Beyond its physical benefits such as keeping your body toned, prenatal yoga offers a variety of wonderful health benefits to expecting mothers. And as a bonus, several of the postures you practice while pregnant could ease labor pains and speed your birth! Prenatal yoga exists as a total exercise package: it both exercises your body and your mind. This form of yoga will modify certain poses to protect the health and comfort of a mama-to-be, and skip other poses all together. Here are five reasons why prenatal yoga is a great pregnancy exercise.
1. Encourages Controlled Breathing
Know when else you’ll need to control your breathing? During labor. A good prenatal yoga workout will combine breathing techniques with your postures. Learning to control your breath allows you to hold postures longer—which both strengthens your body as well as your ability to work through a bit of discomfort.
2. Reduces Tension
Prenatal yoga poses work to reduce tension throughout the body gently. As you progress in your pregnancy, aches and pains are bound to increase as your center of gravity shifts to your belly and you gain weight. Many yoga postures massage the body’s muscles, helping to relieve the stress of pregnancy. Specific poses such as pigeon can target aching areas such as the lower back region, and will leave you feeling relaxed and refreshed.
3. Opens Your Hips
Yoga postures can coax the hips open, preparing for the birth of your baby. Don’t underestimate the power of those hip-opening postures such as hip circles or child’s pose. A good prenatal instructor will introduce several of these postures over the course of a session; if you consistently practice these postures at home close to your due date, you may be able to nudge your baby into position.
4. Encourages Balance
An important aspect of any prenatal yoga class is balance. As you reach your third trimester, you’ll likely notice that your balance is off. Practicing yoga can help avoid this outcome. Part of yoga involves becoming aware of your body and adjusting to its needs. Tree pose is a wonderful pose to begin increasing your balance. The main benefit to increasing your balance is safety; the better your balance, the less likely you are to have an accident.
5. Increases Strength
You’re carrying another human! Beginning to slowly build strength throughout your body will make carrying your son or daughter much easier. The stronger your muscles, the less strain they’re feel over the next nine months. Poses such as downward dog work to strengthen the back muscles, which become crucially important as your belly grows. Strong muscles will also make each push more effective!
The brilliance of yoga is that it doesn’t need any fancy equipment. You can simply show up and reap the benefits of a dedicated practice. Since yoga uses your own body to build strength, you can easily adapt a pose’s difficulty level to your needs. As your weight shifts, you may find the simple addition of balance blocks or straps can help you safely hold poses. There’s one additional benefit to taking prenatal yoga classes: you’ll get to meet other expecting mamas. Most studios allow students to purchase a drop-in class; consider dropping in to “test drive” several different instructors until you find one that you love.