Staying in shape is difficult, let alone when you are carrying a developing baby. Even if you have never tried yoga before, a prenatal yoga practice can benefit both you and your baby. Known benefits of prenatal yoga are varied and many: increased strength and flexibility, reduced back pain, reduced aches and fatigue, reduced joint swelling, easier digestion, improved emotional well-being, and an easier birth.
The safest way to begin a prenatal yoga practice is to find a local instructor who teaches a class especially for pregnant women. Even though the popularity of prenatal yoga has increased exponentially, you still might not be able to find this specific class. If not, tell your yoga teacher that you are pregnant and she will make sure to help you adjust the poses as needed. If you have never tried yoga before and are not able to find a prenatal class, look for any class labeled "gentle" or good for beginners.
For some, there are not even yoga studios in your area. If this is the case, do not fear; there are a number of prenatal yoga DVDs out there that offer quality instruction. Buying a book to go along with your DVD is a good idea, but do not try and substitute a book for a DVD. The video will give you an accurate picture of the movements and positions of each asana (pose). My recommendations have been listed to the right of this article--feel free to read reviews online, see if the library carries them, or head to the local bookstore and pick up a copy for yourself--it is quite a worthwhile (and small) investment.
When practicing yoga, wear comfortable, loose clothing that makes it easy for you to move though the poses. Dressing in layers is also a good idea as your temperature will change during your practice. Last but not least, you will need a yoga mat to practice your poses on. A thicker-than-usual mat is recommended for pregnant women to help reduce the impact between your joints and the floor below. Also suggested is a mat that is free of PVC, which is a well-known chemical irritant. My recommendations for mats have also been listed to the right of this article, along with DVDs and books.
As you progress through your first, second, and third trimester, you abilities will change, as well as things you should be cautious of.
- Your first trimester will not be much different than if you were not pregnant. You should make sure to drink enough water, and stay in tune to any pain or discomfort that you feel during your practice. Morning sickness, or general nausea, is likely in your first trimester. Make sure to listen to your body; if you feel queasy, give yourself the benefit of the doubt to miss a class or simply take a more gentle version.
- By the second trimester, your morning sickness has probably passed and yet your belly is still not too big to hamper your flexibility. This is the best time to get into a steady habit of attending yoga classes or using your DVDs to continue your practice. Because of your changing metabolism, you want to make sure to have a small snack before you begin your practice, whether it be at class or at home.
- Due to your belly's large size, your third trimester will involve adjusting your yoga practice. Don't try to hold poses for too long and make sure to have at least one foot against a wall or one hand on a chair to keep your balance. Props such as blocks and straps will be quite useful during this time to help maintain the stability of your poses.
Relaxin, a hormone created by the body during pregnancy, will soften your connective tissue. This is a good thing for the oncoming baby, but make sure not to overexert yourself during your yoga practice. Pregancy is not the time to strive for more flexibility; it's a time to relax and enjoy, and practicing prenatal yoga can help you learn how.