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What to Know: Prenatal Yoga

BY: Kate Clark & Devin Thomas
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Prenatal yoga can be a wonderful way to prepare for the arrival of your baby. Besides getting safe exercise, you can meet other future moms, keep your stress level in check, and take time to bond with your baby-to-be. Spend a few minutes mapping out a prenatal fitness plan that's tailored to your schedule and your body.

Understand prenatal yoga basics

First, don't worry if you're not an experienced yogi. Prenatal yoga is gentle and generally focuses on simple poses. You won't be tying yourself in knots or sweating it out in an over-heated room. However, as with any workout routine, it is best to understand the basics of yoga before getting started.

It's best to start prenatal yoga as soon as possible in your pregnancy, simply to get the full range of physical and mental benefits. Just keep the following in mind:

  • Tell your doctor about your plans to practice prenatal yoga. She may have special considerations for you, such as avoiding any pose that requires you to lie on your back.
  • Morning sickness can make practicing yoga difficult. If you're feeling nauseated, it's probably best to wait until your second trimester (or after your bouts of sickness pass).
  • Take it very easy: If a pose ever seems difficult, skip it. Listen to your body.

Get the gear

Invest in maternity yoga clothing that lets you move freely and doesn't put any pressure on your belly. You'll also need your own yoga mat (you don't want to take chances with bacteria) and a mat bag for easy toting. Other yoga accessories, like bolsters and blocks, are typically provided by the studio.

Search out classes (or practice at home)

Regular yoga classes often welcome pregnant women as long as they speak to the instructor beforehand, but it's safest to take a class specifically designated as "prenatal." Most large yoga studios offer at least one prenatal course. Buying an eight- or 12-week pass will often be more economical than paying on a per-class basis. On the first day, be sure to tell your instructor about any complications you may have and let her know where you are in your pregnancy. 

If your schedule is too busy to allow for classes, or you just prefer to practice on your own time, an online prenatal yoga class or a prenatal yoga DVD is a good option. Go for titles from respected prenatal instructors like Shiva Rae or Gurmukh Kaur Khalsa.

How to get started with simple poses

Pregnancy can be a stressful time for many women. Trying to bring a new life into this world, maintaining the jobs and responsibilities you already have and keeping up with exercise can be a daunting task. Yoga is an excellent way for you to stay in shape and relieve stress during the nine months you are pregnant. Of course, not all of the yoga poses are the best idea or even physically possible while you are pregnant, so here are a few tips that will tone and relax your body while keeping you and your baby safe.

Standing side stretch

  • Start standing straight up and down with your arms relaxed by your sides.
  • As you breathe in, extend your left arm straight above your head.
  • As you exhale, bend your body to the right side. Your right arm should still be relaxed; extending toward the floor.
  • Arc your left hand over your head. Stay here for a few deep breaths then slowly release back to standing.
  • Repeat on the other side.

Fish pose

  • Lie down on your mat or the floor with your hands resting by your sides.
  • Slide your palms down underneath your upper thighs.
  • As you inhale, push up on your elbows, arching your back.
  • As you arch your back, rest the top of your head on the floor, keeping your weight on your elbows.
  • Stay here for a couple deep breaths, then release.

Child’s pose

  • Start on your hands and knees.
  • Slide your knees out till they are opened slightly wider than your hips, keeping your wrists below your shoulders.
  • Slowly sit back, resting your bottom between your feet and lower your forehead to the floor.
  • You can either extend your arms out in front of you or leave them at your sides.

Do’s and don’ts

While prenatal yoga is an excellent way for you to keep yourself healthy during pregnancy, there are some things you should avoid. If you are new to yoga and are pregnant, this is not the time to see just how far you can stretch.

Avoid putting pressure on your abdomen, and don't try to push yourself into a pose. You should also steer clear of Bikram yoga while you are pregnant. The increased temperatures may be dangerous to you and your baby. Always check with your physician before beginning a new exercise regimen, especially if you are pregnant.

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