Whether you are an experienced yoga practitioner or considering going to a pre-natal yoga class for the first time, a regular yoga practice during pregnancy can be beneficial for the mind and the body.
Pregnancy yoga can be a way to stay healthy throughout pregnancy, to prevent and relieve aches and pains, and to prepare the body and the mind for giving birth.
There are many physical benefits to committing to a regular pregnancy yoga class:
- it helps you to stay strong and healthy through pregnancy, and during and after giving birth
- it can prevent and relieve backache
- it can prevent stretch marks
- standing postures strengthen the legs
- many sitting postures open up the pelvis area and help to prepare for giving birth
- some asanas can help to make delivery easier
- it improves general fitness and well-being
There are also many emotional health benefits to pre-natal yoga:
- the breathing, meditation and relaxation techniques in yoga can help you to relax and stay balanced throughout pregnancy and childbirth
- yoga can help to prepare for labor – physically and mentally
- a regular yoga practice can be a source of physical but also emotional strength through times of hormonal changes and fluctuating moods
How Safe Is Yoga During Pregnancy?
Many yoga teachers recommend that it is best to avoid yoga during the first trimester, especially if you have never done yoga before and/or if you have a history of miscarriage. Some experienced practitioners make the decision to continue practicing but do a gentle, modified practice. My own teachers in the Shri K. Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Yoga Institute in India recommend taking a break from practice for the first trimester. From the second trimester onwards pre-natal yoga can be very helpful.
If you are new to yoga, the best way to stay safe is to find a specific pre-natal yoga class or to get lessons from a qualified pregnancy yoga teacher. Experienced yoga practitioners often modify their existing practices during the second trimester, and as the pregnancy advances to the third trimester, the practice becomes even gentler.
Some postures should be avoided during pregnancy. Deep twists, postures that involve lying on your stomach or that involve lying on your back for a long time, and inverted postures should generally be either avoided completely or modified. A qualified pre-natal yoga teacher will teach only postures that are safe throughout pregnancy, and a good pregnancy yoga class should also include postures that will help to prevent and relieve back pain and other common discomforts. Read also Safety Tips for Yoga During Pregnancy.
The Sivananda Yoga Centre: The New Book of Yoga (Revised Edition, Ebury Press, London, 2000)
Betty Lai: Ashtanga Yoga Practice During Pregnancy (online article on ashtanga.com)
Photo: David Roseborough