Yoga has become a popular wellness practice in recent years, praised not only for its physical benefits, but its positive effect on mental and spiritual health, as well. Besides the benefit of a mind, body, and spirit workout, yoga is highly adaptable to all fitness levels. Yoga poses may be modified, the pace of the class adjusted, and the style of class adapted to the needs of the students in class. Many styles focus less on grueling workouts and a little more on breathing, stretching, and respecting your own limitations.
As one explores the practice of yoga, he or she may discover many styles including hatha yoga, Bikram yoga, vinyasa yoga, and Ashtanga yoga, to name a few. These styles welcome all comers and have different features and appeals, however, prenatal yoga seeks to nuture a specific population of students.
“Prenatal yoga is a great way for pregnant women to care for themselves and their babies during pregnancy,” explains Lindsay Curtin, clinical pharmacist and registered yoga teacher at Riddle Hospital. “The prenatal yoga classes strengthen and stretch the body in ways that are beneficial for all stages of pregnancy and childbirth. Both the body and mind are prepared for what’s to come.”
Keeping your exercise routine going through pregnancy might not be your first priority, but studies have shown that continuing a workout routine can decrease common pregnancy discomforts, such as lower back pain, stress and anxiety, nausea, and headaches, as well as make it easier for your body to bounce back post-baby. Prenatal yoga takes those benefits even further, and tones your muscles, improves your balance and circulation and keeps you limber with little impact on your joints.
So what can you expect during your first prenatal yoga class?
“A prenatal yoga class is taught with the health and comfort of you and your baby as the first priority,” says Curtin. “Instructors shouldn’t require risky activities and should provide many opportunities for rest and relaxation throughout class.”
Curtin says to expect plenty of breathing, gentle stretching, and a focus on relaxation and listening to your body.
“It may be the only time during that week that Mom gets to take an hour for herself, so we encourage women to really take advantage of that time to connect with their baby and connect with themselves.”
The benefits of these prenatal yoga exercises are evident not only during your pregnancy, but also during delivery and in the days, weeks, and months following your baby’s arrival.
“The breathing techniques, stretching, and strength and flexibility exercises practiced in prenatal yoga are all meant to improve the pregnancy and childbirth experience,” explains Curtin.
Learning to breathe deeply and relax and having stronger, more flexible muscles can all be of use as you face the physical demands of labor, delivery, and motherhood. Controlled breathing especially is helpful during your delivery, and also in your role as a mother. Deep breathing has been shown to help the body deal with stress and lower blood pressure, which might come in handy during those first few sleepless nights.
Besides the obvious health benefits of yoga, prenatal classes are a great opportunity for expectant mothers to join a positive, supportive community of women who are all sharing the same experiences. This sense of community and supportive environment can give you an emotional boost and keep you motivated to attend class and continue your routine.
Before you begin any fitness routine during pregnancy, it’s important to talk to your physician first to make sure that you choose the right routine for you. To find a physician in your area, visit the ‘Find a Doctor’ section of the Main Line Health website. While you're there, check out our upcoming events for prenatal classes, including prenatal yoga.