Benefits of prenatal yoga for pregnant women

The health benefits of yoga for both young and old cannot be overemphasised. But what many people may not know is if prenatal yoga is beneficial for pregnant people or not. 

A pregnant woman doing prenatal yoga

When dealing with the hormones of pregnancy, the constant fatigue and morning sickness, yoga may seem like the last thing on your mind; however, this form of exercise and meditation can help you deal with your prenatal phase.

Staying fit during pregnancy is important both for an expectant mother and for her baby, and one way to achieve fitness is by doing yoga. Prenatal yoga can help improve the mental health of a pregnant mother. It can also help alleviate symptoms such as swelling, back pain, bloating, constipation and fatigue. 

What exactly is prenatal yoga? What are the benefits of prenatal yoga, what should you expect from a yoga class, and what precautions should you take? This article will address all these and provide more details of what pregnant people need to know about prenatal yoga.

What is prenatal yoga?

Prenatal yoga is a type of yoga ideally designed for pregnant people. It involves both meditation and exercises where specific body positions and deep breathing exercises are used to connect the body and mind.

Prenatal yoga excludes certain positions in regular yoga that may cause harm to a pregnant person and the baby. For instance, prenatal yoga does not involve positions that will be too stressful on your pelvic area or joints. 

Many expectant mothers join prenatal yoga classes not just for their body (physical) benefits but also for the mind (psychological) benefits. There are high rates of trauma, psychological distress and social complexity among pregnant people, a recent 2019 study reported. And one way pregnant women can gain psychological relief is by doing yoga.

About 20% of pregnant people in the United States practise prenatal yoga, according to a 2015 study published in the Journal of the American Psychiatric Nurses Association.The study also found that pregnant people with depressive and stress symptoms tend to be more drawn to yoga. 

That may explain why prenatal yoga classes typically focus on meeting both the physical and psychological needs of expectant mothers. The classes benefit pregnant women in several ways.

Benefits of prenatal yoga

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If you are pregnant and seek ways to stay fit or relax, you may want to consider joining a prenatal yoga class or practising prenatal yoga on your own. Below are ways prenatal yoga may benefit pregnant people.

Yoga improves blood circulation

Because pregnant people have a foetus growing inside them, they need an efficient blood flow to enable the foetus to get all the nutrients and right amount of oxygen it needs to grow and develop normally. Yoga involves stretching and other movements that can improve blood flow to and fro the heart. 

Yoga helps improve mood

Fluctuations in hormones during pregnancy can also cause mood changes. Also, some people tend to show depressive symptoms during pregnancy. One benefit of prenatal yoga is that it can help improve mood and reduce symptoms of depression during pregnancy.

It helps prepare the body for labour

Doing yoga helps build strength and flexibility of the joints, which is helpful during labour. Yoga relaxes you and puts you in a positive frame of mind before labour. 

Prenatal yoga also helps build coping capabilities and confidence needed to face childbirth. This is one of the amazing benefits of prenatal yoga. Also, the deep breathing exercises and meditation sessions may help reduce anxiety and pain experienced during labour.

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It helps adjust a changing body

Pregnancy changes a person’s body in so many ways within a short period. This is where prenatal yoga comes into the picture.

Prenatal yoga can support the changes going on in a pregnant person's body, enabling the body to adjust to the changes. By strengthening your body and stretching your muscles, you are easing your body’s process of supporting a fast protruding tummy. 

It helps pregnant people build strong support system

When you attend a prenatal yoga class for the first time, expect to see other pregnant people in the class. That will be a great avenue to connect with other expectant mothers and share your pregnancy experiences or journey with them. 

If you are wondering about the benefits of prenatal yoga, think of the new friends you will make when you attend a yoga class and how these friends can help shape your pregnancy journey.

Anxiety and fear of the unknown may make pregnancy and labour worse for some people. You can build a support system at your yoga class, which may help you during pregnancy and childbirth. Hearing other people’s stories can be comforting. 

It tones important muscle groups

Properly toned muscles are neither too tight nor too lax. They can also help minimise the pain of pregnancy. One benefit of prenatal yoga is that it can help tone important muscle groups that play a role in pregnancy and childbirth, such as the hip, pelvic floor muscles and abdominal core muscles.

You may want to try gentle backbends and lunges to tone up those muscles.

Other benefits of prenatal yoga for pregnant people include:

  • Improved sleep
  • Reduced stress and improved mental health
  • Reduced anxiety
  • Improved heart health
  • Enhanced immune system
  • Enhanced strength

What to expect during a prenatal yoga class

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If you attend a prenatal yoga class, you will notice a slight difference between the class and the regular one because the yoga you practice when pregnant will ensure you don’t do any movement that will harm you or your baby.

Your prenatal yoga class may often involve:

  • Light stretching: Your yoga instructor will encourage you to move different parts of your body, such as your arms, neck and legs, gently.
  • Breathing exercises: Breathing exercises help to relax the body. This will involve breathing in slowly through the nose and exhaling through the mouth. The breathing technique practised during your prenatal yoga class may help you deal with labour contractions and manage shortness of breath which you may experience during pregnancy.
  • Flexibility and balance exercises: Your yoga may also involve moving your body into different positions to enhance flexibility and develop strength and balance. However, you may need props like cushions to provide support while at it.
  • Abdominal and pelvic floor-targeted movements: You may have to do a standing vinyasa flow that involves hip and chest opening poses, as well as movements that help tone the muscles and strengthen the pelvic floor. 
  • Relaxation: After your yoga, you may be asked to sit still for a while to relax your muscles and mind. There are different ways to achieve this. You may be asked to close your eyes and pay attention to sensations around you, focus on breathing in and out, or repeat a mantra to restore inner calmness.

Precautions pregnant people should take during yoga class

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There are different yoga styles, such as yin yoga, restorative yoga, vinyasa yoga and Bikram yoga. However, pregnant women must avoid the strenuous ones. Before starting prenatal yoga, talk to your gynaecologist to ensure it is safe for you. 

Other safety guidelines to take before or while doing prenatal yoga include:

  • Talk to your yoga instructor, ask questions, look them up to be sure they are well-trained and that you can trust them enough to carry out their yoga instructions
  • Don't push yourself too hard
  • Set realistic goals
  • Always stay hydrated
  • Pay attention to your body; if you feel discomfort at any point, stop and see your doctor.

Summary

Prenatal yoga helps many people go through the pregnancy phase and helps them deal with pregnancy symptoms better. The deep breathing exercise can help during labour by making you feel relaxed and reducing blood pressure and heart rate. It is also best to talk to your doctor before starting prenatal yoga.