There are countless benefits to keeping fit and active throughout pregnancy. It can help relieve body aches and uncomfortable symptoms like bloating and constipation, improve your quality of sleep, boost your mood, reduce your risk of gestational diabetes, and the list goes on.
The problem is, as your pregnancy progresses and your bump gets bigger, your mobility becomes limited – and that can make working out a bit of a challenge.
That’s where prenatal yoga comes in.
Read as Dr Kisty Wallace-Hor, a GP at Kin Fertility, explains why this low-impact form of exercise is such a great choice for mums-to-be wanting to stay active.
The benefits of yoga during pregnancy
“Yoga is great because it can be adapted to your changing body and it can usually be continued throughout pregnancy,” Dr Kirsty explains. “The gentle movements, stretches, and deep breathing are not only a great way to relieve stress but can also help with your strength, stamina, balance, and flexibility.”
And the benefits don’t end there.
Doing yoga while pregnant can actually help you prepare for the big day and “the relaxation techniques will likely come in handy when in labour,” she mentions.
In fact, research has shown that women who start practising yoga during pregnancy experience lower levels of pain while giving birth, as well as shorter durations of the second and third stages of labour.
How to safely practice yoga during pregnancy
Dr Kirsty’s first piece of advice is to stay hydrated, so a bottle of water is a must-have during your practice.
“You should also avoid hot yoga, or Bikram yoga, as intense heat can be dangerous during pregnancy,” she adds. This is because exercising in high temperatures will make you sweat more, which will stress out your body – whether that’s due to dehydration, blood pressure, or increased heart rate – and in turn, stress out your baby.
Plus, overheating can cause dizziness, and even increase the risk of neural tube defects and miscarriage, especially during the first trimester. Considering all of this, it’s best to stick to non-heated yoga until your little one is earth-side.
Finally, keep in mind that your body is going through a lot as is, so being gentle is key.
“The hormonal changes in pregnancy make you more prone to injury such as sprains, as the ligaments become stretchier to make way for the growing baby,” Dr Kirsty explains, “so listen to your body and take things easy when needed.”
What are the best yoga poses for pregnant women?
While there are many benefits to doing yoga when you’re expecting, it’s important to know which poses to choose. This is because some poses, like crunches, twisting postures, handstands, and deep backbends, are not suitable for pregnancy. Instead, try these ones:
- Cow and cat. This pose is a great way to gently warm your core while strengthening your lower back and abdominal muscles and improving the flexibility of your spine.
- Downward-facing dog. Although most inversions aren’t recommended for pregnant women, the downward-facing dog is an exception to the rule. It’s a great way to stretch and maintain arm strength, although it can make you feel queasy. In that case, try doing the puppy pose instead.
- Plank. Another excellent pose to strengthen your abdomen, the plank will help you exercise your core when other exercises like crunches and sit-ups aren’t advised.
- Warrior pose. If you’re looking for a full-body stretch, the warrior pose is the one. It will strengthen and tone everything from your legs to your arms and back, as well as improve circulation, balance, and stability.
- Full (or half) butterfly. During pregnancy, you might feel tension and tightness in your hips and pelvic area, which the butterfly pose can help relieve.
- Triangle pose. Another great full-body stretch, this posture will stimulate blood circulation all throughout your body to alleviate aches. It also works as a massage to your digestive organs, which is particularly helpful if you’re struggling with constipation, a common symptom in the second trimester of pregnancy.
- Savasana I and II. Both of these poses are excellent for relaxing and practising breath work, which becomes increasingly beneficial as you get closer to your due date. Savasana can also help you prepare mentally for what’s to come and even make you feel closer to your little one, as it is more of a meditation exercise than a physical one.
- Goddess pose. Whether it is because of its name or the posture itself, the goddess pose will make you feel incredibly powerful and give you the confidence you need for the final stretch of your pregnancy. As for physical benefits, it helps improve your posture and release tension built up in your hips.
- Garland pose. When it comes to poses that help you prepare for labour, this deep squat is a winner. As a hip opener, it tones your inner thighs and stretches your pelvis. If it doesn’t feel comfortable, you can always use a block or cushions for extra support.
“Whilst it is important that you check with your doctor about your specific circumstances, in uncomplicated pregnancies it is usually safe, and important, to continue doing the physical activity you’re used to doing,” says Dr Kirsty.
So, whether you’re an expectant yogi or a HIIT enthusiast looking for lower-intensity alternatives, give prenatal yoga a try and experience all of its amazing physical and mental benefits.