Prenatal yoga: What it is and how it helps

Yoga is an ancient practice that balances the mind and body. Its three principles are exercise, breathing, and meditation, features that are hugely beneficial for pregnant women!

How does it help?

Yoga increases your overall health in addition to your pregnancy health. It keeps your body limber, tones your muscles, and improves your balance and circulation. Yoga also has little/no impact on your joints, which is great for pregnant women.

Yoga helps you to breathe deeply and relax. It trains you to stay calm. Studies show that the slowed heart rate resulting from yoga helps people deal with stress, that stress associated with pregnancy and motherhood.

Safety precautions

While yoga can be very beneficial when you’re pregnant, there are several measures you should take to get the most out of your practice and stay safe. Because there’s so much in your body that’s changing at this time — from your belly growing to your muscles loosening— there are some poses and practices that you should avoid. Try not to do any deep backbends or deep twists through your torso that compress your belly. Take care not to overstretch to avoid joint instability and pulled ligaments — aim for strength and stability versus flexibility. You’ll want to avoid both laying on your back and laying on your belly as it gets bigger too. It’s also recommended that you avoid inversions unless you were doing them before you were pregnant. The same goes for Bikram (or hot) yoga. Some claim that Bikram is safe if you started it before you were pregnant, but you should consult your healthcare provider for guidance.

Getting started

If you’re interested in prenatal yoga, it can help to take a prenatal class so that you can work with an instructor who’s specially trained to help you practice yoga in a way that’s safe for your changing body. This can also be a wonderful way to develop a sense of community with other moms-to-be. If you’re not in a prenatal yoga class, it’s a good idea to tell your instructor that you’re pregnant and mention how far along you are so that they can also do their best to keep you safe. 

And it’s always important to know your own limitations when doing any exercise. If something hurts, it’s probably a good idea to avoid it.

Reviewed by Dr. Jamie Lo
Read more
  • S Narendran, R Nagarathna, V Narendran, S Gunasheela, HR Nagendra. “Efficacy of yoga on pregnancy outcome.” Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 11(2):237-44. Web. 4/5/2015.
  • Mayo Clinic Staff. “Prenatal yoga: What you need to know.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic, 1/22/2013. Web.
  • Mayo Clinic Staff. “Yoga: Fight stress and find serenity.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic, 2/12/2015. Web.
  • “Yoga for Health.” National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, n.d. Web.
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