Pregnancy And Yoga Can Work Hand In Hand

Pregnancy And Yoga Can Work Hand In Hand

For women who are regular yoga participants, pregnancy can create a unique challenge to participating in their favorite activity.

But becoming pregnant doesn’t mean that you have to put your yoga participation on hold until you give birth.  In fact, participating in yoga may help pregnant women cope with the physical and mental changes that go along with it.

There’s no doubt that pregnancy will force a woman to change her regular yoga routine (not to mention her entire life).  But while a woman may not be able to attend yoga sessions as regularly as she may have before becoming pregnant, or engage in all of the exercises as she once did, she can still reap the benefits of yoga by employing a few modifications to her routine.

According to yoga instructors and medical experts, yoga can aid pregnant women by encouraging breathing and relaxation.  As anyone who has heard of or participated in a child birthing class, particularly a Lamaze class, breathing exercises are an important part of the procedure.  Although the breathing in a child birthing class may be more of a forced, deliberate type of breathing (short, quick breaths), the classes also include controlled deep breathing that is intended to calm and relax the body during the delivery and it is extremely similar to the type of breathing exercises performed in a yoga class.

By utilizing the moderate breathing exercises taught in yoga, expectant mothers can reap the benefits of relaxation at all stages of the pregnancy experience, from the pre-natal phase through labor to birth and afterwards.  The breathing exercises associated with yoga help relax both the mind and the body, helping to eliminate the stress, both physical and mental, which is associated with pregnancy.

But as we said, pregnant women should take care when participating in yoga, as there are specific precautions that need to be taken during each trimester.  The following are suggestions for how to incorporate yoga into each trimester of your pregnancy.

To start, women who are in their first trimester and are regular yoga class attendees should consult with their yoga instructor to let them know of their condition so that they can work together to modify the yoga routine.  And if you are pregnant and experiencing “morning sickness”, don’t feel guilty about pulling out of a class, skipping a few of the more strenuous poses or moving to a less difficult class.  Take morning sickness as a signal that it’s time for you to change your yoga routine.

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If you are a pregnant woman who has never participated in yoga before but want to take advantage of the health benefits it offers, seek out a prenatal yoga class in your area.  There are many yoga studios that offer classes specifically designed for expectant mothers, and the class will also offer you the opportunity to meet with other mothers and share information.  If you can’t find a prenatal yoga class in your area, there are prenatal yoga videos and DVDs on the market that you can use in the comfort of your own home.

Yoga experts say there are specific poses and movements that are well-suited for women in their first trimester of pregnancy, movements that promote flexibility, particularly in the hip area that can help make the actual birth process easier.  Yoga experts recommend expectant mothers practice poses such as the Triangle, Knee to Ankle, Warrior II, the Pigeon, Ardha Chandrasana and Baddha Konasana.  In addition, yoga instructors recommend positions like Cat-Cow, which require the student to get on all fours, because it helps place the baby in the optimal birthing position inside the body.  On a related note, yoga instructors recommend that pregnant women avoid poses that require her to stretch the muscles too far (especially the abdominals) since being pregnant increases the production of relaxin, a hormone that softens the connective tissue between the muscles which, in turn, allows the uterus to expand.

By the second trimester, when morning sickness has usually passed, those who have never tried prenatal yoga may want to begin now.  But no matter what level of experience, pregnant women who participate in yoga at this stage should exercise caution and not exert themselves too much or engage in poses that require sudden movements or extreme stretching.

Yoga experts suggest that pregnant women avoid jumping or rolling while transitioning from one move to the next, but rather crawl or step.  For instance, with a move such as the sun salutation, yoga instructors recommend that pregnant women keep their chest no more 85 degrees from the floor in the forward position of the move and place their hands in front of their feet as opposed to the sides.  Also, they recommend avoiding extreme twists which could cause placental abruption, poses that press the heel of the foot into the uterus while sitting or seated in the lotus and half-lotus positions unless you are able to keep the position loose and not twist the knees too much.

In the third trimester, an expectant mother will increase in size and her level of fatigue will change, which means she will have to alter her yoga participation.  All yoga poses that compress the stomach should be avoided and they should recognize and respond to their feelings of general fatigue.  In this trimester, they can keep participating in yoga, but only if they feel up to the task.  If not, doing gentle stretching and calming breathing exercises will suffice.

In the 36th week of pregnancy, it is recommended that women limit the number and type of inversion yoga poses they perform, including Legs Up Against The Wall, Downward Dog and Bridge Pose.  These moves, doctors and yoga instructors state, can put the baby in a bad position in the body.  The only exception for performing these positions is if the baby is currently in the breech position in the womb.  In that situation, those poses may actually help to turn the baby around.

In addition to these tips, there are a few general rules that apply to pregnant women participating in yoga:

•    Avoid Bikram or “hot” yoga.  Studies show that overheating could adversely affect your pregnancy.

•    Beginning with the second trimester, when the changes in your body can alter your center of gravity, perform standing poses with a chair for support or with your heels against a wall to reduce the chance of losing balance and becoming injured.

•    When bending in a forward pose, bend from the hips with the breastbone leading the way and the spine extended from the base of the skull to the tailbone.  Using this technique makes it easier for a pregnant woman to breath.  If you are bending forward while seated, put a yoga strap or towel behind your ankles and hold the ends with both hands.  Again, bend from the hip and keep the chest elevated to avoid compressing the abdominal area.  Keep the legs open approximately hip width to give your stomach more room.

•    When performing a twisting pose, twist primarily from the shoulders and back rather than the waist and only twist as far as it feels comfortable.  This helps avoid putting pressure on the abdominal area.

•    Avoid poses that involve backbends, balancing on one leg, handstands, headstands and upward bows.

Lastly, do not ignore the signals your body sends you.  This is an amazing time in your life and yoga can help make pregnancy less stressful, less discomforting and even more peaceful.

Linda Adams enjoys all things health related.

One of the most excellent yoga websites Linda has found is Kamloops Yoga Fitness, which is a exceptional mix of yoga and exercise.

For more information, have a look at Modern Workplaces Now Adding Yoga to List of Company Perks one of the finest Yoga blogs.


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