Pregnancy can sometimes feel like a long list of NOT to-do’s, from consuming shellfish, alcohol and caffeine to modifying your exercise and sleep routines. Prenatal yoga, however, is something you can feel good about putting on your “go-ahead-and-do-it!” list. Here’s everything you need know about practicing PG-yoga.

Benefits of Prenatal Yoga
You don’t have to be an accomplished yogi to participate in – and benefit from – prenatal yoga. As long as your doctor has cleared you for physical activity, yoga is great for all expectant moms. Its gentle movements and mind-body focus can help prepare you for the mental aspects of childbirth and motherhood. Even if you aren’t used to working out regularly, practicing yoga while pregnant can help:

  • Lower blood pressure: Studies have shown that pregnant women’s heart rate and blood pressure lowers after doing yoga — even more so than after doing other low-impact exercises like walking.
  • Reduce stress: Yoga is a known stress-reducer, and high stress levels have been shown to increase miscarriage and preterm birth rates.
  • Stabilize moods: Hormones happen; yoga can help. Studies have shown that integrated yoga, which combines movements with meditation and relaxation and breathing exercises can significantly decreased levels of depression in moms-to-be.
  • Manage weight: As with any physical activity, yoga keeps you active, which can help manage prenatal weight gain.
  • Improve delivery experience: The breathing exercises you learn in yoga can be upon during labor and delivery. Plus, the core-focused movements of yoga can help both delivery and recovery after baby arrives (whether via vaginal birth or C-section).

What to Expect in Class
If you aren’t taking a class specifically designed for pregnant women, by all means let your instructor know you are expecting so she or he can modify the moves for you. Prenatal yoga classes generally offer gentler, less strenuous sequences of poses. There is also usually a greater use of props such as belts, bolsters, blocks or chairs to make poses comfortable according to what stage of your pregnancy you’re in.

Most prenatal yoga poses focus on the back and lower back, areas vulnerable to pain and injury due to a shifting center of gravity. To help lengthen the spine and relieve pressure and discomfort, your instructor may recommend poses like the Right Angle, where the body is folded at the hips, with the hands resting against a wall and the feet planted firmly on the floor. Side-bending poses are also often incorporated in prenatal yoga. These can help stretch the muscles between the ribs and counteract inward-rolling shoulders caused by the strain of growing breasts.

Things to Avoid
Prenatal yoga classes will not include hot temperatures, and pregnant women should avoid any “hot yoga” classes. You should also avoid poses that require you to lie on your back or twist deeply, as well as forward bends that can compress the belly too much. Moves meant to strengthen the abdominal muscles should also be avoided because they can put too much stress on the rectus abdominus muscles. Balancing poses should be done slowly, using a wall or other strong support to avoid the risk of falling.

If you experience any of the following symptoms, stop exercising and call your doctor:

  • Fluid leaking from vagina
  • Dizziness, shortness of breath or feeling light-headed
  • Calf pain or swelling
  • If you feel your baby moving less
  • If you feel like your baby is pushing down, or if you feel pressure in your pelvis
  • If you have belly cramps or backaches

Moms-to-be can enjoy the benefits of yoga any time during pregnancy (with a physician’s permission), and perhaps even more so by seeking out a knowledgeable prenatal yoga instructor. Replenish is offering a prenatal yoga workshop February 11 at the studio in International Falls from 11:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. Click here for more information and to register.