Times have changed when it comes to exercise guidelines during pregnancy. In the past, women were told to rest during their pregnancy. Thankfully, those days are over and today’s mom-to-be can look forward to less weight gain, less stress and more energy as a result of exercise.

For pregnant women, the benefits of practicing yoga are endless. Yoga increases strength and flexibility, promotes balance and coordination and develops deep breathing patterns aiding in relaxation.

Breathing and Focus
It’s a fact that slow rhythmic breathing can lower blood pressure, balance cortisol levels in the body and reduce stress. For prenatal women, this type of breathing can assist in the labor and birthing process by creating a sense of confidence.

Labor and birth pains are unpredictable. When we are in pain, experience fear, doubt or stress, the body produces adrenalin and shuts down the production of oxytocin, a hormone that makes labor progress. Breathing slowly can help manage pain and get through the process of labor and delivery with a sense of strength, confidence and empowerment.

Strength and Flexibility
Poses in a prenatal yoga class are designed to create all over body strength. Most traditional yoga postures can be modified, accommodating the growing body of a pregnant woman. During pregnancy, women experience an upper rounding of the thoracic spine (kyphosis) and an over extended lower back (lordosis). Bringing awareness to this, woman can perform poses that can counteract this adjustment in the spine.

Creating connection
Our lives are naturally busy and full of activities and obligations. With children, that aspect of life naturally increases. Yoga teaches us to be present in the moment we are experiencing as opposed to always multi-tasking.

Pregnancy and motherhood can be a time of isolation for some women. A specialized prenatal yoga class offers participants the opportunity to connect with women experiencing similar symptoms.

Quicker Recovery Time
Studies have indicated that women who engage in regular exercise programs before, during and after pregnancy have higher levels of self-esteem, which has been linked to a reduction in symptoms of postpartum depression.

A recommended time for returning to yoga or other fitness activities is after the participant’s postpartum doctor appointment, or six weeks after delivery.

Precautions during pregnancy
Exercise during pregnancy is highly encouraged, but it’s important to use caution and common sense when doing so. It is advisable to obtain physician consent prior to beginning any yoga class and to receive instruction from a qualified instructor specializing in prenatal fitness. If you cannot attend a specialized class for prenatal women, it is imperative to inform the instructor about any complications such as high blood pressure, bleeding, chest pain, leg cramps or continual fatigue.

A small list of what to avoid is:

Overstretching
During pregnancy, relaxin is secreted throughout the body making the ligaments and joints loose in order to accommodate birth of the baby. If these ligaments are overstretched during pregnancy, they have the potential to remain overstretched after birth.

Supine poses for extended periods
Resting on the vena cava nerve (adding the weight of the baby) could potentially create dizziness for mom and reduce blood flow to baby.

Prone positions
As a woman enters her second trimester, her belly swells to accommodate growth of the baby. At this time, it is unadvisable and uncomfortable to lie on the belly.

Backbends
Avoid positions that stretch the abdominal muscles too much, such as deep back bends and twists. Muscles can strain or tear because pregnancy hormones which allow the uterus to expand, also act on all connective tissue.
Good poses during pregnancy are basic standing postures, poses on hands and knees and seated positions.