Without a doubt, yoga is one of the best ways to stay active through your pregnancy, and can do both you and your baby the whole world of good!
In this article, we will cover the many benefits of yoga during pregnancy, as well as the precautions that you should take to ensure that your practice is a safe one.
Benefits of yoga during pregnancy
The list of benefits to practicing yoga during pregnancy is endless. We’ve picked out just a few of our favorites that will have you stepping away from nesting and onto your mat.
Yoga calms the mind
By focusing on our breath and moving through a series of calming poses, we can more easily still our busy minds. During pregnancy, it’s normal to worry over things and focus on thoughts that don’t serve us. As important as some of these thoughts are to help us prepare for the new baby, it’s equally as (if not more!) important to spend time nurturing our minds and our bodies to help us send loving thoughts to our growing babies.
Our growing babies put pressure on our bodies in new ways that, if this is your first pregnancy, you probably haven’t experienced before. The uterus alone weighs heavily on the pelvis and puts strain on the legs - let alone the extra pregnancy kilos that we put on alongside it! Prenatal yoga classes are specifically designed to release pregnancy pain, and you’ll be introduced to pain-poses that you can practice at home!
Though a little stress is normal and harmless, high and prolonged levels of stress have been found to have an impact on the development of a fetus. Practicing yoga during pregnancy can reduce stress levels and equip us with useful breathing techniques that we can use day-to-day when we’re feeling a little anxious.
Meet other moms
One of the best things about prenatal yoga? There are other moms there! A prenatal yoga class is a great way to meet and connect with other women who are in the same situation and likely experiencing the same emotions and discomforts as you.
Precautions to take when practicing yoga pregnant
During a prenatal yoga class, teachers will make all of the necessary adjustments to keep you safe in your practice. However, it’s still good to be aware of the ways to stay safe during prenatal yoga, especially when practicing at home.
Be especially gentle in the first trimester
Though you may not see it or feel like it, a lot is happening in your body during the first trimester. This is also the time when you are most at risk of miscarriage. Morning sickness may have you a little off-balance, your blood pressure is likely to have dropped a little, and you’re growing a whole new organ to support your baby! Hello, placenta. Being cautious during the second and third trimester is more natural as you’ll be ‘feeling’ more pregnant, so pay extra attention during the first. If you didn’t practice yoga before your pregnancy, it would be a good idea to take it easy. It may even feel better to wait until the second trimester to begin.
Tell the teacher
If you’re attending a regular yoga class, make sure that you inform the studio and the teacher that you are pregnant. This way they can make specific alterations for you and ensure that you’re not doing anything unsafe. Some teachers may not feel comfortable with having you join their class, and that’s ok too! Remember that it’s just to keep you safe. Attending a prenatal class is the best way to ensure that you stay safe when practicing yoga during pregnancy, but hatha and restorative classes will also usually be suitable. Hot yoga is a definite no during pregnancy!
Be aware of laying on your back
After the first trimester, laying on your back can put pressure on the vena cava - the vein responsible for sending blood to your uterus and bringing it back to your heart. Putting pressure on the vein can cause lightheadedness and low blood pressure. Listen to your body. If you feel dizzy, then you know that you will need to be on an incline or lay on your side to feel your best.
Be careful with the abdominals
When practicing twists during pregnancy, be sure to twist from the shoulders and not the waist. Also, avoid poses that stretch the abdominals. The hormone ‘relaxin’ is released during pregnancy and is responsible for relaxing the body’s muscles, joints and ligaments. Its job is to make birth easier, but it also puts us more at risk of strain and injury. As well as being gentle with the abdominals, avoid going too deep into hip openers as this can strain the pelvis and cause pelvic girdle pain.
Be aware of your balance
During pregnancy, your center of gravity is constantly changing. Though you might feel stable, it’s much safer to use a wall or a chair during balancing poses - that way you won’t be at risk of falling over!
Lead with the chest
In positions where we ‘fold’ the body, we should always lead with the chest. This is even more important during pregnancy as it ensures that we allow ourselves more space to breathe as opposed to squashing the abdomen. A good technique is to use a towel wrapped around the soles of the feet to gently pull on and bring ourselves into the fold - this will make it easier to keep the spine long and the chest open.
Listen to your body!
The biggest rule in prenatal yoga is that you listen to your body. As you progress through your pregnancy, your body will be traveling through a whole world of changes and need love and attention in lots of different ways. If something doesn’t feel good, don’t do it - follow that rule and you’ll be safe during your practice.
Poses to avoid crushing the belly
Twists that cross the midline
Revolved side angle pose
Forward fold - consider replacing with wide-legged fold or hand on thighs.
Yoga Poses that are safe during pregnancy
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