Yoga offers many health benefits that can be derived throughout one’s pregnancy. It prepares a woman for motherhood by helping her to breathe and relax and thereby encouraging the body to cope with the physical demands of pregnancy and labour. The overall calm that practicing yoga will bring is by alleviating the emotional and physical stress your body will go through during pregnancy.
Yoga will also improve your circulation and lead to better posture and muscle tone which can come in handy during those first trying months of motherhood. Before you begin a yoga regimen, make it a point to mention that you are pregnant to your yoga instructor.
Effects of yoga on your pregnant body
The increase in the production of progesterone during pregnancy can often interfere with smooth muscle contraction. This results in the relaxation of the walls of blood vessels in both your stomach and intestines. Progesterone also causes relaxin to be released which softens connective tissue. This will then allow your ligaments to support your growing belly by making you more flexible. There may be some poses or asanas that you may be able to do easily during your first trimester and continue even into the early part of the second trimester such as
2.Bhujangasana ( cobra pose) and
3.Utthita Parshvakonasana (side angle pose).
In general, these asanas are considered safe but whenever you practice poses that require you to twist your body, ensure that you are twisting from the shoulders and not from the waist, taking care to go only as far as you are comfortable. This will put the least pressure on your abdomen. You may even find that you need to modify each pose as you progress through your pregnancy, so work with your yoga instructor to customize it to your flexibility. You may find that as your center of gravity changes, your sense of balance will change. For this reason, you may need to use a chair or wall for support while you practice certain asanas.
Yoga poses to avoid during pregnancy
From the third trimester onwards, it is important to avoid poses that involve you having to lie face down. These poses may compress your belly and may even cause your heels to press into your abdomen while you are in a sitting position. It is especially important to eliminate poses that include deep abdominal twisting that have been known to cause miscarriage in some instances. The poses that should be considered off-limits during the latter half of your second trimester and third trimester are
1.Ushtra Asana (camel pose)
2.Urdhva Dhanurasana (upward bow pose) and
3.SirsAsana (headstand pose).
Also avoid any unsupported poses that involve using a single leg. Most of these yoga poses that fall in this category direct the flow of blood away from the uterus. Some of these poses also put undue pressure on the placenta and are contraindicated for optimal fetal positioning as your due date nears.
If you have never practiced yoga before your pregnancy, consult your physician before you take up yoga. Remember that during your third trimester, your blood volume increases by 40%. So it is important to keep moving so that your blood does not pool. Yoga can be greatly beneficial for this. But any pranayama or breath control can impact oxygen delivery to your fetus, for this reason, avoid any and all breath-restricting exercises unless they are cleared by your physician. Specifically designed prenatal classes meant for expectant mothers can save you a lot of angst when it comes to deciding which exercises are safe during pregnancy. So check your local listings to find a class that will suit your needs.