Yoga is a popular activity for tens of thousands of women for a variety of reasons. Many women find it relaxing, it’s a great form of exercise, and it is beneficial for your health in many ways.
That said, some women are unsure what to do when they become pregnant. While they may enjoy yoga, they wonder, “Is it safe to do yoga while pregnant?”
If you have wondered this, you are not alone. It is a good question, and the answer is not a simple yes or no.
What is Yoga?
Many people think of yoga as a form of exercise and meditation. But traditionally, yoga had deep spiritual significance for the people of India.
The first reference to yoga is found in an ancient collection of Vedic hymns dating back over 3000 years. Some scholars believe that the yoga originated as much as 5000 years ago.
For the peoples of ancient India, yoga is more than just an exercise in physical and mental discipline: it was a spiritual experience.
While yoga remains a deeply spiritual practice for many people, most people in America appreciate yoga as an excellent form of exercise that can improve their health.
But if you enjoy yoga and are now expecting a child, what should you do? Is it safe to continue practicing yoga, or should you call it quits until the baby is born?
Is It Safe to Do Yoga While Pregnant?
There are many forms of yoga, as you might expect from such an ancient practice. Yoga has different schools of practice, and each of them pursues slightly different goals through somewhat different means.
While many yoga practices are perfectly safe for expectant mothers, some poses and positions are not. Complicating the matter further, prenatal yoga poses that may be perfectly safe in the first trimester may be inadvisable in the second, and so on.
As your belly continues to grow, you will want to update what you do and do not do while practicing yoga. Nevertheless, there are a few guidelines you can follow regardless of which trimester you may be in.
- If you are attending a standard yoga class, inform your instructor of your pregnancy
- Avoid practicing hot yoga, as your body can overheat and harm the baby
- Stay away from any extreme stretching during your pregnancy
With these basics in mind, let’s consider some specific points for each trimester of your pregnancy.
The First Trimester
In many ways, the biggest challenge to prenatal yoga during the first trimester is remembering that you are, in fact, pregnant.
Because your belly has not yet begun to grow, it may be tempting to continue practicing the same yoga positions you’re used to. Your body is not the same, however, and certain positions can be harmful to your child no matter what trimester you are in.
Deep forward bends and deep twists can compress the blood vessels that lead to your uterus, decreasing vital circulation. While you still might be able to do these stretches, they can be hazardous to your baby.
During your first trimester, the most important thing is to slow down and take it easy. Don’t expect the same results as you experienced before your pregnancy.
The Second Trimester
The second trimester is when you really have to begin making adjustments in your prenatal yoga routine. During this stage, your growing belly begins to limit what you can do and what you aren’t.
During this time, you’re going to want to avoid poses that find you lying on your back, as this can restrict the flow of blood to your uterus.
You should also start avoiding poses that find you lying on your stomach. Not only will this be very uncomfortable as your belly expands, but it can also place too much pressure on your baby.
Poses that stretch and strengthen your abs aren’t the best choice even during the first trimester, but they become especially problematic starting in the second. As your belly grows, your body uses your oblique muscles rather than your abs, which can damage your abdominal muscles and cause diastasis.
The Third Trimester
During the final stage of your pregnancy, you should avoid any serious stretches and poses. Try to assume a wider stance during your poses, as this will make it less likely for you to fall.
Try to make sure you are standing near a wall or have a chair that can support you during stretches. This can help to balance your body.
You should also avoid inversions at this point, because its too easy to fall over, and you don’t want to risk yours or your baby’s safety. Inversions can also change your baby’s position in the uterus, which you do not want.
New to Yoga?
Most of this article has focused on those who are familiar with yoga. Even if you have never done yoga before, your pregnancy is a great time to start.
Yoga is one of the safest and most effective ways to stay fit during your pregnancy. Even better, yoga can help prepare you for labor in a variety of ways.
Some of the benefits of prenatal yoga include
- Reduced stress and anxiety
- An easier time sleeping
- Less back pain, headaches, and nausea
- A reduced risk of entering pre-term labor
Also, the breathing exercises you practice during prenatal yoga help to relax you. Practicing deep breathing during labor will make it easier for the baby to come out.
Whether you are experienced with yoga or have never tried it before, prenatal yoga is an excellent and safe way to stay healthy during pregnancy, and can even make your pregnancy easier to handle. The important thing to remember is to practice yoga safely. If practicing a pose ever causes discomfort, simply stop and do something else. So long as you communicate with your yoga instructor and listen to your body, yoga can be a great experience for you during your pregnancy.
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