Finding out you’re pregnant can be exciting, terrifying, and for some of us, a massive wakeup call. We now have more than just our own wellbeing to think of, and this can be great motivation to be a bit healthier. Out goes wine, brie and coffee, in comes fruits, veggies, water and folic acid. But it’s not enough for us to just eat healthier during pregnancy, we’re also told to get regular exercise. I don’t know about you, but I can think of nothing worse than dragging my ever-increasing bump to the gym to make my already uncomfortably warm body sweat. But fear not, my pregnant pals, I think I’ve found the answer: pregnancy yoga.
For those of us not in the know, yoga can seem kind of hippy dippy. How can breathing and putting yourself in funny poses be any good for you? Actually, yoga has been shown to have massive benefits during pregnancy, through birth and beyond. In this blog, I will attempt to turn your pregnancy yoga ums into oms. So, let’s yank up our leggings, and get stuck in.
why you should try pregnancy yoga
Having an active lifestyle encourages having a healthy pregnancy and baby. Healthy mum promotes a healthy baby, so looking after yourself benefits your unborn babe’s wellbeing. Of course, it’s probably not the time to start training for a marathon, but keeping up with low impact exercise is very important. Exercise during pregnancy is good for you and your baby, but yoga specifically has some great benefits for mums-to-be.
Pregnancy yoga improves our circulation, muscle tone and flexibility, which can relieve muscle tension, reducing those aches and pains that expecting a baby can bring. It strengthens your abdominals and pelvic floor, which really comes in handy when you’re desperate for a wee but need to care for your new crying babe first.
how pregnancy yoga helps you relax
A key part of pregnancy yoga is relaxation and inner peace, helping to reduce the stress and anxiety that comes with pre-parenting worries. It helps you sleep better, so you can stock up on your zzzs before your new arrival gets here! Pregnancy yoga is a great way to practice self-care during your pregnancy. It gives you time to focus on yourself, your body and your growing baby, instead of worrying about that presentation at work, or what you’re having for tea. You might also make some mummy friends at your class, giving you some new buds and a prepared group of pals for baby!
You can use your sessions to prepare your mind and body for labour. The focus on breathing and body awareness helps to reduce anxiety, as it teaches our bodies to stay calm while adapting to new sensations. During birth, we can tense up due to the pain, which then causes more pain, which then makes us tense up more! Pregnancy teaches body awareness that helps us to relax during birth for an easier, calmer delivery and quicker postnatal recovery.
ok, but what is pregnancy yoga?
At its core, yoga centres around two aspects – asanas, which are physical exercises and pranayama, which are breathing exercises. It really is great exercise for any fitness level, whether you’re pulling yourself off the sofa for the first time or go to the gym five times a week. Pregnancy yoga is specialised with different or adapted poses that are safe for mums-to-be.
Yoga classes typically last between 45 and 90 minutes, so you should be able to find one that fits your schedule. They start with some gentle stretches to warm your muscles up. You then begin to work your way through different poses, aimed to increase your strength and endurance. The class ends with a period or relaxation and meditation, sitting or lying in a comfortable pose and focussing on your breathing and connecting with different parts of your body. I’ll admit, this is what sold me on pregnancy yoga. An exercise class that ends with five minutes of doing nothing – sign me up!
finding your inner yogini
If you’re a yoga newbie, I’d recommend going to a class to learn how to practise safely. Even if you’re not able to find a specific pregnancy yoga class, make sure your instructor knows that you are expecting, so they can modify your poses to navigate your bump. For those of you already practising yoga, you could check out YouTube or blogs for variations or specific moves that are good for pregnant bodies. Whether you are well versed in sun salutations or have no idea what a downward facing dog is, be sure to check with your midwife or doctor before you take up yoga, or any other type of exercise.
Going to your first pregnancy yoga class can be really daunting, especially if you don’t know what to expect. Will everyone be able to fold themselves into a pretzel? Will you be expected to stand on your head? Probably not.
Don’t be intimidated by the photos you may have seen on social media or in magazines. You won’t be expected to contort your body into weird and wonderful positions. Your instructor should give you modified poses specific for pregnancy. No strong twists or bends, or anything that places stress on your abdomen. It’s also best to keep yourself upright, so no headstands! Some yoga poses can feel a bit strange, but there is a big difference between a new sensation and something feeling wrong. Pay attention to what your instructor and your body is telling you. Don’t push yourself into discomfort.
If you fall in love with pregnancy yoga, it doesn’t need to end when baby pops out! There are plenty of ways to exercise with your precious newborn, including parent and baby yoga classes to ease you back in post-partum, and you won’t even need to let go of your new little darling!