Pregnancy can be one of the most wonderful, or one of the most difficult periods of a woman’s life. There are so many considerations to bear in mind, and at the forefront of all those considerations and decisions is the health of the mother-to-be and the baby.
In matters of pregnancy health, in recent decades there have been giant leaps in understanding on what the body of a pregnant mother can cope with, and the best way to maintain health. It need not be that exercise stops for nine months, and in fact the right type of exercise can have massive health benefits that can help improve pregnancy and the ease of childbirth. One of those forms of exercise is the physical practice of yoga.
This article will look at the benefits of yoga in pregnancy, things to consider, as well as how to get the most of out of your pregnancy practice to maximise the health benefits that yoga can bring.
Looking After Your Pregnancy Health
At the very beginning of pregnancy, it is important to acknowledge that every woman and everybody is different. Whether you are able to practice yoga during pregnancy will depend on your own personal circumstances, although even if a physical practice is not possible due to nausea or aches and pains, breathing and meditation practices can always be used. A mother-to-be who was practising yoga before pregnancy will find it much easier to continue to do yoga during pregnancy for example. That does not mean however that it is impossible to take up yoga during pregnancy, but that various things ought to be considered.
When undertaking any form of physical exercise, even one that has seemingly low impact or energy requirements such as yoga, it is important to consult with your medical professionals – for example, the doctors, nurses and midwives who are treating and supporting you through your pregnancy.
They will be able to advise on the general advantages and disadvantages of a yoga practice during pregnancy, as well as being able to advise on any extra things that need to be considered given your personal circumstances.
The physical Yoga practice during pregnancy should be considered within the larger context of the mother-to-be, and other yoga practices, activities and exercise that can help through pregnancy.
The Benefits of Yoga
Yoga has a number of potential benefits for pregnant women that mean it can be a very healthy and helpful part of pregnancy.
Relaxation–one of the central benefits of yoga is that it helps with relaxation. Pregnancy can, understandably, be a very stressful time for women, so any activity that can aid with relaxation, can be a vital aid in helping ensure a smooth pregnancy.
This relaxation can help the mother-to-be to remain calm through the pregnancy, and also by relieving muscle tension. This can make it easier for the mother-to-be to carry their growing child, with less physical, mental or emotional stress. Some pregnant women have claimed that relaxation through yoga has even helped them to be more aware and more in touch with their unborn child, as they feel more ‘present’ in the pregnancy.
The hormonal changes as a result of pregnancy can bring many women out of balance compared to their pre-pregnant selves, and many have found that the relaxation and breathing techniques associated with yoga have helped them to minimise the impact of these changes and difficulties.
Circulation – circulation is a vital part of pregnancy, ensuring that the mother-to-be stays healthy through pregnancy, and enabling her growing baby to receive nutrients and grow throughout the trimesters. Yoga can help improve circulation, and therefore help the mother-to-be as much as possible in ensuring that she can support the growth of the child within her.
Yoga for Pregnant Women
Pregnant women who are undertaking yoga for the first time may be concerned about the dangers and problems associated with putting themselves in physical positions that may be unusual and may have undue concern about the baby.
However, a trained prenatal yoga teacher will never endanger their students, no matter their level of experience. Most beginner positions in yoga are very straightforward and can be undertaken without any particular difficulty. Your pregnancy yoga teacher will be able to advise on any adjustments that need to be made for your personal practice.
It would be wise for pregnant women who are undertaking yoga, either for the first time or continuing to do so, to do this within the context of yoga classes taught specifically for pregnancy and childbirth.
Pregnant women should inform the yoga tutor of their condition, and ideally look for a yoga tutor who is experienced and skilled in doing yoga with pregnant women, as some positions will be more suitable and easier to manage than others. It is vital to only work with trained perinatal yoga teachers during pregnancy, to ensure the safety of you and your baby.
Some yoga teachers will advise that you do not do yoga if you are pregnant during the first trimester, approximately 14 weeks. This is the most likely time for a miscarriage, and although there is no evidence that yoga can bring on or make a miscarriage more likely, it is usually advised that physical yoga is avoided during this time. Meditation and gentle breathing practices are perfect for the first trimester.
It is often advised that those who have conceived through IVF should wait even longer, with up to twenty weeks usually advised, in order to minimise the possibility of IVF-related miscarriages or other problems, although again this is a topic of debate.
However, it is usually considered safe within the first trimester to do yoga relaxation and breathing exercises only, without any of the positions well-known in yoga.
Once the first trimester has been completed, it is considered safe to do yoga, but once again it should be done under the instruction and care of an experienced prenatal yoga instructor who is aware of the positions to avoid during pregnancy.
Upside down inversions or positions lying on the tummy are considered to be unsafe during pregnancy, as well as lying down on the back for a sustained period of time. Deep twists and any other positions that put the body or the back under excess strain should also be avoided.
Yoga, in particular with regards to breathing and relaxing exercises, can be a very beneficial activity for pregnant woman who are both new and experienced in yoga. Ideally, yoga should be avoided during the first trimester of pregnancy and should only be done under the care and knowledge of an experienced and qualified perinatal yoga instructor, and after taking the advice of a medical professional, as it is important to consider individual circumstances and the health history of the pregnant mother-to-be.