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Yoga for Pregnant Women

By Babe

Leg cramps, back pain, feeling bloated and fatigued — it all becomes run-of-the-mill during pregnancy, doesn’t it? These things are not scrapbook-worthy, and frankly, we’re kinda over it. 

Luckily, just because you’re a supermom-to-be doesn’t mean you have to suffer through those growing pains without any relief.

One of the best ways you can manage your aching legs and keep yourself in shape for a healthy pregnancy is with prenatal yoga. Prenatal yoga has so many benefits that once you start, you won’t look backward (unless you’re doing the Downward Dog, of course). 

Keep reading for everything you need to know about yoga during pregnancy and its benefits for well-being.

What Are the Benefits of Prenatal Yoga?

If you’ve ever taken a yoga class before (or even just watched a tutorial on YouTube), you know that this ancient exercise form is ALL about stretching and breathing. 

In fact, the original purpose of yoga was to harmonize the body and the mind through mindfulness, breathwork, and asanas, or the various postures that make up a yoga flow. This makes for a gentle yet highly effective workout, and it’s exactly what the doctor ordered during pregnancy.

Aside from being an excellent way to break a sweat from your first to your third trimester, yoga has a long list of other benefits for mamas-to-be.

Let’s talk about them:

Improved Sleep Quality

If you’ve been pregnant before, you know how your growing baby can interfere with your sleep schedule. You might be all about those ZZZs, but your squished abdominal muscles are not.

Trying out prenatal yoga or a similar form of exercise during pregnancy may help you get some better shuteye. Over 55% of people who regularly practice yoga report better sleep quality, which is crucial for your overall health and wellness during the stages of pregnancy and beyond. 

Not only does exercise generally improve sleep, but the meditative quality of yoga can especially help you relax and wind down before bed. That bedtime relaxation is key to getting the sleep you and your little one need — and getting the most out of your maternity pajamas

Decreased Stress and Anxiety

In addition to helping you get to sleep, the relaxation you’ll find from many asanas can help you release anxiety and stress. 

According to the Sleep Foundation, a whopping 85% of yoga practitioners reported decreased stress from yoga. During pregnancy, when previously mundane tasks can become stressful (hello, bending down to tie your shoelaces!), this is a priceless benefit. 

Improved Strength and Flexibility in Muscles Needed for Delivery

One of the benefits of yoga is increased strength and flexibility throughout your body. However, prenatal yoga specifically can target the muscle groups needed for delivery to help make you as prepared as possible for giving birth. 

Yoga routines common in prenatal yoga classes may include postures to strengthen your pelvic floor, lower back, and hip joints. All of these postures can help reduce tension during pregnancy and labor and pave the way for a positive delivery experience. 

If you’re dealing with backaches and other common pregnancy pains, regular yoga can possibly serve as a form of pregnancy stretches.

Improved Lung Capacity and Cardiovascular Health

Because so much of yoga is breathing exercises (focusing on intentional inhales and exhales), it can be a fantastic way to improve your lung capacity and overall cardiovascular health without pushing yourself too hard. You’re working hard enough!

A key theme of yoga is forming a mind-body connection while you exercise. A growing body of evidence has linked this type of physical activity with health benefits such as reduced blood pressure, heart rate, blood glucose, and cholesterol levels.

Although we typically associate heart health with cardio-intensive exercise such as running, it turns out getting all those cardiovascular benefits might not require as much work after all!

Just step into your favorite crop leggings and head to a prenatal yoga class to get all those amazing health benefits. Then, keep learning from your yoga teacher in the postpartum period to continue reaping the benefits of those poses and breathing techniques.

Decreased Lower Back Pain

Lower back pain is one of the hallmarks of pregnancy, especially during the first and second trimesters when your joints and ligaments are loosening to prepare for delivery. 

Luckily, yoga has been shown to help alleviate and manage back pain, both by strengthening your joints and muscles and by reducing the stress associated with aches and pains.

