Answers to common questions about prenatal yoga – what trimester to start, pregnancy yoga benefits, poses to do and to avoid, cautions and more.
Prenatal yoga is a very interesting, multifaceted and important topic, often surrounded by many myths, ambiguities and questions. In this article, we will take a closer look at the key questions related to prenatal yoga and dispel the common myths. Let’s start!
1. Can I do yoga during pregnancy?
Yes! In general, prenatal yoga is very helpful and supportive for women. Correct, safe and appropriate yoga practice during pregnancy is very beneficial for the health of the expectant mother and will help her to prepare for childbirth. However, it’s important to take into account the individual characteristics of each person and to consider the history of pregnancy and the health of the woman before pregnancy in general.
Therefore, in all cases, I always recommend that you consult your doctor/obstetrician before starting yoga practice during pregnancy and make sure that there are no contraindications.
It is also very important to pay attention to the fact that not all styles of yoga are suitable for pregnancy. It’s worth looking at this from a long-term perspective: exercising in general is great, but in prenatal yoga, we think about taking care of the mother’s and her baby’s health at the same time in order to facilitate a joyful pregnancy, get ready for a gentle birth and be confident when stepping into the postpartum period.
Some styles of yoga, such as power yoga, hot yoga, Bikram yoga and Ashtanga yoga create so much heat inside, increasing the FIRE element from an Ayurvedic perspective in the woman’s body, which is already naturally increased by the pregnancy itself. From a holistic perspective, in our Prenatal Yoga & Ayurveda Cards set, we work on cooling the body and mind in order to avoid certain complications later on. That’s why the styles of yoga described above are not recommended for a pregnant woman and her baby. They should be postponed to another period in a woman's life.
2. How is prenatal yoga different from classical Hatha yoga?
Prenatal yoga draws its origins from the classical Hatha yoga. Yoga means “connection” and in prenatal yoga, it has particular importance and meaning. Here, we are discovering not only the connection of the body, mind and soul, but also the connection between the mother and her child.
Asanas in prenatal yoga are modified and adjusted from classical Hatha yoga. Many classic/regular poses are not recommended at all during pregnancy. Therefore, they have their own therapeutic benefits and are subject to modifications for yoga practice doing pregnancy.
During this wonderful period, with the help of yoga, we prepare all layers of the consciousness and the body for the birthing process. We are moving through all the stages of pregnancy with a deeper knowledge of ourselves and our bodies. From an emotional perspective - we are practicing to find our inner center and learning how to address any heavy emotions that could come up along the way. From the physical perspective - we are improving body joint mobility, flexibility, strength, endurance and breath work. In our Prenatal Yoga & Ayurveda Cards set, it was my focus to bring awareness to the movement and to guide expectant mothers smoothly into self discovery, while working on the outer/physical layers of our beings. The included meditation and affirmations take us into deeper layers of consciousness.
Also, in prenatal yoga, the practice itself is built in a slightly different way than in the classical Hatha yoga. It does not have a lot of "up and down" sequences; instead, practice is usually divided into standing, sitting, on all fours and lying on the side phases. The practice flows smoothly from one phase to another. There are no sudden and fast movements from lying positions to standing ones.
As with any yoga class, the style of a prenatal yoga class itself depends on the teacher and her experience – leading you slower, faster, more spiritual or more scientific. If you are looking for classes in your area or online - try different teachers and see which style you prefer the most at this moment in your life.
3. Could prenatal yoga be my first yoga activity that I ever try?
Of course! Often prenatal classes have many complete beginners who are practicing yoga for the first time. This is so great! But it is very important to let your teacher know that you are new to yoga.
It’s so wonderful that pregnancy has inspired you to explore new horizons of your abilities, to explore yourself and your body! As an alternative to joining a class, the Prenatal Yoga & Ayurveda Cards set will allow you to get started and dive into your practice at your own pace. It has lots of modifications for beginners and you can practice new poses at a slower pace if you’d like, not rushing to keep up in a group class. You can take your time at home and joyfully explore your experience using the information in the set. A bonus of exploring this way is that you gain more self-awareness and build a deeper connection with your body, mind and soul.
If you are new to yoga and starting with prenatal classes, it is important to pay special attention to connecting with yourself and being aware of your limits. Feel your body. It is also important not to overload your body and exercise at 70% of your physical capabilities. We are improving our strength and stamina very gradually, step by step.
4. When can I start yoga while pregnant?
When to start practicing prenatal yoga depends on your condition. If you feel good in the first trimester and your doctor/obstetrician sees no obstacles to exercise, then you can start from the first trimester and even better, start as early as possible.
By starting classes earlier, you will help establish contact with yourself and with your baby earlier and enjoy this period more consciously for longer. Also, this connection will allow you to move more consciously during the day. You will learn how to find comfortable and more therapeutic positions for yourself that can reduce the amount of discomfort in the body at later stages of pregnancy. Our Prenatal Yoga & Ayurveda Cards set contains practices for each trimester, 1 dynamic and 1 slow per trimester, 2 extra very gentle flows for the first trimester if you feel to go slower, and 5 sequences to address different discomforts during pregnancy.
