Congratulations, you’re pregnant! Now, how do you exercise while pregnant?
As your mind and body are currently caught in a whirlwind of emotions ranging from “Why don’t my pants fit?” to “Why can’t I eat blue cheese again?”, there are a few things you can do for your body and baby that feels good and will help you along your pregnancy.
Most doctors will recommend exercising moderately at least 30 minutes a day. They’ll encourage brisk walks, swimming, and cycling on a stationary bike. And as you might expect, they’ll also suggest prenatal yoga, which is a great way to jump into motherhood.
I was only in my first trimester when I began prenatal yoga, so very few people at the time knew that my husband and I were expecting. This meant that I didn’t have many people to turn to who were able to empathize with my experiences, or help guide me through this emotional process. This was undoubtedly tough, because although our pregnancy was planned, I wasn’t quite ready for all the changes that came along with it.
It didn’t take long for me to realize that prenatal yoga was the first place where I felt understood and where I could understand the changes happening in my body and mind. When I arrived for my first class, I was the only one without a bump, which initially made me feel like some sort of outsider. However, by the time I finished my first class, I realized that I was exactly where I needed to be for myself and my growing baby.
Here are five benefits of prenatal yoga:
Yoga is all about the pranayama; your control of life energy or your breath. To focus on your breath allows you to calm your mind and relax your body. It gives your body more oxygen and your muscles the permission to release. Sometimes we forget to breath during our day to day routines, but practicing pranayama forces us to pause.
The breath work practiced in class is aimed at helping you practice your breathing for labor and delivery, which will result in helping to distract you from the pain and guide you through the pushes.
As your body changes and your baby grows, you find more aches and pains in your back and hips. Sciatica, the pain in your lower back that can reach all the way down your legs, is a common complaint.
Prenatal yoga focuses on stretches to release your lower back, allowing the pressure on your sciatic nerve to be released. It also guides you through stretches to open your hips, which will also get tight as you gain weight from the baby, added fluids and increased blood supply.
As you flow through the many postures in class, you will build strength, tone your body, and increase your flexibility. Using props such as blocks, blankets and straps will help guide you deeper into stretches.
There are specific poses in prenatal yoga classes to focus on problem areas such as the upper and lower back, hamstrings and even your feet. Many are designed for your body and the preparation of delivery as well.
The pelvic floor consists of muscles that support the baby, and play an important role in your digestive and reproductive organs. After birth, they are known to become weaker with delivery and age, causing issues such as urinary incontinence. Developing a strong pelvic floor helps to carry the baby more comfortably. Additionally, it’s important to train your pelvic floor to know when to release during the birthing process, allowing a smoother delivery.
Each class is an opportunity for you to spend time with your baby and serves as a reminder of your growing baby and changing body. You will likely notice the differences in your body and how it shifts from pose to pose. It can either be hard to accept, or a wonderful observation. Either way, at the end of class, you can place one hand on your heart, feeling your own heartbeat, and the other hand over your baby’s home. This is a beautiful reminder about the pleasure of growing an amazing little soul inside of you.
Though it’s just a relatively small amount of time spent between, you and the baby, it is nonetheless an important time that can go a long way toward making pregnancy a quality experience.
CAT/COW STRETCHES USING THE BLOCKS:
Inhale- look up and release the belly. Exhale- gaze at the navel and hug around your baby.
- Helps to relieve lower back pain and is good for warming up the body.
ADHO MUKHA SVANASANA – (DOWNWARD DOG):
Using the blocks, press your heels into the mat and lift your hips toward the sky. Try to lengthen your back while pressing your hands into the blocks.
- Helps to stretch out your hamstrings and calves while strengthening and toning your arms.
ANJANEYASANA – (LOW LUNGE):
Sink into a lunge while using the blocks to lift your chest and lengthen the top of your thigh. Sit your hips back while straightening your front leg and flexing your foot. Continue to push forward and back while flowing with your breath.
- Helps stretch your hamstrings and your hip connectors including your posts muscle.
VASISTHASANA – (MODIFIED SIDE PLANK):
Place your shoulder in alignment over your wrist and plant your back foot down. Slowly rotate your arm in a large circle.
- Helps to lengthen the side abdominals and strengthen the arms and upper back while working on balance.
VASISTHASANA – (MODIFIED SIDE PLANK):
Same as above, however this time place your hand on your hip and lift your back leg and hold.
- Helps build your side abdominal muscles and practice balance.
VIRABHADRASANA B/VIPARITA VIRABHADRASANA – (WARRIOR II/ REVERSE WARRIOR):
Open your legs to a wide straddle. Rotate your front toes to face the top of the mat and your back toes to face the long edge of your mat. Bend your front leg so that your knee is inline with your ankle. Hips face the long edge of your mat. Reach your back arm up and over towards the front of your mat while hugging your baby with the front arm. Then reverse to the back, switching your arms.
- Helps to strengthen and tone your thighs and hips.
MALASANA/ KEGEL EXERCISE – (MODIFIED SEATED POSE ON THE BLOCKS):
Stack the two block and sit with your legs open. Place your hands wherever is comfortable. On the inhale, draw your pelvic floor in and up and on the exhale release down towards the block. Repeat 15-20 times.
- Helps to strengthen the pelvic floor.
MATSYASANA – (MODIFIED FISH POSE):
Place one block under your upper back and one under your head for support. Seal your heals together and let your legs lie open. Relax your arms.
- Helps to open your chest and stretch the upper abdomen
TADASANA – (MOUNTAIN POSE):
Stand hip width apart. Place one hand on your heart and one on your baby. Draw your tailbone down and lift your kneecaps. Lengthen through your spine.
- Aids in concentration between poses and helps correct poor posture