentle stretching, and relaxation. In addition to keeping your body strong and limber throughout pregnancy, prenatal yoga has a unique goal: to prepare your body for labor and delivery. It can also help keep your baby healthy.
Prenatal yoga covers all of the important bases — physical, mental, and emotional health. And classes are led by instructors who are trained in the changes a woman’s body experiences throughout pregnancy, so you know you’re in good hands. These class leaders will also know how to offer modifications and alternate poses to suit the unique needs of an expectant yogi at any stage of their pregnancy.
Still, any time you start a new exercise program, it’s important to take the time to learn about what you’re getting into and what you can gain from it. This is especially true when you’re pregnant, since you’re more aware of and concerned about your body than ever!
Prenatal yoga tips
Even experienced yogis should remember these key points about prenatal yoga:
- Skip the hot yoga. Your body is more sensitive to heat when you’re pregnant, so overheating is dangerous. The College of Family Physicians warns that “with the increased risk of NTDS, or neural tube defects, and possibly other malformations in pregnant women exposed to excessive heat, practicing hot yoga should be avoided.”
- Listen to your body. Poses that you can normally perform easily may be more difficult (or even impossible!) during pregnancy. Don’t assume that you can power through and move your body in the same way you did before. Your body is changing and that’s okay!
- Be prepared to change the routine. If you’ve been doing yoga every day for years, you still might find that you have to skip a day here and there while you’re expecting. Your body is doing a lot of work during pregnancy. Give it a break.
- Use props. Blocks and straps might make poses more accessible and comfortable.
- Avoid face-down positions. Facing the mat on the floor won’t be feasible as your belly grows. Skip those poses!
- Stay hydrated. You need more water during your pregnancy to stay healthy… and even more when you’re doing yoga. Keep a water bottle by your mat so you can take a drink whenever you need it.
- Before starting any new exercise program — including prenatal yoga – be sure to consult with your doctors. The American Pregnancy Association advises women who are at risk of premature labor to avoid the practice. Know the risks before you get starte
We’re big proponents of prenatal yoga for mamas-to-be around here, but we understand that if you’re thinking about giving it a try, you first need to learn about all of its benefits. The more you know about those benefits, the easier it will be for you to decide if it’s a good exercise program for you… and to stay motivated to stick with it throughout your pregnancy.
The awesome health benefits of a prenatal yoga workout
#1) It’s good for your mental health
Let’s just cut to the chase: Even under the best circumstances, pregnancy can be a stressful experience.
As an expectant mom, your body is going through constant physical, mental, and emotional changes. Throw in the normal daily pressures of work and family responsibilities and there’s no question — preparing to bring a baby into the world can cause some serious stress!
The good news is that doing prenatal yoga is a great way to relax.
Per UC Santa Cruz:
Yoga has a range of mental health benefits, including increased emotional stability, reduced depression, increased ability to be present in the moment, and more. The practice’s slow movements and emphasis on breathing will help lower your heart rate and encourage you to let go of whatever is weighing you down.
And it will boost your happiness, too, so that you can really enjoy being pregnant as much as possible.
There’s a bonus when you’re practicing prenatal yoga at home. If you do yoga on your own turf, you have the added relaxation of being in your space. You’ll be that much more comfortable.
#2) It can boost your flexibility
Yoga is well-known for increasing flexibility — and you’ll need that throughout your pregnancy. Over the course of the nine months you’re expecting, your growing belly will force you to change up the way you move. Doing prenatal yoga at home throughout your pregnancy will help keep you flexible so you can stay as active as possible from beginning to end. This might even help you recover more easily after giving birth.
Plus, flexibility is important beyond pregnancy. As you get older, flexibility will become even more critical to help you maintain your mobility. You might as well start now.
#3) It will help you build strength
Yoga builds more than flexibility for expectant moms. It builds strength, too.
Strength training is an important part of any workout regimen, whether you’re pregnant or not. And we’re not talking about building beefy muscles! As your baby grows, you will need more strength to carry the weight and keep up with everything else you need to do on a daily basis. Your body will adapt naturally, of course, but regular exercise can help it adapt more easily and better prepare you to recover after the baby arrives.
The extra cool thing about yoga is that it uses your bodyweight to build strength. No extra equipment or weights are necessary.
#4) It can adapt along with your body
We’re not pretending that it’s easy to keep up with a regular exercise routine during pregnancy. After all, it’s easy to make excuses to skip out on a fitness sesh even when you’re not bumpin’!
Even women who generally have no problem getting motivated to work out might feel frustrated when navigating the world of prenatal exercise. As your body changes, you might find yourself dealing with physical limitations you weren’t expecting. It may even make you consider giving up your workout routines altogether.
