Prenatal yoga has many benefits that can help you maintain a healthy pregnancy. However, during pregnancy, particularly if it is your first pregnancy, there are a lot of uncertainties. As such, I have created this response to the five most commonly asked questions I have received about Prenatal Yoga.
1. Why prenatal yoga?
As a practice, yoga can help maintain the health of your body, mind and soul. Because pregnancy is a time of great physical, emotional, spiritual, mental and social change, yoga offers a healthy method for coping with all of this transformation.
During pregnancy, yoga can specifically help you to build strength and endurance within the body. Strength and endurance are important because birth presents a highly physical experience that can last hours. When the body is unprepared for the power and duration of birth, fatigue and poor outcomes for the birthing person and baby can occur.
Additionally, prenatal yoga can help sustain the healthy integrity of your body. There are so many physical changes that occur during pregnancy, and prenatal yoga can help you develop more body awareness and educate you on how to prevent common perinatal injuries.
A nice feature about prenatal yoga is that it is accessible to everyone who has approval to attend from their healthcare providers. So whether or not you have an active yoga practice or you are a beginner, prenatal yoga can offer you a method of exercise that is safe for you to practice. There are also many modifications that can accommodate each trimester of pregnancy.
Many prenatal yoga instructors offer some prenatal education as a part of their classes. So you’ll gain the benefits of understanding how your body works, optional birthing positions, how your body accommodates your baby, and what exercises can lead to injury during pregnancy. You’ll also gain the benefits of learning how to use your breath to prevent injury and navigate birth.
There is often an element of mindfulness incorporated into classes. Mindfulness is beneficial for helping you tune into your intuition, trust yourself as a new parent to be, and listen to your body and baby’s needs. You know better than anyone else about your pregnancy and baby! Building trust in yourself and noticing where your fears exist is important for your next big life step into parenthood and mindfulness offers you time to give attention to these details.
Another skill often incorporated into classes is meditation. Meditation can help you prepare for your birth and parenting by developing calming practices that you will need as a parent. During parenting, meditation can help you develop skills for those hard to deal with child rearing situations. Maintaining calmness and patience as a parent is challenging and having a meditation practice is helpful for the unexpected demands of parenting. Meditation can also be benficial during birth. The mind moves through different phases of brain waves as your body opens up to bring your baby earthside. Being in a state of meditation can help you adjust to all of the mental and physical changes that occur during birth more easily.
2. I’ve practiced yoga for a long time. Can I continue with my regular daily practice?
The real answer to this question is maybe, and you need to decide what is best for you and baby.
Regular prenatal yoga classes accommodate the needs of beginners and all trimesters, so class can feel a lot easier than what you are accustomed to in your regular yoga practice. When you have the all clear from your healthcare provider and you are able to modify your regular practice according to your needs in pregnancy, you will be able to continue with your regular practice. Being aware of your bodies and baby’s needs are essential to continuing with your regular yoga practice. Also, knowing that there is an increased risk of injury from standard yoga postures because they do not accommodate the special requirements of pregnancy is important to note. That being said, you know your body and baby best and will know when something is too much. Normally, after 26 weeks of pregnancy is a good time to modify your practice and checkout prenatal yoga.
As your pregnancy progresses you may find that many poses become inaccessible, and the modification of postures is necessary. Pregnancy can make you susceptible to injury from over extending the ligaments and joints because of the increasing effects of the hormones relaxin and estrogen that are present during pregnancy.
Additionally, different postures can make pregnancy specific areas of the body vulnerable such as the rectus abdominis (abdominal muscles at the front of the torso- otherwise known as the six pack) and pelvic diaphragm (floor). These pregnancy vulnerable areas need to be accommodated during load bearing exercise to prevent injury that can last for years after your baby is born. Modification of postures and avoiding some postures all together is a good idea.
Participating in prenatal yoga offers modifications to postures that a standard yoga practice does not accommodate for pregnancy related changes. Ultimately, it is your decision whether or not to continue with your regular yoga practice because you know your body and baby best and you are responsible for both of your health during pregnancy.
3. Can I participate in hot yoga during pregnancy?
Hot yoga is really great for helping the body to open up and deepen into postures. In pregnancy, this is not something that needs to be facilitated with the addition of heat because the ligaments and tendons are already extra stretchy from the effects of the hormones relaxin and estrogen. Ideally, you want to protect your ligaments and tendons so that you will have flexibility after the perinatal time and not hyperextend the joints or cause injury.
Also, in pregnancy, the body is susceptible to temperature increases that may cause maternal fever. Most care providers recommend the avoidance of sitting in hot tubs and other intensive heat environments for longer than ten minutes. Hot yoga is held at temperatures of 38C and up and standard classes last for an hour, so you are going beyond the normal healthy threshold of heat exposure in pregnancy- particularly for people in cold climates. In some cases, exposure to extreme heat for longer than ten minutes at a time can cause opening of the neural tubes and create brain and spinal cord defects for your baby. Choosing a heated class should be done under the advice of a care provider, and with full understanding of the risks to you and baby. Therefore, hot yoga is not recommended during pregnancy. advised for heated classes.
4. I have a high risk pregnancy. Is my participation in class advised?
Being high risk in pregnancy does not automatically mean that you should not practice yoga. There are many high risk pregnancy related conditions that are completely safe for you to participate in prenatal yoga with. However, having the exclusive permission of your care provider is necessary for your participation to be deemed safe. So it is necessary for you to check in with your care provider prior to beginning prenatal yoga to ensure you and baby can remain safe and healthy throughout your practice.
5. I’ve never done yoga before. Can I participate in prenatal classes?
Absolutely! Prenatal yoga was made for you. Regardless of your fitness level or experience with yoga, you can participate in class and discover the many health benefits that prenatal yoga can offer you for your pregnancy and postnatal time. Most postures are modified during prenatal yoga to accommodate for the pregnant body, so you can choose the modification that works best in your body. As with any new exercise during pregnancy, allways check with your healthcare provider prior to beginning a new fitness routine, and when you get the all clear, we'll see you in class!