Yoga can be very beneficial for pregnant women — it helps you breathe and relax, which in turn can help you adjust to the physical demands of pregnancy, labor, birth, and motherhood. It calms both mind and body, providing the physical and emotional stress relief your body needs throughout the experience of pregnancy. Taking a prenatal yoga class is also a great way to meet other moms-to-be and embark on this journey together.
You do need to take a few precautions, though: check with your midwife before you begin any program.
* If you're attending a regular yoga class (one not specifically geared to pregnant women), be sure to tell the instructor you're pregnant, and which trimester you're in. There are specific poses pregnant women should avoid, and they need to be aware so they can modify poses for you.
* Don't do any asanas (poses) on your back after the first trimester — it can reduce blood flow to the uterus.
* Avoid poses that stretch the abdominals too much. You're more at risk for strains, pulls, and other injuries right now because the pregnancy hormone relaxin, which allows the uterus to expand, also softens connective tissue. Also, round ligament pain is more frequent during the second trimester. You may begin to feel pain in your side as the ligament that goes from the top of the uterus down to the groin stretches, this happens when the uterus tilts and pulls on the muscle. Side lying stretches can help alleviate this.
* From the second trimester on — when your center of gravity really starts to shift — do any standing poses with your heel to the wall or use a chair for support, to avoid losing your balance and risking injury to yourself or your baby.
* When bending forward, hinge from the hips, leading with the breastbone and extending the spine from the crown of the head down to the tailbone. This allows more space for the ribs to move, which makes breathing easier.
* Keep the pelvis in a neutral position during poses by engaging the abdominals and slightly tucking the tailbone down and in. This helps relax the muscles of your buttocks (your gluteus) and the hip flexors, which can help reduce or prevent sciatic pain down the back of the leg, a common side effect of pregnancy. It also helps prevent injury to the connective tissue that stabilizes your pelvis.
* If you're bending forward while seated, place a towel or yoga strap behind your feet and hold both ends. Bend from the hips and lift the chest, to avoid compressing your abdomen. If your belly is too big for this movement, try placing a rolled-up towel under your buttocks to elevate the body, and open the legs about hip-width apart, to give your belly more room to come forward.
* When practicing twisting poses, twist more from the shoulders and back than from the waist, to avoid putting any pressure on your abdomen. Go only so far in the twist as feels comfortable — deep twists are not advisable in pregnancy.
* Listen carefully to your body. If you feel any discomfort, stop. You will probably need to modify each pose as your body changes. A good instructor can help you customize your yoga to suit the stage of pregnancy you're in.
Written by Ashley Turner Morrow