Yoga during pregnancy has both physical and mental benefits. Physically, yoga during pregnancy provides the mother with exercise that will strengthen muscles and flexibility, both of which will be helpful during labor and delivery. The postures and movements of yoga during pregnancy may also ease some of the discomforts of pregnancy, such as lower back pain and fluid retention. Yoga promotes relaxation, reduces stress, and creates an awareness of breath, all of which will benefit the mother during her pregnancy, labor, and delivery.
Some women report that yoga also helps to ease additional unpleasant symptoms of pregnancy, including fatigue and mood swings. The benefits of yoga during pregnancy may also extend past the time of giving birth. Some yoga practitioners assert that prenatal yoga may reduce stretch marks and help the new mother to get back into shape faster after the baby is born.
In addition to benefits to the expecting mother, yoga during pregnancy may provide benefits to the developing fetus. As yoga includes breathing techniques, more oxygen is supplied to the entire body during practice. This put more oxygen in the blood that is pumped to the fetus.
Women should consult their physician before beginning or continuing a yoga practice if they are pregnant. Although the benefits of yoga during pregnancy are numerous, some modifications are necessary. Poses that stretch muscles too much should be avoided because tearing or straining the muscles is more likely during pregnancy.
Any poses that are practiced on the back should be avoided after the first trimester. These poses may reduce the flow of blood to the fetus. Any poses that put the mom to be at risk of losing her balance and possibly injuring herself or the fetus should be avoided, or a prop should be used to ensure the expecting mom doesn't lose her balance.
Yoga classes designed specifically for pregnant women are available at many studios and gyms. A benefit of attending prenatal yoga classes is that the instructor is likely specifically trained for yoga during pregnancy. If attending a general yoga class, the mom to be should notify the instructor that she is pregnant.
How soon to begin yoga again after giving birth should be based on a physician’s recommendations. With vaginal birth, yoga is generally not recommended for about six weeks. If delivery was by cesarean, many physicians recommend waiting even longer. There are additional postnatal benefits to resuming yoga once a physician has released a woman to begin practicing again.