As a pregnant woman, your body is changing more quickly than it ever has before. It’s no wonder: growing a tiny human is no small feat! Carrying a baby can affect many different aspects of your health, both physical and mental.
During pregnancy, it’s more important than ever that you take extra steps to care for your mind and body.
Self-care as a mom-to-be takes many forms. To best support yourself through this demanding period, make sure to nurture your body by nourishing yourself, drinking enough fluids to support your body during pregnancy, and exercising regularly!
Although pregnancy is tiring, the right amount of exercise can actually help you feel more alert.
Yoga is one type of exercise that’s particularly beneficial for pregnant women. A yoga flow that’s designed specifically for moms-to-be can have a positive impact on both your body and mind.
Read on for more information on the benefits of yoga for pregnant women, as well as a step-by-step guide to the best mama-friendly yoga poses!
What Are The Benefits of Pregnant Yoga?
An important aspect of any yoga flow is the practice of mindfulness. Focusing on assuming different yoga poses is a great way to cultivate an awareness of your body. The meditative nature of yoga makes a yoga session a great opportunity to become more in-tune with your feelings and emotions as well as with your physical body.
Mindfulness has many benefits, including increased mental clarity, self-awareness, and improvements to memory. Several studies have suggested that pregnant women who practice mindfulness can see significant reductions in their anxiety levels.
In addition, mamas who regularly practice mindfulness seem to experience fewer premature deliveries than those who don’t engage in activities designed to encourage mindfulness.
Prenatal yoga is one way to relieve the aches and pains caused by the strain of carrying a child everywhere you go.
During a well-designed prenatal yoga routine, you will stretch your joints and relieve tension in the places most heavily impacted by the weight of your growing belly. Activating your muscles and opening your joints can do wonders to minimize any achiness you may be experiencing.
Prepare For Labor
The anti-anxiety and stress-relieving properties of yoga are very important for relieving the pre-labor worries that many women experience. However, yoga can also prepare you for labor in the physical sense.
Practicing yoga strengthens your whole body, especially your core muscles. This gives your body strength and stability you can rely on during labor.
Some of your abdominal muscles will become stretched during pregnancy, and core exercises may become difficult. Continuing to do what exercises you are able to do is an essential step that will make it easier to bounce back after delivery.
Improve Your Breathing
During pregnancy, your growing baby presses on the muscles of your diaphragm, which are important for normal breathing patterns. Your uterus may also constrict your lungs, making it hard to take a deep breath.
This is normal and nothing to worry about, but it can result in the uncomfortable feeling of being short of breath.
Fortunately, practicing yoga can help with breath control. During your yoga flow, try to maintain an awareness of your breath. Many poses allow you to open your chest, making it easier to draw a full breath.
Breathing carefully and with intention for the duration of your yoga flow can help you maintain strength in your diaphragm and return to a normal breath pattern soon after delivery.
What To Know Before Beginning Prenatal Yoga
Always Consult A Doctor First
Before beginning a new exercise routine, it’s always a good idea to run it by your doctor or midwife. Although yoga is recognized as safe for mamas and growing babies, every woman and pregnancy is different.
Some Poses Require Modification
As with many things, it is a good idea to slightly modify the yoga you practice during your pregnancy. Fortunately, many yoga poses are perfectly safe for pregnant women. With some simple modifications – such as using foam blocks to stabilize your hands, or leaning on the back of a chair in poses that require balance – even more yoga poses become fair game!
Remember not to push yourself into any position that feels uncomfortable. Take whatever steps you need to modify poses and make them work for you.
Avoid Poses That Put Pressure on the Abdomen
Anything involving a twist or crunch-like motion, which compresses the abdomen, should be avoided. These poses could strain your internal organs. If it feels uncomfortable, move on to a different pose.
Avoid Hot Yoga
Hot yoga is done in a heated space and tends to raise your core body temperature. Increased body temperature is dangerous during pregnancy, so it’s best to avoid hot yoga.
This kind of yoga can also lead quickly to dehydration, a condition that is dangerous for mom and baby alike.
Hypermobility During Pregnancy
Even during the first trimester of your pregnancy, changing hormone levels in your body result in greater flexibility of your joints.
While this is important for your body’s ability to adapt to the growth of your baby, you’ll need to take extra care in your yoga practice to avoid overextending yourself. Remember, if something feels like too much, it probably is. Remember to take it slow to avoid injury.
How To Get Started
Here’s What You’ll Need
- A yoga mat or soft, carpeted surface
- A quiet space with enough room to move freely through poses
- A healthy snack
- A source of hydration – for an extra boost, opt for a natural electrolyte drink that’s designed for moms-to-be
Six Poses To Enhance Strength and Find Peace
Begin your yoga flow seated on your mat or the floor in Easy Pose, or Sukhasana. Fold your legs in criss-cross style in front of you. Then, pull your ankles towards your hips while pressing your knees towards the floor to open your hip joints.
