Most doctors encourage women to stay as active as possible during their pregnancy — and yoga is a great exercise option for them! Yoga can improve sleep, reduce stress and anxiety, increase strength and flexibility, and ease common pregnancy discomforts.
Prenatal yoga movements are gentle and the poses can be adapted as the body changes throughout pregnancy. With all this info in mind, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that many people turn to prenatal yoga to keep up their practice during pregnancy.
Still, we’ve noticed that lots of people don’t actually know what prenatal yoga is or why it’s so great for expecting moms.
To answer all of your questions, we’ve put together this guide to understanding prenatal yoga so you know what you can expect (when you’re expecting and doing yoga).
Prenatal Yoga 101
Yoga is a great way to stay active during pregnancy, but not all yoga is created equal. If you’d like to incorporate yoga as part of your pregnancy fitness routine, you should actually consider prenatal yoga, which is a low-impact and safer alternative to other workouts.
Prenatal yoga classes are led by instructors that are trained in the changes a woman’s body goes through during pregnancy. They can also offer modifications and alternate poses to suit the unique nature of a pregnant yogi at any stage of their pregnancy.
Over those nine months, you will need to be hyper-mindful of how your body moves on (and off!) the mat.
As you progress through pregnancy, your body will change to accommodate your baby. Joints such as the hips will loosen to allow more space and your growing belly will shift your center of gravity. These changes might make your body move differently than you’re used to. In prenatal yoga classes, your instructor will guide your poses so you can feel safe and comfortable in your practice.
Before you explore prenatal yoga any further, consult your doctor. The American Pregnancy Association advises women who are at risk of premature labor to avoid the practice. It’s important to know your risks before you get started!
What are the benefits of Prenatal Yoga?
Beyond the well-known benefits of yoga for everyone — increased flexibility and strength, reduced stress and anxiety, etc. — yoga is especially beneficial for people during pregnancy.
The gentle movements of prenatal yoga will keep your blood flowing properly, helping to reduce the likelihood of muscle cramps. These movements also relieve the pesky back and hip pain that’s all too common in the later stages of pregnancy, reduce stress, and help you sleep better.
Some of the poses and movements you use in yoga can be beneficial during labor to ease pain and manage breathing through contractions! By staying active with prenatal yoga, you may even find that you recover more quickly after giving birth.
The NACAMS — a national medical association that serves health and wellness professionals — points out an often overlooked benefit of prenatal yoga: Community.
“People often advocate 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!
Remember the most important benefits.
- Increased flexibility
- Improved strength
- Reduced stress and anxiety
- Better blood flow
- Reduced muscle cramps
- Pain relief
- Improved sleep quality
- Breathing techniques for labor
- Support from a community!
Keep These 6 Things in Mind as well…
Prenatal yoga is different from your regular yoga class, just as any exercise during pregnancy should be different from the workouts you would do pre-baby. Even long-practicing yogis should remember these key points about yoga while pregnant:
- Skip the hot yoga. Your body is more sensitive to heat when you’re pregnant, and 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.”
- Pay attention to your body. Poses that you used to be able to do 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.
- Be prepared to change your 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. And that’s okay! 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.
- 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 when you need it.
Where Should I Do Prenatal Yoga?
There are plenty of yoga studios that offer prenatal yoga classes. Some hospitals and birthing centers may even have classes available for parents-to-be. Wherever you take it, an in-person class is a good way to get your prenatal yoga on, since you’ll have the benefit of an experienced teacher who can help you modify your poses as necessary.
But we have good news! You don’t have to find a local prenatal yoga class to get your practice in during pregnancy. Online yoga streaming classes are available to help you prioritize it — and on your schedule. You can do yoga when you have the time and are feeling well, which is a great alternative to feeling sick to your stomach on the drive to class!
A Few Prenatal Yoga Key Takeaways
To sum it up: whether you’re new to yoga and looking for a fun way to stay active during pregnancy or you want to continue your existing practice during pregnancy, yoga is a great way to stay healthy and relaxed for that nine-month period. It will also help prepare your body to give birth!
Here are a few things to remember before you kick off a prenatal yoga practice:
- Prenatal yoga is designed specifically for pregnancy. It modifies poses and movements to keep you and your baby safe and comfortable.
- Not all yoga can be adapted for pregnancy. Avoid hot yoga or other intensive practices that could put you or your baby at risk.
- Listen to your body’s needs, even if you’ve been doing yoga for a long time.
- Stay hydrated! You need more water during prenatal yoga to keep up with the changing needs of your body.
- Online classes can be a good way to get your yoga in when you’re feeling up to it, instead of being stuck with a class schedule that doesn’t work for you.
Keep Calm and Yoga On
Thanks to prenatal yoga’s ability to modify poses, yoga can take you through each stage of your pregnancy. It will help you stay healthy, while also alleviating pain, reducing stress and anxiety, and giving you some pain management tools for labor. You may even find yourself in your favorite poses in the delivery room to cope with your contractions!
As long as you’re careful about your practice and listen to your body’s needs — and your doctor’s instructions, of course — prenatal yoga can be a valuable asset to your pregnancy journey.
What have you heard about prenatal yoga and how are you liking it?
Let us know on Instagram or in the comments below.