Designing the right prenatal yoga routine
Yoga has become a popular form of both exercise and relaxation over the past several years, and prenatal yoga, an offshoot for moms-to-be, is increasing in popularity as well.
Much like its regular counterpart, prenatal yoga offers a variety of benefits to its practitioners. It's easy on the joints, improves balance and posture, tones muscles, and encourages deep breathing and relaxation, which will become essential during labor, not to mention parenthood. Paired with a low-impact, non-strenuous cardio activity, such as walking or swimming, prenatal yoga can be a great way to stay in shape during pregnancy and prevent uncomfortable side effects such as back pain, muscle stiffness, and pregnancy insomnia.
What to Look for in Prenatal Yoga Classes
Ideally, you should join a specially designed prenatal yoga class led by a qualified instructor. However, if such a class is unavailable, you can join a regular yoga class as long as you inform the instructor you're expecting and take a few extra precautions to practice safely. Namely:
- drink plenty of water before, during, and after the session
- avoid poses that put undue strain on the back or that require lying on your back for long periods of time (especially in the second or third trimester)
- enter and exit poses slowly, and don't hold them for too long, especially after the second trimester when joints begin to loosen
- use a chair or other aid for balance in the third trimester, or whenever you feel it necessary -- don't risk falling, as this could injure you and/or the fetus
If you're a regular practitioner of yoga, remember that your prenatal yoga routine is going to differ from your usual routine, especially as your pregnancy progresses. Adapt your practice to suit your changing physical shape and condition, and don't push it -- listen to your body and remember that exercise during pregnancy serves a different purpose and has different requirements than regular exercise.
The Best Prenatal Yoga Poses
The best prenatal yoga positions are those that prepare the body for birth and relieve the unpleasant side effects of pregnancy -- in particular, back pain. Try squatting, pelvic tilts (cat-cow), and cobbler's pose (sitting with back straight and soles of feet together) to open and strengthen the pelvis and upper legs. Warrior pose can help relieve back pain and sciatica, and a side-lying position is a good alternative to corpse pose (lying flat on back) for breathing exercises and relaxation at the end of a session.
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