Pregnancy yoga is the perfect way to nurture your mind and body, and get some much-needed relaxation, explains Shelley MacGregor of Bump Yoga.
Pregnancy is an exciting time, but also a time when you really need to look after yourself – not only your diet, but your general health and wellbeing too. So, you research the best way to nurture your body, mind, and growing baby, and the internet yells, back, “Yoga!” But where do you start? What sort of yoga is best? And what do you do if you already have a yoga practise or class you attend – how do you ensure you are staying safe?
Why yoga is so good
Yoga is touted as the Holy Grail of pregnancy exercise – and for good reason. It allows you to move and stretch your body, helping you deal with the various aches and pains that come with each stage of pregnancy. It gives you time to yourself, to let go of the chaos and stress that surround you each and every day, and allows you time to just be. The many other benefits include:
- Increased comfort.
- Better stability on your feet.
- Better posture (and, therefore, fewer backaches!).
- Improved breathing and clarity of mind (so decreased “baby brain!”).
- Better sleep.
Yoga also helps you to build strength to carry you though your pregnancy, prepares your body for the birth, and builds stamina to help you handle life as a new mum.
What to look for
All that sounds great, right? “Sign me up!”, you’re thinking. But what do you need to look for when choosing a yoga class or workout to buy/download? Your best bet is to always go to a prenatal yoga class specifically designed for pregnancy. These generally recommend attendance from 16 weeks of pregnancy, and can usually accommodate your needs right up to (and sometimes past) your due date. The benefits of actually attending a class are that you have the eyes of an expert on your form and your movement to ensure that your alignment is correct and you aren’t doing something that will cause you pain or discomfort. The classes will focus on postures/asanas that will help to align your body and stretch out your sore bits. This, coupled with breathing and relaxation exercises, will ensure you float out of the studio after your class… Home for a cup of tea and the best sleep you will have that week! The other advantage of attending a prenatal yoga class is that you will get to mix with other mums-to-be going through exactly what you are going through! Often when you are pregnant for the first time, you are the only one you know at the time living through a pregnancy day by day, so the chance to chat and swap notes with other ladies in your community can be really rewarding
You don’t have a class near you? Then the internet is your oyster! There are many and varied prenatal videos on YouTube that you can download and follow along with at home. Try out a few different sorts until you find one that resonates with you. And then take it slow! Ease into each posture, ensuring you aren’t pushing yourself too far, too fast – the last thing you need is a new sore bit! Search for videos that fit the trimester you are in, and that are well-rounded, offering movement, breathing, and relaxation.
For the regular yogis
What do you do if you already attend a general yoga class? Tell your teacher you are pregnant as soon as you know. They can easily adapt your regular class and keep an eye on you to ensure you are working within your limits. They will also advise alternatives to postures that are contraindicated during pregnancy or can exacerbate certain conditions. They will also recommend you lie on your side rather than your back for Yoga Nidra or relaxations. Let them guide you – and they may suggest that at a certain point in your pregnancy their general class is no longer for you. That may be the time to ask for their recommendation on a more specific pregnancy-focused class in your area, or to go to one-on-one classes where they can better look after your needs.
What else can I do?
Well, it can be as simple as going for a walk. Never underestimate the benefit of getting outdoors, stretching your legs, and getting some fresh air. It’s good for the mind, body, and soul, and is a fantastic complement to your yoga or Pilates practice. The key is to take it easy, especially if you weren’t particularly fit prior to pregnancy. This is not the time to take on a five-hour hike! Take it slow, get plenty of fluids (take your drink bottle with you), and be sure not to overheat. Also, as you progress into your pregnancy, listen to your body. If you have a day where you are just exhausted and have to really push yourself to head out the door, then maybe that should be a rest day for you. Or maybe that’s just the right time to pop on the yoga DVD and stretch and rest your body with some relaxing yoga poses. It’s all about being kind to yourself and doing what you need. Never underestimate the benefit of getting outdoors, stretching your legs, and getting some fresh air.
What about Pilates?
Pilates is another alternative for prenatal exercise that could be an option for you. With Pilates, the emphasis is more on moving your body and breathing rather than the deep relaxation that you get from yoga. If you can find a class that combines both yoga and Pilates for pregnancy, then you are on to a winner and definitely getting the best of both worlds! Once again, though, it is important (especially from 16 weeks onwards) that the class you choose is designed for pregnancy, as a general Pilates class puts too much emphasis on your core muscles or requires you lie on your front for some exercises – which can do you more harm than good. Talk to your Pilates teacher and see if they have had specific training in prenatal Pilates. They can then either offer you modifications to exercises that could be an issue, or again may suggest you do private sessions focusing on your needs.
How do you know when you should stop? Easy: When your mind and body tell you, “That’s it!” I teach pregnant mums from 16 weeks onwards, and while some come up to about 35 weeks, others come past their due date! Every pregnancy is different, so go to classes or follow videos for as long as you are comfortable and enjoying it. Certain conditions or complications can also limit the time you can continue to exercise – always listen to the advice of your LMC, as they are the ones with in-depth knowledge of you and your pregnancy, so will let you know when to start and finish. Also, they are often the best ones to chat to when looking for a suitable class – they will know what’s available in your area and what other mums-to-be have attended and enjoyed.