Updated: Aug 8
If you’re an expectant mum wondering whether yoga is safe to do in pregnancy, either continuing as someone who practises regularly or starting out as a complete newbie, here’s the lowdown…
WHAT IS PREGNANCY YOGA?
Like traditional yoga, pregnancy yoga uses physical exercises (called postures) and breathing techniques to balance your mind and body. Some postures will be the same as in a normal yoga class, while others will be modified especially for pregnancy.
Classes teach breathing and relaxation techniques that you can use during labour. You may also learn good positions to adopt during labour to help you through contractions and that aid delivery.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF PREGNANCY YOGA?
You may be asking is pregnancy yoga good for you? Yes, it is—as well as keeping your body flexible, strong and in good shape, research on yoga in pregnancy suggests that it has many benefits. It has been shown to improve sleep, reduce anxiety, stress and depression and may also help with pregnancy back pain and nausea.
A social benefit of course is that the classes are a great opportunity to meet other mums-to-be, while finding some time for yourself and the chance to put your phone on silent.
IS PREGNANCY YOGA SAFE?
Current research on pregnancy yoga suggests that it is a safe and effective exercise for pregnant women.As with any exercise of course, it is not without risk of injury to ligaments or joints and you should only practise it after being taught.
Physical activity and exercise in pregnancy is encouraged. Yoga is a great way of staying fit and healthy in pregnancy and can help meet the target of 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity each week that is recommended. The advice is if you’re not active—start gradually; if you are already active—keep going!
I’VE NEVER DONE YOGA BEFORE—CAN I START IN PREGNANCY?
Yes, you can start yoga in pregnancy if you’ve not done it before, but it’s advisable to join a class specifically for pregnant women run by an instructor trained in prenatal yoga.
CAN I CONTINUE WITH MY NORMAL YOGA CLASS?
If you already attend a regular yoga class, tell your teacher that you’re pregnant and find out if they’re trained to instruct pregnant women. Those that are trained should be able to show you how to modify your postures and practice.
Let your regular teacher know if you have symphysis pubis dysfunction or pelvic girdle pain as some postures aren’t suitable for these conditions.
Your ligaments are softened during pregnancy by production of the hormone relaxin. Be careful not to overstretch during postures as you may be more susceptible to injury.
Balance safely too—use the wall or a chair to support you in standing or balance positions and move slowly. Your growing belly will affect your centre of gravity, which may make you more unstable.
Avoid any postures that involve lying on your back for long periods of time after 16 weeks of pregnancy. This is because the weight of your growing baby can press on the main blood vessel, which returns blood to the heart, causing you to feel faint.
WHEN SHOULD I START YOGA IN PREGNANCY?
It’s a good idea to check with your doctor or midwife before you begin a yoga class, just to be sure there are no reasons that you shouldn’t do it. Reasons to avoid pregnancy yoga include if you’re at an increased risk of preterm birth or have certain medical conditions.
If you’re new to yoga, find a prenatal class and talk to the teacher—they’ll advise you on the best time to start classes.
IS ANY STYLE OF YOGA NOT RECOMMENDED FOR PREGNANT WOMEN?
Avoid doing bikram yoga (known as “hot” yoga) if you’re pregnant because exposure to excessive heat is dangerous for your baby. Some power yoga styles, including ashtanga yoga, are only suitable if you are an experienced practitioner and are to be avoided if your pregnancy is considered high risk. Talk to your yoga teacher about modifications you can do. If they don’t have experience you could switch to someone who does while you’re pregnant or join a prenatal, hatha, or restorative yoga class, which are all less strenuous.
ARE THERE ANY UNSAFE YOGA POSITIONS IN PREGNANCY?
If you’re joining a prenatal yoga class or following a prenatal pregnancy DVD then the postures will be adapted and safe for you to do.
If you’re continuing in a normal yoga class or following a DVD at home be aware that some yoga poses and breathing exercises should be avoided in pregnancy:
Lying on your stomach.
Lying on your back, especially after 16 weeks.
Deep forward or backward bends.
Twisting postures that put pressure on your stomach.
Inverted poses that extend your legs above your head, such as headstands and handstands.
Over-breathing and breathing restriction exercises.
WHAT SHOULD I WEAR FOR PREGNANCY YOGA?
Wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothes that allow you to move easily and that won’t squash your tummy. Long-line maternity tops that cover your bump are good for pregnancy yoga. It’s also good to wear a few layers so that you can strip down as you warm up and put back on again if you’re in the relaxation section and start to cool off.
Socks with grips are also good, or bare feet are fine too (you can always put your socks back on if your feet start to get cold). Some women like to take a blanket. And definitely take some water to stay hydrated.
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