Google ‘yoga in pregnancy’ and you’re met with a plethora of links extolling the virtues of prenatal yoga.
The experts are united, and the findings of studies seem to be indisputable: yoga is great for you and your baby.
I first discovered the benefits of yoga in pregnancy when I was expecting baby number two, and found it so useful I signed up to classes as soon as I found out I was expecting number three.
Other than swimming, yoga was the only time I was able to forget I was pregnant – I could move properly, I didn’t feel weighed down by an enormous bump and it helped ease all sorts of pregnancy related aches and pains.
So why is yoga so helpful when we’re expecting? I asked Meera Watts, mum, yoga teacher and founder of yoga teacher training school Siddhi Yoga International and here’s what she has to say.
5 benefits of yoga in pregnancy
1. Yoga benefits breathing. “This is one of the biggest benefits you’ll get when you do prenatal yoga – learning to focus on the breath and how that works with your body,” Meera says. “You will learn how to breathe into tension which can help ease the pain in the body, and you will also become conscious of breathing deeply into the belly. This helps relax you, which is good preparation for giving birth.”
2. Yoga strengthens the pelvic floor. “The pelvic floor supports your reproductive system and digestive organs, and it’s an important supporting factor within the body during pregnancy,” explains Meera. “The baby puts a lot of weight on the pelvic floor during pregnancy, and this area has many muscles that can weaken. Yoga focuses a lot on the strengthening of the pelvic floor. If it’s strong, you’ll have a more comfortable pregnancy. It also helps during labour and delivering your baby.” (Although Meera says it’s important to note that you shouldn’t contract the pelvic floor during the first trimester).
3. Yoga counteracts posture problems. “Posture can quickly deteriorate when you’re pregnant as the baby moves around and grows,” says Meera. “Your centre of gravity will change with the ebbs and flows of the change occurring within you. One of the things yoga does is gently strengthen abdominals, which are an important support system for your back. If you have weak abdominals, the back will do all the compensating and eventually, you’ll begin to slouch. During yoga, you can work the four abdominals in a gentle way to maintain some strength and help you with back pain.”
“Try Chakravakasana (a beginner balancing posture) for your abs or other prenatal belly work advised by your yoga teacher and approved by your doctor,” suggests Meera. “When you stretch your hamstrings through gentle yoga poses, you ease the pressure your back is experiencing. Simple shoulder rolls can also help you counteract the desire to slouch them,” she says.
4. Yoga is good for your feet. “The feet go through a lot when you’re pregnant,” Meera says. “They are holding a lot more weight and they are a complex part of the body. With so many bones, joints, muscles, tendons, and ligaments, they should be taken care of. When you’re pregnant, your centre of gravity shifts all over the place, meaning the feet have to move and shake with those changes.”
“Over pronation and edema can occur which will cause pain in your heel, arch, or ball of your foot. It can lead to leg cramps as well,” warns Meera. “With over pronation, you can take what you know from yoga and walk with awareness. Walking without shoes is recommended. As you walk, which is more like a meditation, focus on ensuring your feet are balanced as they hit the ground. That all areas of the outer part of the foot touch the ground. This is something your prenatal yoga teacher will likely incorporate into your practice.”
5. Yoga helps your hips during childbirth and beyond. “The hips need to be flexible to support the birth, making it easier to give birth in most cases,” says Meera. “There are a variety of systems that the hips belong to, which is what causes the knees and thighs to rise up. A good way to stretch out the hip flexors is lunges. This is going to help you keep your legs open during birth. Yoga is also going to stretch out a ligament in the pelvis and legs which help you push more easily. You also want to make sure you work out the back of your hips by stretching and strengthening them. Low lunges are a great way to do this.”
“There are many benefits to doing yoga while you’re pregnant,” says Meera. “It’s important to discuss this with your doctor and know the poses that you shouldn’t be doing during certain times during pregnancy.”
Are you doing pregnancy yoga or thinking about it? Have you done prenatal yoga in the past? I’d love to hear about your experience!
This post was written in collaboration with Siddhi Yoga International.