What would you say to a low-impact exercise during pregnancy that’s proven to strengthen your whole body, relieve the swelling, aches and pains of pregnancy and prepare you for labor and birth? “Sign me up!” is right!
That’s exactly what yoga can do for you before, during and after pregnancy, as proven by moms and experts alike. There’s an abundance of research on the effects of yoga on your health (it’s great for you!) and on pregnancy (ditto). Studies show that regularly practicing yoga during pregnancy can lead to shortened labors and faster recoveries, decreased levels of pain before, during and after pregnancy and greater flexibility and strength throughout.
And, as a bonus, the breathing techniques used with yoga help you focus and move through the intense contractions of active labor.
This balancing pose can be supported with a wall, chair or table as your pregnancy progresses. Step forward with your right or left leg until your knee is bent 90-degrees over the heel – don’t extend the knee beyond the ankle. Then step back with your opposite leg until it is 45-degrees behind the body. Keep your knees soft. Inhale as you slowly lift your arms above your head and hold them when they are directly extended above your body. Exhale as you release the pose. Modify this to maintain your balance by extending your arms out to your side (easier) or in front or back (more challenging).
This version of this popular pose perfects your posture to prevent neck strain and headaches. Stand with your toes together, heels slightly apart (widen your stance as your pregnancy progresses). Allow your arms to drop along the sides of your body, palms facing forward and open. Stand firmly into all areas of your feet and inhale as you move your shoulders back without lifting your arms until you’re squeezing your shoulder blades. Exhale as you release your breath as you relax your shoulders and return to center.
Relieve back pain with this great pose: Lower yourself onto your hands and knees, with arms shoulder-width apart and knees hip-width apart. As you inhale, round your back upwards as you tuck your butt under – just as a cat stretches her back. Exhale as you release the position and come back to a neutral pose with you back straight between your shoulders and hips.
illustration: Ania Klimiuk
Groove these moves
When practicing yoga in pregnancy, chose moves that build your standing strength, flexibility and balance. As your abdomen increases, your center of gravity shifts and a pose that was easy during your first trimester may grow increasingly difficult. As your pregnancy progresses, your joints will begin to loosen, increasing your risk for injury. Use blocks, non-slip mats, walls, chairs or sturdy tables as extra support.
Skip these moves
There are certain moves you should avoid while you’re pregnant, such as:
- Laying on your stomach or your back
- Twisting or stretching your abdomen
- Exercising in hot temperatures
- Inverting your body