Just as yoga is incredibly beneficial for people who are not expecting, prenatal yoga holds many benefits for those who are pregnant. In fact, prenatal yoga addresses many of pregnancy’s peskiest symptoms.
Read on to learn about prenatal yoga’s benefits, how it’s different from regular yoga, and what to avoid when taking a class.
(The contents of this post do not constitute medical advice. Click here to read our disclaimer.)
How Is Prenatal Yoga Different From Regular Yoga?
During pregnancy, your body changes significantly in ways that will affect how you can practice yoga safely. Your ligaments become looser, and there is greater pressure on your joints and pelvic area. A prenatal yoga class will incorporate accommodations to account for these changes.
Additionally, prenatal yoga helps your body prepare for labor. This might involve breathing exercises and specific breathing exercises to stretch and strengthen your body.
Types of Prenatal Yoga
Prenatal yoga classes are specifically designed for pregnant students and their needs. If you’re pregnant and just getting started with yoga, prenatal classes may be your best bet.
Hatha and restorative yoga can also be good options for pregnant yogis. Hatha has a strong focus on postures and breath control. It moves at a slower pace than vinyasa with the goal of promoting mindfulness and relaxation while challenging strength and flexibility. If you already had a robust yoga practice before pregnancy, hatha may be a great choice for you as your baby grows.
Restorative yoga is a more restful style that involves passive stretching. In a restorative class, you can expect to hold a pose for five minutes or more while focusing on your breath and releasing tension. You will likely have the option of supporting yourself with props like bolsters, blocks, and straps. If you’re experiencing stress or anxiety during your pregnancy or have a higher-risk pregnancy, restorative yoga could be an excellent option for you.
10 Prenatal Yoga Benefits
The benefits of prenatal yoga are numerous and varied. They address many of the most challenging pregnancy symptoms and help to prepare you for labor, birth, and parenthood. Here are 10 powerful benefits of prenatal yoga:
1. Improved Sleep
Getting a quality night of sleep can be more challenging during pregnancy, either because of physical discomfort or increased stress. But pregnancy is a time when you could use more sleep, not less. Luckily, studies have shown that practicing yoga can improve your ability to both fall asleep and remain more deeply asleep.
2. Reduced Anxiety and Stress
Whether you’re becoming a parent for the first time or adding to your family, pregnancy can be a time of heightened stress and anxiety. Fortunately, yoga is well-known for its stress-reducing effects. Whether you’re engaging in asana (physical yoga practice), meditation, or pranayama (breath control practices), yoga can help you manage anxiety during your pregnancy.
3. Practicing Presence and Embodiment
In yoga, we learn to be present in the moment and on our mats. As you move toward a big life change, yoga can help you learn to pause and be present even in the most stressful moments. Yoga also teaches us embodiment – to listen to our bodies and what they’re telling us. Since your body rapidly changes during pregnancy, this practice of embodiment can help you to understand new things about your body and listen clearly to its wisdom.
4. Reduced Blood Pressure
Prenatal yoga lowers both heart rate and blood pressure, even more than other low-impact exercises, such as walking, studies show.
5. Improved Digestion
Constipation is one of the first pregnancy symptoms many people notice. It happens early in pregnancy because your body is producing more progesterone. Later on, your digestive organs don’t have as much space to do their thing because your baby is growing. Many poses that are considered safe in prenatal yoga help stimulate the digestive organs. If you’re struggling with constipation, try malasana, baddha konasana, and janu sirsasana.
6. Preparation of Muscles Needed for Childbirth
During yoga, the core and other muscles important to birth are engaged, making them stronger and more toned. Since prenatal yoga involves both stretching and strengthening, participating in classes regularly can improve the labor and childbirth experience, as well as recovery after either a vaginal birth or c-section. The breath control you practice in prenatal yoga can also come in handy during labor.
7. Reduced Risk of Preterm Labor
High stress is a risk factor for preterm labor, but yoga is known for its ability to reduce stress and anxiety. Because of this, studies have demonstrated that those who participate in prenatal yoga have a lower preterm labor rate.
8. Improved Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Symptoms
Your risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome increases during pregnancy. Symptoms of carpal tunnel include numbness, tingling or throbbing in the hands, swollen fingers, and difficulty gripping objects. However, if you develop carpal tunnel syndrome, prenatal yoga can help alleviate your symptoms because of its emphasis on wrist mobilization. Circling your hands, stretching your hands forward and backward, and other exercises can all help increase circulation to the affected area.
9. Management of Weight Gain
Since yoga is active, it can help you manage pregnancy weight gain in a healthy, mindful way.
10. Community of Other Pregnant People
Prenatal yoga classes can provide an additional support system during your pregnancy. While you likely have family and friends surrounding and encouraging you, it can be helpful to spend time with other people who are going through the same thing you are. Before or after class, you may find yourself giving or receiving advice about pregnancy symptoms or just finding a listening ear for your concerns.
Precautions for Prenatal Yoga
While prenatal yoga can be extremely beneficial, there are some precautions you should take before getting started.
Avoid lying flat on your back or on your stomach.
In late pregnancy, your uterus compresses the vena cava, a major vein that carries blood to your heart. Lying in the supine position compresses the vena cava even more. This inhibits circulation and could cause you to feel dizzy or nauseous. It can also prevent enough blood from flowing to your baby.
Additionally, lying on your belly later in pregnancy can create too much pressure in that area of your body. At some point, lying on your stomach will become too uncomfortable. Instead, look for yoga poses that involve lying on your side or that accomplish the same goal using a completely different position.
Be careful in twists and avoid excessive abdominal stretching.
Twisting poses can put too much pressure on your abdomen. Try twisting from your chest or upper back instead of from your core or the base of your spine. You can also twist less deeply than you might have before pregnancy.
You should also avoid excessive abdominal stretching or core work. Not only can this put inordinate stress on the abdomen, it can also increase your risk or diastasis recti, the separation of your rectus abdominis muscles.
Take classes by teachers certified in prenatal yoga.
Not all yoga teachers are deeply knowledgeable about prenatal yoga and the needs of pregnant students. A prenatal certification involves 80 or more hours of training. Look for classes led by teachers certified in prenatal yoga to ensure that you’re receiving instruction for someone who knows what a pregnant body needs.
Stay hydrated and stop if you feel light-headed.
Your hydration needs are already higher during pregnancy. Bring a bottle of water to class with you, and drink plenty of fluids before and after yoga to ensure that you stay hydrated.
If you notice you feel light-headed or overly tired, pause and take a break. Listen to your body as it tells you what it needs, and don’t push yourself too far. Thirty or fewer minutes is enough to receive the benefits of a prenatal yoga practice.
Avoid hot yoga.
Hot yoga or yoga outdoors during hot weather can lead to you feeling dizzy or nauseous and becoming dehydrated. Excessive heat can also cause neural tube defects, so save heated classes for after you’ve given birth.
Skip physical yoga practice if you’re at risk of premature labor.
If you’re at risk for preterm labor or have other health conditions, prenatal yoga may not be recommended for you. However, a physical yoga practice isn’t your only option. You can still reap many of the benefits of yoga by practicing meditation, breathwork, and mindfulness.
Consult your healthcare provider.
As with any new form of exercise during pregnancy, talk to your healthcare provider before getting started. They’ll be able to advise you on the safety of starting a prenatal practice and if there are any risks you should be aware of.
Have you tried prenatal yoga? What benefits did it provide for you? Tell me in the comments!
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Looking to get started with prenatal yoga? Check out our post on First Trimester Yoga Videos.