Prenatal yoga can be a great way to prepare for childbirth.
If you’re pregnant and looking for ways to relax or stay in shape, you might find a prenatal yoga class near you. But did you know that prenatal yoga can also help you prepare for childbirth and promote the health of your baby? Before you begin prenatal yoga, you should understand the range of possible benefits, as well as a typical class flow and important safety tips.
- 1 What are the benefits of prenatal yoga?
- 2 What happens during a typical prenatal yoga class?
- 3 Are there any styles of yoga that are not recommended for pregnant women?
- 4 Specific safety instructions for prenatal yoga
- 5 How to choose a prenatal yoga class?
What are the benefits of prenatal yoga?
Much like other types of childbirth preparation classes, prenatal yoga is a multidimensional approach to exercise that encourages stretching, mental centering, and focused breathing. Research suggests that prenatal yoga is safe and can have many benefits for pregnant women and their babies.
Prenatal yoga can:
– Improve sleep
– Reduce stress and anxiety
– Increase the strength, flexibility and endurance of the muscles needed for childbirth
– Decrease lower back pain, nausea, headaches and shortness of breath
Prenatal yoga can also help you meet and bond with other pregnant women, and prepare you for the stresses of being a new parent.
What happens during a typical prenatal yoga class?
A typical prenatal yoga class offers:
You will be encouraged to focus on slow, deep inhaling and exhaling through your nose. Prenatal yoga breathing techniques can help you reduce or manage shortness of breath during pregnancy and work on contractions during childbirth.
You will be encouraged to gently move different parts of your body, such as your neck and arms, using their full range of motion.
Standing, sitting or lying on the floor, you will gently move your body into different positions aimed at developing your strength, flexibility and balance. Props such as blankets, pillows, and belts can be used to provide support and comfort.
Refresh and relax
At the end of each prenatal yoga class, you will relax your muscles and return to your resting heart and breathing rates. You may be encouraged to listen to your own breath, pay attention to sensations, thoughts, and emotions, or repeat a mantra or word to achieve a state of self-awareness and inner calm.
Are there any styles of yoga that are not recommended for pregnant women?
There are many different styles of yoga, some more demanding than others. Prenatal yoga and hatha yoga are the best choices for pregnant women. Tell the teacher about your pregnancy before starting another yoga class.
Be sure to avoid hot yoga, which involves doing vigorous poses in a heated room at higher temperatures. For example, during the Bikram form of hot yoga, the room is heated to around 40°C and its humidity level is 40%. Hot yoga can cause your body temperature to rise excessively, causing a condition known as hyperthermia.
Specific safety instructions for prenatal yoga
To protect your health and that of your baby during prenatal yoga, follow some basic safety guidelines. For example :
Speak to the health professional who takes care of you: medicine, midwife
Before starting a prenatal yoga program, make sure your healthcare professional is on board. You may not be able to do prenatal yoga if you are at increased risk of preterm labor or if you have certain medical conditions, such as heart disease or back problems.
Set realistic goals
For most pregnant women, getting at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity on at least five days, if not every day of the week, is recommended. However, even shorter or less frequent workouts can help you stay fit and prepare for childbirth.
Pay attention to your pace
If you can’t speak normally while doing prenatal yoga, you’re probably trying too hard.
Stay cool and hydrated
Practice prenatal yoga in a well-ventilated room to avoid overheating. Drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated.
Avoid certain postures
When doing poses, bend from your hips, not your back, to maintain the normal curvature of the spine. Avoid lying on your stomach or back, leaning deeply forward or back, or taking twisting positions that put pressure on your abdomen. You can change twist positions so that only your upper back, shoulders, and rib cage are moved.
As your pregnancy progresses, use props during poses. This is to account for changes in your center of gravity. If you’re wondering if a pose is safe, ask your instructor for advice.
Don’t overdo it
Pay attention to your body and how you feel. Start slow and avoid positions that are beyond your level of experience or comfort. Stretch only to the limit of what you would have done before your pregnancy.
If you feel pain or other warning signs, stop. It can be: vaginal bleeding, decreased movement or contractions of the fetus, during prenatal yoga.
How to choose a prenatal yoga class?
Look for a program taught by an instructor who has received training in prenatal yoga. Consider shadowing a class in advance to ensure you are comfortable with the proposed activities, instructor style, class size, and environment.
Babbar S, et al. Yoga in pregnancy. Clinical Obstetrics and Gynecology. 2016;59:600.
Chen PJ, et al. Effects of prenatal yoga on women’s stress and immune function across pregnancy: A randomized controlled trial. Complementary Therapies in Medicine. 2017;31:109.
Jahdi F, et al. Yoga during pregnancy: The effects on labor pain and delivery outcomes (A randomized controlled trial). Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice. 2017;27:1.
Polis RL, et al. Yoga in pregnancy. Obstetrics and Gynecology. 2015;126:1237.
Gavin NR, et al. Fetal and maternal responses to yoga in the third trimester. The Journal of Maternal-Fetal & Neonatal Medicine. In press. Accessed Dec. 27, 2018.
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