If you have a history of miscarriages, obstetricians usually advise waiting for the 12th-14th week to being exercise. Group classes in such cases are not recommended until about 14 weeks. However, you can practice privately with an experienced prenatal yoga teacher, who can help you go very gently during this time if you are in the mood for practice.
5. What are the benefits of prenatal yoga?
Prenatal yoga has numerous benefits. The main ones are:
- Yoga during pregnancy calms the mind, which has a positive effect on the hormones, reproductive system and the health of the mother and child.
- Prenatal yoga prepares the body for childbirth, improving the mobility of all joints, especially the hip joints.
- It increases stamina.
- Yoga practice relieves tension from the body (especially in the hip area).
- Prenatal yoga builds contact between mother and baby – a mental preparation for childbirth.
- It improves the sense of your body through feeling yourself. Prenatal yoga also helps to collect “tools” that can be used during the childbirth process.
- Practicing yoga during pregnancy helps you feel and understand what positions are more favorable and necessary for you at different stages of childbirth.
- Yoga helps to restore blood pressure, minimize headaches, heartburn and digestive problems.
- Practice deepens your breathing and strengthens the diaphragm.
- Yoga practice reduces and prevents swelling of the legs.
- Prenatal yoga helps your baby find the optimal position for childbirth.
- It also helps relieve tension from the lower back and from your back in general.
- Yoga during pregnancy improves blood circulation and lymph function, which also affects healthy development of the child.
- Yoga in general improves sleep quality.
- It supports correct posture.
- Finally, yoga cools you down when you’re overheated and feeling hot.
6. How long can I do yoga during pregnancy? Until what point in the pregnancy?
You can practice yoga right up to the birth itself. Regular and wisely-led practice can be very helpful even in the later stages of pregnancy. It can open the body and relieve tension from it. Some asanas can help center the baby in the pelvis and prepare for the birthing process.
Also, some exercises are good to use in the birthing process itself during contractions. Moving correctly during the labor can help the baby move through the birthing canal.
Our Prenatal Yoga & Ayurveda Cards set includes poses that are recommended and could be used during the labor. You can take those cards with you to the hospital or use them at home, if you have a home birth experience. There is audio affirmations for labor as well that you could play in the background for support and inner guidance.
7. What yoga poses to avoid during pregnancy?
There are a number of asanas that are not recommended during the pregnancy. These include:
- Deep twists. In prenatal yoga, we never do deep twists from the lower back area. We do more soft, open twists from the chest and shoulders where the belly stays in a neutral position.
- Of course, we exclude from the first trimester any postures where we lie down on the stomach.
- Next comes the category of poses, which includes deep work of the abdominal zone (belly area). For example, the Boat Pose (Navasana) is unsafe for pregnancy.
- Handstands and headstands should NOT BE done during pregnancy, except when you do yoga for a long period of time and use these asanas in everyday life regularly and before pregnancy you've successfully mastered them.
- Backbends are done very gently. The lower back does not bend, soft deflection occurs only in the area of the chest region. We exclude a full entry into the Camel Pose and Wheel Pose. Deep backbends can provoke diastasis.
A more detailed list of Do’s and Don’ts for each trimester included in the Prenatal Yoga & Ayurveda Cards set. It is important to adjust your practice according to the month of your pregnancy and respect the changes that are happening in your body.
8. What are the signs in the practice that signal that I need to stop the session right now?
It is important to stop your practice if you feel:
- Sharp, deep sensations in the abdomen area and in the body overall
- Unexpected discharge (including nosebleeds)
9. Who should avoid prenatal yoga?
This question is very individual. And it is important to consult with your doctor before the class about your health history and current condition. In some cases, the doctor may not recommend the practice during the first trimester, or limit classes indefinitely due to disruptions in the pregnancy.
10. What else would I need to know about prenatal yoga?
It is a wonderful tool that accompanies you in this special experience of life that you may not get to experience again.
11. What to wear to yoga classes?
During this period, it is important to pay attention to soft fabrics that will not compress your body, especially the stomach and chest areas. It is also advisable to avoid tight sport push up bras that usually put pressure on the chest and diaphragm.
Regarding pants - choose the ones with soft high waists that will go over your baby belly or overalls (jump suits). This will help to avoid unnecessary pressure on the belly.
12. Can I do yoga during childbirth?
Yes. The All Fours Pose or Tabletop against the wall, where the stomach is parallel to the ground are very helpful. They support the baby in turning to a centered position and also minimize sensations in the body from contractions. Micro movements of the pelvis, rotation of the pelvis, and drawing eights with the pelvis - help to descend the baby as well.
In general, it is very useful to move during childbirth. This will gently support and stimulate the birthing process.
Once again, the Prenatal Yoga & Ayurveda Cards set offers poses that you can use during labor.