The benefits of pregnancy yoga classes

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Yoga benefits birth and post-delivery stages by relieving stress and strengthening the body.

By Denise Dahdah

If you have recently found out that you are pregnant, congratulations! But times have changed and pregnant women are no longer advised to put their feet up. In fact, throughout your pregnancy and beyond, it’s important that you keep fit.

The NHS recommends that pregnant women exercise for at least 30 minutes, four times a week. If you’re not a gym bunny and don’t know where to start, yoga could be just what you are looking for. Advocates claim yoga boosts mind and body, helping to keep your pregnancy hassle-free by relieving stress and strengthening your body.

But is yoga during pregnancy safe and how do you get started? We speak to midwife Manijeh Nedas and antenatal yoga teacher Andrea Fox about the benefits of pregnancy yoga:

The health benefits of pregnancy yoga

There are a number of benefits associated with practising yoga during pregnancy, from birth to post-delivery stages:

✔️ ‘In my experience, I believe that yoga plays a very important role in pregnancy,’ says Nedas. ‘Generally, pregnant mums who do yoga exercises appear healthier, both in mind and body. Their bodies are more flexible, which enables them to adapt to various positions when in labour and the ligaments are more elastic, which in turn can help to reduce labour pain.’

Generally, pregnant mums who do yoga exercises appear healthier, both in mind and body.

✔️ Yoga classes help to boost circulation and also help with fluid retention, according to Fox. The stretching exercises relieve aches and pains. Posture is also improved by yoga and this can help ease back problems, which are common in pregnant women.

✔️ ‘Yoga helps to prepare for the birth – it encourages breath and body awareness, reduces worry and teaches women to adapt to new situations,’ adds Fox.

✔️ Yoga continues to have benefits after pregnancy, too. Postnatal yoga, which can be started about six weeks after the birth, strengthens abdominal muscles and your pelvic floor. It also helps you to get back to your pre-pregnancy shape faster.

How to start pregnancy yoga

If you have never tried yoga before, start by taking classes to learn the poses under supervision. It’s good for pregnant women to practise on their own, but only what they have been shown in class. There are many types of yoga, including the following:

• Kundalini

A breath-based class, this works with the glandular and nervous system’

• Ivengar

This gives attention to muscular-skeletal alignment.

• Ashtanga

A more vigorous discipline this includes a lot of movement.

• Hatha

This yoga is the name given to all physical yoga practices. It can often be a mix of these systems, and there are many good teachers teaching a blend of styles under different names.

✅ Pregnant women should talk to their yoga teacher to find out exactly what type of yoga they teach, and if it is suitable or can be modified for pregnancy.

Pregnancy yoga safety tips

If you are not used to regular exercise then start slowly and if you are pregnant of course, take it very easy at first. If you already had a yoga practice before becoming pregnant then it is good to continue.

Many mums-to-be prefer to wait until the second trimester to begin again. If you are new to yoga, find a qualified prenatal instructor. If in doubt, consult your doctor or midwife.

Stay in your comfort zone and use the class to relax and stretch, rather than overexerting yourself.

According to Fox, any position which feels uncomfortable should be left out. ‘Lying on the front soon becomes inappropriate,’ she says. ‘Strong back bends are to be avoided, as are postures that involve using the tummy muscles strongly, such as the boat pose, or supine leg rising. Any posture involving balance should be tackled with great care.’

Mothers-to-be should pay attention not to overstretch the body – the ligaments around the joints become loose and soft during pregnancy. The abdomen should stay relaxed at all times so you can use the gluteus muscles instead. Stay in your comfort zone and use the class to open, relax and stretch, without overexertion or overheating.

⚠️ No kind of pain or nausea should be felt during or after yoga. If this happens, you should stop exercising and contact your GP or midwife.

Net Doctor

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