Often women are hesitant to start a prenatal exercise regime. When is it safe to start? What can I expect? Prenatal yoga is a gentle form of exercise, great for all stages of pregnancy and yoga experience.* Here are a few things to expect during a prenatal yoga class.
Breathing exercises, or ‘Pranayama’ in Sanskrit, during prenatal yoga are often techniques that can be used during labour. One simple breathing exercise is to inhale through your nose and expand your belly like a balloon, exhale through your mouth as if you are blowing out candles. Repeat 5-10 times.
You may find that you feel more flexible during your pregnancy, especially in the hip and pelvic regions. This is due to a hormone called relaxin, which is released during pregnancy. However, it’s important not to overstretch, as this could cause injury. Make sure to stay at around 70-80% of your capacity when stretching.
Called ‘asanas’ in Sanskrit, are modified based on your stage of pregnancy and how you’re feeling. In prenatal yoga, all poses which require you to either lay flat on your stomach or that involve a closed twist are avoided. The stance is widened, to accommodate baby. There is a focus on strengthening the body in preparation for labour and for recovery following birth.
An essential component of a prenatal yoga class is relaxation. Being able to keep calm throughout difficult poses directly translates to your ability to ride the waves of contractions during labour. ‘Savasana,’ or corpse pose, at the end of class is typically done on the left side so as to keep mama and baby comfortable. You can use this time to visualize a ‘happy place’, somewhere serene that you can call upon during the difficult times of labour.
The most important guideline is to make sure you are paying attention to the signs your body is giving you. If something doesn’t feel right, don’t do it! There is always an alternative pose that you can do instead. Make sure to let the teacher know and she will guide you into something that feels more comfortable. Stay hydrated and make sure you have a snack for after the class.
Wait, what? Talking during a yoga class? No, not actually during the class, but many women find that before and after the class are great opportunities to share their experience with other women, and the teacher as well. Teachers will most often be available to you, so don’t be shy to approach them and ask your most burning questions.
When to start
Check with your midwife or doctor before starting a prenatal exercise regime. Although prenatal yoga is safe for all stages of pregnancy, it is often recommended to start in your second trimester, once you are feeling well and have gotten the ‘okay’ from your healthcare professional.
Finding a class that is right for you
Most studios will allow you to try out a class before committing to a session. It’s important that you feel comfortable with the space and the teacher. There are many styles of prenatal yoga, so don’t hesitate to ask the teacher about her background and style of teaching. It’s essential to let the teacher know your experience with yoga and inform them of any past or current injuries or medical considerations.
*Please consult your doctor or midwife before starting any form of prenatal exercise.