How to Safely Practice Yoga During Pregnancy – Yoga in Different Trimesters

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A pregnancy women is practicing yoga

Yoga for pregnant women is a fantastic way for expecting mothers to stretch and relax. Practicing yoga during pregnancy not only can help to reduce back pain, but some of the techniques can be used during delivery. Women need to learn how to practice yoga safely during pregnancy before they get started.

Exercising during pregnancy can be hard, especially if you aren’t usually a person who likes to exercise. I’ve never been a fan of exercising, but when I experienced lower back pain during my second pregnancy, my doctor recommended that I give prenatal yoga a try.

Turns out, practicing yoga a few times per week not only helped me physically feel better, but I also learned breathing techniques and grew in my mental strength as well.

Before you get started, make sure you talk to the yoga teacher or coach that you’ll be working with. They must be knowledgeable about pregnant yoga poses and can guide you through the motions and positions.

Yoga can be beneficial during pregnancy, so long as you learn and understand certain precautions. Women for thousands of years have practiced variations of yoga to help support their body and mind throughout the pregnancy and childbirth months.

Prenatal yoga is similar to other childbirth-preparation classes, and it encourages a multifaceted approach to exercise. Women focus on stretching, focused breathing, and mental centering, all of which are helpful during labor and delivery. Many doctors and research suggest prenatal yoga to their clients.

A few benefits of prenatal yoga include:

  • Improved Sleep
  • Reduced Anxiety and Stress
  • Increased Strength, Flexibility, and Endurance of Muscles
  • Decreased Lower Back Pain
  • Reduces Nausea and Headaches
  • Decreased Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Reduced Risk of Preterm Labor
  • Lowered Risk of Intrauterine Growth Restriction

What Are The Risks of Yoga During Pregnancy?

Yoga during pregnancy is considered safe and beneficial, but it hasn’t received many scientific studies. If you have a high-risk pregnancy or other complications, always speak to your healthcare team before starting yoga.

During pregnancy, your body creates a hormone called relaxin that makes space for your growing baby and prepare for delivery. It might make you feel more flexible than usual, but you have to be cautious not to overstretch.

There are a few risks associated with yoga while pregnant, such as:

  • Destabilize your joints
  • Pulling a ligament, which is very painful.
  • Falling is the most significant danger.

What Happens During a Typical Prenatal Yoga Class?

If you’ve never gone to a prenatal yoga class before, you might be a bit nervous and wonder what a typical yoga class involves. I felt similar during the very first time that I went to a prenatal yoga class. It was my first time in a yoga class, and I had no idea what to expect.

Here is what you might expect during a yoga class.

1. Focused and Guided Breathing

First, you’ll focus on breathing in and out slowly through the nose. Not only does focused breathing helps your body prepare for a yoga session while calming your mind, but it also enables you to reduce and manage shortness of breath during pregnancy. Guided breathing helps work through contractions during labor.

2. Gentle Stretching

Next, you’ll move into some gentle stretching. You’ll move different areas of your body, such as your neck and arms, through their full range of motion. Stretching is essential to reduce any risk of injury during yoga.

3. Guided and Repeated Yoga Poses

The yoga instructor will guide you through a variety of yoga poses, moving gently through different positions aimed at developing your flexibility, strength, and balance. Most of the time, you’ll move through a repeated circuit of yoga poses.

4. Cool Down and Relaxation

The end of a yoga session is my favorite. You’ll focus on relaxing your muscles and restoring your resting heart rate. The instructor will encourage you to listen to your breathing and bring a state of inner calm and self-awareness.

How Often Should You Practice Yoga?

For most pregnant women, doctors recommend at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity for at least five days of the week, if not all. Yoga experts will recommend that you practice yoga daily. It’s a skill along with an exercise, so you need to practice to get better at yoga.

At the same time, you probably will only have time to do yoga once to three times per week. You can fit in other regular aerobic exercises into your schedules, such as walking or swimming.

Try to make some of the postures or techniques part of your daily routine. Practice your breathing exercises, gentle poses, and relaxation regularly.

Recommended Guidelines for Safe Yoga During Pregnancy

When you’re practicing yoga, you need to listen to your body, be present, pay attention, and take deep breaths. Those are some simple suggestions. Most importantly, if it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it, especially if you’re pregnant.

Whether you’re taking a local prenatal yoga class or using DVDs in your living room, there are some recommended guidelines for safe yoga during pregnancy.

1.  First Trimester

The first trimester is the most fragile time in pregnancy, and women usually ease into this trimester with nerves. The fetus is implanting into your uterine walls, so you want to avoid jarring movements. Overheating is a risk as well throughout all of your pregnancy, but it’s common in the first trimester. Be sure to stay hydrated.

General Guidelines during the First Trimester:

  • No jump backs
  • No closed twists (open twists are okay)
  • Avoid inversions
  • Avoid heating pranayama or retention

2.  Second Trimester

Most pregnant women love their second trimester. You have more energy, the nausea is gone, and your belly is more visible to others. The baby is in a more secure place, and you’re probably feeling more confident in your pregnancy.

General Guidelines during the Second Trimester:

  • Bring back jumping back or inversions if they were part of your yoga practices before pregnancy and if they feel right now.
  • Avoid poses on your belly, such as the Cobra, Bow Pose, and Locust.
  • Modify any intense abdominal work.
  • Stop any extreme backbends

3.  Third Trimester

With a larger belly, you need to be more cautious because your center of gravity has changed. You probably also have swelling, heartburn, aches, and fatigue.