You will feel a stretch in your hamstrings, inner thighs, and hips. Pay attention to your posture: try to sit straight, as if a string is suspending your head above your spine.
Now, focus on your breath, taking your time to inhale and exhale mindfully. Hold this pose for as long as you need to feel grounded and ready to proceed with your yoga flow – between two and ten minutes.
Modified Downward Dog
Downward Dog is a great exercise to lengthen your spine and stretch the muscles in the backs of your legs. If you find that pregnancy makes you more sedentary than you are used to being, this pose will be a welcome stretch.
To move from Easy Pose into Downward Dog, begin by extending your arms in front of you and planting your hands on the mat shoulder-width apart. Rise onto your knees, then plant your feet behind you.
Straighten your arms and push down into the mat with your feet and hands while straightening your legs, until you are bent at the waist and assuming a triangle-shape above the mat. Breathe deeply, engage your abs, and feel the spine stretch of this pose.
To make Downward Dog comfortable during pregnancy, there are a couple of modifications you could apply. The first is simply to plant your feet wider than hip-width apart. This allows your belly to have more room as you bend at the waist. In addition, you may choose to do downward dog against a wall or with your hands on yoga blocks to reduce the amount of bending required.
Hold Downward Dog for between ten and thirty seconds before transitioning into the next pose.
To transition from Downward Dog to Upward Salute, slowly walk your feet forward towards your hands, then shift your weight to your feet. Focus on your spine, and feel your back roll into an upright position, stacking one vertebra on top of the next as you slowly stand up straight.
Then, straighten your arms and raise them up above your head.
This pose will open your chest and lungs, helping you breathe deeply and practice mindful breathing. While standing in Upward Salute, keep your back straight and core engaged to maximize your lung capacity. Then, take deep breaths in through your nose, hold for three seconds, and exhale completely. Repeat.
Hold Upward Salute for thirty seconds to one minute.
Downward Dog to Cat/Cow Pose
To transition out of Upward Salute, widen your stance and roll your spine slowly into a forward bend until you can comfortably plant your hands on the floor. Walk your hands forward, and assume Downward Dog for another thirty seconds to one minute.
From Downward Dog, bend your knees and straighten your back so that you are on all fours on the floor, as if crawling. Cat and Cow poses begin from this posture.
To assume Cat Pose, simply arch your back as much as is comfortable. Keep your core engaged while you round your back fully, feeling a stretch in the muscles along your spine.
After several seconds, transition slowly to Cow Pose. For cow pose, you will allow your spine to bend in the opposite direction as in Cat Pose, sinking your belly towards the ground.
Make sure to keep your abs engaged, gently hugging your baby, and do not overextend your back – only go as far as is comfortable!
Alternate between Cat and Cow poses five times. These stretches will activate your core and ease back soreness.
From Cat/Cow pose, lift your hands off of the mat and straighten your back so that you are standing on your knees with your feet extended behind you.
To assume Camel Pose, slowly bend backwards until you can grip your ankles in your hands. This pose can be challenging, so use blocks or a chair to rest your hands on if you have less back flexibility.
Camel Pose is a healthy stretch for your quadriceps, abdominal muscles, and chest. Breathe deeply and focus on your muscles.
Return to Easy Pose
Repeat steps two to five as many times as you desire. When you are ready to complete your flow, reassume Easy Pose, with your legs folded in front of you and hands resting on your knees. Now is a perfect time to engage in mindfulness or meditation.
Enjoy The Benefits of Yoga and Mindfulness
Good work, mama! With a basic prenatal yoga flow under your belt, you’re ready to explore other yoga poses that can do wonders for moms-to-be.
After exercising, make sure to rehydrate and nourish your body, as well as get plenty of rest! Prenatal yoga has countless benefits, and is a good practice to begin at any point during your pregnancy.
Have fun, practice, and before long, you’ll see the benefits for yourself!
At Greater Than, we know you may be feeling a little overwhelmed or stressed about what kinds of activities you can do. We know wellness and health are essential to you, so that’s why we want to provide ways you can safely practice yoga and find peace during every stage of your pregnancy.
What are the benefits of mindfulness? | American Psychological Association
Four Reasons to Practice Mindfulness During Pregnancy | Greater Good Science Center
Is pregnancy anxiety a distinctive syndrome? | ScienceDirect
What Really Helps You Bounce Back After Pregnancy | Johns Hopkins Medicine
Yoga in Pregnancy: An Examination of Maternal and Fetal Responses to 26 Yoga Postures | Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology
5 Best Yoga Poses for Pregnant Women | HealthyWomen