What is Maternity Yoga?

K. Testa

Maternity yoga, also called prenatal yoga, is a form of exercise that is specifically designed for pregnant women. Due to the unique medical issues related to pregnancy, women who exercise often have to adjust their routines in order to work out safely while carrying a baby. Even for those who do not normally exercise or who are new to practicing yoga, however, maternity yoga is usually considered advantageous in terms of promoting a healthy pregnancy and delivery. It can be practiced in a class or at home on one’s own, often with the assistance of a book or video.

A pregnant woman.
A pregnant woman.

In general, the benefits of yoga make it a popular form of exercise for many people. Some of the perceived advantages include improved breathing and flexibility, and many people claim that it improves their sleep. Depending on the types of poses performed, yoga can also strengthen one’s core, along with targeting specific areas such as the abdominals or arms. Still other people practice yoga in order to meditate and promote their emotional health along with improving their physical fitness.

Gentle yoga can help ease the back pain of pregnant women.
Gentle yoga can help ease the back pain of pregnant women.

Overall, maternity yoga teaches techniques to promote relaxation, proper breathing, flexibility, and strengthening the pelvis. It can help treat and prevent soreness and other common discomforts of pregnancy as well. Certain relaxation techniques can potentially keep the mother’s blood pressure and stress level down, which are important considerations when preparing to give birth. In addition to directly benefiting the mother’s wellbeing, prenatal yoga can also promote the physical health of her unborn baby.

When practicing maternity yoga, one’s workouts can be modified depending on the stage of pregnancy. Hatha yoga is generally considered the most gentle form. Some special considerations of pregnancy include being careful of extreme temperatures; for this reason, practicing yoga in an exceptionally warm environment — which is common in many yoga studios — usually is not recommended during pregnancy. In general, pregnant women, regardless of their fitness levels, are usually advised to consult a physician before starting an exercise program. Some ways to promote one’s enjoyment of yoga can include selecting comfortable maternity yoga clothes and using music to encourage a peaceful atmosphere.

Maternity yoga allows women to adjust their workouts to deal with pregnancy hormones and other medical considerations. For example, relaxin is a hormone that makes bones and ligaments more flexible, so the body may be more prone to injuries resulting from over-stretching. Jumping and deep twists or back bends should also be avoided as well as inversions or any exercises that require breathing rapidly or holding one’s breath. As pregnancy progresses, many women also are advised by their doctors not to lie on their backs for long periods.

The versatility of maternity yoga makes it a popular choice for pregnant women who want to start or maintain a workout routine. It can be done in person with an instructor, at home using a yoga DVD, or by viewing a streaming yoga workout online. One of the other potential benefits of maternity yoga is the social interaction with other pregnant women when they take a yoga class together. They often form friendships and bonds that may last beyond the class.

Many pregnant women claim that maternity yoga improves their sleep.
Many pregnant women claim that maternity yoga improves their sleep.

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