Practicing yoga should be about opening and preparing for birth while nurturing yourself. It’s a great time for hip openers!

General Guidelines during the Third Trimester :

  • No poses that involve lying on your back.
  • Use a wall or a chair for any balancing poses. Your changing body can make you off-centered.
  • Focus on restorative moves that help to open and create space, such as side bends.

Yoga Poses That Are Safe in Pregnancy

Many yoga poses are safe in pregnancy, so long as you perform them correctly. That’s why it’s crucial to have someone who understands yoga to guide you through the movements.

To help you know which yoga poses are safe, we broke them down into types. So, let’s take a look!

1. Hip Openers

Hip openers are the positions that you want to practice to help create flexibility to make birthing easier. A few safe hip openers to try are:

  • Pigeon
  • Warrior II
  • Triangle
  • Ardha Chandrasana
  • Baddha Konasana
  • Knee to Ankle

2. Side Stretches

Side stretches feel amazing, especially when your abdomen feels tight and overcrowded.

  • Gate Pose
  • Side Plank Variations

3. Standing Poses

You should widen your stance in standing poses as your belly grows. Put your feet at least hip-distance apart to make room for your growing bump, especially if you have to bend forward.

  • Prenatal Sun Salutation

4. All Fours

You can use all four positions to help get your baby into the optimal position for birth, which is head down and back to your belly. Some women have success using all fours to get a breech baby to flip later in pregnancy.

  • Cat to Cow

Avoid These Yoga Poses in Pregnancy

So, now that you know some safe yoga poses, let’s take a look at yoga poses that you need to avoid.

1. Twists

Avoid deep twists from the belly because they can compress internal organs. Instead, twist more from the shoulders or use an open twist that bends away from your forward leg. (Ardha Matsyendrasana)

2. Over-Stretch

Did you know that your body creates hormones during pregnancy called relaxin that softens your inflexible parts of your body, such as your bones and ligaments? Your body does this to help make room for your baby and to help prepare for birth, but it means you can easily over-stretch and hurt yourself.

Don’t force yourself to go further into poses you are accustomed to doing because you can pull a ligament.

3. Inversions

Technically, being inverted doesn’t pose a significant issue to your body. Some doctors recommend inversions to flip a breech baby, but the problem is that you can easily fall when inverted. Some experienced yoga moms can do inversion positions, but they have to be mindful that the expansion of their belly changes the balance. (Salamba Sarvangasana, known as the Shoulder Stand)

4. Fast Breathing

Avoid any technique that increases breath retention or rapid inhales and exhales. Instead, practice birthing breath which is deep inhalations through the nose and exhalations through the mouth.(Kapalabhati)

5. Backbending

Make sure you avoid deep backbends, but you can try some of these poses in the first trimester if it feels good to you.

  • Full Wheel Pose

6. Abdominal Work

Don’t try poses that are considered abdominal strengtheners. It’s better to allow your abs to soften and stretch a bit during pregnancy to avoid conditions like diastasis recti.

  • Boat Pose

7. Lying on the Belly

In your first trimester, practicing these poses shouldn’t be a huge issue. The fetus is still quite small. However, avoid these poses later in your pregnancy, or at any time when they cause discomfort.

  • Cobra
  • Bow Pose
  • Locust

8. Lying on the Back

By the second trimester, your doctor might recommend that you don’t lay on your back for long periods. You can alter savasana by lying on your left side instead. Another option is to use blankets or bolsters to make yourself more comfortable.

9. Hot Yoga

Last, make sure you avoid hot yoga. You can raise your body’s core temperature, which is not recommended during pregnancy.

Additional Safety Precautions to Take During Prenatal Yoga

Aside from avoiding specific yoga poses during pregnancy, follow a few of these safety precautions to protect your health and your baby’s health.

1. Talk to Your Health Care Provider

Before you start prenatal yoga program, be sure to talk to your healthcare provider. If you’re at risk for preterm labor or have specific medical conditions, your doctor might tell you that it’s not safe for you or your baby.

2. Stay Cool and Hydrated

Be sure to practice yoga is a well-ventilated room to avoid overheating. Make sure that you drink plenty of fluids to keep yourself hydrated.

3. Pace Yourself

If you find yourself struggling to catch your breath, you might be overdoing it. Pay attention to what your body is telling you. Start slow and avoid positions that are out of your experience and comfort range. Stretch only as far as you would have before pregnancy.

4. Use the Talk Test

What’s the talk test? It’s simple! If you can talk without being winded while doing your activity of choice, then everything is fine! If you’re huffing or puffing, then you and your baby aren’t getting enough oxygen.

5. Use Props

As your belly gets larger, the more your center of gravity changes. So, that means your sense of balance shifts. Put your mat near a wall or something sturdy for balance. Use extra props such as a folded up yoga blanket or blocks for additional support.

Final Thoughts

Safely practicing yoga during pregnancy means adapting what you typically do to make sure it’s safe for you and your baby. With the right modifications, prenatal yoga is a solid form of exercise during pregnancy that also can help you relax and prepare for childbirth. Yoga offers benefits that pregnant moms will want to tap into throughout their pregnancy, so give them a try!

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