Yoga for pregnant women

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November 04, 2021

Yoga classes for pregnant women are more popular than ever. When combined with cardiovascular exercise such as walking, yoga can be the ideal way to stay fit during your pregnancy.

This ancient practice helps you stay flexible, tones your muscles and improves your balance and circulation with little to no impact on your joints.

Yoga is also beneficial because it helps you learn to breathe deeply and relaxed, which will be helpful in coping with the physical demands of labor, delivery and motherhood. In fact, one of the first things you learn in a yoga class is how to breathe deeply. The breathing technique known as ujjayi requires you to inhale slowly through your nose until your lungs are full and exhale completely until your stomach is compressed.

Learning the ujjayi breathing technique prepares you for childbirth by teaching you to remain calm when you need it most. When you feel pain or fear, your body generates adrenaline and may produce less oxytocin, the hormone that triggers contractions of the uterus. Regular practice of yoga will help you not to tense up when you feel pain, allowing you to stay relaxed even in difficult situations.

According to a report published in April 2009 in the Harvard Mental Health Letter, several scientific studies have found that yoga helps the body fight stress because its practice lowers the heart and respiratory rate and blood pressure, which also promotes the health of new mothers after childbirth.

The benefits of yoga are not limited to physical well-being. "Attending prenatal yoga classes is a great way to meet other pregnant women and be part of a group," says Cynthea Denise, a nurse and pregnancy yoga teacher in Oakland, Calif. Being in a positive and supportive environment with other women in your situation can provide a constant emotional boost and help you stay motivated to continue your practice.

Yoga tips for the first trimester

"Look for a teacher / a who has specific training in yoga for pregnant women, but if this is not possible. Make sure your teacher / a knows that you are pregnant." Denise points out.

 Probably only have limitations at this early stage of your pregnancy, but do not forget to follow the rules about safe exercise for pregnant women, such as drinking plenty of water before, during and after exercise to keep your body well hydrated.

"Listen to your body and trust what it's telling you," comments Denise. If you feel pain or discomfort, adjust your posture or ask your teacher to recommend an alternative posture.

Yoga tips for the second trimester

Your joints are starting to loosen up now, so proceed with caution. Also keep in mind that your girth is slowly expanding, which will affect your balance. Don't try to hold poses for too long and remember to go into them slowly and carefully to avoid any injury.

Take your time and do not force your body. Avoid lying on your back to allow blood to reach your uterus properly.

Yoga tips for the third trimester

Now that your belly has grown you will probably feel less natural and more awkward. Do the postures standing with your heels propped up against the wall or use a chair for support so you don't lose your balance and avoid risk of injury to yourself or your baby. Accessories such as blocks and straps can also help you move from one posture to another with greater stability.

Remember not to hold positions for too long. It's important to move around.

Best postures for pregnancy

Denise recommends the following postures or asanas during pregnancy:

Butterfly pose (baddha konasana): this seated pose helps to open the pelvis. If you have weak hip joints, be sure to support your "pelvic bones" well on the mat or blanket (gently pushing each of your buttocks out will help you find the correct position). Place a pillow or rolled towels under your knees to prevent your hips from spreading too wide. Here are the steps to correctly execute the butterfly pose:
  1. Sit with your back straight against a wall and the soles of your feet together.
  2. Gently push each knee toward the floor but do not force.
  3. Stay in the pose for as long as you feel comfortable.

Pelvic tilt or cat pose: This posture will help relieve back pain, a common problem during pregnancy. Follow the steps below to perform this posture correctly:

  • Rest your hands and knees on the floor with your arms shoulder-width apart and your knees hip-width apart. Keep your arms straight and do not bend your elbows.
  • As you inhale, round your spine downward while moving your buttocks backward.
  • As you exhale, relax your back to a neutral position. Repeat the movement at your own pace.

Squatting posture: Denise recommends that her pregnant yoga students squat daily to relax, open the pelvis and strengthen the thighs. As you gain weight during your pregnancy, use aids such as yoga blocks or a few books to rest your buttocks on. Focus on relaxation and take deep breaths down to your belly. With these simple steps you will be able to perform this pose to perfection:

  1. Stand with a chair in front of you with the back facing you.Your feet should be slightly wider than hip-width apart and your big toes pointing outward. Hold on to the back of the chair for support.
  2. Contract your abdominal muscles, lift your chest and relax your shoulders. Then lower your tailbone toward the floor as if you were going to sit in a chair. Find your balance. Most of your weight should be on your heels.
  3. Inhale deeply and exhale with the strength of your legs back to standing.

Posture on the floor on one side: It is a good resting posture to perform at the end of the practice. Here is how to do it:

  • Lie on your right or left side with your head resting on your arm or on a blanket.
  • Place a pillow or rolled blanket between your thighs to help your hips.
  • If you are in a yoga class, your instructor may instruct you on some breathing exercises.

Other good poses for pregnancy: Try standing poses such as Warrior I (virabhadrasana I), Warrior II (virabhadrasana II) and Tree pose (vrksasana). These asanas will help you strengthen your joints and improve your balance. Both warrior poses can also relieve back pain and sciatica.

Downward facing dog pose (adho mukha vrksanasana) can energize your entire body, but is best not practiced in the third trimester of pregnancy. Your yoga teacher may recommend variations of some of these classic poses.

Precautions when practicing yoga during pregnancy

As with any exercise, there are some general precautions to take when you are pregnant.

You may not want to do poses that require you to lie on your back for more than a few minutes, especially after the first trimester of pregnancy. Lying on your back can put pressure on your inferior vena cava, the vein that carries blood from your legs to your heart, which could cause dizziness, shortness of breath and nausea. However, some women are comfortable in this posture in advanced pregnancy.

Your yoga teacher may let you decide for yourself, says Denise.

One word of caution: if you have never practiced overhead or shoulder poses before, don't do these poses.

"Pregnancy is not a good time to start practicing inverted poses," Denise points out, although some women who are used to these poses can continue to practice them perfectly well into their second trimester of pregnancy. Be careful or avoid these postures altogether during the third trimester.

Avoid postures that stretch your abdominal muscles too much, such as leaning too far back or forward and intense twisting. You are now more likely to have a muscle tear or strain because the pregnancy hormones that allow the uterus to expand also relax other connective tissues.