Your Pregnancy Matters

Yoga and pregnancy: A safe, effective fitness option for moms-to-be

New Patient Appointment or 214-645-8300

2018_blog_yoga_Salena
Yoga is a great option for women to stay active, relieve pain, and reduce anxiety during pregnancy.

This article is authored in part by Salena Quinlan Shults, Owner/Instructor, Yoga on Main.

Some things just go together, like peanut butter and jelly or Sonny and Cher. For us, yoga and pregnancy belong in that list as well. Yoga has been shown to help improve heart health, reduce depression symptoms, and relieve chronic pain, among many other benefits.

In recent years, we’ve seen a large increase in the popularity of yoga. The 2016 Yoga in America Study found that 36.7 million Americans practice yoga, up from 20.4 million in 2012. Of those practitioners, 72 percent are female.

Many pregnant women do yoga throughout their entire pregnancies, just as both of us did. Some women might wonder if it’s safe for them and their developing babies to practice to full term, and others who want to start practicing might be nervous about it. 

Expectant moms often ask us when they have to stop doing yoga, and the answer is: You don’t!  We highly recommend yoga for most pregnant women, both from our personal and professional experiences. Yoga has several benefits that are specific to pregnancy and recovery. Below, we outline how it helps, suggest poses to try, and offer tips for finding the perfect instructor.

A healthier, happier pregnancy through yoga

Yoga is a great way to relieve pain. Women who practice yoga while pregnant can experience reductions in:

Unlike other forms of prenatal exercise, which focus on physical effects, yoga also has been shown to have many psychological benefits for moms-to-be, such as lowering levels of anxiety and depression, which can help you have a happier, more balanced pregnancy. While we don’t recommend complicated poses in the delivery room, the breathing and relaxation techniques can help relieve pain during labor

After baby comes home from the hospital, yoga has been shown to reduce the effects of postpartum depression, a serious concern for many women. On the physical side, yoga can help with re-establishing core strength, which can minimize the risks of pelvic floor disorders related to childbirth.

These benefits can help you manage the stresses of work, life, and family concerns during and after your pregnancy. So carve out an hour to focus on yourself and the new life you’re creating – it can do so much good for you and your baby!

Safety tips for prenatal yoga

Some women are concerned about certain poses potentially wrapping their babies up in the umbilical cord or making them uncomfortable in the uterus, but that’s not the case. A study that appeared in Obstetrics & Gynecology monitored fetuses and women between 35 and 38 weeks of pregnancy as they performed 26 different yoga poses. The study found:

  • No changes in the babies’ heart rate
  • No changes in fetal movement
  • No changes in the women’s heart rate, temperature, or oxygen levels in the blood
  • No contractions, fluid leakage, or vaginal bleeding

The one form of yoga we recommend avoiding during pregnancy is hot yoga, which is when yoga poses are performed in a heated studio. The effects of hot yoga haven’t been well studied in pregnant women, but research has shown that too much heat very early in pregnancy might increase the risk of neural tube defects, a birth defect that involves a malformation of the spine or skull. Later in pregnancy, blood vessels dilate to get rid of excess heat, causing blood pressure to fall.

Most other forms of yoga are safe throughout pregnancy, though you might need to modify your workout to accommodate your growing belly and altered center of gravity. Talk to your nurse or doctor to let them know you plan to do yoga during your pregnancy. It’s usually no problem, especially if you’ve been doing yoga before you got pregnant. However, there are some conditions that might warrant further precaution, such as:

  • A smaller-than-normal baby, also known as intrauterine growth restriction
  • High risk of preterm labor
  • Pregnancy with twins, triplets, or other multiples

Strike the right yoga pose

Many yoga practitioners advise pregnant women to avoid deep twist or inversion (upside-down) poses, which put the head below the heart. There aren’t many studies that support these precautions, but the most important thing is to be careful and listen to your own body. Don’t do anything that feels wrong or painful. 

These are some of our favorite poses that can ease pregnancy symptoms or help you build strength:

  • Cat to cow: This back-arching technique is great for relieving back pain.
  • Garland: This deep squat is thought to help turn a breech baby to the proper head-down position.
  • Happy baby: Aptly named for pregnant yoga practitioners, this pose can help release tense lower back muscles. This is an inversion pose, so check with your doctor and yoga instructor before trying it.
  • Legs up the wall: This inversion pose can help reduce swelling in your feet and ankles. Check with your doctor and instructor first.
  • Planks: These help build abdominal strength, which is key for labor and recovery. Planks can be tougher to perform as your pregnancy progresses, so don’t overexert yourself.
  • Warriors: These standing poses are some of the most commonly practiced to help build overall strength. You also can do double duty by performing Kegel exercises at the same time, which aid in delivery and recovery after childbirth.

How to find the right yoga class and instructor

Though most forms of yoga are safe for expecting moms, we recommend looking specifically for a prenatal yoga class, especially if you’ve never done yoga before. Prenatal yoga classes are tailored specifically for pregnant women. If you want to start yoga during your pregnancy but no prenatal yoga classes are available, start with a gentle yoga class for beginners. 

Once you’ve found the class you want, call the studio and ask to speak with the owner or instructor. Let them know you’re pregnant, and ask about the experience and knowledge of the instructor who will be teaching your class. Though it’s not mandatory that all yoga teachers be certified, Yoga Alliance maintains a database of certified, registered yoga instructors that offer prenatal yoga. These instructors are required to meet educational standards in teaching methodology, human anatomy and physiology, and practical trainings.

Yoga played a huge role in our pregnancies, and it’s a wonderful exercise and stress-relief option for moms-to-be. Talk to your doctor for more information about incorporating yoga into your pregnancy routine, or request an appointment for more information

Namaste!

“Expectant moms often ask us when they have to stop doing yoga, and the answer is: You don’t!”

–Jamie Morgan, M.D.

How to find the right yoga class and instructor

Though most forms of yoga are safe for expecting moms, we recommend looking specifically for a prenatal yoga class, especially if you’ve never done yoga before. Prenatal yoga classes are tailored specifically for pregnant women. If you want to start yoga during your pregnancy but no prenatal yoga classes are available, start with a gentle yoga class for beginners. 

Once you’ve found the class you want, call the studio and ask to speak with the owner or instructor. Let them know you’re pregnant, and ask about the experience and knowledge of the instructor who will be teaching your class. Though it’s not mandatory that all yoga teachers be certified, Yoga Alliance maintains a database of certified, registered yoga instructors that offer prenatal yoga. These instructors are required to meet educational standards in teaching methodology, human anatomy and physiology, and practical trainings.

Yoga played a huge role in our pregnancies, and it’s a wonderful exercise and stress-relief option for moms-to-be. Talk to your doctor for more information about incorporating yoga into your pregnancy routine, or request an appointment for more information

Namaste!

Get Personalized Updates

Let’s stay in touch! Get our occasional alerts about new blog posts, upcoming events, opportunities, and more.

Sign me up!