Useful information on the benefits of practicing yoga throughout your pregnancy and beyond.
The words yoga, asanas, salutations and the cobra conjure images of hyper-lean and unnaturally bendy waifs performing moves you couldn't even do as an eight year old in gym class. Despite this yoga along with pilates have fast become the 'it' way to keep in shape. Luckily for mothers-to-be they're also realistic and effective forms of exercise during pregnancy.
The holistic nature of yoga means that it is beneficial to both your body and your mind. Some women feel the pranayamas (breathing techniques) are particularly useful during labour, while those who practice it regularly claim to find that delivery is easier due to their bodies being more flexible.
The changes that your body undergoes during pregnancy can be difficult to handle. Yoga is a gentle remedial form of exercise. For example the discomfort of carrying a child can often be improved through better posture- something which yoga focuses on. Equally experts agree that light exercise, and yoga in particular, is good for balancing water retention.
Yoga also has a place in the postnatal period. It is a gentle but effective form of recuperative exercise. Usually started no less than six weeks after birth, it strengthens the pelvic floor and abdominal muscles as well as aiding general body tone.
Some basic guidelines to keep in mind:
- Avoid asanas (poses) on your back after the first trimester as these can restrict blood flow to the uterus.
- Due to relaxin- a hormone which softens ligaments you are more susceptible to strains and pulls while pregnant, so avoid over-stretching; be especially careful of your abdominal muscles.
- Don't practice Bikram yoga, (practicing yoga in an overheated environment) as studies indicate this can endanger fetus growth.
- If you attend a general yoga class be sure to tell your teacher what stage of pregnancy you are at before exercising. Since over-exertion can be detrimental during pregnancy, most instructors advise regular yoga-goers to lower the intensity of their regimes.
- Listen to your body; discomfort or pain is usually a sign that you're overworking.
Despite these points yoga is a very safe and effective form of exercise for pregnant women. Providing it is practiced in moderation, under proper instruction, it can be very beneficial to your shape, your well-being and your comfort.