During pregnancy, many women feel insecure about training and practicing their favorite sports. But, practicing prenatal yoga can help you prepare for childbirth and even improve your baby's health.
Benefits of yoga in pregnancy
We know that the practice of yoga has multiple benefits for both body and mind: it helps control breathing, contributes to mental tranquility and improves muscle stretching. Being a low-impact exercise, it is considered a safe and highly recommended activity for pregnant women, which also offers several benefits for both mother and baby, as proven by different studies.
The practice of yoga during pregnancy helps improve immune function and reduce stress levels of the mother - according to this study, both women who practiced prenatal yoga and their children experienced benefits compared to those who did not: as the reduction of stress in the case of mothers, and increased weight in newborns.
In addition, it is proven that yoga can help reduce depressive symptoms during pregnancy, especially when meditation and relaxation techniques are included, being ideal for those women who suffer from depression or anxiety.
The practice of this activity, in addition to helping to reduce back pain, nausea and headaches that often occur during pregnancy, can even help reduce pain during childbirth, as stated in this study.
And in addition to these specific benefits, yoga also improves the quality of sleep - as it is an activity that relaxes and reduces fatigue and feelings of stress - and thanks to being a practice focused on breathing and body awareness, it helps strengthen the connection with your baby.
What type of yoga is recommended for pregnant women?
As when practicing any sport, there are certain factors to take into account before starting to practice yoga during pregnancy; because although this is one of the safest practices, care must be taken so that it does not have any contraindications.
First of all, of course we recommend that before doing any physical activity, always consult with your doctor so that he/she can advise you according to your condition. But, in addition, as a general rule you should know:
- That, if you are in your first trimester of pregnancy, physical activity is not advised beyond gentle, low-paced breathing exercises, meditation and taking short walks.
- If you have already passed your first trimester, as long as your doctor does not indicate otherwise, there is no problem in practicing gentle types of yoga, with care and always listening to your body.
- During the last month of pregnancy it is time to cultivate energy and rest between each asana so that the body can better assimilate the practice.
You should keep in mind that there are different types of yoga, and the most suitable for pregnant women are Hatha Yoga and Prenatal yoga. Since these types of yoga offer safe postures and can be adapted for pregnancy. And it is very important that you avoid classes that are practiced at high temperatures - such as Bikram or Hot Yoga - as they can raise your own temperature too high (in fact, it is important that you avoid any physical activity if it is too hot or the ventilation is not adequate).
And whether you have practiced yoga before or not, remember that it is best to have your yoga practices led by a certified instructor, as they know which are the most appropriate and safe postures to practice according to your condition, and they will teach you how to breathe in the right way -which will help you to relax and will be very useful to prepare you for childbirth-.
There are several yoga postures that can be performed during pregnancy; some that help you connect with yourself and your baby, in addition to flex the hips and relax the lower back are:
- Vagra Swaga Breathing (also known as Cat-Cow): in this posture you should align your shoulders with your hands and your hips with your knees, thus mobilizing the spine with the breath. This posture makes the spine more flexible and relieves tension accumulated in the back - it is an ideal position to help the baby get into position.
- Balasana: A posture that helps to soften contractions -especially if accompanied by soft massages in the sacro-lumbar area-. In this posture you should separate your knees enough to accommodate the belly between them. Bring your big toes together and as you exhale, bring your buttocks towards your heels. If you can, allow your forehead and arms to rest on the floor.
- Malasana: This position (squatting) stretches the pelvic floor, loosens the hips and relaxes the sacro-lumbar area, as well as opening the chest. If your heels are raised when squatting, you can place your mat under your heels and your hands on the floor. In addition, this is a position that is conducive to childbirth.
- Utitta Trikonasana or extended triangle pose: Spread your legs apart about one meter, open your right foot 90º and align your back foot with your knee. Feel your weight on your feet and legs, and rest your right hand -on the wall or on a support, such as a chair-, stretching the back side of your body. You should take at least 5 breaths in this position before changing to the other side. With this posture you will stretch the lumbar and lateral area, and strengthen ankles and legs.
- Ananda Balasana (also known as happy baby pose): Lying on your back, grab your feet on the inside -if you can't reach them you can help yourself with yoga straps-, separate your knees so that they are on the sides of your abdomen and bend them towards the floor while you bring the soles of your feet towards the ceiling. This restorative posture helps prevent and soothe sciatica problems.
Are there any postures to avoid?
When practicing yoga, your maxim should be to find yourself comfortable and without forcing your body, listen to yourself! If you can't speak or find it hard to breathe during the practice, you are trying too hard - it is important that you set realistic goals and don't force yourself. Also, adding props such as yoga blocks or straps, for example, can help make the postures more accessible.
And keep in mind to avoid postures that compress the belly, that require a lot of stretching in the abdominal area, as well as postures that require you to lie on your back. Inverted postures are also not recommended during pregnancy.
With these tips in mind and always with the help of your doctor and trainer, you can remain active during pregnancy and continue practicing yoga safely.