Turns out a consistent yoga practice during pregnancy is not only beneficial for your body, but also for your baby!
According to research from the Mayo Clinic, prenatal yoga improves sleep, reduces stress and anxiety, increases strength, flexibility and endurance of muscles needed for childbirth, decreases lower back pain, nausea, carpal tunnel syndrome, headaches and shortness of breath, and also decreases the risk of preterm labor, pregnancy-induced hypertension and intrauterine growth restriction (a condition that slows a baby's growth).
So what can you expect during a typical prenatal yoga class? Well, I'm glad you asked! If you're a seasoned yogi, the words "deep belly breathing" are probably familiar to you, and now that you're breathing for two, those words ring even more true.
Focusing your attention inward and on your breath is an integral part of prenatal yoga. During these classes, you'll be encouraged to breathe slowly and deeply, in and out through the nose. Different breathing techniques are often introduced during class as well, such as making humming or grunting noises. These techniques help reduce or manage shortness of breath during pregnancy, as well as work through contractions during labor.
Aside from breathing, prenatal yoga classes also focus on gentle stretching, postures and relaxation, all of which help calm the mind, nurture the body (and baby), and soothe the soul, bringing about a whole new meaning to the term "child's pose."
Ready to get the body and baby moving? Check out yoga guru Alanna Zabel's top five favorite poses for preggies below!
Increases leg strength and good upper-body posture with a nice, subtle stretch on the inner thighs and hips.
Inhale as you straighten your front leg, reach your arms over your head and exhale as you bend your front knee to 90 degrees and press your arms out to the side. Hold for five breaths and repeat five times.
Cat/cow spinal movements
Stretches the muscles around the spine and torso, while also helping guide the baby down the birth canal into position for delivery.
Baddha konasana (bound angle pose)
Increases blood circulation to the pelvis and reproductive organs while helping relax the hips and inner thighs.
"Immediately after a woman becomes pregnant, she naturally increases the hormone relaxin, which causes the ligaments and muscles to have more flexibility. Therefore, be mindful not to push too far in any of your stretches, especially in the hip and lower back areas. Focus on increased circulation, natural range of motion deep breathing and mental well-being," says Alanna Zabel.
Modified viparita karani (Legs-up-the-wall pose)
Increases blood circulation in the legs, as well as lymph circulation, and helps improve thyroid function, reduce back pain, improve posture, reduce insomnia and help digestion.
After propping your head and chest above the pelvis with pillows or bolsters, straighten your legs up the wall, reaching your feet toward the ceiling for five minutes. Keeping your legs straight, separate them into a V for five additional minutes.
"Lying flat on your back for long periods of time is contraindicated in pregnancy, as it compresses the vena cava and sensitive bladder. Therefore, elevating your upper body decreases this risk while still receiving the benefits of an inversion," Zabel states.
Lowers blood pressure, increases oxygen supply to mommy and baby, reduces symptoms associated with pregnancy stress, pregnancy depression and postpartum depression.
"This practice is very important during pregnancy. It is such a miraculous time for a woman, and becoming more aware and mindful of one's lifelong preparation for motherhood adds a deeper appreciation for the process," says Zabel.
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