One of the key functions of yoga is building an awareness of your body and how it moves. This awareness can alert you to your posture throughout the day (and adjusting poor posture can also alleviate back pain). 

Headache and Nausea Relief

Nausea is an inescapable part of pregnancy, and headaches plague us all at one point or another. 

Luckily, even just a little bit of prenatal yoga can help you find relief from both of these ailments. The stress-reducing effects of yoga can help ameliorate headaches, especially if you’re prone to migraines. And certain poses can help reduce nausea, including the morning sickness you may experience during the first trimester.

Target those headaches with soft stretches and an even softer Head Peace cooling relief wrap to feel better (and more stylish).

What Poses Should I Try While Pregnant?

Most yoga poses are gentle and safe to do during pregnancy. Here are a few prenatal yoga poses you might try for a relaxing and evidence-based workout:

Mountain Pose

Tadasana, or Mountain Pose, is one of the simplest yoga poses and forms a foundation for many others. To practice this pose, stand with a straight back and shoulders relaxed. 

Your feet should face forward, and your joints should be stacked on top of one another in a straight line — ankles, knees, and hips. While seemingly simple to practice, this pose represents a deep sense of stability and self-worth and mastering it is key to a successful yoga practice.

Downward Dog

Although healthcare providers used to believe this pose was contraindicated for pregnant women, recent studies show that this pose is likely generally safe

To do this pose, start off on your hands and knees with your hands shoulder-width apart. 

Then, take a deep breath and push your palms into the mat to lift your knees off the ground. Keep your legs as straight as possible and your head down, so that your body forms an upside-down V. Now you’re in Downward Dog!

This pose is relatively simple and often provides a starting and ending point for many yoga flows. It’s a good starting pose to master before diving into more complex asanas, such as Warrior I.

Warrior I

Warrior I, or Virabhadrasana I, is another key foundational pose in yoga practice. However, it’s also one of the most surprisingly difficult poses to master. To do Warrior I, begin in Downward Dog.

Set one of your feet forward so that it is between your hands, then slowly lift your torso up so that you’re in a lunge. Then, raise your arms towards the ceiling, hands shoulder-width apart and facing each other. Now, you’re in Warrior I.

Of course, this is a very simplified description of the pose. To really understand the posture and do it correctly, we recommend seeking out a certified yoga instructor or attending a prenatal yoga class.

Warrior II

This pose is very similar to Warrior I, except instead of facing forward, you’ll rotate your torso so that you’re facing towards one side. 

Bring your arms down so that they’re parallel to the ground and perpendicular to your torso, and rotate your back foot so that it’s facing the same direction as you are. This is Warrior II!

This is just a brief introduction to some of the many pregnancy-safe yoga poses you can try to ease your aches and pains. 

Of course, if you don’t feel comfortable or confident enough in your at-home yoga skills, you can always check out a prenatal yoga class at a studio near you. They’ll be able to walk you through all of the above-mentioned poses, and more.

You’re in the Home Stretch: A Few Months Left!

Although yoga (especially prenatal yoga) is generally considered safe for pregnant women, there are a few precautions we encourage taking to be safe. 

First, we recommend talking to your Ob/Gyn or healthcare provider before incorporating a yoga practice into your routine. They will likely tell you to avoid hot yoga (including Bikram yoga) while pregnant, as not enough is known about the possible health effects of exercising in extreme heat while pregnant.

There are also some poses you may want to avoid while practicing yoga during pregnancy, including the handstand pose, boat pose, half-prayer twisting pose, full-wheel pose, and locust pose.

Attending a prenatal yoga class is a great way to get into a yoga workout without incorporating any risky poses. Your yoga instructor will know which ones to avoid during pregnancy. Plus, a yoga class is a fantastic way to meet other moms-to-be and find a community during your pregnancy.

So, if you’re feeling like doing some yoga, toss on your comfiest tank, lace up your sneakers, head to a yoga studio near you, and watch those pregnancy woes melt away.