Are you pregnant but want to keep fit? Then yoga could be what you are looking for. Find out how yoga can make pregnancy better and what type of yoga or postures are to be avoided.
Yoga can help with breathing and relaxation, which in turn helps with the adjustment to the physical demands of pregnancy, labor, birth, and motherhood. It calms both mind and body, providing the physical and emotional stress relief a woman’s body needs throughout pregnancy.
In a study just published in the journal Obstetrics &, Rachael Polis, M.D., and documented by the National Public Radio, a gynecologist in Louisville, Kentucky, and a team of researchers observed 25 healthy pregnant women in their third trimesters, who were guided through one-on-one yoga classes of 26 poses. The postures varied from standing poses to twists to stretches. While they avoided inversions to minimize the risk of falling as well as prone poses, they did include Downward-Facing Dog, Happy Baby, and Corpse Pose.
“We found these postures were really well-tolerated by women in our study,” Polis told NPR. “Women’s vital signs, heart rates, blood pressure—these all remained normal.” (It should be noted that all the women recruited for the study had healthy pregnancies—no high blood pressure or gestational diabetes.)
And none of the women reported “decreased fetal movement, contractions, leakage or fluid, or vaginal bleeding in the 24-hour follow-up,” NPR reports.
But is a huge range of yoga styles – which ones are the safest, and which poses should be avoided?
Yoga is one of the best forms of workouts you can take up when you are expecting. It is especially beneficial when you combine it with a mild cardio like walking. It helps the super anxious, yet excited moms-to-be stay in shape and deal with all the physical and emotional changes with ease.
It also helps tone the muscles, maintain integrity and balance, and enhances blood circulation. Practicing yoga reduces the impact on the joints. When you practice yoga, you combine it with breathing, and the full Yoga breath or Ujjayi works wonders when you are expecting. Inhaling slowly through your nose to fully fill up your lungs, and then slowly exhaling preps you for labor. Practicing yoga regularly throughout your pregnancy will help you resist the urge to tighten your body when you feel the pain. You will be able to relax and steer through labor quickly.
Hatha yoga: Hatha yoga has many benefits for pregnant women, not only the physical benefits, but the mental aspects can be especially helpful during a time when your hormones appear to be out of control and cause all sorts of mood changes.
Ananda yoga: Related to Hatha yoga, this form combines the physical and spiritual to prepare your body for meditation through a series of postures. A gentle style of yoga, it involves meditating on different parts of your body.
Integral yoga: As the name suggests, this form combines postures from different schools of yoga. These are used with breathing, prayer, chanting and meditation. This form can be easily modified to meet the needs and stages of pregnancy.
Lyengar yoga: Lyenagar yoga focuses more on specific postures than on breathing techniques. It uses props, such as wooden blocks, benches, bolsters and straps to help you to support and extend certain postures. Its poses are considered safe for pregnancy, although the movements can be strong and precise.
Viniyoga: Viniyoga style falls between the precision of Lyenagar yoga and the physically intensive Power yoga (see below). As long as the postures and the breathing exercises of Viniyoga are modified to suit you, they should be fine.
Sivananda yoga: This style is more a way of life, involving postures, breathing exercises, a vegetarian diet, positive thinking, prayer, and meditation. Built around the sun salutation pose (surya namaskar), this style involves the chanting of mantras as well.
Bhakti yoga: Bhakti yoga is more spiritual, involving chanting, meditation, and exercises to improve concentration. It aims to unite you with what yoga experts refer to as the divine spirit.
Poses that require lying on the back or abdomen, particularly during the last trimester, should be avoided. Inverted poses can cause the baby to press on your lungs, making breathing difficult, so those too should be avoided. The hormone relaxin helps to make you more flexible during pregnancy, so be careful about stretching too far. Avoid deep abdominal twists. These can squash the internal organs, including the uterus, and may be uncomfortable. Also, avoid jumping moves and any breathing techniques that require holding your breath.
Here are the top 5 types of yoga not recommended for prenatal exercise:
Kundalini Yoga – This style of yoga aims to unleash the energy reserve or kundalini stored at the base of your spine. It focuses on breath control and repeating positions in quick succession. This type of yoga can make you too hot and may be too much of a strain on your body.
Power Yoga – The most intensive form of Hatha yoga, it comprises a set of postures done in succession. Again, doing Power yoga aims to make you hot, to help detoxify your body.
Aerial Yoga – In aerial yoga everything takes place in the air, which can be dangerous for some people and it may cause dizziness, falls, injuries, panic attacks, nausea, and even miscarriage.
Bikrim/Hot Yoga – Hot yoga isn’t the best choice for moms-to-be. It’s extremely dangerous and may cause arrhythmia, high blood pressure, miscarriage, premature birth, heat exhaustion, and even heat stroke
Dharma Yoga – A typical session includes twists, inversions, backbends, balancing poses, and breathing exercises, many of which might not be the safest option for pregnant women.
The most important thing for moms-to-be to remember is not to force themselves (or the baby) to do anything they don’t feel comfortable with. It’s important to listen to any signals your body may give and to take it easy. Even if you had a regular dynamic yoga practice before pregnancy, you’ll probably need to modify each pose as your body changes. Finding a good instructor who would help you customize your yoga to suit the stage of pregnancy you’re in, is the essential first step towards making the best of your yoga pregnancy sessions. The second step is to enjoy exercising following all the medical advice on exercising without any worries.