As someone who views fitness as a non-negotiable part of my day to day, I’ve always vowed that I will remain active whenever I decide to get pregnant. Although I’ve seen pregnant women sweating beside me in all sorts of workout classes, the one I’ve always assumed is the most nurturing—not to mention gentle—is yoga. To get the complete low-down of whether yoga during pregnancy is safe and which poses are best (and best avoided), I asked a pro yogi to explain.
Is yoga during pregnancy safe?
Short answer? Yes. “[Even] if you’ve never tried yoga before pregnancy, you’ll likely enjoy a prenatal yoga class, since they’re taught specifically with pre- and post-natal women in mind,” says Kelly Turner, yoga teacher and director of education at YogaSix. “Yoga can be a great addition for many women during their pregnancy, for a variety of reasons: The body is rapidly changing, and yoga can be a tremendous tool to help adjust to the aches and pains of the expanding form.” The mindfulness component can also be beneficial, she adds, given that it can help with mental preparation for the birth, as well as with reducing stress to assist in true relaxation.
“Yoga can be a great addition for many women during their pregnancy, for a variety of reasons: The body is rapidly changing, and yoga can help with adjusting to the aches and pains of the expanding form.” —Kelly Turner, yoga teacher
“Prenatal yoga can be wonderful for many, as it’s taught with the changes of pregnancy in mind, as well as the various contraindications that [pregnant people] may need to be aware of,” says Turner. These flows tend to be very gentle and restorative, so she notes that if you’re used to a more quick-hitting, vinyasa flow, you may think these are a little slower than you like.
The longer answer, though, is that you’d be wise to ask your doctor before trying out a prenatal yoga class—and especially if you want to go for a class that’s not specifically geared for those who are expecting. You can still do your regular, faster-paced yoga classes, too, though—it’s just recommended that you get the sign-off from your doc before you hit the mat. “It’s important to get the okay from your doctor before you begin or continue your yoga practice, as certain pregnancy conditions may affect your ability to practice safely,” she says. Of all the yoga types that exist, it’s hot yoga that may be the hardest to continue while pregnant. “Most doctors will recommend against practicing [yoga] in a hot room during pregnancy, especially in the first trimester,” says Turner.
Which poses to try (and which to avoid) while pregnant
Beyond avoiding the heat, you might also want to keep in mind modifications for certain poses, and some might be best to skip altogether. “Generally speaking, during the first trimester, you’re advised against doing deep twists or forward folds,” Turner says. “Essentially, you want to let things ‘take root’ during this time, so it’s better to go easy on your practice.”
“Poses that help open the hips, like garland pose, can be great to prep for labor.” —Turner
Once your first trimester is up, she notes that open twists can be okay as long as you stay gentle with them. Of all the poses that exist, hip openers are particularly beneficial during this time (which makes sense). “Poses that help open the hips, like garland pose, can be great to prep for labor,” says Turner. “Avoid laying on your belly once it gets uncomfortable. After 16 weeks, take savasana either on your left side or resting at an incline to avoid putting pressure on the vena cava, which provides blood flow to the baby.”
Things to keep in mind about yoga during pregnancy
What’s interesting is that when you’re pregnant, your body’s actually more flexible. “The body is producing a hormone called relaxin, to help stretch the ligaments in preparation for labor,” says Turner, who adds that this is why you’re more limber throughout those nine months. That said, it’s especially careful to not overdo it. “Don’t over stretch, as this can lead to issues after delivering,” she says. “A good rule is that if you couldn’t do something before you were pregnant, don’t do it now.”
And though it may sound challenging to bend and twist at the end of your pregnancy, Turner points out that she flowed up until a week past her due date. “It’s really up to the mama-to-be as to what’s comfortable,” she says. “It’s important to stay in communication with your doctor if they have a reason for you to suspend your practice. And it’s also important to listen to your gut, as to when it feels good versus when it’s time to just rest.” As is the case in everyone’s workout regimen.
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