But that doesn’t have to happen when you have prenatal yoga as an option, because yoga is highly adaptable. Poses can be easily adjusted to accommodate different skill and mobility levels at every stage of pregnancy. Even when you begin to feel like your belly is getting in the way, it doesn’t have to keep you from being active on a regular basis.
#5) Since you can do it at home, it’s convenient
Bottom line: doing prenatal yoga at home is one of the most convenient forms of exercise for mamas-to-be. Your energy is in short supply — you are growing a human being, after all — and when you do prenatal yoga at home, you can save some of that much-needed energy.
And remember — you don’t even need any special equipment or gear to do it! You don’t technically even need a yoga mat. Between your work schedule, family obligations, and the extra doctor’s appointments that are often required throughout your pregnancy, you don’t need any more reasons to stress about scheduling. Knowing that you can keep exercising regularly with prenatal yoga at home should be a big relief!
With online yoga classes, you can exercise whenever it’s convenient for you, whether that’s before work, after work, during lunch, or even at one in the morning when you’re having trouble sleeping. You don’t have to commit to a set time every week, so your exercise schedule can work the way you need it to. Isn’t that how it should be?
#6) It’s a low-impact exercise
Yoga is built around slow movements and holding on to poses. It’s one of the lowest-impact exercise programs out there. Other exercises (like running or biking) can be hard on joints and muscles. People who rely on higher-impact exercises may even have to stop those activities because they’ve already put so much stress on their bodies. High-impact exercises are especially off-limits when you’re pregnant. And no one wants to be a quitter!
Yoga is low-impact, which means you can do it without aggravating pregnancy aches and pains. It also means that you can work up to a daily yoga routine without worrying too much about overworking your body and causing an injury pre-baby. If you’re concerned about the impact of your regular exercise regimen on your body during pregnancy, doing prenatal yoga at home could definitely be a good option for you.
But remember that it’s just as important to remember what NOT to do!
#7) It’s cost-effective
If you’re in the process of expanding your family, you probably have budgets on the brain. That’s totally normal!
Doing prenatal yoga at home via online classes is a good way to stay physically fit without adding extra bills into the mix. The classes themselves aren’t crazy expensive and you won’t need to purchase special equipment. All you really need is yourself and maybe a yoga mat to keep your feet from slipping.
Online yoga classes are a cost-effective prenatal workout option that doesn’t skimp on quality. You can put that extra money into new gear for your baby instead of a gym membership or expensive workout equipment.
#8) It will give you a natural glow
You’ve probably heard all about that famous “pregnancy glow.” But that doesn’t mean you’re actually experiencing it yourself. In fact, when you’re in the thick of dealing with pregnancy symptoms, you may feel like you’re the furthest thing from glowing.
Prenatal yoga might be just the thing to give you that all-natural glow you’ve been looking for.
#9) It may help you sleep better
Pregnancy can be exhausting, but it’s not always conducive to getting comfortable and easing into a restful night’s sleep. If you’re spending a lot of time tossing and turning, you may not be getting the rest you need to keep up with the demands being put on your body. (Again — you’re growing a human being.)
Enter prenatal yoga!
According to Harvard Health:
Yoga has been linked to better and more consistent sleep. The experts there cite a national survey in which more than 55% of people who did yoga found that it helped them get better sleep.
So hit the mat and then prepare to hit the hay, mamas!
#10) It promotes self-love
Self-love is always important. We think it’s especially important for you to prioritize it when you’re pregnant. With all the time you’re spending thinking about what you should be doing to care for your body and your baby, it’s all too easy to forget that YOU deserve attention, too.
Exercise — including prenatal yoga at home — is a great way to practice self-love. The many physical health benefits of yoga will help you feel better in your own body.
#11) You can get your partner involved
You may be the only pregnant one in the relationship, but the changes and stresses you’re experiencing are bound to impact the dynamic between you and your S.O. With everything you’re doing to prepare for the baby’s arrival, it’s probably been a while since you set aside time for quality time.
Because prenatal yoga is designed for pregnant people specifically, it may not be perfectly suited for those who aren’t pregnant. Your partner might still enjoy joining you for an online class, moving in and out of beginner poses and getting in touch with their breath. They might choose to explore other kinds of classes, too, so you can bond over a new shared interest in yoga.
#12) It builds community
NACAMS — a national medical association that serves health and wellness professionals — points out an often overlooked benefit of prenatal yoga: community.
People often advocate for prenatal yoga as a community-building activity, where mothers can meet to share their experiences and concerns.
Prenatal yoga makes sense for moms-to-be because it offers a healthy, supportive exercise option for them at every stage of pregnancy.
Staying healthy during pregnancy is critical for both you and your baby. While you’re pregnant, you need to find an exercise routine that works for your needs and can adapt as your body changes throughout pregnancy. Yoga is a low-impact, adaptable exercise program that will give you everything you need to stay healthy until your baby is born and beyond.
Check out these top 3 awesome prenatal and postnatal classes