Yoga can not only help you stay fit through a pregnancy, but also boost mind and body, helping to keep your pregnancy hassle-free. As an ancient Indian practice, tracing its roots back almost 5000 years, yoga is a tried and true means of dealing with your overall well-being, both mind and body. Each yoga pose, or asana, is tied to breathing techniques, or pranayamas, and focuses on specific parts of the body to ensure a complete body effort. Specific to pregnant women, yoga asanas helps to open muscles of the pelvis, reducing pressure on ligaments and easing lower-back pain. Additionally, it promotes flexibility, strength and stamina, as it focuses the entire body on releasing and relaxing. No activity does better at centering the mind and relieving stress, while gently toning the body. Not only does the mother benefit from yoga, but the baby does as well by receiving increased levels of oxygen and endorphins. The benefits of yoga for pregnant women are described in detail below.
One of the most common benefits of yoga for pregnant women is to help stay in shape throughout the pregnancy. Regardless of your fitness level or skill level, yoga is a gentle, but highly effective way of toning the muscles throughout the pregnancy. Additionally, many yoga instructors are trained and certified in yoga for pre-natal women and can help to customize your yoga workout to ensure the greatest level of safely and the most effective workout possible. Yoga can help to target specific trouble areas for pregnant women during pregnancy, such as helping to strengthens abdomen muscles and pelvic floor.
One of the benefits of yoga for pregnant women is that it can help to boost circulation and help with fluid retention. This is extremely important as you are doing the work for two during pregnancy. Additionally, asanas help to relieve aches and pains. Working with your instructor, you can tailor your workout to focus on specific areas of pain and discomfort. As many asanas focus on proper alignment of the body, yoga will help to improve posture, helping to ease back pain, which is common in pregnant women.
Another one of the benefits of yoga for pregnant women, and for people in general, is that spending time focusing on the combination of body position and breathing, you begin to obtain an increased awareness of your body. Through this greater awareness, you are able to better understand what is happening to your body throughout pregnancy. Some aspects of pregnancy, such as weight gain, morning sickness and decreased sexuality, can bring about feelings of depression and low self-esteem. Yoga can help deal with these feelings by allowing you to refocus and balance your energy, helping to shift into a positive mindset.
As a safety precaution when starting yoga, always remember to check with your doctor if you are unsure of a safe level of physical exertion for yourself during the pregnancy. When looking for the right class, make sure to take both the style of yoga and instructor into consideration. Certain styles of yoga are better for pregnant women, such as Ananda, Hatha, Kundalini, and Iyengar, are better for pregnant women as they are more focused on proper alignment of the body and breathing than on a high intensity workout such as Power or Bikram yoga. If you are unfamiliar with yoga or the specific style of yoga you will be taking, make sure to take a supervised class, at least initially. Good instructors will be able to help you customize your workout to meet your unique needs. Additionally, make sure your instructor is certified in prenatal yoga though an accredited yoga institute.
Regardless of your skill level, make sure to start slow to best understand your bodies capability during this time of change. The best rule to follow when practicing yoga is, if it doesn’t feel good, don’t do it. As you get comfortable with the asanas, feel free to practice on your own, but again, talk to your instructor to discuss poses that will provide the greatest benefit and that are safe to practice alone. Many yoga books and videos are also available that are focused specifically for pregnant women.
Avoid strong back bends or asanas requiring strong use of stomach muscles as this can cause undo stress on the body. Use your best judgment when doing balancing poses, especially those done on one foot. If you want to perform these poses, make sure to use a chair, wall or another individual for support. Make sure to not to overstretch the body as the ligaments around the joints become loose and soft during pregnancy. Be care not to overheat when practicing yoga as it can be harmful to the fetus. For this reason forms of yoga that involve turning up the heat in the room should be avoided; this includes both Hot and Bikram Yoga. As stated above, make sure to listen to your body and stop if you begin to feel the slightest bit of pain or discomfort. A gentle approach over time yields the best results.
Outside of the workout element, one of the benefits of yoga for pregnant women is social atmosphere it provides for pregnant women. In yoga classes specifically tailored to pregnant women, mothers-to-be are able to share stories and discuss issues and concerns. Often, the relationships built during these yoga classes, build into playgroups for the children after birth and long term social groups.
Yoga can be practiced until late in the pregnancy. As your body changes, make sure to modify your workout to ensure personal comfort. Yoga can provide benefits even during labor. The focus and relaxation achieved during a yoga session can be mimicked during labor by using pranayama techniques to center yourself and helping to open musculature and quiet the mind. After child birth, yoga can help to maintain a proper body shape, as well as strengthen the pelvic floor and abdominal muscles. Additionally, the focusing techniques in yoga can be helpful for those facing post-partum depression. You can start practicing yoga six to seven weeks after delivering delivery.
With both physical and mental benefits that can last throughout the pregnancy, yoga can prove to be a valuable tool to pregnant mothers.