Yoga During Pregnancy
Yoga has a long list of health benefits. Regularly engaging in yoga can positively impact your physical health by improving muscle strength, endurance, and balance. Plus, it has mental health benefits. Women (and men) who practice yoga find that it relaxes the mind and body and helps relieve stress. With all the changes that happen to your body while you’re pregnant, you could probably use a little stress relief!
You might wonder whether it’s safe to engage in yoga during pregnancy. Assuming you’re healthy and are having a normal pregnancy, yoga will likely be safe for you, although you’ll want to avoid or modify certain yoga poses. Some poses place excessive pressure on your abdomen. Depending on how far along you are, these movements may not be practical or safe. Some poses can also reduce blood flow to the uterus.
Which yoga poses should you avoid? In general, stay away from movements that involve deep twisting or bending, deep backbends, and those that intensely target your abs and core. Inversions, movements that bring your head below your heart, are also ones to avoid, although this is controversial. Examples of inversions are headstands, shoulder stands, and handstands.
You might feel like tackling new yoga poses, but it’s best to stick with movements you’ve already mastered. If you attempt new poses, you risk falling and could sustain injuries that affect you or the baby. If you’re relatively new to yoga, the safest approach is to join a prenatal yoga class, one taught by a certified instructor. An instructor certified in prenatal yoga will know the moves that are safe and which to avoid. Plus, you’ll likely enjoy the camaraderie of being in a class with other moms-to-be.
Yoga During Pregnancy: Not All Forms of Yoga Are Appropriate
Just as there are a variety of yoga poses, there are many types of yoga. Bikram yoga is a type of yoga where you perform poses in a hot room. The temperature you’re exposed to during Bikram yoga is between 100 and 110 degrees F. At least one study linked exposure to hot tubs during pregnancy with a greater risk of birth defects. Your blood pressure is also lower during the first trimester of pregnancy and being in a hot environment can cause a further drop in pressure as you sweat to release heat. This can lead to undesirable side effects, like fainting. Bikram yoga can also raise your body temperature to levels as high as 103 degrees F. That’s why it’s best to avoid Bikram yoga while you’re pregnant.
The Bottom Line
Talk to your obstetrician before participating in yoga. If they give you the green light, practicing yoga will help you stay active and, potentially, deal with the aches and pains and inconveniences that go along with being pregnant. Along with reducing stress, regular yoga sessions, can improve your sleep patterns so that you get more quality sleep. The breathing patterns you practice during yoga may also be helpful in the delivery room. It may reduce back pain by strengthening the muscles in your back as well as the muscles you use when you give birth. All in all, it’s a good thing if you do it safely.
American Pregnancy Association. “Prenatal Yoga’
Mayo Clinic. “Prenatal yoga: What You Need to Know”
Can Fam Physician. 2014 Jan; 60(1): 41–42.
Yoga Journal. “Study Finds Bikram Yoga Raises Body Temps to 103°+”