Yoga is a mind and body practice. What’s more, it has a 5 000-year history in ancient Indian philosophy. There are various styles of yoga which combine physical postures, breathing techniques, and meditation or relaxation. In more recent years, it has become popular as a form of physical exercise. This is based upon poses that promote improved control of the mind and body. In addition, these poses enhance well-being.
When a woman is pregnant, there are certain poses – or asanas, as they are called in Sanskrit – which should be avoided. In this article, we take a look at which poses should be avoided during pregnancy and how you can modify the positions to make it safe for you and your baby.
Yoga can be very beneficial during pregnancy
Yoga helps you breathe and relax. This, in turn, can help you adjust to the physical demands of pregnancy in addition to labour, birth as well as motherhood. It calms both mind and body. In so doing, Yoga provides the physical and emotional stress relief your body needs throughout pregnancy.
If you attend a pre-natal yoga class, this is also a great way to meet other moms-to-be. In this way you can embark on this journey together.
Here are some guidelines which are recommended:
- If you’re attending a regular yoga class (in other words, one that is not specifically geared to pregnant women) tell the instructor you’re pregnant in addition to which trimester you’re in.
- Don’t do any asanas on your back after the first trimester. This can reduce blood flow to the uterus.
- Avoid poses that stretch your muscles too much in particular the abdominals. This is because the hormone relaxin – that allows the uterus to expand – also softens connective tissue. This means that you’ll be more at risk for strains, pulls, and other injuries.
- From the second trimester on, when your centre of gravity really starts to shift. This means that you need to do any standing poses with your heel to the wall. Alternatively, use a chair for support. This is to avoid losing your balance and endangering yourself or your baby.
- Steer clear of Bikram or “hot” yoga. Overheating can endanger the health of your growing baby.
- When performing forward bends, hinge from the hips. Lead with the breastbone and extend the spine from the crown of your head down to your tailbone. This allows for more space for the ribs to move. Ultimately, this facilitates breathing.
- Maintain the pelvis in a neutral position during the poses that you practise. Do this by engaging the abdominals and slightly tucking the tailbone down and in. This helps relax the muscles of your buttocks (your glutes) and the hip flexors. In so doing, you can help reduce or prevent sciatic pain down the back of the leg. (This is a common side effect of pregnancy.) The movement also helps to prevent injury to the connective tissue that stabilises your pelvis.
- If you’re bending forward while in a seated position, place a towel or yoga strap behind your feet. Hold both ends. Bend from the hips and lift the chest. This is to avoid compressing your abdomen. If your belly is too big for this movement, put a rolled-up towel under your buttocks. This will elevate your body. Open your legs about hip-width apart. This is to give your belly more room to come forward.
- When doing twisting poses, twist more from the shoulders and back as opposed to from the waist. This is to avoid putting any pressure on your abdomen. Go only as far in the twist you feel comfortable to do. Avoid deep twists.
- Listen carefully to your body. If you feel any discomfort, stop. It will probably be necessary to to modify each pose as your body changes. A good Yoga instructor can help you customise your yoga to suit the stage of pregnancy you’re in.
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