What are the benefits of yoga during pregnancy? Can you do yoga while pregnant? What are the yoga poses to avoid during pregnancy and which poses are recommended? Daniela Cecconi, a certified yoga teacher specialising in pregnancy exercises, explains more.
Antenatal yoga offers many benefits to both mum and baby. It reduces back pain and swelling, improves oxygen supply to the baby, teaches us how to listen to our emotions, etc.
Not forgetting that Yoga is all about mindfulness and when expecting a baby, it’s more important than ever to learn to be present and engage fully in the moment, both in mind and body.
Read on to discover 6 yoga poses recommended for health and wellbeing during pregnancy (first trimester yoga - yoga in pregnancy second trimester - third trimester yoga)
They are also suitable for those mums-to-be who’ve never done any yoga before, as long as your pregnancy is not considered high-risk, and you have consulted your doctor beforehand!
Why is yoga good for pregnancy?
You undergo many important physical and emotional changes during the 9 months of pregnancy. From the outside, this may seem a long period of time, however, in reality, for mums-to-be it seems to occur quite quickly.
What happens to a woman's body during pregnancy?
Internal organs move around to create space for the new life growing inside her womb. A mum's centre of gravity shifts, and her body seeks out new balance as a result.
Her pregnancy bump grows bigger month by month, her weight increases, her back curves, blood circulation slows down... Consequently, mums-to-be often feel a heavy sensation as well as feeling lethargic, and may also experience some breathlessness, especially throughout the last few months of pregnancy.
Many pregnant women ask me for advice on how they can manage these minor discomforts. Firstly, ensure you have a daily exercise routine specifically targeted at mums-to-be, such as prenatal yoga.
Yoga during pregnancy offers immediate benefit and prepares your body and mind to react positively not only in dealing with the changes occurring at the present time, but also the changes both your body and life will undergo postpartum.
Scientific research has confirmed that yoga benefits not only mums-to-be but also their babies.
It’s always best to be supervised by a qualified instructor, as there are some breathing exercises and poses which are particularly good for your overall health during pregnancy, and other yoga positions which should be avoided.
Benefits of Yoga in pregnancy
Prenatal yoga offers many benefits to both mum and baby.
If your pregnancy is progressing well without any particular problems and your doctor has given consent, antenatal yoga is a great answer against swollen legs during pregnancy, heaviness, and back pain during pregnancy.
It promotes good posture, strengthens the body, relaxes the mind, etc.
Yoga in pregnancy improves your breathing, so your baby receives more oxygen and, it also supports their development.
Let's take a look in more detail at the benefits yoga offers to pregnant women:
- Teaches you how to listen to your body and emotions: Yoga facilitates your acceptance of the changes occurring in your body and daily life.
- Reduces back pain: targeted yoga exercises help with good posture and rebalancing your centre of gravity.
- Relaxes your mind: releasing any tension and stress.
- Lowers anxiety related to childbirth: helping you manage your emotions at such a special time.
- Promotes bonding with baby: who will feel welcomed and calmer.
- Boosts circulation: reducing swelling and heaviness in legs.
- Strengthens your body, providing you with the energy required to deal with both pregnancy and the stress of childbirth.
- Helps you sleep better, combating insomnia.
6 Yoga Poses suitable for pregnancy
Your prenatal yoga journey should include positions which focus on three specific aspects: certain posture poses, breathing and pelvic floor exercises. Let us explain why:
- Specific posture poses activate slow blood circulation and your lymphatic system, preparing your body for the increase in energy it needs for childbirth, and also improving flexibility and alleviating back pain in pregnancy.
- Breathing helps lower anxiety and stress whilst pregnant, it aids sleep and rest at night, and calms both the body and mind during childbirth by relaxing certain triggers which can lead to adrenaline production.
- Pelvic floor is a key muscle for pregnancy and childbirth, strengthening it with specific exercises will help relieve pain during labour and prevent both pre and post pregnancy disorders.
Below are a few particular good poses for pregnancy yoga which cover these three aspects.
Cat Cow Sequence
Start on your hands and knees, with your wrists directly under your shoulders, and your knees directly under your hips. Inhale as you bring your forehead and sitting bones upwards, and exhale as you curve your back towards the ceiling and look towards your belly button.
Repeat 10 times.
Benefits: improves flexibility of your spine, easing back pain. Strengthens your shoulders and abdomen, providing more support to your back area.
Warrior 2 pose
Standing with your legs apart. Turn to face your right leg and bend your knee, turning your foot so it’s in a vertical position. Stretch your left leg with your foot in a horizontal position. Gently raise your arms so that they are parallel to the ground. Look towards your right arm.
Maintain the position for 5 breaths, breathing slowly and quietly.
Repeat on the other side.
Benefits: Tones legs and arms, improves balance, alleviates back pain.
Squat down bringing your bottom between your calves. Try to place the soles of your feet on the ground and spread your knees apart to accommodate your bump. If you are unable to hold the position with the soles of your feet on the ground, place a rolled up mat underneath your heels.
Once you find your balance, bring your hands together and open your knees further using your elbows.
Lengthen your spine and look in front of you.
Hold the position for 5 breaths breathing slowly and deeply through your nose.
Benefits: Relaxes hips and lengthens spine.
Raised legs pose
Lying on your back, raise your legs hip-width apart. Stretch your arms out to your sides, open your chest and lengthen your spine, maintaining its natural curve.
You can support your legs by leaning them against a wall or you can increase the difficulty by not using any support, in which case you are also working your core muscles.
Maintain the position for 5 breaths.
Benefits: Stimulates blood circulation, eases heaviness in the legs, and calms the mind, relieving stress.
In a seated position on the mat, with your back against a wall – if you prefer, bend and spread out your knees into a butterfly position. Bring your heels close together towards your bottom.
Open your feet as if opening a book, with your right hand open your right foot outwards and do the same with your left hand on your left foot.
Hold the position for 5 breaths, breathing slowly and deeply through your nose.
Benefits: Specifically recommended to tone and relax thigh and pelvic muscles.
Kneeling down with your bottom resting on your heels, spread your knees apart and let your bump enter the space between your knees. Rest your forehead on the mat and extend your arms out.
Hold the position for 5 breaths, breathing slowly and deeply through your nose.
Benefits: relaxes your back and hips and provides a warm sensation of lightness!
It’s important to seek out an instructor who can help you coordinate movement with breathing.
Remember that not all yoga poses are suitable during pregnancy. Some positions should be avoided, especially if you have never practised yoga before or if you suffer from stomach disorders.
I always recommend continuing after the birth with postnatal yoga, as postpartum yoga helps keep you in shape and reduces the onset of postpartum depression.
Daniela Cecconi - Personal Trainer
Certified yoga teacher and personal trainer specializing in training women and pregnancy fitness. Founder of the online Italian gym Yoga&Fit Studio. She advises pregnant women, new mums and women who want to look after their own health. Instagram: danielacecconi_ Yoga&Fit: danielacecconi.net