By Gopi Rao
It is important to stay active during pregnancy in order to prepare the body for childbirth and grow a healthy baby. Many women are able to continue with their normal fitness routines by adding some modifications during the second and third trimesters. Prenatal yoga classes are becoming more common as pregnant women across the country are reaping the benefits of staying fit, healthy, and limber throughout their pregnancies. Yoga provides a gentle, low-impact way to stretch and strengthen the muscles, joints, and ligaments to keep pregnant women feeling comfortable as well as prepare them for childbirth.
Prenatal yoga instructors can recommend modifications and specific, helpful poses for each trimester. During the first trimester, experienced yogis can continue with their normal practice with an increased awareness of any discomforts. Joints and ligaments are becoming increasingly loose throughout pregnancy as the body prepares to open for birth, so women need to be careful not to overextend themselves. Women should also make sure to drink plenty of water before, during, and after their yoga routine. Poses that are particularly beneficial for women in the first trimester include hip openers like the Pigeon pose, Warrior II, Triangle, and Knee-to-Ankle.
During the second trimester, most bellies begin to protrude, and the weight of the baby might begin to cause soreness in the low back. Cat-Cow pose can relieve the stress to the low back and allow the baby to “float” into a comfortable position. The Wide-Angle Seated Forward Bend and other open, seated twists will also help to relieve lower back discomfort and pain. Women should avoid any poses that cause strain on the abdominal muscles, like Boat pose. Pregnant women should also avoid inversion poses that take blood away from the uterus, with the exception of Downward-Facing Dog. Downward-Facing Dog is fine to practice if held for a short time.
Squats are also an important part of any prenatal program. Squats open up the hips and pelvis while strengthening the thighs. Many women find this position comfortable when giving birth. Squats might feel awkward at first, so pregnant women should ease into the pose and use modifications as necessary.
Perhaps one of the most important portions of a prenatal yoga class is the meditation/relaxation part at the end. Women need this time to relax, breathe, and focus on the life growing inside of them. Instructors should be sure to modify Corpse pose by asking pregnant women to lie on their left sides. Women might visualize the life inside of them, send it their love, or visualize the birth as it nears.
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