Prenatal yoga classes
are more popular than ever. When paired with a cardiovascular exercise such as
walking, yoga can be an ideal way to stay in shape during your pregnancy. This
age-old practice keeps you limber, tones your muscles, and improves your
balance and circulation, with little, if any, impact on your joints.
Yoga is also beneficial because it helps you learn to breathe deeply and relax,
which will come in handy as you face the physical demands of labor, birth, and
motherhood. In fact, one of the first things you learn in a yoga class is how
to breathe fully. The breathing technique known as ujjayi requires you
to take in air slowly through your nose, filling your lungs, and exhale
completely until your stomach compresses.
Learning how to do ujjayi breathing primes you for labor and childbirth by
training you to stay calm when you need it most. When you're in pain or afraid,
your body produces adrenalin and may decrease the production of oxytocin, a
hormone that makes labor progress. A regular yoga practice will help you fight
the urge to tighten up when you feel pain, and show you how to relax instead.
The benefits of yoga aren't limited to your physical well-being. "Taking a
prenatal yoga class is a great way to meet other pregnant women — to become
part of a community," says Cynthea Denise, a registered nurse and prenatal
yoga instructor in Oakland, California. Being in a positive, supportive
environment with others like you can give you a regular emotional boost and
keep you motivated to continue exercising.
Seek out an instructor who is specifically trained in prenatal yoga, but if that's not possible, make sure your instructor knows you're expecting, says Denise. You probably don't have many restrictions this early in your pregnancy, but remember to follow the 13 rules of safe pregnancy exercise such as drinking lots of water before, during, and after exercising to keep your body hydrated. Breathe deeply and regularly as you stretch. If you're a pro at yoga, recognize and accept that your regular routine will require modifications as time goes on. "Listen to your body and trust what it tells you," says Denise. If you're feeling pain or discomfort, make an adjustment or ask your instructor to recommend an alternative position.
Second-trimester yoga tips
Your joints are beginning to loosen up now, so proceed with caution. Be aware, too, that your slowly expanding girth will affect your sense of balance. Don't try to hold poses for a long time, and remember to sink into yoga positions slowly and carefully to avoid injury. Take your time and don't overdo it. Avoid lying flat on your back now, too, to keep blood flowing properly to your uterus.
You're probably feeling less graceful now that your belly is bigger, so perform standing poses with your heel to the wall or use a chair for support to avoid losing your balance and risking injury to yourself or your baby. Props such as blocks and straps can also help you move through different poses with greater stability. And remember: Don't hold poses for a long time; it's important to keep moving.
Sweet Pea in the Pod