Your body goes through all sorts of changes during pregnancy – some expected, others not so much.
You deserve all the self-care tools you can get your hands on to support you on your pregnancy journey. You’ve got your prenatal vitamins, your chiropractor on speed dial, and have maybe even given acupuncture a go.
How about prenatal yoga?
What is Prenatal Yoga?
The word yoga literally means “to yolk”. Yogic practices are based on the idea of integrating your mind, body, and spirit. Yoga encompasses so many different practices outside the Western view of movement-based ones. Prenatal yoga typically emphasizes the importance of gentle movement and strength building, connected breathwork, and rest and mediation.
Prenatal yoga is designed specifically with pregnant people in mind. It uses exercises that are safe and gentle for the pregnant body, helping ease the discomforts that can come with pregnancy. Some studies have shown that prenatal yoga may help improve pregnancy, labor, and birth outcomes.
Other differences you’ll find with prenatal yoga are that you may move a bit slower than in other yoga classes, you’ll be advised to not lay on your back as that can put pressure on your organs after the first trimester, you’ll be encouraged to use extra props for support, and there will be few or more supported backbends and twists.
Benefits of Prenatal Yoga
Lowers Stress Levels: With all these changes, and the anticipation of being a parent to a new human, it’s understandable to feel stressed while pregnant. Yoga can help to lower stress levels, and stabilize your mood. Prenatal yoga may even improve outcomes on people with high risk pregnancies, by lowering stress levels.
Helps With Energy and Sleep: Sleep can easily be affected during pregnancy. Whether it’s a constantly full bladder, or not being able to sleep in the positions you’re used to – sleep deprivation can take its toll. Yoga can help with that. When your stress levels are lower, you tend to have an easier time sleeping. It also can help with aches and pains that may be keeping you up at night.
Pregnancy Pains: If pregnancy aches and pains sounds familiar, that’s another reason to give prenatal yoga a try. Back and joint pain can be excruciating during pregnancy, the gentle movements and stretches used in prenatal yoga can help ease some of that.
Helps You Prepare for Labor: Squats and leg strengthening exercises will come in hand when it’s time for your big moment. Gentle hip openers can help prepare your pelvis and joints for labor. Not to mention practicing meditations and breathing exercises beforehand, become invaluable tools when in labor.
Community Building: If you’re able to go to a class, even if it’s online, prenatal yoga is an awesome opportunity to make new friends. Not just friends, but people who are pregnant at the same time as you. That’s a special bond, and gives you a chance to plan for future playdates!
Self Care: Prenatal yoga gives you a chance for some “me time”. You’re preparing to bring another human into your life and the world. It’s important to practice what it means to have time just for yourself, and prioritize your own wellness – so that you can be the best parent you can be.
Things to Keep in Mind
Adapt Your Practice: If you already had a yoga practice before becoming pregnant, you can keep up certain parts of it and adapt as need be. For those of you who are new to yoga, there’s no need to push yourself to achieve and “get better”, you’re there for your own health and wellness.
Give Your Teacher a Heads Up: If the class you’re going to isn’t specifically a prenatal one, let your instructor know that you are pregnant so that they can give you proper modifications.
Be Careful of Overstretching: People tend to be more flexible when pregnant because of the hormone relaxin. Relaxin helps relax the ligaments in the pelvis and helps with cervical dilation. If you are already pretty flexible be sure to use extra blocks, straps, or props to support you so that you don’t overstretch.
Your Needs Will Change: What you need from your yoga practice will change through your pregnancy, don’t be afraid to adapt and change it as needed. Also keep in mind that your center of gravity is continually changing as you progress in your pregnancy.
Listen to Your Provider: Follow your intuition, but also listen to your medical provider’s recommendations. If you are put on bed rest or are told to take it easy, try simple stretches or breathing exercise from bed.
Listen to Your Body: It’s ok if prenatal yoga doesn’t feel right for you. There’s no need to push yourself to do something that doesn’t feel good when you’re pregnant – or in general. Stop if you’re feeling dizzy or faint, if you have cramps or pain, or any shortness of breath. Luckily there’s so many things you can do under the umbrella of prenatal yoga. Chances are there’s something for you.
Don’t Forget to Rest: When it comes to yoga, rest is just as important, if not more, than the movement. Give yourself space to deeply relax and practice “savasana” at the end of your yoga practice. You can also opt for a yin or restorative yoga class, which are meant to allow for plenty of relaxation.
Are you ready to give prenatal yoga a try? Try looking for a local studio, or going on social media to find a teacher who resonates with you. There are plenty of online resources, even free ones like YouTube, where you can try prenatal yoga from the comfort of your own home. Relax and enjoy!
Natasha (she/they) is a full spectrum doula, reproductive health content creator, and sexual wellness consultant. Her work focuses on deconstructing the shame, stigma, and barriers people carry around birth, sex, and beyond, to help people navigate through their lives with more pleasure, softness, and sensuality. You can connect with Natasha on IG @spectrumoflovedoula.