The health benefits of pregnancy yoga classes
Now that you're certain that a baby is on the way, (Congratulations!) you start wondering if you should continue exercising and what type of exercise you should do during the next 7 or 8 months. Have you considered going to a pregnancy yoga class? Some say that pregnancy yoga is a key ingredient of a healthy and happy pregnancy.
Pregnancy yoga is not only a great way to get a workout, but it also will provide you with a good preparation for delivery. It can give you good breathing techniques and it can help you prepare your mind. So far, so good.
Now let's talk about the health benefits of practicing pregnancy yoga classes.
1. More support for your body
Ladies our bodies are in constant change, but during pregnancy, those changes happen in an accelerated way, so we need some help so our bodies can adjust and compensate. A pregnancy class is designed to do that, it offers healthy and safe ways to stretch our muscles to strengthen our bodies, particularly our lower bodies so the carrying of our growing baby bumps becomes easier.
During pregnancy, we have to pay special attention to the pelvic floor, the muscles that support our baby during pregnancy. During a yoga class, the pelvic floor is lifted not only to strengthen it but also to bring lightness to the pose and make it more effective.
2. It can develop stamina, strength and tone
The different yoga poses practiced during a pregnancy yoga class will help you strengthen your hips, back, arms and shoulders. It will also help tone the pelvic floor and abdominal core muscle, this will definitely help during labor.
What does it mean to have a toned muscle? A toned muscle has the right balance between strength and length. It is important to build and maintain tone muscle during pregnancy for two reasons: it helps to minimize the aches and pains during the 9 months (yes please!) and after you have your baby it is key in bringing your body back to a tone condition.
Yoga poses like lunges and gentle backbends can help you achieve that.
3. It helps you achieve balance
Have noticed that as your baby bump grows, your balance is challenged physically? And how about emotionally? All those increasing hormones like progesterone and estrogen leave us drained right? This can be alleviated by practicing pregnancy yoga. How? During a class as you try to focus on holding and breathing through each pose, you will we able to fine-tune your balance, physically and emotionally.
Something to look forward.
4. It can prep you for labor
With each yoga pose you work conscious breathing, sometimes that is challenging. You can use this conscious breathing when your time arrives to give birth.
By working to connect with yoga methods of deep breathing you can help your body lose and relax so that it does what instinctively already know what do to do: give birth.
Pregnancy yoga can also decrease nausea, headaches, shortness of breath, and carpal tunnel syndrome. You could have a healthier pregnancy and you get to hang with other mommies that are going through the same experience, so you can compare notes and support each other.
That sounds like a pretty good deal!
Safety on pregnancy yoga
Yoga can be very beneficial to your pregnancy, as you now know or have confirmed, but you need to take certain precautions to be on the safe side.
There are a couple of rules you need to adhere while practicing pregnancy yoga. First, avoid any asana that requires upside-downside or inverted postures (headstands, handstands or shoulder stand); and the golden rule is to listen to your body. If you feel any discomfort while practicing any pose, you need to stop immediately, and in that spirit, you will need to adjust some poses as per your changing moods and growing bump.
Keep in mind the following guidelines if you're considering practicing any pregnancy yoga class.
- If you're attending a regular yoga class (not a pregnancy one), then you need to tell the instructor that you're pregnant and what trimester you're in.
- After your second trimester, your body's center of gravity is going to shift, so you need to use props or some sort of support (you can use the wall or a chair) for the exercises that involve balancing on toes or heels.
- As you're more at risk for strains, pulls or other injuries thanks to the pregnancy hormone relaxin, you need to avoid poses that stretch too much, the abdominals in particular.
- To make breathing easier, allow more space for the ribs to move, so when bending forward, hinge from the hips, leading with the breastbone and extending the spine from the crown of the head down to the tailbone.
- To help in preventing sciatic pain (a common suffering among pregnant women), make sure to keep the pelvis in a neutral position during the postures, you achieve this by engaging the abdominal muscles and slightly tucking the tailbone down.
- Avoid any sudden or deep twisting, when you have to do a twisting pose make sure to twist from the shoulders and the back rather than the waist.
Practicing yoga at home when pregnant
You don't have to go to a yoga studio or a gym to get your pregnancy yoga practice, you can do it at home. Maybe you'll feel more comfortable there or it's one of those days where hormones are crazy and you don't feel like going out.
You can practice your pregnancy yoga in the morning before going to work or before going to bed. You can have a 5 or 10-minute relaxation/meditation at the end. It will help you sleep better.
Just be aware of the changes in your body as your pregnancy progresses, some changes are needed in your daily pregnancy yoga practices. Some modifications are recommended, both physical and mental before you start practicing at home.
- First, you need to choose a spot where there's good air flow, maybe near a window or if the weather is good. open your doors so there's air circulation.
- You need to stay hydrated, so have your bottle of water handy.
- Always remember to connect to your breath. Sounds easy enough, but it gets tougher as your bump gets bigger, but still it's very important to breath maintaining an in-out flow.
- You'll need props to do some poses because your center of gravity will shift and to be on the safe side you'll need to grab a block or additional yoga blankets to get support.
- If you're in your second trimester is best to avoid laying on your belly or chest. You will not feel comfortable and is not recommended. Use the poses with hands and knees modifications.
- Reduce ab work, focus more on maintaining versus adding core strength.
- Listen to your body, don't do any poses that you don't feel comfortable with, take breaks and enjoy.
Pregnancy yoga sequence
Want to find a pregnancy yoga sequence that you can practice at home? Here are a couple of poses that you can practice that are part of a sequence.
1. Easy pose (Sukhasana)
Sit down on the floor or on a mat and get yourself into a comfortable cross-leg position. Bring your palms to your bump, close your eyes and start taking long deep breaths, in and out through your nose. Stay like this for at least 1 minute until your breath becomes rhythmic and steady.
2. Side bends
With your eyes open, extend one arm out to the side and put your hand on the floor. With your opposite arm reach over your head, palm facing midline and lean over your extended arm. While doing the side bend, breath deeply and lift the bottom of your waist to avoid compression of the abdomen and lower back. Take 3 to 5 deep breaths and repeat all that on the other side.
3. Cat and Cow Pose
First, come into a tabletop position, use a folded blanket for your knees. Inhale and reach your sternum through the getaway of your arms, opening your chest (as shown on the image). Exhale rounding your upper back, pressing down evenly into both hands and tuck your chin inward toward the sternum (That's Cat Pose), Repeat each pose 5-10 times.
You can check the rest of this pregnancy yoga sequence here.
Here's a 20-minute video of another pregnancy yoga sequence that you'll find easy to follow.
Top places to sign up for pregnancy yoga
Instagram / @yogagardensf
Wondering where you can sign up for a pregnancy yoga class near you? We'll mention a couple of choices for the mommies-to-be living in Washington, D.C., San Francisco or New York. But if you don't live there you can find a class near you here.
Circle Yoga in Washington, D.C
A good choice if you live in this area, you can check fees and schedules here.
Prenatal Yoga Center in New York
Prenatal Center, New York
This is a top place to practice pregnancy yoga in the heart of New York. Check out their site for more info and class schedules here.
Yoga Gardens in San Francisco, CA
This studio is among the top places to practice pregnancy yoga in San Francisco. Take a look at schedules and more info here.
Pregnancy yoga is a great way to stay healthy and fit during your pregnancy, and it'll help you during those labor hours (any help there is totally welcome)
Remember to make the necessary adjustments and observe all the safety precautions we mentioned, please always consult your doctor or healthcare provider before starting any pregnancy yoga class.