Prenatal yoga is a gentler form of yoga designed to build strength and balance in pregnant people.
Benefits of prenatal yoga include easing low backaches, labor pains, anxiety, and stress.
Common prenatal yoga poses include child's pose, Malasana squat, triangle pose, and bird dog.
Prenatal yoga is a gentler, low-impact form of yoga specifically designed for pregnant people and their changing bodies. You can begin practicing it as soon as you become pregnant.
With your doctor's sign-off, you can continue prenatal yoga throughout your pregnancy as long as you are comfortable and continue to modify positions as needed.
Here are the benefits of prenatal yoga as well as some sample poses and safety guidelines.
Benefits of prenatal yoga
Prenatal yoga focuses on making a pregnant person more comfortable during bodily changes while teaching calming breath practices.
"Prenatal yoga avoids positions which can be uncomfortable or unsafe, lengthens muscles that usually get stiff, and strengthens the pelvic, spine, hip, upper body, and leg muscles," says Patricia Ladis, a physical therapist and certified breathing behavior analyst with her own practice.
There are many potential benefits of practicing prenatal yoga, including:
Decreased lower back pain
Better balance and coordination
Improved mental health and mindfulness
Awareness and acceptance of your changing body
Less pain during delivery
Latest research: In a 2015 review, researchers looked at eight studies on the effects of prenatal yoga on pregnant people. In studies of healthy people, prenatal yoga reduced the duration and pain of delivery and lowered stress, anxiety, and depression. For pregnant people who were obese or of advanced age, prenatal yoga reduced the risk of developing pregnancy-induced hypertension and gestational diabetes.
Prenatal yoga poses
Not all prenatal yoga poses may be comfortable for you, but here are a few common ones you can try. If it feels good, attempt the following poses two to three times a week.
Hold comfortable poses for 30 seconds to one minute in the first and second trimester, and less than 30 seconds - about the length of five long breaths - in the third trimester, says Einhorn.
Check with your doctor if you are concerned about practicing any prenatal yoga poses, says Ladis.
1. Modified Parsva Balasana (Bird Dog)
Purpose: Helps with hip and shoulder stability while strengthening the abdominals and glutes, says Einhorn.
How to do it: Place your hands and knees on the mat in a table pose. Lift your opposite arm and leg at the same time. Repeat on the opposite side.
Modifications: Use the wall as support or raise only the arm or the leg.
2. Child's Pose
Purpose: Lessens the belly's pressure on the spine, relieving lower back and pelvic pain, says Ladis.
How to do it: Kneel on the mat with your hips spread apart and toes together. Reach your fingers in front of you, put your head down and lean back slightly.
Modifications: Keep your knees spread wider apart while bending down, especially as the belly grows. You can also lay your head on a pillow for extra support.
3. Malasana Squat
Purpose: Releases tension in the hips and strengthens the thighs, says Kathrin Werderitsch, a yoga teacher with her own virtual studio.
How to do it: Stand with feet slightly more than hip-width apart, and toes pointed slightly out. Slowly lower into a squatted position with hands clasped at your center and elbows pushing knees out.
Modifications: Place a block under your hips for added support.
4. Triangle pose
Purpose: Stretches the hips and shoulders while opening up the diaphragm - the muscle that helps bring air in and out of the lungs - for deeper breathing.
How to do it: Place feet slightly more than hip-width apart, with the front foot pointing forwards and the back foot parallel to the bottom edge of your mat. Be sure your front heel is aligned with the arch of the back foot. Lean front hand down next to its corresponding foot, and then place the other hand up in the air. Look up towards the raised hand or down to the floor - whichever feels more comfortable for your neck.
Modifications: Put your hand on your thigh or a block for a more comfortable stretch. You can also shorten the stance between legs.
5. Warrior II
Purpose: Opens the hips and upper body while relieving back pain, says Einhorn.
How to do it: Place one of your legs out behind you with the outer edge parallel to the back of the mat. Your front foot should be facing forward and in line with the arch of the back foot. Bend the front leg and stretch your arms out on either side.
Modifications: Press one hand against the wall for support or kneel. You can also shorten the stance between the legs.
Prenatal yoga is relatively low-risk as long as you follow some tride-and-true safety guidelines.
Safety guidelines for prenatal yoga
Talk to your healthcare provider. Each person and pregnancy is different. Your healthcare provider can ensure your body is in a place to engage in prenatal yoga safely, says Werderitsch.
Drink plenty of fluids. Staying hydrated while doing prenatal yoga helps regulate body temperature and prevent dizziness, says Einhorn.
Avoid certain postures. After the first trimester, poses involving laying on your back are discouraged, says Ladis. Also, avoid doing backbends or stretches that push you beyond your normal range of motion. This is not the time to try mastering the splits.
Don't overdo it. Listen to your body as you try various prenatal yoga postures. If something hurts or is uncomfortable, stop immediately and rest, says Ladis.
Prenatal yoga can improve comfort levels throughout pregnancy and better prepare you for delivery. You can do prenatal yoga throughout your pregnancy and should aim to practice it two to three times a week. Talk to your doctor before trying any prenatal yoga poses. If any pose makes you uncomfortable, don't push yourself and take time to recuperate.
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