If you’re looking to stay fit and healthy during pregnancy, you may be considering an activity like prenatal yoga. Unlike regular yoga classes, prenatal yoga is specifically designed for pregnant woman, and addresses concerns that pregnant women may have.
It eases common pregnancy pains and aches, and prepares the body for labour and postpartum recovery. Yoga also helps centre you mentally and emotionally during this period.
The poses and positions will also be modified for pregnant women. Poses that directly compress the belly, such as twists and forward bends, are avoided as they are unsafe for pregnant women. Instructors also typically avoid making you lying on your back for a long period or lying on your stomach. Instead, your yoga instructor will teach you poses that strengthen and compliment your pregnancy body. Props may be used to support the body in doing poses.
We answer some common questions you may have about doing prenatal yoga.
How can prenatal yoga benefit me?
Benefits of prenatal yoga include:
- Lowering blood pressure. Studies have indicated that a pregnant woman’s heart rate and blood pressure lowers after prenatal yoga. In fact, it lowers even more than after doing other low-impact exercises like walking.
- Improving sleep.
- Reducing stress, anxiety and depression. Another study showed that integrated yoga (exercise-based yoga combined with meditation, deep relaxation and breathing exercises) significantly decreased levels of depression in moms-to-be.
- Reducing risk of preterm labor and other complications. High stress levels have been shown to increase miscarriage and preterm birth rates. Women who do yoga for one hour a day have been shown to have a lower preterm labor rate, as well as lower risk of pregnancy-reduced hypertension, in comparison with women who spent the same amount of time walking.
- Strengthening and maintaining muscle tone during pregnancy.
- Minimising pregnancy aches and discomfort. For example, tight hips, lower back pain, upper back pain, nausea, headaches and shortness of breath.
- Increasing the flexibility, endurance and strength for muscles needed for childbirth.
- Meet and bond with other pregnant women.
What is a typical prenatal yoga class like?
Here’s what you can expect in a regular class:
- An integral part of yoga - both normal and prenatal - is a focus on breathing. Your instructor will guide you on breathing in and out deeply and slowly, through the nose. Such breathing techniques help reduce or manage shortness of breath during pregnancy, and enable you to better work through contractions during labour.
- You’ll move different areas of your body like your neck and arms through their full range of motion.
- When sitting, standing or lying down, you’ll move your body into different positions to develop strength, flexibility and balance. Props like blankets, cushions and belts might be used to provide support and comfort.
Cool down and relaxation:
- Towards the end of the class, you'll relax your muscles and restore your resting heart rate and breathing rhythm. You’ll be guided in listening to your own breathing and paying attention to sensations, thoughts and emotions.
How does prenatal yoga help with labour and post-labour recovery?
Prenatal yoga targets numerous key areas of the body to support you through pregnancy and delivery. These include the lower back, which typically gets strained as a baby grows bigger. Prenatal yoga helps with strengthening one’s back, and a stronger back going into labour can help to relieve discomfort.
Prenatal yoga also targets the hips and pelvic floor muscles. Stretching and opening the hips helps alleviate some of the pressure during pregnancy, and helps prepare you for labour and delivery. For mums looking to deliver vaginally, strong hips and the ability to control your pelvic floor makes pushing during contractions easier. You’ll also regain form and muscle control more easily postpartum.
If I’ve never done yoga before, is it safe to do prenatal yoga?
Yes, you don’t need experience to do prenatal yoga. As long as your doctor approves, prenatal yoga is a great way for you to stay fit. It’s gentle and designed for your pregnant body.
However, always check with your gynae before beginning a new exercise that your body is not used to.
When should I start prenatal yoga?
Again, consult your gynae on the best time to start classes. As a general guideline, you can start prenatal yoga from the first trimester, if your doctor gives the green light. Some studios only recommend starting after the 13th week of pregnancy. Do bear in mind not to overdo it or push yourself to the point of exhaustion.
Exercise proper care and safety precautions, such as:
- Avoiding postures that involve spreading your feet too far apart, as this may put pressure on your joints and pelvic area.
- Avoid abdominal poses, sharp twists and inversions during the second trimester. Inversions may pressure on your lungs and cause severe discomfort.
- Avoid lying on your back in your third trimester. Use props for support.
- Avoid hot yoga and doing strenuous poses in a heated room. Hot yoga can increase your body temperature, causing a condition known as hyperthermia.
- You should be able to speak as normally during yoga. If you become breathless, you are over-exerting yourself.
- Ensure the room you exercise in is well-ventilated to avoid overheating.
- Drink plenty of fluids to avoid getting dehydrated.
- Avoid poses that cause you discomfort.
- Most importantly, if you experience vaginal bleeding, decreased fetal movement or contractions during prenatal yoga, stop immediately. Let your instructor know and contact your gynae.
Prenatal yoga classes in Singapore
We’ve rounded up our favourite prenatal classes to check out in Singapore:
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