Pre-Natal Yoga: An Introduction
Prenatal yoga can be adapted to fit with the needs of a pregnant woman, no matter the stage in the pregnancy. This is called prenatal yoga. This form of exercise builds the core strength aflexibility that will guide you through pregnancy and prepare you for the up-coming birth.
12/17/2011 | 08:00 PM
Exercise is recommended throughout pregnancy. But with the risk of injury and overexertion, it can be hard to know which form of aerobic exercise to choose. One excellent option is prenatal yoga. Prenatal is a form of yoga that has been adapted for the physiology of the pregnant woman, to fit baby’s and mother’s needs. Some of the poses are adapted according to the stage of the pregnancy. For example, during the second and third trimesters, many prenatal adaptations are designed to prevent compression of the uterus and avoid the baby from being squished.
Yoga and prenatal yoga can prevent back pain and other discomforts, boost your energy level and prevent excess weight gain. As it improves flexibility, lowers stress and improves core strength, it is good for both you and the baby.
How Yoga can benefit pregnant women
Yoga is a perfect fit for pregnancy. It helps prepare the body for birth and helps shorten then length of recovery time afterwards. Yoga will help likely ease your labor by strengthening and stretching the muscles.
- Yoga practice keeps you limber, tones your muscles, and improves your balance and circulation, with little, if any, impact on your joints.
- Yoga is also beneficial because it includes breathing and relaxing techniques, which will come in handy as you face the physical demands of labor, birth, and motherhood.
- Yoga practice trains you to stay calm when you need it most. When you're in pain or afraid, your body produces adrenalin and may produce less oxytocin, a hormone that stimulates the contractions of muscles during labor. While you need this hormone to push the baby out, it’s also important to stay loose and relaxed. A regular yoga practice will help you fight the urge to tighten up when you feel pain, and show you how to relax instead.
- Yoga helps the body deal with stress by slowing heart and breathing rates and lowering blood pressure -- which can benefit new moms too.
- Taking a prenatal yoga class is a great way to meet other pregnant women. Being in a positive, supportive environment with others like you can give you a regular emotional boost and keep you motivated to continue exercising.
What to expect at a prenatal yoga class
When you are taking your first class:
- Tell Your Instructor About Your Pregnancy: You may not feel comfortable discussing your pregnancy with many people in the first trimester. But it is important to tell any yoga teacher that you are pregnant so he can assist you with modifications to the poses and postures that might be necessary. Ask the teacher to be discreet if you are not yet ready to go public.
- Bring water. It's important to stay hydrated and cool when exercising.
- Go Slow. Don’t go too deep into the poses, at least at first. During pregnancy, the body produces a hormone throughout pregnancy called relaxin, which is intended to soften your bones and ligaments to make room for the baby to grow and develop. This softening of the ligaments can make them vulnerable to over stretching.
- Use the bathroom when you need to. As you progress in the pregnancy, the uterus will press on the bladder and you will need to relieve yourself more often. While some may find it embarrassing to have to leave the yoga class to go to the bathroom, it’s essential that you do for your own health and the health of the baby.
- Listen to your body and don't do anything that causes pain, tightness, dizziness, or shortness of breath. If you become uncomfortable stop what you're doing immediately and ask the instructor for a modification, or just sit on your mat, sip water, and wait for the next pose.
- Don't be afraid to ask the instructor questions. Ask as many questions as you want in order to feel comfortable and confident. The other pregnant women in the room will appreciate the info as well.
Prenatal yoga moves
Yoga is a gentle and relaxing form of exercise and so ideal for pregnancy. As long as you listen to your body, yoga is good for the pregnant woman. Remember to tell your instructor that you are pregnant. He or she will make any necessary adaptions.
Prenatal yoga, by contrast, is a form of yoga where the poses have been specially adapted to suit the needs of pregnant women. While the exact adaptations will depend on the teacher and the form of yoga, prenatal yoga will likely focus on opening your hips, stretching your lower back, chest, abs, and shoulders, and strengthening your thighs. It may include the following:
- Kegel exercises: You'll probably spend some time doing Kegel exercises to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles. Strengthening these will make it easier to release them while in labor, and will also tighten them up after birth to prevent incontinence.
- More gentle twists: Deep twists from the belly compress the internal organs, including the uterus. Instead, twist more gently from the shoulders. Remember to be gentle, and don’t push it!
- Modified Balance: many poses in yoga require a combination of balance and strength. With the difficult balance poses, you are at risk of falling over. To prevent any risk of injury to the baby, make sure you do these poses while holding onto a rail or banister or against a wall.
- Fewer back bends: In general, during pregnancy, it’s best to avoid deep backbends. However, if you performed these poses easily before the pregnancy, you may continue to do it in the first trimester if it feels good to you.
- Less abdominal work: Poses that are purely abdominal strengtheners should be avoided. Your abs need to be able to soften so they will be able to stretch to make room for the baby.
In addition, there are a number of prenatal yoga poses that are particularly suited to pregnant women.
- Mountain Pose (Tadasana): The Mountain Yoga Pose promotes the experience of stillness, strength, relaxed power, and immovable stability associated with mountains.
- Warrior Pose: The Warrior Pose stretches and strengthens the arms and legs. It increases stamina, improves balance and concentration, and can also relieve backaches. If you are suffering from diarrhea, high blood pressure or neck problems, you should take extra caution practicing this pose.
- Standing Side Stretch Pose: The Standing Side Stretch is another Yoga Pose with two lines of energy radiating outward from your center. This is a simple Yoga Posture with a wonderful stretch in which one line of energy reaches upward from your belly and outward through the arm, and one line travels downward through the legs.
- Standing Spread Leg Forward Bend: Practicing the Standing Spread Leg Forward Fold can strengthen and stretch your inner and back legs and your spine. People with lower back problems should avoid doing the full forward bend. For beginners, you may use props like a folding chair to support your forearms.
- Seated Forward Bend (Paschimothanasana): By practicing the Seated Forward Bend you relax your body and mind, stretch your hamstrings, shoulders, and spine, relieve stress, and improve your posture and concentration. Learn how to do this properly and achieve maximum results.
- Hero Pose (Virasana): One of the fundamental seated postures is the Hero Pose. This serves as the initial position for several Asanas. It strengthens the arches of the feet, stretches the ankles, and improves posture. It is ideal for people who have flat feet.
Yoga for pregnant mothers is ideal for the well being of the mother and the unborn baby. The relaxation poses and postures will develop core strength and flexibility. The emphasis on breathing and relaxation will help a smooth pregnancy and prepare for the challenges of labor. However the poses may need to be adapted to the mother’s stage of pregnancy. Make sure to tell your yoga instructor what stage you are in your pregnancy.