- Women's Health»
Practicing Prenatal Yoga throughout Pregnancy
Maintaining a regular yoga practice while pregnant has many benefits. Yoga is a wonderful way to release stress from the mind and body and becomes even more important as the body goes through advanced stages of pregnancy.
Regular yoga practice teaches the practitioner to breathe deeply, filling up the lungs from bottom to top and emptying them from top to bottom. Through this ujjayi breathing, one can learn to control the breath throughout the day’s activities, and stay calm and focused even during stressful situations.
The aspect of ujjayi breathing is reason alone to practice yoga during pregnancy, but there are other important reasons as well. Yoga can strengthen muscles, improve blood circulation and of course, increase flexibility.
Yoga breathing may also be helpful during labor, if the practitioner has mastered the technique. To become proficient, yoga practice should begin before becoming pregnant and continue after recovering from childbirth.
Yoga classes are also a good way to meet other mothers-to-be, and get your body ready to go through child birth. Pregnancy yoga should only be taken with a certified prenatal yoga instructor, especially after the first 2 months. As the baby develops, certain postures should be modified or avoided, including serious back bending.
If no prenatal yoga instructors are available in your area, consider joining a pregnancy yoga newsletter, or consult with a certified teacher online. If you are already an experienced practitioner, create a chart of safe asanas and post it in a visible location of your practice area. The reminder will make it easier to create a flowing routine.
A selection of prenatal yoga dvd's are helpful to have on hand as well. This resource ensures you never miss your practice. Make sure the yoga teacher is certified, and watch previews of their work before buying their dvd (usually available on YouTube.) You will get the most out of an instructor you enjoy following along with.
Pregnancy yoga doesn’t mean performing nothing but limited mobility asanas. Even though deep back bending needs to be avoided, modified or assisted gentle back bends may be fine. With other asanas like bridge pose the degree of lift is controllable, and can be quickly stopped if there is discomfort.
Strengthening and stretching the back during pregnancy is good therapy. Some poses to practice every day include:
-Cat pose: From all fours, this pose flexes and extends the spine, and strengthens the abdominals and lower back.
-Staff pose: The legs are extended straight in front of you on the ground, back is straight and chest lifted.
-Cobbler's pose: Sit with soles of feet together and back straight; this is sometimes referred to as the ‘butterfly’ stretch. Practicing this pose helps open the hips and groin.
-Standing balance poses like tree pose or half moon pose (ardha chandrasana.)
Before beginning any exercise program during pregnancy, get clearance from your doctor. A regular practice during a healthy pregnancy helps with blood circulation and relieving stress; and may even aid in the recovery process after childbirth.
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