If you’re pregnant and looking for ways to relax or stay fit, you might be considering ante-natal yoga.
Before you start ante-natal yoga, understanding the range of possible benefits, as well as what a typical class entails are important safety tips.
Much like other types of childbirth-preparation classes, ante-natal yoga is a multifaceted approach to exercise that encourages stretching, mental centering and focused breathing.
Ante-natal yoga can:
- Improve sleep
- Reduce stress and anxiety
- Increase the strength, flexibility and endurance of muscles needed for childbirth
- Decrease lower back pain, nausea, headaches and shortness of breath
It can also help you meet and bond with other pregnant women and prepare for the stress of being a new parent.
A typical ante-natal yoga class might involve:
- Breathing. You’ll be encouraged to focus on breathing in and out slowly and deeply through the nose. Ante-natal yoga breathing techniques might help you reduce or manage shortness of breath during pregnancy and work through contractions during labour.
- Gentle stretching. You’ll be encouraged to gently move different areas of your body, through their full range of motion.
- Postures. While standing, sitting or lying on the ground, you’ll gently move your body into different positions aimed at developing your strength, flexibility and balance. Props — such as blankets, cushions and belts — might be used to provide support and comfort.
- Cool down and relaxation. At the end of each class, you’ll relax your muscles and restore your resting heart rate and breathing rhythm. You might be encouraged to listen to your own breathing, pay close attention to sensations, thoughts and emotions, or repeat a mantra or word to bring about a state of self-awareness and inner calm.
There are many different styles of yoga — some more strenuous than others. Pregnancy yoga, hatha yoga and restorative yoga are the best choices for pregnant women. Talk to the instructor about your pregnancy before starting any other yoga class. It is recommended to wait until after the 12 week scan has shown no complications.
Be careful to avoid hot yoga, and over strenuous styles of yoga.
Talk to your health care provider before you begin a ante-natal yoga program, make sure you have your health care provider’s OK. You might not be able to do ante-natal yoga if you are at increased risk of preterm labour or have certain medical conditions, such as heart disease or back problems.
Don’t overdo it. Pay attention to your body and how you feel. Start slow and avoid positions that are beyond your level of experience or comfort. Stretch only as far as you would have before pregnancy.
Look for a program taught by an instructor who has training in ante-natal yoga.